Posts By ds

Gene Logsdon: Trivia That May Not Be So Trivial

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Almost every day I observe something on our homestead that is quite remarkable in a humble sort of way. I think maybe I should write about it but then  the big news of the day comes flooding in and I almost feel guilty that I find joy in these little things around me. I should be all hitched up in the nervous regions about how the world is falling apart.  But I am going to ignore the world’s apparent disintegration today for what could be more important events in the long run.

Trivia No. 1: We store potatoes over winter in a plastic bin sunk in the hillside of the backyard. Maybe three inches and the lid stick out above the ground. I went out to clean out the few old wrinkled spuds left over from last year to make way for the new crop. I was taken aback to find a potato plant, about six inches tall, growing out of the lid. Impossible. Carefully lifting the lid, I found a long potato vine had grown up from an old potato under the remnants of straw (we store the potatoes with alternate layers of straw) in the bottom of the bin. Somehow it spotted a hint of light above (can potato eyes see??), climbed up the side wall and squeezed through the edge of the lid and upwards into the sun. I was totally mystified, because the lip of the box is rounded and the lid fits down over that lip, watertight and, I thought, light tight. But then I remembered. I had drilled tiny holes around the edge of the box to allow for a bit of air circulation. That vine had snaked its way up to one of those holes, perhaps the only one that emitted light, and squirmed through. You can imagine what luck I’d have if I deliberately tried to grow potatoes that way.

The drought is destroying California’s organic dairy farms…

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From Grist

“Roll down your window for a second and tell me what you smell,” Rosie Burroughs instructs me. It’s early March and I’m in the passenger seat of her gigantic white Ford pickup truck, bouncing down a narrow, potholed dirt road on her farm in the rolling hills just east of Turlock, Calif. Her husband, Ward is sitting in the driver’s seat.

The Burroughs’ 4,000 acres of sweeping organic grasslands, which practically rest under the shadow of Yosemite’s Half Dome, are a pastoral dream. On the Saturday afternoon of my visit, a storm was brewing over the purplish mountains, sending gusts of pink petals from their neighboring almond orchards across the landscape.

I opened the window, gazing at a herd of cattle grazing not more than ten feet away from our car, half expecting the acrid stench of manure and animal common on larger factory farms to assault my nostrils. But I couldn’t smell anything, save for the faint scent of damp earth and rain brewing on the horizon. Rosie leaned back in her seat, content.

Ward, Rosie, and their three grown children operate California Cloverleaf Farms and Full Circle Dairy, two organic dairies milking 500 cows each, in addition to a pasture-raised chicken operation and organic olive and almond orchards. In 2004, they joined Organic Valley — the largest organic, farmer-owned co-op in the nation with sales topping over $900 million annually — and began shipping their milk to grocery stores across the country.

Naomi Klein: the hypocrisy behind the big business climate change battle…

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From The Guardian

Richard Branson has pledged $3bn to fight climate change, and delivered just $230m. Naomi Klein looks at the ‘greenwashing’ of big business and its effects – on the planet, and our own bodies

I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most news stories. I told myself the science was too complicated and the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent-flyer status.

A great many of us engage in this kind of denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or maybe we do really look, but then we forget. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything.

Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror…

Barbara Lee was the lone dissenter in the post-9/11 vote authorizing military force. Many called her a traitor. But her constituents shared her concerns—and history has vindicated them.

OAKLAND, Calif.—The people here were out of step with America.

In the hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, they were angry at the terrorists who flew planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. They wanted the attackers brought to justice. They mourned the victims, cheered the firefighters, felt united in sorrow with their countrymen, and dreaded more attacks. But in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, the ultra-liberal, historically anti-war East Bay communities, a significant bloc also feared how their country would react. They didn’t trust the instincts of George W. Bush or the public that elected him.

The mistrust was mutual.

Censorship and What Freedom of Speech Really Means: Comedian Bill Hicks’s Brilliant Letter to a Priest…

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From Brain Pickings

“‘Freedom of speech’ means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with.”

In early June of 1993, several months before cancer took his life at the age of thirty-two, beloved comedian Bill Hicks received a letter from a priest, bemoaning the “blasphemous” content in Hicks’s live television special Revelations and reprimanding British broadcaster Channel 4 for having put it on the air. Writing a mere eight days before his fatal pancreatic cancer diagnosis — a young man still oblivious to his imminent tragic fate — Hicks decided to respond to the missive personally, in what became one of the most lucid and beautiful defenses of the freedom of speech ever articulated, on par with Voltaire’s piercing admonition about censorship and Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless words on the subject.

What Leaving My Religion Did for Me…

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From Godless In Dixie

People often ask me if my life is better now that I’ve left my religion.  My honest answer is that it’s a mixed bag. On the negative side, I have to say that the reactions of people who liked me better when I still had faith have been at times very strong.  I usually become a target for re-evangelism for a while, but they eventually learn to quit pushing me after they realize that I’ve heard everything they have to say about this a thousand times.  Most people probably just decide I’m being stubborn and/or that the Devil’s got me under a spell; but while the pushing may stop, the disappointment lingers on.  Some do their best to keep a lid on that, which I appreciate, but you can still hear it in their voices and that can hurt. If you crave the approval of people, and if you live where I live, I wouldn’t recommend atheism for you.

William Edelen:  A spiritual union – mountain and desert 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

In the Coachella Valley, where I live, there exists what could be one of the most powerful energy fields on the planet, with Mt. San Jacinto at near 11,000 feet hovering over, protecting, watching, loving the desert of the eternal valley called Coachella, the result of an ancient lake that covered the entire valley and long ago receded to the ocean.

The sun, like a jealous lover, hovers over the desert in a protective manner, unique and unknown to rain forests and the endless waters of the ocean.

The desert reduces everything to essentials, to the basics of whitened bone. The desert, perhaps more than any other place on earth, speaks of silence, simplicity and solitude. The desert calls to men and women who being wasted away by the stress, confusion and anxieties of city life, yearn for a spiritual retreat, an escape from the demon time, the clock and the calendar that that so enslave us.

All great spiritual traditions began, from a desert or a mountain, with the vision quest of one lone, single individual who, in solitude and silence, saw through the veil of the superficial into those realms and dimensions of reality that were of the timeless and eternal.

Todd Walton: Stealing

Giants Mendo Hardware

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Angel Pagan, the switch-hitting leadoff batter for the Giants, one of the swiftest outfielders in the game, takes a short lead off first base and tries to ignore his inner dialogue about base stealing while keeping his focus on the pitcher. Angel has reached first base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning by beating out a slow roller to third. The Giants are trailing the Padres one to nothing. This would be, as everyone in the ballpark knows, the ideal time for Angel to steal a bag and get into scoring position. However, despite his blazing speed, Angel has had little success as a stealer of bases.

Quackenbush, the Padres relief pitcher, a hefty right-hander with a decent pickoff move, hates throwing to first because it messes with his mechanics. Angel knows of Quackenbush’s aversion to throwing to first because Roberto Kelly, the Giants’ first base coach, just reminded Angel of said aversion while Angel was taking off his batting gloves after safely reaching first. Thus informed, Angel widens his lead, though not enough to tempt the reluctant Quackenbush.

About Todd Walton…

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From Todd’s website here

Todd was born in San Francisco on October 17, 1949 at 6:33 AM. He began his career as an entertainer at the age of six, performing original songs, stories, and imitations of silly adults for friends, siblings, and classmates. A thespian and athlete in high school, Todd attended UC Santa Cruz from 1967-69 before abandoning academia to see what he could see.

Having made his living as a musician and landscaper, Todd sold his first short story in 1975 to Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1978, Doubleday published Todd’s critically acclaimed novel Inside Moves. A movie of Inside Moves, with a script by Barry Levinson and directed by Richard Donner, was made in 1980 (and recently released on DVD after thirty years in cold storage.) An interview with Todd is included on the DVD of Inside Moves. Disclaimer: Todd does not make a dime from the DVD of Inside Moves, which we feel is wrong.

Will Parrish: Business as Usual For California Water Hogs

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The year 2013 was California’s driest on record. The first six months of 2014 were the hottest half-year on record. Reservoirs are drying up. Groundwater basins are diminishing at an alarming rate. Yet, the water demands of the state’s gargantuan agribusiness empire, its sprawling metropolises, and its extractive industries (such as, increasingly, fracking) have largely continued to grow this year.

We’ll start with California’s most lucrative legally-sanctioned crop: almonds. California produces roughly 82% of the world’s almonds. Demand for the nut is fast-growing in China and India. San Joaquin Valley growers are rushing to convert from cotton and other annual row crops to the increasingly profitable tree crop.

Unfortunately, almonds generally use much more water than the crops they replace. In Westlands Water District, the state’s biggest irrigation district (centered near Fresno), an average acre of almonds commands 1.3 million gallons of water per year, on average, as compared to roughly half that in the case of cotton. Agriculture in California, with its lack of summer rain, already uses about 80% of the state’s developed water supply. Almonds alone use 10%.

Once Again, There’s Pressure to Cancel an Ayaan Hirsi Ali Event, but Yale’s Buckley Program Isn’t Budging…

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From The Friendly Atheist

Earlier this year, Brandeis University announced that it would be awarding honorary degrees to five notable figures, including atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her advocacy of women’s rights around the world:

Hirsi Ali, in her bestselling books Infidel and Nomad, made no secret of the fact that Islam, as interpreted by militants, extremists, and even (in some cases) casual believers, was not only untrue but harmful to the world. Between female genital mutilation, honor killings, the idea of martyrdom, and the murder of her friend Theo van Gogh, you could understand why she would courageously put her own life on the line to speak out against the horrors of the faith. In her mind, the problem wasn’t radical Islam. It was Islam, period. That’s why she was very blunt in a 2007 interview about her goal of trying to defeat Islam because she didn’t believe the “religion of peace” was capable of being saved in its current form. Almost immediately after the announcement of her honorary degree, Muslim groups began to protest her selection.

Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon…

ISIL takes Turkey govt. hostage: Terrorists raises flag at Turkish border

From Sam Harris

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.

In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim…. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way…. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocentsexactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

Gene Logsdon: Wanted — A Farmer

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Reading “Help Wanted” sections  in local rural newspapers, I am moved to smiles or tears or both at one advertisement that appears more and more often these days. It goes like this: “Looking for a good, full time, all around farm assistant to drive modern farm equipment and trucks for all farm operations including planting, spraying and transporting crops. Must be self-motivated and willing to learn.  Must take responsibility for maintaining and repairing  equipment. Must be willing to work long hours and weekends during peak seasons. Wage based on experience.”

There is so much irony involved here. Let me count the ways.

The Pariah…

He tells me I’ve got to understand about when the big dog gets off the porch, and I’m getting confused here. He is talking to me from a fishing camp up near the Canadian border, and as he tries to tell me about the Big Dog, I can only imagine a wall of green and deep blue lakes with northern pike. But he is very patient with me. Mike Holm did his hard stints in the Middle East, the Miami station, and Los Angeles, all for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and he is determined that I face the reality he knows. So he starts again. He repeats, “When the Big Dog gets off the porch, watch out.” And by the Big Dog, he means the full might of the United States government. At that moment, he continues, you play by Big Boy rules, and that means, he explains, that there are no rules but to complete the mission. We’ve gotten into all this schooling because I asked him about reports that he received when he was stationed in Miami that Southern Air Transport, a CIA-contracted airline, was landing planeloads of cocaine at Homestead Air Force Base nearby. Back in the eighties, Holm’s informants kept telling him about these flights, and then he was told by his superiors to “stand down because of national security.” And so he did. He is an honorable man who believes in his government, and he didn’t ask why the flights were taking place; he simply obeyed. Because he has seen the Big Dog get off the porch, and he has tasted Big Boy rules. Besides, he tells me, these things are done right, and if you look into the matter, you’ll find contract employees or guys associated with the CIA, but you won’t find a CIA case officer on a loading dock tossing kilos of coke around. Any more than Mike Holm ever saw a plane loaded top to bottom with kilos of coke. He didn’t have to. He believed his informants. And he believed in the skill and power of the CIA. And he believed in the sheer might and will of the Big Dog when he finally decides to get off the porch.

Carl Sagan’s Bullshit Detection Kit: Rules for Critical Thinking…

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From Brain Pickings

Necessary cognitive fortification against propaganda, pseudoscience, and general falsehood.

Carl Sagan was many things — a cosmic sagevoracious reader,hopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era’s greatest patron saint of reason and common sense, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness. In The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (public library) — the same indispensable volume that gave us Sagan’s timeless meditation on science and spirituality, published mere months before his death in 1996 — Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

In a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible — from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.” (Cue in PBS’s Joe Hanson on how to read science news.) But rather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places — having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair Interview 1965…

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Until June 17, 1963, she was dismissed by many people as a litigious, belligerent, loudmouthed crank. On that day, however, the Supreme Court upheld her contention that prayer and Bible study should be outlawed in U.S. public schools, and Madalyn Murray became the country’s best-known, and most-hated, atheist. She also became the churches’ most formidable enemy when, undaunted, she promptly proceeded to launch another broadside at religion: a suit aimed at eliminating from tax exemption the churches’ vast nationwide property holdings — a case which many lawyers concede she will probably win if it gets to the Supreme Court, and which, if she wins it, may be what one attorney has called “the biggest single blow ever suffered by organized religion in this country.” Organized religion could hardly have an unlikelier nemesis.

Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self…

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From NYT

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and prominent “new atheist,” who along with others like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens helped put criticism of religion at the forefront of public debate in recent years. In two previous books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” Harris argued that theistic religion has no place in a world of science. In his latest book, “Waking Up,” his thought takes a new direction. While still rejecting theism, Harris nonetheless makes a case for the value of “spirituality,” which he bases on his experiences in meditation. I interviewed him recently about the book and some of the arguments he makes in it.

Gary Gutting: A common basis for atheism is naturalism — the view that only science can give a reliable account of what’s in the world. But in “Waking Up” you say that consciousness resists scientific description, which seems to imply that it’s a reality beyond the grasp of science. Have you moved away from an atheistic view?

How America’s Imperial Defeat and Collapse Could Happen…

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From John Michael Greer (2012)
Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Over the course of this year, my posts here on The Archdruid Report have tried to outline the trajectory of America’s global empire and explore the reasons why that trajectory will likely come to a sudden stop in the near future. To bring the issue down out of the realm of abstraction and put them in the context of history as lived, I’ve returned to the toolkit of narrative fiction, and this and the next four posts will sketch out a scenario of American imperial defeat and collapse. The narrative takes place at some unspecified point in the next two decades; it’s probably necessary to say outright that is not how I think the end of America’s empire will happen, simply one way that it could happen—and thus a model that may help expose some of the vulnerabilities of the self-proclaimed hyperpower currently tottering toward history’s compost bin.

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The news of the latest Tanzanian deepwater oil discovery broke on an otherwise sleepy Saturday in March. Thirty years before, a find of the same size might have gotten two column inches somewhere in the back pages of a few newspapers of record, but this was not thirty years ago.  In a world starved for oil, what might once have been considered a modest find earned banner headlines.

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