WILL PARRISH: Wine Industry Water Grab?


California’s slow-mo adoption of groundwater regulations is prompting all sorts of legal maneuvers by the state’s irrigation elite, who are striving for the fewest restrictions on their pumps possible. In the Russian River watershed, from where I write this dispatch, arguably the irrigation elite’s elitist elites are the grape growers of northern Sonoma County.

Their lawyers are not resting.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) is quietly sponsoring legislation to create a new independent special district called the Russian River Irrigation District, which would be operated of, by, and for the growers and their affiliated wineries, tasting rooms, and event centers.

The district would encompass much of the Russian River watershed in northern Sonoma County, and possibly a small portion of southern Mendocino County. The legislation specifically names its purview as being the Alexander Valley, Knights Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and “the territory within the portion of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area” and “the portion of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area south of River Road and Mark West Creek Road.”

Senator McGuire (of “Marijauna Watershed Protection Act” fame) has yet to introduce the legislation in bill form. Rather, his staff has circulated a “discussion draft” of the proposed legislation to — and I’m intentionally using the in-fashion political jargon here — “interested parties.”

Reportedly, grape growers met on July 27th to discuss the bill and they are not unanimously in favor of it. They still need to iron out a lot of kinks. For that reason, McGuire (who is from Healdsburg, and thus to no small degree a political creature of the wine industry) has yet to bring the bill before the State Legislature.

TODD WALTON: Cover Stories



Under The Table Books

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

I recently got a letter from my editor at Counterpoint Press, the daring publishing company bringing out a paperback edition of my book Buddha In A Teacup in early 2016, saying he would soon be sending me samples of their cover ideas. So I held my breath for a few days and recalled my book cover adventures with publishers of my previous books. This helped temper fantasies of a superb cover for Buddha In A Teacup. Indeed, after reviewing my history of book covers, I decided to hope for legible.

Inside Moves. Published in 1978 by Doubleday, my first novel had a basketball subplot and the cover sample featured a small airborne man holding what might have been a basketball, but also might have been a bowling ball. This ambiguous athlete, wearing slacks and a sweater, was floating through the air surrounded by gothic-like letters with enormous serifs. At a glance, the letters seemed to spell INSIDE MOVIES. I expressed my concerns and the ball problem was addressed, but the confusing lettering remained and the book was often shelved in the Hobby section of bookstores.

Forgotten Impulses. Published in 1980 by Simon & Schuster, my second novel was originally entitled Mackie, which remained the title until a month before the book was to be printed. The cover for Mackiefeatured a spectacular oil painting of a woman wearing a sunhat and kneeling in her vegetable garden, the roots of the plants growing down through layers of soil to entangle the name Mackie. Alas, my editor called at the proverbial last minute to say Sales felt Mackie lacked punch. Could I come up with a meaty sub-title? My brother, who came up with Inside Moves, helped me come up with Forgotten Impulses, and Sales dropped Mackie entirely and went with Forgotten Impulses. The hastily assembled new cover was composed of garish yellow gothic-like letters on a red and blue background.

Not that it mattered much. Simon & Schuster took the book out of print a few days after it was published.

There’s Something About Bernie…



From The Atlantic

The Vermont senator’s revolutionary zeal has met its moment.

There’s no way this man could be president, right? Just look at him: rumpled and scowling, bald pate topped by an entropic nimbus of white hair. Just listen to him: ranting, in his gravelly Brooklyn accent, about socialism. Socialism!

And yet here we are: In the biggest surprise of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, this thoroughly implausible man, Bernie Sanders, is a sensation.

He is drawing enormous crowds—11,000 in Phoenix, 8,000 in Dallas, 2,500 in Council Bluffs, Iowa—the largest turnout of any candidate from any party in the first-to-vote primary state. He has raised $15 million in mostly small donations, to Hillary Clinton’s $45 million—and unlike her, he did it without holding a single fundraiser. Shocking the political establishment, it is Sanders—not Martin O’Malley, the fresh-faced former two-term governor of Maryland; not Joe Biden, the sitting vice president—to whom discontented Democratic voters looking for an alternative to Clinton have turned.

Frankly, not even Bernie Sanders thought this—Berniemania—would happen. “No, no, we didn’t,” he tells me, as I sit facing him in his Washington office, which is decorated with bottles of maple syrup. A plaque features Eugene Debs, five-time Socialist Party candidate for president. The notorious Sanders hair, to be honest, has been greatly exaggerated; it lies placidly, almost respectably across his ruddy scalp. And truthfully, the socialism rap has been blown out of proportion as well: Sanders accepts “democratic socialist” as an accurate descriptor of his philosophy, but he never sought it as an identity.“The campaign is moving so fast the infrastructure can’t keep up,” Sanders confesses. “It sometimes reminds me of a military campaign, where the front line of the army is moving faster than the supply chain.” Since Berniemania began this summer, he and a small band of aides have been scrambling to turn it to their advantage.

Why Civilizations Crash and Burn So Reliably…


From John Michael Greer

Let’s take a moment to recap the argument of the last two posts here on The Archdruid Report before we follow it through to its conclusion. There are any number of ways to sort out the diversity of human social forms, but one significant division lies between those societies that don’t concentrate population, wealth, and power in urban centers, and those that do. One important difference between the societies that fall into these two categories is that urbanized societies—we may as well call these by the time-honored term “civilizations”—reliably crash and burn after a lifespan of roughly a thousand years, while societies that lack cities have no such fixed lifespans and can last for much longer without going through the cycle of rise and fall, punctuated by dark ages, that defines the history of civilizations.

It’s probably necessary to pause here and clear up what seems to be a common misunderstanding. To say that societies in the first category can last for much more than a thousand years doesn’t mean that all of them do this. I mention this because I fielded a flurry of comments from people who pointed to a few examples of  societies without cities that collapsed in less than a millennium, and insisted that this somehow disproved my hypothesis. Not so; if everyone who takes a certain diet pill, let’s say, suffers from heart damage, the fact that some people who don’t take the diet pill suffer heart damage from other causes doesn’t absolve the diet pill of responsibility. In the same way, the fact that civilizations such as Egypt and China have managed to pull themselves together after a dark age and rebuild a new version of their former civilization doesn’t erase the fact of the collapse and the dark age that followed it.

The question is why civilizations crash and burn so reliably. There are plenty of good reasons why this might happen, and it’s entirely possible that several of them are responsible; the collapse of civilization could be an overdetermined process. Like the victim in the cheap mystery novel who was shot, stabbed, strangled, clubbed over the head, and then chucked out a twentieth floor window, that is, civilizations that fall may have more causes of death than were actually necessary. The ecological costs of building and maintaining cities, for example, place much greater strains on the local environment than the less costly and concentrated settlement patterns of nonurban societies, and the rising maintenance costs of capital—the driving force behind the theory of catabolic collapse I’ve proposed elsewhere—can spin out of control much more easily in an urban setting than elsewhere. Other examples of the vulnerability of urbanized societies can easily be worked out by those who wish to do so. 

Christian Crock: Christian Wants to See You Fry Like Sausage…


From Atheist Revolution

There are many intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and compassionate Christians out there. It is good to remember that. They are our friends and family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and so on. Our lives are richer in some ways for having the opportunity to know them. It is also helpful to remember that there are many hateful Christians out there among us, people who have been blinded to reality by years of indoctrination. So afflicted are some of these Christians that they see nothing wrong with emailing random atheist bloggers (like me) things like this:

I would love to be close enough to all you so called atheist two seconds after you drop off into the lake of fire right after the Great White Throne Judgement. When you start frying like sausage. You will believe in GOD then. I have talked with folks that say there is no GOD. But then I tell them; well what if I am wrong, I haven’t lost anything by believing in JESUS CHRIST, trusting HIM as Savior, following the 10 commandments and living good. But what if you are wrong and there is a GOD, and you have rejected HIM, and you have missed your chance to repent and live for HIM? Please repent and be saved. You are doing what the antichrist wants you to do; Just think about it!

Freethought: Born on This Day — Thorstein Veblen


From Freethinker Bulletin

On this date, July 30, 1857, Thorstein Veblen was born on a farm in Valders, Wisconsin. Veblen conducted his undergrad studies at Carleton College, did post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins, and earned his PhD at Yale in 1884.

He taught at a variety of schools, including the University of Chicago, Stanford, and University of Wisconsin. His book,The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899, was the most famous of the nine he wrote.

Many progressives, ranging from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Margaret Sanger, were strongly influenced by it. In it, Veblen introduced the term “conspicuous consumption.” Veblen also studied the place of science in civilisation. While an evolutionist, he repudiated the unscientific application of evolution known as “social Darwinism.”

Abby’s Story: No Longer Alone…



To Survive In Farming, Try Taoism 

The Contrary Farmer

I thought I had made a tremendous discovery a few years ago.  It came to me one day when I was hoeing (hoes are great think machines). I decided, all of a sudden, that the world was eternal. It had no beginning and won’t end. That was a frightening idea because it went against all that I had been taught in science or religion. Every effect was to supposed to have a cause. But the idea of a world without beginning or end resolved the major philosophical contradictions and mystifications clambering around in my mind so I decided to go with it. The funny part is that I believed my hoe and I were the first to come up with this idea. I had no notion, until a year or so later, that this was the basis of a philosophical system that dated back thousands of years— Taoism. My hoe and I were way behind the times. We didn’t even know how to the pronounce the word correctly.

As with any new discovery, I then began to see Taoism popping up everywhere. There’s even a new gardening book out by Carol Deppe, titled The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. But it was not until last week when I read a post by William Edelen who writes “The Contrary Minister” on the Ukiah Blog that is the companion to this one, that I realized just how appropriate Taoism is for farmers. We are either gnashing teeth for lack of rain or going out of our minds because it won’t quit raining.  No matter how hard we work or how clever we are, we do not have as much influence over farming as my hoe has.

In a recent post, the Contrary Minister says he is a Taoist. No wonder I have enjoyed what he writes. But up to now, I had not known much about what a modern Taoist thinks beyond contemplating the awesome notion that the material universe just might be forever. According to him, a happy life is all about accepting the world as it is. He wasn’t addressing farmers particularly, but what he says is especially appropriate for us. He compares life to a flowing river. When the river meets an irresistible object, it simply flows around it. Humans should do the same. Don’t curse the boulder blocking your path. Don’t shatter yourself to mental anguish trying to shatter it. Just quietly flow around it. In other words don’t be a control freak. Says  Edelen: “No matter how  much structure we create in our lives, there will ALWAYS be things we can’t control and if we let them, these things can be a huge sense of anger, stress and frustration.”

Losing Faith: Yahweh or the Highway…



From theramintrees
‘Atheism happened to me when I wasn’t looking. Theism happened to me when I wasn’t thinking.’ A timeline of some key memories around my personal experience of religion, running from my earliest memories to my emergence from it into atheism.


Richard Heinberg: Sustainability Metrics, Growth Limits, and Philanthropy…


From Richard Heinberg

As the metrics of sustainability become ever more robust and sophisticated, it is ever more apparent to many of us who study those metrics that industrial civilization, as currently configured, is unsustainable.

Ecological footprint analysis tells us that we are presently using 1.5 Earths’ worth of resources annually. We are able to do this only by drawing down renewable resources at a rate that exceeds their ability to regenerate; in other words, by stealing from the future.

Planetary Boundaries analysts have identified nine crucial parameters that define a safe operating space for humanity within the global ecosystem. We are currently operating outside that safety zone with regard to four of the boundaries. Exceeding just one boundary far enough, long enough, imperils both human society and the ecosystem on which it necessarily depends.

The most widely discussed of those boundaries is the planetary carbon budget. As we all know only too well, the CO2 content of the atmosphere now exceeds 400 parts per million—up from the pre-industrial level of 280ppm—and we appear to be well on our way to 450, 550, or even 650ppm, while climate scientists have determined that 350 ppm is the safe limit.

Those numbers, plus extinction rates, rates of ocean acidification, rates of topsoil erosion, and rates of deforestation, are the metrics of sustainability that tend to be most frequently discussed by environmentalists, and the alarming numbers being reported for these indices are certainly sufficient to support my opening assertion that current industrial society is unsustainable. However there are two other important metrics that have fallen out of fashion, largely because many people assume they measure society’s health rather than its vulnerability. One is human population growth. We all love humanity, but how much of it can the Earth support? World population stands at about 7.3 billion, and is on course to reach between 9 and 11 billion later this century. Yet a growing human population makes all those previously mentioned ecological perils—including climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and soil degradation—harder to address.

Dunce For The Confederacy: The Lost Cause of Shelby Foote…



From Otoolefan

“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”

—–Clarence Darrow

This statement has long been a favorite quote of mine, especially since it’s attributed to one of my favorite Americans (a triumvirate that includes Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln). But while I heartily agree with this sentiment in general, there’s one sinister exception in particular unrivaled in American history—namely, the Confederate cause during the Civil War. The Confederacy’s effort to establish a separate nation in order to preserve, protect and defend slavery is the most shameful hour in our nation’s life—an effort that must not  be forgotten, but also one that should never be celebrated. If ever a cause deserved to be lost and stay lost, it’s this one. It was a cause, Ulysses S. Grant said, that “was, I believe, one of the worst for which people ever fought…”

But don’t tell Shelby Foote that. According to him, “The “Confederates fought for some substantially good things.” Yes, some good things, folks, except of course for that whole pesky preserving slavery thing. But hey, no system is perfect, Yank!

Shelby Foote (1916 – 2005) was a talented American writer from the South in the tradition of William Faulkner who started out writing novels and then spent 20 years of his life from 1958 to 1974 writing a massive, three volume narrative history of The Civil War. But Shelby Foote is probably best known for his participation and 89 cameo appearances in Ken Burns’ landmark PBS Civil War documentary, which aired in 1990. The series turned Foote into a reluctant celebrity, but it also made him a millionaire with his Civil War trilogy reaching a whole new audience.

Although I love American history, I must confess that I didn’t see Burns’ celebrated documentary until about 2 years ago. Like so many viewers, I was initially charmed by Mr. Foote. With his Mississippi delta drawl and air, he looked and sounded like the perfect Southern gentleman right out of central casting–or a bourbon ad. I enjoyed the series very much. But a day or two after finishing it, I found myself thinking about a lot of what Shelby Foote  had said during those 9 episodes and something didn’t sit well with me. More about that later…

Watching Ken Burns’ documentary got me interested in checking out Shelby Foote’s celebrated three volume history of the conflict entitled simply: The Civil War: A Narrative. As a history buff since 8th grade, I’d read my share of Civil War books already and knew what had caused the war, so a narrative approach of the events appealed to me. I was genuinely looking forward to reading Volume 1 when I brought the dog-eared 800 page paperback home with me from our local library. So, that was my mindset when I opened this book.

I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages, folks.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Can Prayer Requests Change God’s Will?



The Contrary Minister

I would like to ask, “Can something called God’s will really be changed by requests from the earth?” And, if so, “What kind of a capricious, chaotic universe would this be?”

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that belief in an unchangeable God or unchangeable force is to be found in all of the higher religions.

Jesus is credited with saying that God makes his rain fall on the just and the unjust alike, the sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike.

What kind of chaos would it be if the eternal will, the eternal God, the eternal design could be changed from time to time as this design was subjected to millions of people in a barrage of requests to make things different?

It is incomprehensible to me how such thought can be entertained. It is the type of thinking done by Eddie Rickenbacker and crew, as expressed after their rescue from an ocean raft in the South Pacific. They uttered desperate prayers for rescue and, when a ship did finally appear, full credit was given God.

Do you know what bothers me terribly? When I think with aching heart of all the thousands of good and fine men who desperately croaked out words of urgent appeal to God through parched and anguished throats and whose answer was to be devoured by shark and barracuda, to die from starvation or drowning.

Loving Jesus But Not the Bible


From Neil Carter

I don’t follow the Bible, I follow Jesus.”

When I was a Christian, I used to say things like this all the time. I used to say “It’s about Jesus, not the Bible” for the same reasons that I used to say “It’s a relationship, not a religion.”  I was trying to distinguish my own particular variety of the Christian faith from all those lesser creations of men because unlike theirs, mine was The Real Deal. I had recovered True Christianity™ unlike all those millions of misguided yahoos who insisted they had done exactly the same thing but with wildly divergent results.

Those poor souls were taught to be a “people of the book,” but I knew better.  I knew that those who truly understood their book should have understood that making the book central goes against what the book itself intended.  The book just leads to Jesus and for that reason Jesus trumps the book.  If at any point the book seems to disagree with Jesus, you go with Jesus.  These were the distinctions I learned to make, and they made sense within the context in which I lived at the time.

Now that I’m outside of that context, I’ve got people throwing those same distinctions at me and I’m having a hard time getting them to see that this talk only has meaning to those who share their implicit trust in what the Bible says.  Yes, I promise I’ve heard these disclaimers and clarifications before, and for what it’s worth, I recall them having meaning for me as well at one point in time.  Like them, I once sought to present a portrait of a God who was attractive and winsome.  “It is his kindness that leads you to repentance,” I would maintain, hoping to convince others (as well as myself) that my Supreme Being was supremely likeable, and far more concerned with “fellowshipping” with us than with judging or condemning us.  That’s all well and good, but…

No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong…


fFrom Houston Post

I have had so many conversations or email exchanges with students in the last few years wherein I anger them by indicating that simply saying, “This is my opinion” does not preclude a connected statement from being dead wrong. It still baffles me that some feel those four words somehow give them carte blanche to spout batshit oratory or prose. And it really scares me that some of those students think education that challenges their ideas is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs.-Mick Cullen

I spend far more time arguing on the Internet than can possibly be healthy, and the word I’ve come to loath more than any other is “opinion”. Opinion, or worse “belief”, has become the shield of every poorly-conceived notion that worms its way onto social media.

There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.

1. Is this actually an opinion?

2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?

Does God Speak To You?



TODD WALTON: Brutalizing Greece


Passion Play Nolan WInklerPassion Play painting by Nolan Winkler

Under The Table Books

“Greece should go back to a national currency to have more autonomous decision-making with regards to it own economy, which it needs if it wants to pave a more sustainable path.” Jennifer Hinton, co-author of How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050

Near the top of the list of horrible things I’ve witnessed in my life are the beatings of small weak defenseless people at the hands of big strong brutal people. We had two big vicious bullies at my elementary school, and when I started Third Grade, I was sick with fear for days after I saw those two brutes pummel a little boy. And the more I read about what the international hedge fund criminal banking consortium and their elected lackeys Merkel and Obama are doing to Greece, the more I feel the same disgust and hopelessness I felt when I watched those giants beating that little boy.

“The Greek government should nationalize the banks and encourage people to start credit unions.” Jennifer Hinton

Mainstream American media outlets are reporting on the Greek financial crisis in the same way they report on everything: falsely. Yes, the situation is somewhat more complicated than how points are scored in baseball, but not much more. Greece had a corrupt government further corrupted by entanglement with Wall Street bankers and investment firms, specifically Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. Lloyd got the Greek government to borrow billions of dollars to invest in the great stock and toxic asset bubble that burst in 2008. Rather than punish Lloyd or the corrupt Greek bankers and the corrupt government officials for their folly, the international banking system demanded that the Greek government pay off the astronomical debt by cutting pensions, raising taxes on everyone except the rich, selling public property and public utilities to multinational corporations, and forcing Greece to borrow more money to keep paying the interest on the money owed to the criminals who had ruined their economy.

An Answer to America’s Prayers for Gun Victims…



Born On This Day: Atheist Actors Daniel Radcliffe and Woody Harrelson…



From The Freethinker

On this date, July 23 in 1989, actor Daniel Jacob Radcliffe. above left, was born to a Protestant father and Jewish mother in London. Radcliffe was selected for the 1999 BBC television production of David Copperfield to play the young title character.

The film was well-received in Britain, and it helped land Radcliffe a small role in the 2001 Pierce Brosnan movie, The Tailor of Panama. During filming, there was a massive search in the UK to find someone to play Harry Potter in the film version of the J K Rowling creation. Jamie Lee Curtis, on the set of The Tailor of Panama, sized up Daniel Radcliffe and told his mother, “He could be Harry Potter.”

Indeed, Radcliffe became immortalized as the star of the eight-movie Potter series. Radcliffe also acted in December Boys (2007), My Boy Jack (2007), and had his first theatrical role in the critically acclaimed West End play, Equus (2007).

Answering a question about what God would say to him when he arrives at the “Pearly Gates”, he told James Lipton during a 2008 appearance on Inside The Actors Studio: “‘Bet you’re surprised to see me’ … because I’m not, as I said, religious.”

Poll Of Three Crucial Swing States Shows Sanders May Be More Electable Than Clinton…


From PoliticusUSA

A Qunnipiac University Swing State Poll released on June 22, 2015, turns conventional wisdom on its head, by showing that Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, might be the Democrat’s best hope for holding the White House in 2016. The survey, which polled over 1,200 voters in each of three swing states — Colorado, Iowa and Virginia — finds that voters have a much less favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton than they do of Bernie Sanders. The poll also found that Sanders was as competitive as Clinton in head to head match-ups against the top Republican candidates in both Colorado and Iowa. Clinton still had an edge over Sanders in Virginia.

For Democrats, the latest Quinnipiac Poll is one of the most frightening polls released in this election cycle. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each trail Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker in all three of the swing states tested. Clinton is competitive in Virginia, trailing Bush 42-39, Rubio 43-41, and Walker 43-40. Sanders trails the same three candidates in Virginia by wider margins, ranging from 7 to 10 percentage points.

Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture…


From VOX

I was halfway through a job interview when I realized I was wrinkling my nose. I couldn’t help myself. A full-time freelance position with a long commute, no benefits, and a quarter of my old pay was the best they could do? I couldn’t hide how I felt about that, and the 25-year-old conducting the interview noticed.

“Are you interested in permanent jobs instead?” she asked.

“I could consider a permanent job if it was part-time,” I said.

She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language and went right back to her pitch: long commute, full-time, no benefits. No way, I thought. Who would want to do that? And then it hit me: Either I had become a completely privileged jerk or my own country was not as amazing as I had once thought it to be. This wasn’t an unusually bad offer: It was just American Reality.

Now that I’m back, I’m angry that my own country isn’t providing more for its people.


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