The End of the Beginning of the Collapse

From DailyKos
by mwmwm

July 28, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

The present is not what the past was; the near future is by no means what the recent present was. We have reached a tremendously complex, tremendously traumatic point in human history… I think there’s plenty of evidence that that entire community is based on a failed model: a failed economic model, a failed environmental model, a failed energy model, a failed sustainable-lifestyle model.

This morning, I started my day with a coffee cup and DailyKos, intrigued by the internicene conflict between the estimable bonddad (who has informed me countless times), and bobswern (who has also informed me countless times), each of whom posted diaries disagreeing with each other (Bonddad, bobswern) about whether we are seeing “the bottom” of the recession, and whether a gloomy or merely less-gloomy future awaits us).

Their analysis was fascinating; less fascinating was the implicit and explicit sniping between adherents (and authors) to the different philosophies and assumptions of the others.

But in both analyses, there was something seriously lacking.

Both presume that “the economy” is something human-created, and independent of world-scale limits. Both presume that the realities of the current mess (and implicitly, the likelihoods of the next five years) have a relationship to the past’s realities, either by their use of graphs, or their use of employment rates.

Apocalypse Then: Earth Abides – Book Review

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
Reviewed by Marian Powell

July 27, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

As for man, there is little reason to think that he can in the long run escape the fate of other creatures.

The quote above sounds like it was written today. Yet, it’s not from a doomsday article in a current magazine. That quote is from a novel published in 1949.

Can a novel over a half a century old speak to current concerns? The answer is yes. Earth Abides is probably more relevant now than when it was written. In 1949, a story about a new disease that wipes out the human race would have been one more science fiction story. Now, with AIDS progressing around the world and a dozen other newly discovered diseases such as Ebola lurking, ready to erupt, the idea is no longer just science fiction but a current concern. Another comment from the opening chapter is that just because something has never happened does not mean it cannot happen. In other words, just because the human race has never been wiped out by a plague, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen tomorrow.

This may sound like the novel is a polemic or a tract. It is not. It is a good, solid end-of-the-world yarn.

Ish, a young graduate student, spends several weeks in the mountains of California, doing research for his thesis. He has deliberately cut all communication with the outside world, not even listening to the radio. He wants to focus on his work and he is a man who enjoys being alone.

The scene when he drives out of the mountains to return to San Francisco is still creepily effective. Nothing is wrong except no other car is moving on the highway and the radio picks up nothing but static.

Evil Syndicated

From James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Long Emergency

July 27, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

By now, everyone in that fraction of the world that pays attention to something other than American Idol and their platter of TGI Friday’s loaded potato skins knows that Goldman Sachs has been caught at another racket in the stock market: front-running trades. What a clever gambit, done with the help of the markets themselves – the Nasdaq in particular – in which information on trades is held back a fraction of a second from public view, while the data is shoveled to the computers of privileged subscribers who can execute zillions of programmed micro-trades before the rest of the herd makes a move. This allows them to vacuum up hundreds of millions of dollars by doing absolutely nothing of value. The old-fashioned method used by brokers was called “churning,” in which stocks were bought and sold incessantly (by phone) from the portfolios of inattentive clients merely to generate commissions. In any sensible society – i.e. a society with an instinct for self-preservation – it would be against the law and the people doing it would be sent to prison.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve got to think that the actions at the Nasdaq end – shoveling the data to the privileged subscribers a fraction of a second early – is patently illegal in the first place, since the whole purpose of an exchange is to create a fair trading space. Where both parties are concerned, it should amount to a plain vanilla criminal conspiracy to commit stock trading fraud. Maybe the larger question is: since when did we become a society lacking the instinct for self-preservation – that is, a society bent on suicide? Or maybe the question is better put to Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Since this racket was made public, there has been chatter all over the Web about how angry the American public is about Wall Street in general, and increasingly about Goldman Sachs in particular. Keep reading

Contrails and Man-Made Clouds Change Climate, Harming Agriculture

Redwood Valley

July 27, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

It is sometimes difficult to separate out fact from fiction and beliefs. It is even more difficult when United States citizens live under a government which classifies as “secret” more and more information with each passing day. In addition, many government agencies, scientists, and researchers decide that certain information should not be given to the public because they know that the public would say “NO,” to many of their experiments or actions.

Thus, unraveling exactly why jet contrails began to abnormally persist and turn into white haze and man-made clouds, since the late 1980s, has been difficult…requiring hours of research into government documents, university studies, and following every lead to find answers to these questions. What we do know and can prove has broad implications for human health, agriculture crop production, the health of the earth’s pollinators, lack of photosynthesis (direct sunlight needed for all trees and plants to grow and produce crops), and climate change. The following is a brief history of persistent jet contrails and man-made clouds:

1 – Jet engine produced contrails now may persist and turn into white haze and man-made clouds. This change began to be noticed across the United States, in the late 1980s, when reports began to be published regarding the unusual persistence of contrails, captured in pictures and videos that began to reflect their presence. Increasingly, as time passed, more and more reports and questions regarding the number and type of jets leaving persistent jet contrails surfaced. (5)

2 – Thousands of pictures and videos were placed on the Internet and in local newspapers, with questions about the different types

The Best Place One Could Be on Earth – Alice Walker

Alice Walker with her power plant, collard greens (from her website)

Anderson Valley
The Electronic Intifada
via Common Dreams

July 27, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

Last March, poet, novelist and feminist Alice Walker joined a delegation organized by Code Pink, to travel to the Gaza Strip just weeks after the 22-day Israeli bombardment and invasion. Walker, globally acclaimed for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Color Purple, had also traveled to Rwanda, Eastern Congo and other places where she witnessed cruel and barbaric behavior that left her speechless. In an essay on her blog entitled “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters “the horror” in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel,” Walker recounts the stories of the people she met, and offers a lyrical analysis that ties their oppression and struggles to what she and her community experienced growing up in the violence and fear of the segregated American South. The excerpt below begins with her arrival in Gaza after a long overland journey through Egypt.

Coming “home” to Gaza

Rolling into Gaza I had a feeling of homecoming. There is a flavor to the ghetto. To the Bantustan. To the “rez.” To the “colored section.” In some ways it is surprisingly comforting. Because consciousness is comforting. Everyone you see has an awareness of struggle, of resistance, just as you do. The man driving the donkey cart. The woman selling vegetables. The young person arranging rugs on the sidewalk or flowers in a vase. When I lived in segregated Eatonton, Georgia I used to breathe normally only in my own neighborhood, only in the black section of town… Keep reading at The Electronic Intifada

Ukiah Monster Mall – A Mega Financial Fiasco


Letter to the Editor
Ukiah Daily Journal

July 26, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

Developers Diversified Realty didn’t show much savvy when it failed to change the Masonite site’s zoning before it closed escrow. Seasoned commercial developers would have done that; DDR did not.

Now it is stuck for the purchase price and thrashing around to fix things.

Its timing was not the best either.

“The commercial real estate bomb is ticking,” said Rep. Carolyn Mahoney (D-N.Y.), who chairs Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, in opening remarks to her panel on July 5.

Testimony to the panel was that today’s roughly $6.7-trillion commercial real estate market is crippled with about $3.5 trillion of debt. Money to pay the debt is evaporating as mall vacancy rates rise to 10 percent, the highest since 1992.

DDR’s vacancy rate this May was about 9.5 percent. (That’s why it has applied for a federal bailout.)

With many commercial properties worth one-half their peak 2006 value, banks have turned off the tap for commercial real estate refinancing.

The crisis is far from over.

Commercial real estate is “decaying and getting worse,” said Victor Canalog, a director of research for Reis, Inc., the nation’s leading commercial real estate analysis firm. Canalog said he did not “foresee a recovery in the retail sector until late 2012 at the earliest.”

“Given the depth and magnitude of the recession,” he added, “you can argue that we are facing a storm of epic proportions and we’re only at the beginning.”

Those are the mega-problems now dogging DDR’s Mendocino mega-fiasco.

The mall simply cannot and will not happen as promised.

If Proposition A passes, expect a vacant lot at the Masonite site for many years to come.

And the last thing we need is an abandoned project in our county seat and largest city.

New, Much Better Alternatives to Dinosaur Monster Malls – Bright Green Retail


July 22, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

Right now, many of us in the developed world shop by driving to large chain stores — this is especially true in North America, but has become common elsewhere too.

The problem is, this way of shopping adds an enormous ecological burden to all the goods we buy: not only do we burn gas getting to the store and back, but the building and operation of that store and its parking lot have a huge impact; the supply chain that keeps huge stores stocked with masses of various kinds of goods adds more impacts; while the packaging and sales presentation of the goods we buy tops it all off with more energy and materials waste. From the lighting to the loading docks, the freezer cases to the shopping carts, conventional retail is unsustainable.

Retail today has other costs as well. Big chain stores are not generally known for their excellent labor practices, meaning that part of the savings we get by shopping in them comes from the mistreatment of the people who serve us while we’re there. The kinds of volumes that it takes to stock big box chain stores means that these stores will only buy things in huge orders, often from the lowest-cost big provider, which often means supporting sweat shop work conditions, factory farmed food or toxic knock-off products. Furthermore, because the backstories of the objects they sell is often so atrocious, big chain stores are often at the forefront of fighting transparency and labeling laws…

Not all chains are as bad as this, of course, [b]ut there are real limits to how much the model of big box, auto-dependent chain stores can be improved…

[Instead… Webfronts; Flexible Spaces; Micro-commerce; Backstories and Display Transparency; Delivery; Drop Shops and Reverse Supply Chains]… Keep reading at Worldchanging

Why Are We Wasting Time?

Mendocino County

July 24, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

I’ve nearly given up reading news and commentary of any kind. I hardly ever visit the usual widely read Internet commentary blogs or magazines of any stripe. There are only three notable exceptions: Ukiah Blog, the Ukiah Daily Journal letters to the editor, and the Anderson Valley Advertiser for Bruce Anderson’s commentaries and to get a laugh about the latest Supervisor foibles.

Surely, then, I’m not informed? I very much disagree. If you could see the stack of books surrounding us everywhere, you would see what nonsense that is.

Two of the latest books that have come my way are “Self Organization in Biological Systems,” edited by Camazine et al and published by Princeton, and “Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change,” edited by Berkes et al and published by Cambridge. Each includes reports of detailed studies and assume sophisticated understanding of ecology and other areas. They have much to say regarding our situation, but I’d bet no one in a policy making context will ever read them.

I don’t write these things to put you down in any way. My purpose is to buttress my feelings that almost everything that is dumped onto us by the media, Internet blogs, corporation marketing, and especially governments of all levels is superficial tripe. If we have a feeling for history, such as Howard Zinn documented so well

The Great Tax Con Job – Thom Hartmann

From Thom Hartmann

July 24, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

Republicans are using the T-word – taxes – to attack the Obama healthcare program. It’s a strategy based in a lie.

A very small niche of America’s uber-wealthy have pulled off what may well be the biggest con job in the history of our republic, and they did it in a startlingly brief 30 or so years. True, they spent over three billion dollars to make it happen, but the reward to them was in the hundreds of billions – and will continue to be.

As my friend and colleague Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks pointed out in a Daily Kos blog recently, billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times.

Why are these guys willing to lose so much money funding “conservative” media? Why do they bulk-buy every right-wing book that comes out to throw it to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list and then give away the copies to “subscribers” to their websites and publications? Why do they fund to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year money-hole “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato?

The answer is pretty straightforward. They do it because it buys them respectability, and gets their con job out there. Even though William Kristol’s publication is a money-losing joke (with only 85,000 subscribers!), his association with the Standard was enough to get him on TV talk shows whenever he wants, and a column with The New York Times. The Washington Times catapulted Tony Blankley to stardom.