Book Review: It Could Happen Here


In some important ways, Judson’s book follows perfectly on a line of thought presented in three of my previous Buzzflash book reviews:

In “Reinventing Collapse,” Dmitry Orlov talked about his experience as a teenager in Russia when the USSR collapsed and how now, as an American resident, he sees the same dynamics at play here – only we’re less well prepared than was the former Soviet state.

In “The Great Crash of 1929,” John Kenneth Galbraith laid out how Republican/conservative economic policies played out through three successive Republican presidencies led directly to the Great Depression in 1929, and implicitly how thirty years of Reaganomics/Clintonomics is leading us in the same direction now.

And in “The Impact of Inequality” Richard Wilkinson shows how the more unequal a society is, the more sick and unstable it becomes – and documents how the United States is now the most unequal industrial society in the world.

In “It Could Happen Here,” Bruce Judson walks us right up to the edge of a total political collapse in the United States – a “revolution” is the word he uses – and points out that we’re a country that has often experienced both revolutions and violence in response to economic crises.

Local Energy and Corporate Power (Part 4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

This man says it perfectly, so I’ll just quote him. What follows is John Geesman’s fact sheet about the PG&E power grab:


Peter Darbee’s (CEO of PG&E) Dog of an Initiative:
3 Tapeworms Eating Away at the Internal Logic of Prop. 16


I was dumbstruck when I read that PG&E’s board has authorized spending up to $35 million on this initiative. The local governments, municipal utilities, and irrigation districts who are its targets are prohibited by law from spending anything to oppose it. California’s investor-owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing our electricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve a growing economy. They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulating the electorate to kneecap their few competitors. Has there ever been a time when we needed greater downward pressure on electricity rates? Perhaps I can contribute to stopping this outrage by assembling this information.

On February 25, I had the privilege of testifying on Proposition 16 before the joint hearing of the California Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee and the California Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.  This is what I said:

Open Letter To The Editor Re: Board of Supervisors CEO Appointment

Mendocino County

When I read that the Board of Supervisors appointed Ms. Carmel Angelo to a two-year contract as a CEO, I was very disappointed.  In my disappointment I sent around an overly cranky email directed at John McCowen, who had sent around a notice of the Board’s actions.

I apologize for the overly cranky email.  Since then I have heard that Angelo is indeed a very good administrator, and had I had information on her performance in other jobs, or some evaluation of her performance I likely would have agreed that her appointment was a good thing for the county.  I do like the fact that she is actually living here (she is, isn’t she?) and therefore is not someone who has to be moved to the county and introduced to all the players.

That said, it would have been helpful if the members of the Board had shared their thoughts in a wider forum than in individual communications.  It’s the preemption of public input (in a public forum) that drives county residents crazy.

And then there is the issue of a two-year contract.  Would she have just picked up and left if the BOS had said she would continue as the interim CEO until the BOS decided whether to continue the CEO model, or do something else?  If the answer is yes, then maybe she isn’t so dedicated to the welfare of the county residents as we would like to think she is.

In sum, after 2 disastrous CEOs, to go ahead and appoint another one without some deliberations (in public) seems dangerous.

Going forward, I would like to see the BOS adopt a formal tracking system so that the BOS receives updates on its priority items.  This is something I have seen work in my career in the federal government.

Food Renegade: Vandana Shiva on the Dangers of GMOs (Video)

Food Renegade

Until a few months ago, I didn’t know who Vandana Shiva was. Now I think of her as India’s Sitting Bull — a well-educated freedom fighter who is outspoken against the use of GMOs.

In Shiva’s home country of India, thousands of farmers are taking their lives. In the mainstream news media, reports of the mass suicides are blamed on failed crops. Shiva tells a different story. She blames failed GMO crops.

Monsanto comes to India promising illiterate farmers radical yield increases (empty promises), and in turn the farmer (usually for the first time in his life) takes on debt to buy Monsanto’s seeds. He then has to take on additional debt to pay for the accompanying herbicides, pesticides, irrigation, and machinery needed to make these GMO crops grow. If they don’t have the credit to buy the whole package — say they couldn’t afford to irrigate their fields and instead relied on rain which never came (or came at the wrong time in the sensitive lifespan of the GE plant) — then they experience a loss: no increased yields, and now mountains of unpayable debt.

The result? They take their lives.

You can understand why Dr. Shiva is so passionate.

Recently, she sat down for a three part interview with the folks at Cooking Up A Story. In this first part (shown below), Vandana Shiva begins to outline some of the environmental, economic, and health dangers associated wtih GMO crops.

It’s a must see

Mendocino Renegade: Els Cooperrider inducted into the Truth in Labeling Coalition Citizens Hall of Fame


Whereas genetically engineered food ingredients are now contained in over 70% of the American food supply, and no animal or human testing has been done to prove their safety; and the FDA has ruled that there is no significant difference between conventional foods and genetically engineered foods; therefore they don’t need to be labeled; and

Whereas genetically engineered food crops are contaminating organic crops in the field, threatening the integrity of organic agriculture; and

Whereas seed companies and food manufacturers are labeling their European exports as genetically engineered; there are no labeling requirements in the United States, and

Whereas in response to the threat of genetically engineered food, the county of Mendocino in California passed a ban on the planting of genetically engineered crops, and Els Cooperrider led the campaign,

Therefore be it resolved, that Els Cooperrider be inducted into the Truth in Labeling Coalition Citizens Hall of Fame; and is hereby commended and honored for her work.

[Way to go, Els!! -DS]

Take Action! Stop GMO Contamination of Organic!


Don’t Let Obama’s USDA Approve Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready Alfalfa!

Submit comments yourself to personalize Organic Consumers Association’s template letter.

Don’t believe Monsanto’s greenwashing. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aren’t meant to feed the world or be resilient when there are droughts and floods – they’re designed to sell pesticides, especially Monsanto’s weed killer RoundUp, which the “Roundup Ready” crops, corn, cotton, soy, canola, and now sugar beets and alfalfa, are genetically engineered to withstand.

A 2009 study showed that, over the last 13 years, Roundup Ready crops have dramatically increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds!

Before Obama took office, the movement to stop new GMOs was making progress. In 2007, a Federal court ruled that the Bush USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa violated the law because it failed to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of “super-weeds.” The court banned the planting of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa planting, but Monsanto is appealing. They’re taking producers of organic alfalfa seed all the way to the Supreme Court!

Take Action Now!

(Mostly) Against Movies

Front Porch Republic

…almost all movies leave me feeling robbed of time: time, whose wingéd chariot ever at my back I hear—time, that subtle thief of youth, that running grave that tracks you down.

I’m quite sure I haven’t seen any movie that came out in the last decade. I remember how treasonous it was that I hadn’t seen ET. It was ill-breeding and lack of intellectual curiosity that kept me from seeing Matrix. I once heard someone call Fight Club a “must-see,” an epithet that resounded in my ear like an interdiction from God not to see it, so I didn’t.

But I do remember making a grave error once. I allowed a student write an essay on American Beauty, and this, like most mistakes, led to a second: seeing the movie. American Beauty is far and away the most puerile flick I know of—and, of course, it won Best Picture. Not even Kevin Spacey’s line about the couch could redeem it. I find it hard to believe that anyone not suffering a severe rectal-cranial inversion could utter a single unaccented syllable in its favor. It is, plainly and simply, a P.O.S. But that’s just the technical term for it.

And of course I didn’t see—hell’s bells, I don’t even know what else it is I haven’t seen. I know only that I won’t be seeing it. I don’t have any plans to see anything.

The reason is that movies are by nature, and in principle, boring—and I can’t see the sense in parting with my money to bore myself…

See full article here

Twice Baked Irish Potatoes with Stout, Onions, and Kale (Videos)


Cooking Fresh with Ivy Manning — In the Kitchen

First, Ivy Manning visited with Shari Sirkin, of Dancing Roots Farm, and learned more about kale. Now it’s time to take that kale into the kitchen and create something delicious and easy to make, with ingredients that are commonly found in most kitchens!

“What’s your favorite potato story?” Gene Theil, the spunky potato farmer nicknamed “ Gene the Potato Machine,” asked me one crisp November morning as I chose from his table of russets. I drew a blank. “Everyone has a potato story,” he assured me. It finally dawned on me: colcannon. My grandmother used to make the satisfying mash of kale or cabbage and potatoes for me when I was a kid. She said its origins came from necessity when times were tough in Ireland. Women would add kale, cabbage, or even seaweed to their mashed potatoes to stretch the meager harvest;– the greener the colcannon, the tougher the times. Gene was happy to hear that he was right again, we all have a potato story. My love of simple but comforting colcannon inspired this satisfying variation of double- stuffed potatoes; it’s a sort of Irish soul food, if you will.

From the Fields: Kale here

Potato Recipe and Instructions here

Local Energy and Corporate Power (Part 3)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

In my last article about PG&E furiously trying to stop counties from developing their own energy sources, the ending thought was about how the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to put unlimited funds into the political process will affect us:

Speculation has been raging over whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent junking of federal campaign spending limits on corporations will be very bad for democracy, or not so bad. With this huge ballot campaign launched by our biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, we can say this: It’s going to be worse than you can possibly imagine.

And not only that… PG&E Corp, the parent company, of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility is raising the stakes again.

David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, February 20, 2010

that would limit the ability of cities and counties to go into the public power business, the company reported Friday. PG&E has supplied all of the proposition campaign’s funding so far, totaling $6.5 million. On Friday, PG&E took the unusual step of telling its investors that funding for the campaign would affect the company’s 2010 profits, lowering them by 6 to 9 cents per share.