Another bullshit sandwich? (Updated – Rachel Maddow for President!)

Post Carbon Institute

[Where’s the beef? -DS]

Last night’s presidential speech on the Gulf oil spill had been pre-billed by the Washington Post as Barack Obama’s “Jimmy Carter moment.” But reading any of Carter’s speeches (a good one to start with is that of April 18, 1977) side by side with last night’s bromide is an invitation to nostalgia and bitter disappointment.

President Obama offered up one promising paragraph:

“For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked—not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.”

It sounds for all the world as though the President is about to unleash a grand program on the scale of the New Deal—an energy Moon Shot, a rousing call-to-arms reminiscent of December 8, 1941. But this is what follows:

“So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party—as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development—and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development. All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.

Trying To Understand The Tea Party

The Daily Dish

[T]hey’re the usual reactionary crowd that goes nuts whenever there’s a Democrat in the White House and they’re looking for something to be outraged about. And right-wing media and the Republican Party have decided (correctly, I think) that banging on about the deficit is a handy way to gin up opposition to pretty much everything Democrats want to do.

The previous tea party incarnations worked the same way, but their leaders chose topics suited to their time and circumstances. In the 30s it was opposition to the New Deal. For the Birchers it was communism. For the Clinton-haters it was the culture wars. Those were the most obvious and convenient stalking horses of their day for broad-spectrum outrage at Democrats, while today’s is the deficits/socialism message. There’s really nothing mysterious here. It’s just ordinary partisan politics.

So please please please: trying to figure out what’s behind the tea parties is fine. But psychoanalysis isn’t the right tool. History and politics are.


From clinical interviews and thematic apperception tests, Adorno and his co-workers found that their pseudo-conservative subjects, although given to a form of political expression that combines a curious mixture of largely conservative with occasional radical notions, succeed in concealing from themselves impulsive tendencies that, if released into action, would be very far from conservative.

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, “shows conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere. The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them from largely fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

John Yoo anyone? Dick Cheney? I can think of few examples of this more telling than the suspension of habeas corpus, the enactment of preventative war as policy and the institutionalization of torture as the celebration of American traditional values. So Hofstadter helps me understand how a movement based on inalienable individual freedom had nothing to say about the most authoritarian period in the American executive branch in their lifetimes. But the maintenance of shrill ideology against reality is still the most prevalent feature. Hofstadter noted some classic examples from a previous era that seem plucked from Fox News today:

Victor Frankl: Our Search for Meaning

To Be Of Use

Internationally renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps, wrote this in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search for Meaning:

I published a study devoted to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in cases of young patients suffering from what I called “unemployment neurosis.” And I could show that this neurosis really originated in a twofold erroneous identification: being jobless was equated with being useless, and being useless was equated with having a meaningless life.

Consequently, whenever I succeeded in persuading the patients to volunteer in youth organizations, adult education, public libraries, and the like — in other words, as soon as they could fill their abundant free time with some sort of unpaid but meaningful activity — their depression disappeared although their economic situation had not changed and their hunger was the same.

Frankl developed “logotherapy.” Logos is a Greek word that denotes “meaning,” and his therapy was based on the “striving to find a meaning in one’s life,” which he felt was “the primary motivational force in man.” What matters is “not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. … Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it… The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself … self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”

More from Man’s Search For Meaning (1959)

Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors that contend that “meanings and values” are nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations, and sublimations.” But as for myself I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be willing to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!

Books and the Hungry Soul

Front Porch Republic

One of the great benefits of being someone who studies the Middle Ages is that I not only have the privilege of reading great books — Dante, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas — I also have the special privilege of seeing beautiful books.  I was reminded of this the other day as I was walking through the reading room of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame and saw a student poring over a color facsimile of a beautiful Fourteenth Century illuminated manuscript.  It was visually stunning.  And I thought to myself: “Wow, those people really knew how to make books!” In the age of Kindle, we need to be careful of not losing our appreciation for books.

It’s interesting how the advent of technology does not always bring with it unmitigated progress in all areas.  Flying across the Atlantic with my legs tucked up against my chest in one of Continental Airlines’ economy seats is not necessarily better than sailing across the Atlantic on an ocean liner.  And flying almost anywhere in the States is not necessarily better than taking a train, especially if you like to read, talk to people, stretch your legs regularly, and breathe real air.  Granted, if all you want to do is “get there,” then the plane is probably your best bet.  But “faster” isn’t the same thing as “better” or “more civilized,” any more than “fast-food” necessarily means “more nourishing.”

Several weeks ago I heard someone on National Public Radio arguing in defense of books saythat they remain a good “information delivery system.”  As much as I appreciate any defense of books, I had to cringe a bit when I heard books being described as a kind of “information delivery system.”  For lovers of books, calling them a kind of “information delivery system” is akin to describing eating as a kind of “fuel delivery system.” It’s possible to do, of course, and not entirely untrue, but one feels that a crucial element of the experience has gone missing.

Several years ago Dr. Leon Kass, former head of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the George W. Bush administration, wrote a wonderful book entitled The Hungry Soul in which he argued that “eating” among human beings was not merely about “feeding.”  It could be (and in fact generally should be) a much more civilized and civilizing activity.  When “eating” is done in a social context with one’s family or friends, such meals, with their conversation and good cheer, are not only about feeding one’s body, but also about feeding one’s soul.  Thus the title of his book: The Hungry Soul.

So too, I would argue, with books, the point isn’t merely to fill one’s brain with information, any more than eating is merely about filling one’s belly with food… More here.

Janie Sheppard: Laura Fogg’s Quilts at the Corner Gallery, Ukiah (video)

Mendocino County

Laura Fogg’s art has top billing at the Corner Gallery in Ukiah.  On Friday, June 4th, Laura’s show opened, with her newest quilts, tile mosaics, and some older drawings that together show her development as one of Mendocino County’s outstanding artists.

The Corner Gallery is located at 201 S State Street in Ukiah.  Check out the website: Hours are 11-6, Tues thru Saturday.  It is a co-op gallery with over 20 artist members. Laura’s work will be in the front windows for the month of June.

Fogg’s website, where you can see her other work, is

Plan a visit soon.

Belief systems at a turning point

The Oil Drum via Energy Bulletin

It seems to me with the BP Horizon Blowout, we may be hitting a turning point in belief systems, in more than one way:

• Can businesses really be expected to regulate themselves, with minimal oversight?

• Can technology solve all our problems?

• If there are technological solutions, can they be expected immediately?

• Can we really depend on the oil supply that everyone has told us is here?

1. Can businesses really be expected to regulate themselves, with minimal oversight?

Once upon a time, back in the pre-Reagan era, capitalism and profits didn’t seem to have quite the emphasis they have today in the the way the country functioned.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” and people took him seriously. Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1963 to 1969 period was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, Public Broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his “War on Poverty.”

But by 1980, the country had been through a lot of hard times, with the decline in US oil supply starting in 1970, Nixon canceling the convertibility of dollar to gold in 1971, real wages starting to decline in 1973, and the oil price shock of 1973-1974.

Ronald Reagan was elected as US president in 1980. He was known policies that much more oriented toward laisse faire capitalism, including trickle down economics, reduced taxes, getting tough on labor unions, and deregulation of businesses.

The BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and what appears to be questionable internal decisions, makes one wonder about whether this deregulation really makes sense. There were hints that deregulation might be a problem before–with Enron’s manipulation of energy markets and creative accounting, discovered in 2001, followed by all of the bank bailouts in 2008 and 2009.

Now, when one hears all the detailed allegations made in the BP incident, one wonders whether our faith in deregulation might be misplaced…

More here.

Chicken coops, once uncouth, are springing up in Santa Cruz backyards


Four babies arrived at the Branciforte Avenue home of Holly and Jeff Akiyoshi early last summer. The new parents held their breath. They wanted girls.

The Akiyoshis got their wish within a few months — not a rooster in the bunch.

The loud-mouthed males are banned in the urban areas of Santa Cruz County, but hens don’t require so much as a permit. Whether it’s the economy, a desire for sustainable living or the appeal of farm-fresh eggs, a growing number of county residents appear to be catching on to the idea of backyard coops. And they’re in places where chickens haven’t traditionally been kept, at least not for the past half-century.

“I’m planning on getting two hens each year, so we don’t have any dry years,” said Holly Akiyoshi, whose flock now numbers 11 and is laying half-a-dozen eggs a day in the heart of the Eastside.

Scotts Valley Feed sold 3,000 chickens in 2009, up from 150 to 300 just four years earlier. Spring started in February this year at the store — chicks usually don’t go on the shelves until April — and already 1,500 have found homes.

“We got 300 and sold them out in 45 minutes,” said co-owner Christine Richie. “The hatcheries were caught off guard.”

Jen Dumford, manager of DIG Gardens in Santa Cruz, reports an increased interest in heritage breeds — the cold-hardy Speckled Sussex, the Rhode Island Red — from customers who want to add more variety to the color of their hens’ plummage and resulting eggs.

But unlike growing parsley, keeping chickens isn’t necessarily cheaper than buying eggs from the store. There’s the expense of creating a sturdy coop — a necessity. Chickens are natural foragers who can live off bugs and greens in the wild, but urban chickens need to be given feed. A 50-pound bag of organic scratch runs about $30 and lasts a month or two, depending on the size of the flock, and the birds can sometimes require supplements like ground oyster shells to ensure hard eggs.

So with organic eggs at the market starting at roughly $2.99 a dozen, why bother with a coop? Because for many, chickens are less of a farm animal, more of an all-in-one family pet — one that helps with the compost, offers a feeling of self-sufficiency and requires minimal care beyond the owners’ watchful eye.

More here.

Todd Walton: Words, Words, Words

Anderson Valley

(This essay originally appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser June 2010)

We are awash in words. Our thoughts are words. We talk with words, we read words, we listen to words. We depend on words to define our reality. And when we hear the same pronouncement often enough, most of us come to believe the pronouncement is fact even if the only proof is repetition.

Shortly after the World Trade Center came tumbling down, a comprehensive national poll revealed that less than one per cent of the American population believed Sadaam Hussein had anything to do with that event. Then the administration of George Bush, speaking through their corporate media, embarked on an all-day-every-day-all-channel campaign of repetition stating briefly and with no corroborating evidence that Sadaam was joined at the hip with Osama Bin Laden and possessed weapons of mass destruction. Six months and ten million repetitions later, a new poll revealed that seventy-nine per cent of the American people believed Sadaam was directly involved in bringing down the twin towers. Repetition of an unfounded lie became general belief.

For a month now this same corporate media has been calling the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico a leak. I think they have intentionally chosen the word leak so we will associate this unprecedented disaster with a dripping faucet. What do you think of when you hear the word leak? Certainly not millions and millions of gallons of oil gushing into the ocean for days and weeks and months on end. Yet even after movies began to appear on television and on the Internet showing the oil gushing from a massive broken pipe, commentators continued to use the word leak. As of this writing, that catastrophic gusher is still being called a leak, with only a few of the more daring journalists using the word spill, which is also inaccurate and inadequate.

Do our overlords think we’re stupid? You bet they do. You may recall some years ago when there used to be occasional news of the war that has never ended in Iraq, commentators and journalists referred to Iraqis killed by American forces as insurgents; a brilliant choice of words for the purposes of propaganda,

Whacking the Old Folks

The Nation

In setting up his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Barack Obama is again playing coy in public, but his intentions are widely understood among Washington insiders. The president intends to offer Social Security as a sacrificial lamb to entice conservative deficit hawks into a grand bipartisan compromise in which Democrats agree to cut Social Security benefits for future retirees while Republicans accede to significant tax increases to reduce government red ink.

Obama’s commission is the vehicle created to achieve this deal. He ducks questions about his preferences, saying only that “everything has to be on the table.” But White House lieutenants are privately talking up a bargain along those lines. They are telling anxious liberals to trust the president to make only moderate cuts. Better to have Democrats cut Social Security, Obama advisers say, than leave the task to bloodthirsty Republicans.

The president has stacked the deck to encourage this strategy. The eighteen-member commission is top-heavy with fiscal conservatives and hostile right-wingers who yearn to dismantle the retirement program. The Republican co-chair, former Senator Alan Simpson, is especially nasty; he likes to get laughs by ridiculing wheezy old folks. Democratic co-chair Erskine Bowles and staff director Bruce Reed secretly negotiated a partial privatization of Social Security with Newt Gingrich back when they served in the Clinton White House, but the deal blew up with Clinton’s sex scandal. Monica Lewinsky saved the system.

Any recommendations require fourteen votes, and Obama has at least five loyalists who will protect him—Senators Dick Durbin and Max Baucus, Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Xavier Becerra, and former SEIU president Andy Stern. On the other hand, if Obama really wants to make a deal, these commissioners will very likely support him.

The people, once again, are kept in the dark. The Obama commission will not report its recommendations until after this fall’s elections—too late for voters to express objections. Both parties assume they can evade blame by holding hands and jumping together.

What’s extraordinary about this assault on Social Security is that a Democratic president is leading it. Obama is arm in arm with GOP conservatives like Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who for decades has demonized Social Security as a grave threat to the Republic and has spread some $12 million among economists, think tanks, foundations and assorted front groups to sell his case. If Obama pulls the deal off, this will be his version of “Nixon goes to China”—a leader proving his manhood by going against his party’s convictions. Even if he fails, the president will get some protective cover on the deficit issue.

Hooray For Our Team

A Man Without a Country (2005)

Our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what’s really going on.

People are so afraid. Take the man, with no address, who wrote me:

If you knew that a man posed a danger to you—maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you—what would you do? We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Queda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

I wrote back:

Please, for the sake of us all, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-guage double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.

“Socialism” is no more an evil word than “Christianity.” Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.

Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a two-fer. He named his party the National Socialists, the Nazis. Hitler’s swastika wasn’t a pagan symbol, as so many people believe. It was a working person’s Christian cross, made of axes, of tools.

About Stalin’s shuttered churches, and those in China today: Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx’s statement that “religion is the opium of the people.” Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx himself had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.

When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Lucy Neely: Paradise and the Parking Lot

The Gardens Project

This is a tale of transformation and renewal – an empty parking lot to community garden story…

Not so very long ago, in the magical valley of Ukiah, just North of the Myers Dentistry building and just West of the Ford dealership, there sat a quarter acre parking lot that had been unused and neglected for decades. The land beneath the asphalt yearned for a purpose.

Lynda Myers, owner of the lot and the building next to it, listened to the lot’s yearning and felt motivated to call Miles Gordon, Project Coordinator of The Gardens Project, in July 2009. She said, “Miles, I want to turn this parking lot into a community garden.” Miles replied, “That sounds like it has potential. We’ll look into it.”

In August, three AmeriCorps volunteers arrived to The Gardens Project in Ukiah and started looking earnestly into the possibility of turning that empty lot into a garden. In November, they canvassed apartment buildings in the neighborhood, assessing whether there was interest in a community garden. There was interest, and that weekend twelve excited gardeners-to-be stood in the middle of that empty lot, dreaming a transformation.

The soil under the asphalt was tested for contaminants of folly past. It was clean. Throughout the winter and into early Spring of this year, The Gardens Project worked with Kim Jordan and others in the planning department of the City of Ukiah to define the language and conditions of the permitting process for a community garden on private land in Ukiah, since this had never been done before. We hammered it out and obtained the first permit for such a garden. It was time to take out the asphalt, which fortunately was quite thin and crumbly. A front loader scraped off the asphalt and top few inches of soil in a few hours.

The California Conservation Corps of Ukiah donated their entire Corps to The Gardens Project on April 22, Earth Day, and twenty of those Corps members went to work on the Washington Ave. garden, trenching and laying irrigation, pick-axing the hard packed ground and sifting out thousands of rocks.

The neighborhood noticed the transformation that was happening. When the garden opened its gates to the public in late April, all forty one plots were claimed by eager gardeners within two weeks – people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the space or resources to have a garden.

Ukiah Farmers Market Saturday 6/12/10

Anacortes, Washington


Friends of the Farmers Market,

Greetings!  The market has been slow the last couple of weeks, but I know that you will not be able to resist all of the cool stuff going on this Saturday.

For starters, we will have an interactive chef demonstration showing how to prepare your own great salad dressings from scratch, using what is available at the market (even at this lean point in the season).  To participate meet up with Jini Reynolds at 10am under the pavilion and join her as she shops the farmers’ market for fresh ingredients.   She will then show you how to make a range of fresh-made dressings.  Then you get to taste them.

The market will also share space with two important benefits.  The Peregrine Audubon Society’s annual rummage sale will be in the park at Alex Thomas Plaza.  It is your opportunity to find something interesting and support a good cause.  We will also host a raffle supporting for the upcoming Death to Meth concert and educational event (see today’s UDJ for more about this event).

For the kids, our series of 10:30am story time features kicks-off this week with a reading by librarian Eliza Wingate with assistance from Joplin the therapy dog.  Look for it near the Jumperz play house.

In the street the oysters are likely to be back, Covelo Organics should be with us for the 1st time this season, Richard Jeske will be at the market for the 1st time with goji berry plants, table grape plants selected specially for inland Mendocino Co, tree collard plants, and shiso plants. You will also have the opportunity to visit with Stephen Decater of Live Power Community Farm under the pavilion.  Plus, Diamond Edge Knife Sharpening will be on hand to tackle your most difficult sharpening challenges.

All of that plus our usual array of excellent local farms and ranches.

Finally, follow the link below to our revamped Ukiah Saturday Farmers’ Market TV commercial.  It should start to play on Comcast as early as next week.

As usual, the market is 8:30 to noon at the corners of School and Clay St in historic downtown Ukiah.

10,000 Peasants March Against Monsanto in Haiti


Hinche, Haiti– An estimated 10,000 peasants gathered for a massive march in Central Haiti on June 4, 2010, to protest what has been described as “the next earthquake for Haiti” – a donation of 475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds by the US-based agribusiness giant Monsanto, in partnership with USAID. While this move comes at a time of dire need in Haiti, many feel it will undermine rather than bolster the country’s food security.

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) and spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye (MPNKP), the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti is “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds… and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”

While Monsanto is known for being among the world’s largest purveyors of genetically modified seeds, the corporation’s spokespeople have emphasized that this particular donation is of conventional hybrid seeds as opposed to GMO seeds. Yet for many of Haiti’s peasants, this distinction is of little comfort.

“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.

“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.

“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti’s farmers simply cannot afford. This creates a devastating level of dependency and is a complete departure from the reality of Haiti’s peasants. Haitian peasants already have locally adapted seeds that have been developed over generations. What we need is support for peasants to access the traditional seeds that are already available.”

More here

The Stupid Never Ends

Daily Kos

Via Mike Allen, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has some advice for President Obama on the BP spill:

“What he needed was sort of a bullhorn moment where he went to the Gulf and said we’re going to get this right. I’m going to get on it.’ … [H]e’s making up lost ground.”

Ah, yes. President Obama just needs to handle the BP spill like George W. Bush handled 9/11. Can you imagine how great it would be? President Obama would put on some waders and step into oil-ravaged Louisiana wetland. And then he’d grab a bullhorn and tell the assembled fishermen that he could hear them, and the whole world could hear them, and that we’re going to get the people who spilled all this oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And then we’d go and attack Venezuela or something. Just like Bush. It’d be so fucking great.

Look, Lindsey: we don’t need a damn bullhorn. We need a government that stands up for American citizens and tries to do the right thing. And as long as you are refusing to help pass energy reform legislation, why don’t you shut your sanctimonious mouth. What we need right now are some patriots who are willing to set aside politics to do the right thing for this country. Not more armchair quarterbacking Republican hacks.

See also Reagan’s Legacy of Deregulation Goes Haywire in the Gulf

The oil spill in the Gulf is the product of decades of conservatives pounding for deregulation, Cheney-era manipulation of federal regulatory agencies, and corporate insatiability.

Book Review: Wendell Berry’s New Collection Of Essays,What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth


In much the same way that Michael Pollan has told us in recent years not to trust our nutrition to the nutritionists, essayist, sage, and father of modern agrarian thought, Wendell Berry, instructs us that we should never have trusted our economy to economists. At least not to the ones who have been (mis)handling it for the last hundred years or so.

In his collection of new and renewed essays, What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth, Berry lays out clearly and concisely the hows and whys of our modern system’s failures, but far from being all doom and gloom, he points the way to a properly prioritized economy. It may at times feel a bit Utopian, but it is perfectly plausible, sustainable, logical and, in the end, necessary.

Right from the start (in fact in the second sentence) he explains that “In ordering the economy of a household or a community or a nation, I would put nature first, the economies of land use second, the manufacturing economy third, and the consumer economy fourth.”

In this list of priorities it is easy to see – and no accident – that the economy that has failed us so miserably at least twice in the last century is ordered in precisely the reverse. It has relegated its citizens to the status of mere consumers, duping them into confusing wants for needs, and “the gullibility of the public thus becomes an economic resource.” It’s a meager stumble then from Plutocracy to Idiocracy.

Berry is a farmer who sees the world from a literal ground level. In one of the essays, “Faustian Economics,” he contends, “The real names of global warming are ‘waste’ and ‘greed.’” He has no tolerance for the conspicuous consumer, accusing him of not only “Prodigal extravagance” but also of having “an assumed godly limitlessness.” These are accusations that would not sting so much if they weren’t true.

The irony bears noting, by the way, that in our energy deal with the devil – only the most recent downside of which is the horrendous catastrophe now killing the Gulf of Mexico – the dirty, pollution-prone fuels come from the depths, while the sustainable, clean fuels come from the heavens… More here

Top 15 Policies For Achieving A Steady State Economy

Herman Daly


In a democratic society, the people have a say about the policies enacted. We can all look for opportunities to support policies that will lead to a sustainable economy rather than a growth economy. Ecological economics suggests three foundations to a long-term, healthy economy: (1) sustainable scale, (2) fair distribution, and (3) efficient allocation. CASSE’s top 15 policies for building these three foundations are provided below. In addition, we also provide summaries of policy recommendations from other leading researchers: Tim Jackson, Herman Daly, Gus Speth, David Korten.

1. First and foremost, adopt the right macro-economic policy goal – a steady state economy that features sustainable scale, fair distribution of wealth, and efficient allocation of resources. A prerequisite to adopting this macro-economic policy goal is a cultural shift from the pursuit of lifestyles driven by endless economic expansion and unsustainable consumerism to lifestyles driven by the search for long-term prosperity and sustainable consumption that fulfills people’s needs.
2. Maintain an exemplary network of conservation areas, sufficient in size and diversity to ensure the long-term provision of vital ecosystem services.
3. Stabilize population, and aim for a long-term population size that enables a high standard of living for everyone without undermining ecological systems and the life-support services they provide.
4. Gradually reset existing fiscal, monetary, and trade policy levers from growth toward a steady state. For example, manage the money supply and redevelop the tax code with the new macro-economic policy goal as a guide.
5. Limit the range of inequality in income and wealth, including both a minimum and maximum allowable income. Implement tax reforms to tax “bads” (e.g., pollution and depletion of natural resources) rather than goods (e.g., income from wages).
6. Develop a commons sector to accompany the public and private sectors. Within this commons sector, assign property rights for commonly held resources (e.g., the atmosphere, mineral resources, and forests), and establish public trusts to manage those resources for maximum long-term public benefit.
7. Employ cap-auction-trade systems in the commons sector for allocating basic resources. Set caps based on biophysical limits.

Why Sociopaths Win & Why, No, You Don’t Want to Be One of Them


[…] But here’s what I really want to say, as a psychologist, to all of you: Sociopaths lack something 95% of us have: They lack a conscience. They lack the capacity to feel empathy, to feel guilt, to feel bad about doing bad. When you lack Vitamin E(mpathy), you hate people who have it. You walk around with an expensive suit and you have a black card to pay for an expensive dinner, and you buy and sell people and marry the hottest mates around, but it’s all for nothing. You can’t attach to other people, even though you know it is something you should want to do. You can only treat people as pawns in a chess game, because you can’t relate to people as anything other than suckers or fools to manipulate…

And when sociopaths rule every aspect of our lives, when the largest organizations are modeled after sociopathic humans, it takes the rest of us a long time to figure out that we’ve been suckered in. We’ve been tarnished and harmed by it. The reason is that, having empathy, we bend over backward trying to believe there has to be some logic to completely merciless, cut-throat destructive action. Having empathy, we can’t believe anyone would do that “for no reason” or only “to make a buck.” We keep thinking that anyone who has gotten to that level of power and authority has to know better than we do, what they are doing. And when we finally get it, when we finally realize that, no, there is no “deeper purpose” other than profit, there is no “master plan” other than getting richer at any cost, most of us feel deeply, deeply impacted. Depressed, or angry, or speechless, or outraged.

When this happens, we stop shouting at them “Don’t you CARE!” because we understand that they don’t.  They can’t.   As long as we are shouting “Don’t you care!” the sociopaths secretly laugh at us.  When we finally “get it,” realize just how disordered it all is, and stop putting ourselves in the same pool of “humans” as those with sociopathy, our actions can be much more effective.

Before we understand the sociopathy of the system, we keep believing that if we protest, and shout loud enough, the system will respond. But once we understand that this is a sociopathic system, devoid of Vitamin E, we have to start looking at how we, ourselves, have been suckered into acting like sociopaths too. We’ve been seduced into believing that our own internal greed, our own desire for “something for nothing” is the best part of us, the normal, adult part.

When we really get it, deep down, the vast majority of us are going to do some soul-searching, because we have a soul to search. And we’ll be tempted to believe that the “anxious” or “depressed” part, the part were we’ve “got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died,” is the part we have to kill off with drugs manufactured just for this purpose by the sociopathic Big Pharm.  And the sociopaths score again. Those pills that are supposed to make you “larger” and feel “less,” are worse than the “ones that mother gives you that don’t do anything at all”: they might make things worse.  If they kill you or cripple you, the sociopaths pay the lawsuits.  No big woop.  But they make a lot of cash in the meanwhile.

When you’ve, been well lubricated by this system but still have a healthy dose of Vitamin E, you start having problems if you don’t start causing trouble or withdrawing your participation. In fact, when we start to believe that only the “babies” and the “suckers” are the ones who don’t lie constantly (even in their sleep), when only fools “don’t ’sell their own grandmothers for a buck,” and we start trying to join them instead of beat them or withdraw from them, that’s when we become mentally ill. And our mental illness might be the first clue to those of  us who have bought in, that something, something deep down has got to change fundamentally about how we relate to other people, to ourselves, and to the planet.
Full article here

Why To Buy Organic Eggs From The Farm, Not From The Store


Eggs are one of the most beneficial foods you can eat, and it’s a shame they’ve been vilified for so long in the United States. In the U. S., roughly 280 million birds give us about 75 billion eggs per year, which is about 10 percent of the world supply.

But not all eggs are created equal.

Eggs from truly organic, free-range chickens are FAR less likely to contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, and their nutrient content is also much higher than commercially raised eggs.

The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens.

If you are eating organically, then you have learned how important the diet and care of an animal is to the quality of its meat, and in this case, their eggs. But have you ever thought about what happens to these eggs AFTER they are collected?

You would think that organic eggs would be your best choice when picking them up at the grocery store. However, most states have laws that make them illegal unless all the eggs that are sold commercially are processed in a way that could damage them.

Some states require that all eggs receive a chlorine bath and mineral oil coating before they are nestled into their cartons.

There are vast differences in how eggs are processed and handled, even under the “certified organic” label.

As it turns out, what happens outside the shell is as important as what happens inside the shell, and that is the focus of this report.

Your Egg’s Journey from Hen to Market
Ideally, eggs should be processed the day after they are laid. The USDA requires processing within 30 days of lay. High quality eggs are processed within seven days of lay.

Egg processing involves the following six steps:

  1. Egg collecting
  2. Cooling
  3. Cleaning/Disinfecting
  4. Candling (a measure for assessing the interior quality of the eggs whereby eggs are held up in front of a high-intensity light and visually examined; among other problems, cracks can be identified that necessitate disposal of the egg)

The Top Ten Provably Untrue Things Tea Partiers Believe

Crooks and Liars

Stephen Levingston at the Washington Post asked us to write up a piece illustrating one of the book’s chief theses — namely, that the American Right, embodied nowadays in the Tea Party movement, now widely embraces a belief in things that are provably untrue.

The piece ran in the Post this week: “10 fictitious Tea Party beliefs”:

We’ll admit up-front that the title of our forthcoming book,“Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane,” indulges in some rhetorical imprecision: conservatives in the United States are of course not really insane in any clinical or legal sense, and we are not suggesting they undergo sanity hearings to determine if their rights should be suspended. We mean “insane” in the common-sense meaning of the word — having taken leave of their senses.

What other word, after all, can properly describe the behavior of people who adamantly insist on believing things that are provably untrue? Einstein facetiously defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Defiantly clinging to exploded fantasies and thoroughly debunked false “facts,” even when evidence of their falsity is planted directly in front of them, is a kind of insanity too.

The numbers of things that the American Right — embodied in its wildly popular new “grassroots” Tea Party movement – believes but that are provably untrue is actually a pretty long list. But we’ve put together the Top 10, listed by importance in their increasingly Planet Bizarro-like worldview:

1. The birth-certificate conspiracy. Reality: Not even official birth certificates from Hawaii, newspaper clippings from 1961, and the testimony of state officials will convince the true-blue Tea Partiers. Which is why WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah lectured the National Tea Party Convention for an hour about the “truth” of the birth-certificate story.

2. Death panels. Reality: PolitiFact named Sarah Palin’s Facebook invention its “Lie of the Year,” and the belief was thoroughly exposed as a falsehood by every news network (even Fox). Yet Palin still insists that the panels exist somewhere in the health-care reform bill that was signed into law, its actual language notwithstanding.

Congratulations, Dan Hamburg!


Garlic-Roasted Lamb Shanks with South American Jalapeño-Parsley Salsa (Organic Recipe)


Garlic-Roasted Lamb Shanks

[Recipe dedicated to Owens Family Farm, Hopland. -DS]

We usually think of stewing a lamb shank, as in osso buco. But you can also treat the shank like a mini leg of lamb. It roasts to perfection and produces the same kind of full-flavored morsels that dark meat lovers insist on. As with any roast, plenty of garlic is never out of order.

Serves 4 to 6
Takes 2½ hours

4 local pasture-fed lamb shanks (9 to 10 pounds)
24 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large organic red peppers
2 cups cooked organic chick-peas
1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
1½ tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
18 organic corn or 12 flour tortillas, warmed or crisped just before serving

South American Jalapeño-Parsley Salsa (see below)
2 cups organic sour cream

1. Heat the oven to 475ºF.

2. With your fingers, push the garlic slivers into the natural openings in the lamb shanks and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Arrange the lamb shanks and bell peppers in a single layer in 1 or 2 roasting pans. Roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350ºF and roast until the peppers are soft and the skins are wrinkled, about 1 hour more. Remove the peppers and continue roasting the shanks until the meat is well browned and pulling away from the bones, about 50 minutes more. Remove and let cool enough to handle.

More at

Soil and Health Library – Tasmania

Certified Organic Everlasting Starflower Seeds by Dave Smith

[Steve Soloman founded Territorial Seeds in Cottage Grove, Oregon many years ago, then sold it and moved to Tasmania. Here is what he has been doing since... -DS]

This website provides free e-books, mainly about holistic agriculture, holistic health and self-sufficient homestead living. There are secondary collections about social criticism and transformational psychology. No fees are collected for this service.

Upon special request the Soil and Health Library provides custom-made digital copies of a far wider range of books in the same subject areas for its patrons, delivered on CD-ROM by post. There is a small fee for this service.

The library’s subject seemingly-diverse topic areas actually connect agricultural methods to the consequent health or illness of animals and humans, shows how to prevent and heal disease and increase longevity, suggests how to live a more fulfilling life and reveals social forces working against that possibility.

The Free Digitalized Library:

There are four major subject areas:

Radical Agriculture. The nutritional qualites of food and consequently the health of the animals and humans eating that food are determined by soil fertility. This section’s interest is far wider than organic gardening and farming; other health-determined approaches to food-raising are also included. Go to the Agriculture Library

The Restoration and Maintenance of Health. Nutritional medicine heals disease, builds and maintains health with diet—and sometimes heals with fasting or other forms of dietary restriction. There are many approaches represented in this collection. There is also a collection concerning longevity and nutritional anthropology. Go to the Health Library

Achieving Personal Sovereignty. Physical, mental, and spiritual health are linked to one’s lifestyle. This collection focuses on liberating activities, especially homesteading and the skills it takes to do that—small-scale entrepreneuring, financial independence, frugality, and voluntary simplicity. There is also a collection of social criticism, especially from a back-to-the-land point of view. Go to the Personal Sovereignty Library

The fierce urgency of energy

Daily Kos

I’m careful about the word crisis. Like hero it gets overused. And when politicians deploy the word, watch out because you don’t know if it means one of their earmarks got nicked or they’re actually worried about something real. I don’t, however, have any trouble when crisis is applied to our energy situation. What we’re doing with energy – what we’ve been relentlessly, myopically doing after being warned and warned about the consequences – is exacerbating a climate change already well under way by refusing to acknowledge that this is a crisis. Not a Priority #6, we-should-maybe-get-around-to-that- tomorrow-or-day-after-tomorrow kind of crisis. A right-now crisis. We have to stop dinking around.

We should treat our energy crisis like World War II.

I’m not fond of the label “Greatest Generation” that Tom Brokaw implanted irrevocably into our brains. It’s the sort of phraseology that contributes to generational warfare, and we already have enough divisions. But who can disrespect the sacrifices so many people of that era made? After surviving the Depression, they rationed sugar and gasoline and rubber, built tanks instead of Buicks, and went off to fight against the armies of nations who, for one of the few times in our history, had made war impossible to avoid.

When I say tanks, I mean massive numbers of tanks. Huge numbers of airplanes and ships and jeeps and locomotives and guns. Munitions and uniforms and bullets and bombs and bandages and all manner of everything needed to defeat determined enemies and simultaneously keep the home front fed and hopeful. Factories running three shifts even when that required hiring women, which it did, in vast quantities. Victory gardens. Gold star moms. Everything for the war effort.

In today’s dollars, $4.5 trillion borrowed and spent.

That’s the kind of focus and commitment we need now. For energy, the presidential model should not be, as many progressives have urged on other issues, the New Deal FDR of 1933-36. Rather, it should be the wartime FDR of 1940-45. That war generated the largest public mobilization of human resources in our history.

Together We Can! Mendocino

From TogetherWeCan

Together We Can! Mendocino supports local non-profits and community organizations by incorporating a social aspect to the volunteer experience. We create a fun and friendly atmosphere around volunteering for “one time” only events, which typically last 2-3 hours. After the volunteer event, we invite our volunteers to gather at a local cafe’, park or restaurant, where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.

The “one time” event format allows you to limit your commitment to a one day event, rather than having to commit to a regular weekly or monthly schedule. It makes it easy for you to try out a variety of volunteer activities, help different community organizations and meet new people involved in different community projects.

Try it!
You might find yourself:

  • Planting trees or trail building.
  • Reading to children at the library.
  • Serving meals to the homeless.
  • Creating a new neighborhood garden.
  • Walking or running for a cause.

Which leads to:

  • Meeting new and interesting people.
  • Feeling personal satisfaction about improving the quality of life in your community.


A vote for Wendy Roberts is a vote for the Right Wing, Privatizing, and Dumb Growth

Excerpts from an article in The Press Democrat

[…] Mendocino business consultant Wendy Roberts’ financial supporters include the North Coast Citizens for a Better Economy, a construction industry lobbying group [from outside Mendocino County -DS], and John Mayfield, a Ukiah land developer who belongs to the conservative Mendocino Employers Council…

Roberts is liberal by Mayfield’s standards, but he said she is more conservative fiscally and on property rights than her opponents. She also favors privatizing some county services and allowing some development on the coast…

More at the PD here
See also: Hey Wingnutters! Are Community and Compassion Evil?

The Meat Ax (Mendo Slaughterhouse)


On Tuesday, May 18, the Board of Supervisors spent an afternoon discussing the possibility of a slaughterhouse somewhere along Highway 101. 101 is something of a slaughterhouse itself, especially near Hopland to the south and between Willits and Laytonville to the north. The interstate suddenly goes from four lanes to two. Motorists slow to react are often killed.

The slaughterhouse under discussion, however, would render four-footed animals into steaks and chops.

Several sons of the soil, fresh off their back 40s, appeared before the Supervisors to talk up a tax-subsidized facility.

The slaughterhouse idea has been floating around for several years now, never getting very far because, of course, nobody’s willing to put up millions of dollars for, ahem, a pig in a poke.

Ranchers, miscellaneous Friends of Ranchers, and some local food advocates spoke for the idea; none of them offered to front the money. They seemed to think the Supervisors would somehow fund it, or fund the planning of it.

A rancher named John Ford, unlike his fellow ranchers, seemed much more reality-based. Ford rattled off some likely numbers and told the Board, “I can’t see where this is economically viable.”

Several enviros and a vegetarian told the Board that there were various problems with the idea — the smell, the waste, the humane treatment, the idea itself…

One Ukiah resident was for it as long as it wasn’t in his neighborhood…

Counting herself among the Friends of Ranchers, Fifth District Supervisor Candidate Wendy Roberts said she’d spoken to “Sea Ranchers and large cattle ranchers

Peter Bradford, Larry Mailliard, Larry Stornetta… They tell me it would make a tremendous benefit to them. No more hauling of animals out of county.” Roberts then added the facility should not be in the Ukiah area. “Our support is conditional on that,” said Roberts.

“Our support”?…

more here

As the Oil Spreads


As the oil spreads through the Gulf of Mexico, Obama tells us that we must focus on clean energy and get off the fossil fuel diet. Such is apparently a result of political pressure – as the spill was beginning, he was advocating drilling along all our coasts. We seem to be wandering around in a carnival of fools, attempting to find our way to something solid and failing time and time again. As I hope to enlighten you, clean energy technologies as Obama and probably most of the rest of us are thinking about are just other such hawkers’ distractions. Understand, I’ve been fed so much bullshit while working in the industrial and academic worlds that almost all the stuff “they” are pushing must be held up to a bright light and turned every which way before I will consider it. Warning: I shall use our pet “clean” energy technology solar power, specifically solar cells, as a metaphor for the hidden difficulties with “clean” energy technologies in general. I realize an earlier reference I made to this caused some consternation, so I’ll be more explicit this time.

The prototypical final solar cell manufacturing process is an assembly line that uses quite a lot of electricity. Still, it is possible to imagine this all originates from solar cells that have been produced earlier, so the entire line is solar powered – but, probably not. If so, however, the last step in the manufacturing process of the solar cells would indeed be energetically free of fossil fuel expense. Thus, the energy they would eventually generate would seemingly be clean. Aw, but the assembly line doesn’t stand alone. Behind the scene is a warehouse in which raw materials, packaging, and components manufactured elsewhere are received and inventoried. As the cells exit the assembly line, they are forwarded to another warehouse where they are temporarily stored and prepared for shipment. But, wait, these warehouses require energy to operate as well, which must be added to each cell’s energy production budget.

Those items received at the first warehouse likely have been produced elsewhere, perhaps even mined and refined. The crates sent from the second travel via various transport pathways perhaps to a series of other somewhat automated warehouses until they are finally delivered to retailers and sold.

Well worth the wheat: Gene Logsdon’s ‘Small-Scale Grain Raising’

The Ethicurean

As the price of flour and other grain-based foods has risen, creative-minded people have begun to consider growing their own wheat, corn, rye, and other grains. Groovy Green noted last year that one bakery — the Hungry Ghost Bread company in Northhampton, Massachusetts — even offered grain seeds to their customers through their Little Red Hen venture, encouraging them to grow the grains to sell back to the bakery for local loaves.

It’s an idea whose time is ripe once again. More than 30 years ago, farmer Gene Logsdon followed his publisher’s suggestion to write a book that would help aspiring grain-growing homesteaders of the 1960s and 1970s choose the right grain for their land and their garden or farming situation. The book went out of print many years ago, but the recession, the specter of peak oil, and the desire to take back some control over the food supply have all combined to prompt some folks to grow grains locally, sparking a renewed interest in the work and sending the price of used copies of “Small-Scale Grain Raising” well over $1,000.

It’s with some relief, then, that readers and homesteading hopefuls will welcome this revised second edition (Chelsea Green, spring 2009; pre-order from, in which Logsdon has updated the information based on new research and his personal experience. Logsdon returned with his equally knowledgeable wife, Carol, to farm a portion of his family’s land in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, in the 1970s. He began a prolific literary career by working at “Farm Journal” in the 1960s before writing on practical homesteading and how-to topics, moving to philosophical essays, and in recent years producing two novels and a “fable” on reclaiming strip-mined land. He currently writes at Organic To Be, combining reprinted essays and passages from his books with up-to-date musings, and at Farming Magazine.

Lucy Neely: The Mendocino Grain Project

The Gardens Project
A Program of NCO Community Action

The best and most radical idea in the county right now is The Mendocino Grain Project, which consists of three Anderson Valley farmers – Doug Mosel, John Gramke, and Sophia Bates – who are reintroducing grain production to Mendocino County through a grain-share CSA. Their reintroduction of grain represents an essential step towards a local food economy in Mendocino County, but one that has historically been overlooked.

Last Friday, I visited with Mosel, Gramke, Bates, and the grains to learn about their project. It was a beautiful spring morning following those tiresome rains, and the clarity of the blue, cloud-dappled sky could just barely rival that of The Grain Project. The three farmers share a creative, forward thinking, and good-humored ethos. Mosel is a hay-man whose passion is grain. Gramke got into grains by way of biodiesel and canola. Both are Nebraska-born farm-boys living the second halves of their lives in Mendocino County. Bates is a Philo native with thirty in sight, a braid to her waist, horses instead of a tractor, and a feather in her hat.

As Mosel remembers it, the idea of reintroducing grain production to the county came to the fore during the Steps Towards a Local Food Economy gatherings that took place from 2005 to 2007, primarily in Anderson Valley. During these gatherings, grain production was identified as “a gap in local food production.” So, Doug figured, “Let’s try it.” After all, until post World War II, Mendocino County was self-sufficient in food production, grains included. So what happened? “The commodity market happened,” answers Gramke. “Grapes happened,” Bates adds.

Janie Sheppard: What’s Happening at Lake Mendocino (with Video)?

Mendocino County

On Memorial Day, Bill, the dogs, and I set out to take pictures of the beautiful wildflowers along the Lake Mendocino eastside trails.  Indeed, our cameras captured a profusion of white, blue and yellow wildflowers.  As we hiked we could not, however, ignore the signs of impending trouble.

First, we noticed that the trails were being damaged by truck traffic.  Signs at the locked trailhead gate prohibit all motorized vehicles.  So, what’s going on?  Apparently, Corps of Engineers personnel are not heeding their own rules as they drive pickup trucks through the mud.  It’s high time that the Corps fix this damage.  As you can see from the pictures, the damage is substantial in some places.  If not repaired, the beautiful trails will become eroded and impassable.

Second, we noticed that horseback riders are using the trails when they shouldn’t.  Horses’ hooves leave big holes in the trails, just about the right size for ankle twisting.  The horseback riders too need to repair the trail sections damaged by their horses.

BP Oil: Coming Soon to a Beach Near You

Mother Jones
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

[This is Bush/Cheney’s second Katrina… -DS]

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) just released this horrifying animation of how ocean currents may carry all the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. According to their computer modeling of currents and the oil, the spill “might soon extend along thousands of miles of the Atlantic coast and open ocean as early as this summer.”

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?'” says NCAR scientist Synte Peacock in a statement accompanying the animation, which he worked on. “Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.”

The models show oil hitting Florida’s Atlantic coast within a few weeks, then moving north as far as about Cape Hatteras, N.C., before heading east.

Songbirds and Organic Wheat


A paper by a U.K. research team entitled “Birds select conventional over organic wheat when given free choice” appeared in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. The team reports that birds prefer conventional wheat over organic wheat when given a choice, and attribute the preference expressed by bird feeding behavior to the approximately 10% higher protein content in the conventional wheat.

Because of higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer use on conventional farms, conventional food often includes higher levels of protein than organic food. But because protein is a nutrient present at ample to excessive levels in the typical western diet, this advantage for conventional food does not lead to any significant health benefits in countries like the U.K. and U.S.

The authors go on to make several questionable statements based on their experimental findings. For example, they conclude that –

“Our results suggest that the current dogma that organic food is preferred to conventional food may not always be true, which is of considerable importance for consumer perceptions of organically grown food.”

People do not seek out conventional or organic wheat to increase their average daily protein intakes, nor do preferences expressed by birds in an experiment like this one have anything to do with the reasons some consumers choose to purchase organic wheat and support organic wheat farmers.

The study has attracted considerable press attention and strong criticism for overstating its findings. In a May 19, 2010 story in the Los Angeles Times, one of the authors of the study acknowledged that – “Just because the birds preferred conventional food doesn’t mean it’s better for them.” The study makes no mention of the impacts of pesticide use on bird populations.

Source: Ailsa McKenzie, and Mark Whittingham, “Birds select conventional over organic wheat when given free choice,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, in press, 2010.

50 Useful Reference Tools for Exploring Alternative Medicine


[Outstanding resource! -DS]

Alternative medicine encompasses an exceptionally broad spectrum of practices. Everything from ancient or indigenous remedies to today’s herbal supplements qualifies as a treatment option beyond the mainstream solutions. Fearful of the frequently harsh side effects of conventional medicine, many turn to acupuncture or homeopathy to ease their pain instead. The following resources – by no means a comprehensive listing – provide a valuable introduction to multiple perspectives and findings. Many of them also help individuals and families curious about alternative medicine make the right choices and avoid crooks out to prey on their inexperience. Please keep in mind that some of these remedies involve negative side effects of their own, so be sure to consult with a reliable, verified professional before jumping into a regimen…

15. Society for Acupuncture Research

Sign up for the Society of Acupuncture Research’s e-mail newsletter for all the latest findings and applications of Chinese medicine. A wide variety of professionals, students, and educators weigh in on relevant subjects.

16. National Indian Health Board

Anyone interested in traditional Native American remedies will appreciate the information on the politics and practices that shape one facet of today’s medical world…


Considered one of the best online resources for homeopathic treatments, provides a wealth of information in the form of articles, videos, ebooks, and audio lectures…

More here

Infinite Regret

David Foster Wallace

Washington Monthly

An account of five days on the road with David Foster Wallace offers a coda to the writer’s sadly truncated career.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

One struggles to find a concise, representative anecdote about the late David Foster Wallace for an audience of politically minded readers. Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008 at age forty-six, was the most promising and accomplished writer of his generation. An athlete of prolixity, he published a celebrated novel of 1,100 pages called Infinite Jest, several meaty volumes of short stories, a monograph or two, and a pair of essay collections filled with footnotes that had their own footnotes. He tended to avoid prescriptions or answers, instead plumbing the complexity of topics like grammar, tennis, state fairs, and television. He was not especially political.

But he did write a brilliant essay about John McCain for Rolling Stone in 2000. Clever editors at the magazine booked Wallace a press pass on the Straight Talk Express between the New Hampshire and South Carolina Republican primaries; they titled the resulting article “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, and the Shrub.” (George W. Bush was the Shrub.) In reclaiming the piece for his 2006 collection, Consider the Lobster — and returning to it long passages that a “mensch” at the magazine had removed “with sympathy and good humor” during a “radically ablative editorial process” — Wallace renamed it “Up, Simba.” One of the network video cameramen traveling in the bus’s press corps had liked to say that phrase “in a fake-deep bwana voice” as he hoisted his $40,000 rig. The goofy new title was essential Wallace: it at once exploited the funniest anecdote in the piece; broadcast his discomfort with authority and prestige by allying him with the scruffy techies; and made a serious intellectual point:



Tired of primitive living? Why not try Civilization* ?

*some restrictions apply

Probing the link between slaughterhouses and violent crime

Thanks to Dave Pollard

To author Upton Sinclair, the hellish world of factory slaughterhouses was as dangerous to human beings as it was to pigs. He filled his 1906 novel The Jungle with meat-packing images that seem ripped from a slasher movie:

“… and as for the other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting — sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!”

Sinclair’s abattoir labourers get so desensitized to violence that rates of murder, rape and brawls among them rise. The book cemented the link between slaughterhouses and crime for decades to come — long before pig farmer and serial killer Robert Pickton haunted headlines.

More than a hundred years later, a University of Windsor researcher may have proven the literary classic right. Criminology professor Amy Fitzgerald says statistics show the link between slaughterhouses and brutal crime is empirical fact.

In a recent study, Fitzgerald crunched numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report database, census data, and arrest and offence reports from 581 U.S. counties from 1994 to 2002.