Wendell Berry and the Great Economy

Place. Limits. Liberty.

[…] Berry is right to use soil as the example, since peak soil rather than peak oil may turn out to be our greatest problem. We can learn to do without oil, but not without soil. Topsoil is disappearing at an alarming rate, and not being replaced; the law of return is being violated. Further, the soil that remains is being poisoned with toxic chemicals, which then leach into the groundwater. Indeed, some forms of industrial farming use soil only as something to hold the roots and not as a real source of life or nutrients; they would replace it with styrofoam or some other dead substance if they could. This violation of the law of return means that “[t]he industrial economy is based on invasion and pillage of the Great Economy.”

This pillage reduces the Great Economy to “raw materials” which have only a price, not a principle that needs to be conserved. The price is set by the cult of competition, whose main sentimental tenet is

Deflation and You: A Guide to Understanding this Peculiar Economic Model


I just wanted to share a little bit about deflation. Deflation is when the combined amount of money and credit in an economic system is shrinking, and the velocity of money is stagnant or drops.

Once deflation begins, it is self reinforcing. To see how this works, first think of your own recent spending decisions.

If you are like me, your spending behavior and patterns have probably changed quite a bit since the housing bubble started to bust, and especially since the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its all time high on October 11, 2007 and then started its wild ride down.

Before you begin to think about your spending behavior, though, one thing must be understood: Money is created by people when they take out loans. People offer up an asset or a promise, which the bank takes and files, and then the bank simply increases the number in their account. That is all there is to it. This might be hard to accept at first, but this is simply how it works in this economic model.

The amount of coins and dollar bills in the economy are a very, very small fraction of the total amount of money out there.

Stop the BS! Garbage Privitizing Will Pick Our Pockets For Years To Come

Public Letter from Supes Colfax and Smith

[Pure and simple. If a private company says they can do it cheaper and better than the county, then they are either lying, or we have a failure of county government. -DS]

In summary, we urge the public to insist on a cost benefit analysis of this contract, including the need for a 14 year extension to three hauling contracts. Privatization at any cost is not in the public interest, does not provide consumer protection and will cost residents needlessly for years to come.

On August 17, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will vote to turn five county transfer stations over to a private company. If this contract is approved many county residents will pay more for curbside collection and all residents will see self-haul rates rise at five previously operated county sites. This proposal is harmful, unnecessary and will permanently dismantle a network of transfer stations available to County residents for decades. We feel compelled to alert the public to how their pockets are about to be picked.

We have no philosophical objection to privatization of government work if it can be proven that it saves money

Book Excerpt: The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

Author, The Long Emergency

The Witch of Hebron
is the sequel to World Made By Hand, a story of the post-oil American future. It is set in and around the town of Union Grove, Washington County, New York. The time is several months after the action in the first book, the week before Halloween.

This excerpt concerns Stephen Bullock, the wealthy landowner whose plantation is home to dozens of people whose lives and livelihoods had gone adrift in the collapse of the American economy.

Mr. Bullock Meets the Enemy

The last thing Stephen Bullock did before bedtime, in his capacity as town magistrate, was to sign a warrant directing Doctor Jeremy Copeland to exhume and examine the body of Shawn Watling and report his findings, costs of which, labor included, were to be billed to the town of Union Grove, repayable in up to four dollars silver coin. He gave the folded and sealed document to his chore-man, Roger Lippy, for delivery in person the following morning…

more here

Hey Media! Social Security IS NOT an ‘ENTITLEMENT’ program! Stop calling it one!

From around the web

An entitlement is defined by Websters as:

  1. the state or condition of being entitled, a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
  2. a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also, funds supporting or distributed by such a program
  3. belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

But, does this definition apply to social security? For your whole work life you are required to pay in 6.2% of your gross income into social security. Your employer is required to match that amount. So 12.2% of your gross income is put away for your retirement (kind of).

Getting your own money back does not seem like an entitlement program to me by Websters definition. Also, aside from federal employees we are all required to pay into the system, making the “specified group” quite large indeed.

Lately there isn’t a month that goes by without hearing something bad about Social Security. We’ve all heard the bad news… “It’s going bankrupt”…It’s going to bankrupt the country”…”It should be privatized” …and the worst of all…It’s an entitlement program”. Well, it’s high time to set the record straight on one count anyway!

Todd Walton: Getting Well

Anderson Valley

“Programming our intelligence with illusion and fantasy of there’s something wrong with us and enough isn’t enough and too much isn’t too much then turning us loose on ourselves and the world.” John Trudell

My folks are no longer alive, but the shame I feel for doing what I love still surfaces now and then to remind me of how terribly jealous my father was of his own children and how angry my mother was about having her creative ambitions so painfully thwarted. The famous quote by Carl Jung, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on children than the unlived life of the parent,” elucidates a big part of my mother’s influence on me, while Jennifer James sums up my father with, “Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that you do not have value.”

My parents were relentlessly verbally abusive of me, and on a few terrible occasions my alcoholic father resorted to physical violence that severely injured me. When I was eleven years old, he nearly killed me. I blocked all memory of this most vicious assault until my fortieth year when a vivid movie of the attack emerged from the archives of my memory. Watching that old footage sent me racing into therapy


Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers (1994)

What are the lessons of the universe?

Truth comes from the observation of nature. The Japanese have tried to control nature where they could, as best they could, within the limits of available technology. But there was little they could do about the weather — hot and humid summers, cold and dry winters, and rain on the average of one out of every three days throughout the year, except during the rainy season in early summer when everything is engulfed in a fine wet mist for six to eight weeks. And there was little they could do about the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods, fires, and tidal waves that periodically and unpredictably visited their land. The Japanese didn’t particularly trust nature, but they learned from it. Three of the most obvious lessons gleaned from millennia of contact with nature (and leavened with Taosit thought) were incorporated into the wisdom of wabi-sabi.

1. All things are impermanent. The inclination toward nothingness is unrelenting and universal. Even things that have all the earmarks of substance — things that are hard, inert, solid — present nothing more than the illusion of permanence. We may wear blinders, use ruses to forget, ignore, or pretend otherwise — but all comes to nothing in the end.

The rich are different from you and me…

…they are more selfish.
(also see chart at the end of article)

Thanks to Ron Epstein

Life at the bottom is nasty, brutish and short. For this reason, heartless folk might assume that people in the lower social classes will be more self-interested and less inclined to consider the welfare of others than upper-class individuals, who can afford a certain noblesse oblige. A recent study, however, challenges this idea. Experiments by Paul Piff and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, reported this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest precisely the opposite. It is the poor, not the rich, who are inclined to charity.

In their first experiment, Dr Piff and his team recruited 115 people. To start with, these volunteers were asked to engage in a series of bogus activities, in order to create a misleading impression of the purpose of the research. Eventually, each was told he had been paired with an anonymous partner seated in a different room. Participants were given ten credits and advised that their task was to decide how many of these credits they wanted to keep for themselves and how many (if any) they wished to transfer to their partner. They were also told that the credits they had

Vegetarian Corn Chowder


In late June, just as fresh sweet corn was coming into season, Patricia Williams, the 57-year-old executive chef at New York’s Smoke Jazz & Supper Club-Lounge, created a light, delicious corn chowder that is very simple to make. “I go by the season first, start with one ingredient, and then build up the flavor,” she said.

The base of the soup is a naturally sweet, thin corn stock, made from the cob and one, diced onion. While the stock simmers, she slowly sautées a second diced onion, so as not to take on any color. Then she sautées the kernels, adds the strained broth and cream, and simmers the soup. Toward the end, she pours half the soup in a blender, then returns it to the pot for a final minute of reheating. The pale soup, speckled by the whole corn kernels, is deceptive. It is thin, yet deeply flavored. It is a soup to be made now, while corn is at its sweetest.

Recipe here.

See also Corn Muffins

Mendocino County: Take Action! Stop The Garbage Grab! It’s A Stinker!

Potter Valley

[Despite the light-hearted image above, this is very serious business. Instead of doing the job they were elected to do — overseeing and controlling basic public services in an efficient and cost-conscious manner — a majority of the Board of Supervisors, taking the lazy way out, is giving the job away to profiteers, guaranteeing higher rates, lower quality of service, and loss of democratic control. This is rank betrayal of the public trust which must be stopped dead in its tracks. -DS]

The emerging three vote majority of the Board of Supervisors, acting like a bunch of Tea Party fanatics, are rushing ahead to hand over 5 of the county’s solid waste transfer stations to a private corporation in a no-bid 14-year contract.

The dirty deal is set for a vote on August 17.

The right-wing majority — John Pinches, Carre Brown, and John McCowen — are willing to give almost anything that’s demanded by Solid Wastes of Willits, a corporation that was recently caught violating its existing franchise contracts with Mendocino County and overcharging customers by about $60,000.

Rosalind Peterson: Defending Our Agriculture

Redwood Valley

In 2006, an organization called the Agriculture Defense Coalition was founded in order to bring many current issues and legislation to public attention. It has taken two years of hard work to create this website and categorize the data you will find on a wide variety of subjects.

The Agriculture Defense Coalition is dedicated to protecting agriculture, our water supplies, trees, and pollinators from a wide variety of experimental weather modification and atmospheric testing programs and experiments.

These experimental programs will cause a decline in agriculture crop production, exacerbate declines in tree health, and add toxic chemicals to our water supplies and soils. The results of many of these experiments will be long-lasting and will affect trees, birds, mammals, fish, watersheds, pollinators, crop production, rivers and streams.

In the United States anyone may modify or mitigate your weather or climate without your consent. Any government agency, the military, state, county, city, private corporation, weather modification company or individual can modify your weather at any time. No public notification is required other than to report these programs to the United States Interior Department, NOAA. However, it has been learned that many programs are not reported to NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration).

Winterizing: 19 Ways To Make Your Home Feel Warmer Without Turning Up The Heat


Winterize your home on the cheap (and get $1,500 from the government to help) with these simple tips

See slide show with explanations here

1. Dodge the drafts
2. Change furnace filters
3. Run fans in reverse
4. Winterize your A/C and water lines
5. Turn down your water heater
6. Install storm doors and windows
7. Give your heating system a tune-up
8. Mind that thermostat
9. Put up some plastic
10. Use an energy monitor
11. Use caulking and weatherstripping
12. Put on a sweater
13. Boost insulation
14. Insulate your pipes
15. Seal those ducts
16. Take advantage of tax credits
17. Choose the right contractor
18. Get creative and go alternative
19. Upgrade to an efficient furnace


Seth Godin: New times demand new words, because the old words don’t help us see the world differently


[This is current “marketing-speak” if that’s your thing… -DS]

[…] Here, with plenty of links, are 26 of my favorite neologisms… a post-industrial A to Z:

A is for Artist: An artist is someone who brings humanity to a problem, who changes someone else for the better, who does work that can’t be written down in a manual. Art is not about oil painting, it’s about bringing creativity and insight to work, instead of choosing to be a compliant cog. (from Linchpin).

B is for Bootstrapper: A bootstrapper is someone who starts a business with no money and funds growth through growth. The internet has made bootstrapping much easier than ever, because the costs of creating and marketing remarkable things are cheaper than ever. It’s really important not to act like you’re well-funded if you’re intent on bootstrapping (and vice versa). You can read the Bootstrapper’s Bible for free.

C is for Choice: I didn’t coin the term the Long Tail, but I wish I had. It describes a simple law: given the choice, people will take the choice. That means that digital commerce enables niches. Aggregating and enabling the long tail accounts for the success of eBay, iTunes, Amazon, Craigslist, Google and even match.com.

D is for Darwin: Things evolve. But evolution is speeding up (and yes, evolving)…

More here.

David Mas Masumoto: Wisdom of the Last Farmer (Video)


Hailed by The New York Times as “A poet of farming” and the Los Angeles Times as the “Rockstar Farmer” who “uses his farm as Thoreau did his Walden Pond,” David Mas Masumoto weaves together stories of family and farming, life and death to reveal age-old wisdom that is fast disappearing—and urgently needed.

When Slow Food activist David Mas Masumoto’s father has a stroke in the sprawling fields of their farm, the reality of his father’s mortality drives Masumoto to reevaluate the significance and meaning of farming in an information-driven, modern world. As Masumoto nurses his father back to health, and becomes a teacher to the master who had once schooled him, he reclaims the practical and emotional wisdom that they and their ancestors had learned from working the land. Realizing that he himself needs to pass on a wealth of knowledge to the next generation, he writes this impassioned narrative—part memoir, part life instruction—about re-connecting to the land.

GOP Wants Tax Cuts for Wealthy While Localities Drown In Red Ink


Wing-Nut Scapegoating

Lake County

Below article is well worth taking 10 minutes to read.  Good historic perspective (did you know the Texas revolt was instigated to protect New Orleans?).

Can help explain why we are so stymied on the US-Mexico border immigration issue.  Borderlands are not like other areas, and immigration in borderland territory has historically been a de-stabilizing influence to nations since the beginning of nation-states.  Like any nation that has stolen land fair and square, we resent it when folks from the losing side return to the land of their ancestors.

Among the points the below article does not explore:  cynical opportunistic politicians, pundits and talk radio hosts who exploit the issue for personal gain to get into elected office, manipulate markets, or to generate higher ratings which in turn create larger incomes for said radio talk show hosts.

Not to mention that whole scape-goat thing.

Neither Mexico nor Mexican immigrants caused most of the really damaging wounds that have hemorrhaged away America’s economic lifeblood in the past few decades.

  1. Neither Mexico nor Mexican immigrants created the tax breaks for the uber-wealthy, a con-job sold to the American people as “trickle down theory” — most of that wealth went straight into Swiss bank accounts, never to benefit the American economy (but the amount of money those tax breaks gave the uber-wealthy comes close to equaling our current national debt).

Securing Social Security While Increasing Benefits


TAP talks with Rep. Ted Deutch about his plan to save Social Security

Yesterday, the Social Security trustees released their annual report. Though they announced the program will be able to pay full benefits through 2037 (and 75 percent of benefits through 2084), critics immediately tried to spin it as evidence of the program’s failures. “The reports released today again sound the alarm that spending on Social Security and Medicare is on an unsustainable path,” Republican Rep. Dave Camp said. While progressives are reluctant to privatize or support benefit cuts, protecting Social Security over the long term will require them to propose other solutions.

Yesterday, TAP caught up with Rep. Ted Deutch, a newly elected Democrat from Florida who has recently introduced legislation that creates a new measurement of inflation that more accurately reflects seniors’ cost of living and guarantees a $250 dollar payment to Social Security recipients if there is no upward cost-of-living adjustment. Perhaps most controversial, it gradually makes the Social Security tax apply to all wages — currently, any wages above $106,800 are exempted from taxation. While experts I spoke to suggest that this package would ensure long-term solvency, the political viability of the plan is a different question.



Weed Goes Mainstream


John Wade, 43, a San Francisco commercial lighting specialist, takes a quick hit from a marijuana cigarette on the golf course to steady himself before putting.

Sarika Simmons, 35, of San Diego County, sometimes unwinds after the kids are asleep with tokes from a fruit-flavored cigar filled with pot.

And retiree Robert Girvetz, 78, of San Juan Capistrano, recently started anew – replacing his occasional martini with marijuana.

“It’s a little different than I remember,” he says. “A couple of hits – and wooooo. … “

As California voters prepare to decide in November whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a new Field Poll conducted for The Sacramento Bee reveals that weed already is deeply woven into society.

Those who use the drug, and their reasons for doing it, may be as diverse as the state itself.

Forty-two percent of adults who described themselves as current users in the July poll said they smoke pot to relieve pain or treat a health condition. Thirty-nine percent use it recreationally, to socialize or have fun with friends…

Article here.

Book Review: The World is Blue — How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One


By my estimation, seventy-five-year-old author Dr. Sylvia Earle has spent more than 1% of her life underwater. If her dives were connected in time, it would be as if she slipped into the ocean on New Year’s Day and did not re-emerge until some time after Labor Day.

Her book chronicles her experiences as a 1960s pioneer in underwater exploration, with stirring accounts of the inquisitive fish and mammals she met in the deep blue. Anthropomorphizing these animals would be an insult, given all the trouble humans have caused by overfishing, pollution, and acidification of the oceans. With these issues, she deftly takes an animal’s perspective in deconstructing our troubled oceans.

I once found an enterprising hermit crab with its vulnerable posterior neatly tucked into a discarded Bayer aspirin bottle, a modern, lightweight, durable substitute for a traditional snail shell. A decorator crab on a nearby reef had artfully placed a disposable fast-food ketchup envelope on its back along with bits of algae, hydroids and normal camouflaging elements. The ketchup container actually helped the crab blend in with other trash…

Article here.

The last tuna nigiri on Earth


I call it a “Republican moment,” one of those surreal and disturbing thoughts that sneaks into my soul every now and then like an unwelcome but insistent visitor, a nasty little thought made of equal parts greed and unchecked entitlement, all overlaced with a sort of willful ignorance that entirely blocks out that dangerous beast of burden known as “conscience.”

The moment came as I was reading the horrifying and deeply sad piece in the NYT Magazine about the plight of the wild bluefin tuna, the world’s most overexploited game fish, a top ocean predator and a totem animal like few others, an undeniably magnificent creature that is rapidly nearing extinction due to gluttonous overfishing and unchecked international greed.

It’s a harrowing, heartbreaking tale spanning generations, cultures and clashing beliefs of how we treat the earth. There are fascinating subtexts, politics, food history (the article is part of a larger book on the subject, Paul Greenberg’s “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food”). But the grand upshot was simple enough: We are quickly destroying the last of humanity’s great food stocks, a truly marvelous, powerful and even mystical creature unlike any other. And very soon, there will be no turning back.

The facts are brutal. Simply put, we are gorging our way to the bluefin’s oblivion. Stocks in the Gulf of Mexico are now considered to be in full collapse with maybe 9,000 total fish left, all suddenly made far more dire and irreversible by the BP spill,

Charles Dickens: Ink-Stained Genius

Via Andrew Sullivan

A review of Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing, by Michael Slater

[…] Yet what I am calling a weakness in Slater’s book might also be regarded as its great strength—his willingness to survey everything Dickens wrote, not just the familiar highlights. It is easy to be overwhelmed just by Dickens’s titanic output as a novelist. But Slater usefully calls our attention to the fact that Dickens was much more than a novelist. He was a journalist, playwright, essayist, short-story writer, travel writer, children’s book writer, editor, and publisher, and in his private life he was a prolific and—not surprisingly—remarkably entertaining letter writer. Slater has evidently read just about everything Dickens ever wrote, and offers us the first systematic, thorough account of his literary career (some of the material, such as the journalism and letters, has only recently become readily accessible).

For the majority of us, who will never read more than a fraction of Dickens’s total output, Slater’s book provides a welcome opportunity to get a sense of how truly vast and varied his work was. For example, how many people are aware that, together with his protégé Wilkie Collins, Dickens wrote a play called The Frozen Deep, a response to the ill-fated Franklin Expedition to discover a Northwest Passage in the arctic wastes of Canada? Or that later Dickens and Collins, this time responding to the 1857 Indian Mutiny that shook the British Empire to its foundations,

The Dark Side of Vitaminwater

Author of Diet For A New America

Now here’s something you wouldn’t expect. Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company’s vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims. No surprise there. But how do you think the company is defending itself?

In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

Does this mean that you’d have to be an unreasonable person to think that a product named “vitaminwater,” a product that has been heavily and aggressively marketed as a healthy beverage, actually had health benefits?

Or does it mean that it’s okay for a corporation to lie about its products, as long as they can then turn around and claim that no one actually believes their lies?

In fact, the product is basically sugar-water, to which about a penny’s worth of synthetic vitamins have been added. And the amount of sugar is not trivial. A bottle of vitaminwater contains 33 grams of sugar, making it more akin to a soft drink than to a healthy beverage.

Is any harm being done by this marketing ploy? After all, some might say consumers are at least getting some vitamins, and there isn’t as much sugar in vitaminwater as there is in regular Coke…

Full article here.
See also Vitaminwater: Marketing a Myth

What collapsing empire looks like


As we enter our ninth year of the War in Afghanistan with an escalated force, and continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and feed an endlessly growing Surveillance State, reports are emerging of the Deficit Commission hard at work planning how to cut Social Security, Medicare, and now even to freeze military pay.  But a new New York Times article today illustrates as vividly as anything else what a collapsing empire looks like, as it profiles just a few of the budget cuts which cities around the country are being forced to make.  This is a sampling of what one finds:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31,

Dave Smith: Sales Tax Blues


To The Editors:

Buying Online to Avoid Sales Tax Costs Us Locally

While economists nationwide argue over whether we have begun to recover from the Great Recession, one financial reality is beyond dispute. Our state, our county, and our town of Ukiah, continue to face the biggest budget challenge in decades. Even in a slowly rebounding economy, California is faced with continuing budget shortfalls, which means that local governments — even if they raise school and property taxes — are going to be cutting support for such essential services as policing, fire fighting, and schools.

The enormous irony in these troubling times is that California is allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax to go uncollected by allowing remote online retailers with a significant business presence in our state to ignore their obligation to collect sales tax.

Given the sums involved, you would think there would be many in the state calling for this situation to be remedied. There are not. Perhaps it’s because opponents of sales tax equity have, so far, managed to obfuscate the issue through a combination of misinformation and scapegoating.

Under current sales tax law, any out-of-state retailer is required to collect and remit sales tax for purchases made by residents in California if the retailer has a physical presence in our state.

Todd Walton: What’s In A Name?

Anderson Valley

“Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

As I answer the ringing phone, I am distracted by my cat chasing his tail and do not hear the brief telltale silence presaging a stranger seeking money. “Hello. This is Doralinda Kayamunga of the NRA calling for Mr. Tom Walsmar.” I hang up, though in retrospect I wish I’d thought to ask Doralinda how she got Tom from Todd and Walsmar from Walton.

My childhood friends delighted in calling me Toad Walnut, and did so with such frequency that their teasing ceased to rankle. Please note: their playful distortion of my name was intentional, whereas the thousand and one subsequent manglings of Todd and Walton result, as far as I can tell, from endemic mass idiocy. I have been called Tom, Toby, Tad, Ted, Tony, Don, Rod, and Scott hundreds of times in my life, usually in combination with Watson, Walters, Weldon, Waldon, Walsmar, Wilson, Welton, Waters, Waldo, and most recently Watton.

For goodness sake, my name is not Jascha Heifetz or Ubaldo Jimenez or Ilgaukus Christianoosman. In England, Walton is as common as Smith. My surname derives from Walled Town, and in medieval England nearly all towns were walled towns. In those long ago days, a person might be known as Roderick of Walled Town or Sylvia of Walled Town, and over the ensuing centuries,

Sebastopol’s Sanders Field Farm: The Cook, the Farmer and the Local Community


The drive down the gravel road to Sanders Field Farm in Sebastopol, CA leads me past an 80-year old apple orchard and into a sun-drenched clearing of strawberries, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, and sunflowers. Lowell Sheldon, the proprietor of Peter Lowell’s, meets me at the gate, hands covered in dirt after harvesting food from the farm for his Sonoma county restaurant.

Not far behind him are Daria Morrill and Tony Tugwell, whose 12-acre organic farm is off the grid, running only on solar power. With two acres under cultivation, the couple has designed a compact production scheme solely dedicated to the restaurant—kale, chard, baby lettuces, spring onions, snap peas, and broccoli glow in the afternoon light, set to become part of Peter Lowell’s menu of sustainably grown sustenance.

As we tour the tomatoes—heirlooms grown to spec—Morrill, new to farming, but not to plants, tells me, “This is my gift. I am lucky to get to plant and be outside, with my hands in the dirt…it is my form of freedom.” Morrill spent years nurturing Cottage Gardens nursery in nearby Petaluma, where she started a popular vegetable seedling program. Tugwell—a “tech guy” who spent two decades in “a cubicle banging out code for corporate America”—is the farm’s director of operations, running tractors and hooking up irrigation and alternative energy systems. The couple had their eye on the piece of property for over a year and though they declare themselves “too old to become new farmers” (let’s call them “middle aged”) they are now happily and successfully growing… Full article here.

Scaling Up Solar: The Global Implications of a New Study that Says Solar Power Is Cost Competitive with Nuclear Power


Two US researchers have declared that solar electricity in their home state is now cheaper than next-generation nuclear power. Olivia Boyd looks at their study – and its global implications.

The sunshine of North Carolina, a state on America’s Atlantic seaboard, has long been a draw for tourists seeking a little southern warmth on the region’s beaches. But holiday companies are not the only ones trumpeting a good local deal. The price of the state’s solar-generated electricity has fallen so far that it is now cheaper than new nuclear power, according to a report published in July by researchers at the state’s Duke University. The authors say their figures indicate a “historic crossover” that significantly strengthens the case for investment in renewable energy – and weakens the arguments for large-scale, international nuclear development.

Solar power is usually branded as a clean but expensive energy source, incapable of competing on economic grounds with more established alternatives, such as nuclear. The outspoken pro-nuclear stance adopted by a raft of iconic environmental figures – James Lovelock, Stewart Brand, Patrick Moore – has helped to instill in policy making circles the sense that this is the only power source that can restructure our energy supply at the pace, scale and price required by the pressures of rapid climate change. This study, which was co-authored by former chair of Duke University’s economics department John Blackburn and commissioned by NC Warn, a clean-energy NGO

How a brutal rape and a lifelong burden of guilt fuelled Girl with the Dragon Tattoo writer Stieg Larsson


The chapel in southern Stockholm was packed on that icy December day in 2004. We filed past the coffin to pay our respects, whispering final messages to Stieg Larsson.

The Stieg we were mourning was a tireless hero in the fight against neo-Nazism, but the man the world now remembers is someone quite different – the author of one of the biggest, least expected publishing successes of modern times.

His crime novels – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – were published after his death, have sold 30million copies and have made Stieg Larsson a global celebrity.

People beg me to sign his books, simply because I was his friend. A critically-acclaimed Swedish film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has already been released and now Hollywood is planning its own take, with Carey Mulligan and Daniel Craig rumoured as stars.

Despite the acclaim, however, Stieg remains a man of secrets. Before his death few people knew he was writing his novels, and he was intensely private, rarely talking about the first 20 years of his life. On one occasion though, he told me a chilling story about something in his past that drove his passion and creativity.

Cookbook Review: Eating Local


The author has kindly shared these recipes:

Eating locally grown meats and produce may have become a trendy way to support the environment, but to Sur la Table and their author/chef, the very talented Janet Fletcher, it is reason to celebrate.   Eating Local tells the stories of people whose lives are as vital as the food they produce, and gives recipes that extend that vitality to the consumer.   The message within the book is to love the land, eat well, be vital in your own life.  It is dedicated to “America’s hardworking farmers who make eating locally possible.”

The recipes are so enticing that the reader is inclined to jump straight past the photos and the text to rush to the kitchen to prepare a new dish.  A little restraint is in order, however, to fully appreciate this book.  Sara Remington’s photography inspires with glorious shots of prepared food, but also with photos of hands working with produce, of tiny, brilliant plants sprouting in rich dark soil, of farm stands, kids at play, rows of healthy produce.

There are stories about ten farmers,

Farmers markets growing like weeds around country


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that there are now 6,132 farmers markets in the country, up 16 percent from last year and a stunning 214 percent increase since 2000.

The press release contained some even more interesting numbers. While mild-weathered, agriculturally diverse California had by far the most farmers markets (580), New York was not far behind (461), and Nos. 3 and 4 were somewhat surprising: Illinois (286) and Michigan (271). And the rest of the Midwest is working on catching up: the top states for percentage growth in the number of markets from 2009 to 2010 were Missouri (77 percent), Minnesota (61), and Idaho and Michigan (both 60 percent).

While less then a sixth of the markets, or 886, are open year-round, there are such four-season markets in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

You can find a market near you via the Eat Well Guide, LocalHarvest, or USDA. And if there isn’t one? The USDA has guides for how to start a farmers market, for the truly ambitious. Lazier folks can just join me in my wok-on-the-wild-side challenge in honor of National Farmers Market Week this week.

Because while these numbers are encouraging, direct-to-consumer food sales — which include not only farmers markets, but also farm stands and U-pick operations — were only 0.4 percent of the total food economy last year. Local food has a long way to go before Safeway feels any pain.

Neoconned, and The Importance of Being Judgmental

Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Writing at Time, Joe Klein surveys the bounty that America can now harvest from its dalliance with neoconservatism. He starts with the still highly ambiguous outcome in Iraq, and continues:

There are other consequences of this profound misadventure. The return of the Taliban in Afghanistan is certainly one; if U.S. attention, and special forces, hadn’t been diverted from that primary conflict, the story in the Pashtun borderlands might be very different now. The credibility of the United States–slowly recovering due to the efforts of Barack Obama–is another, after a war promulgated by a gale of ignorance at best and chicanery at worst. The sense of the United States as a nation of tempered, honorable actions may never recover from the images of the past decade, especially the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.

The replacement notion that it was our right and responsibility to rid Iraq of a terrible dictator–after the original casus belli of weapons of mass destruction evaporated–is a neo-colonialist obscenity. The fact that Bush apologists still trot out his “Forward Freedom Agenda” as an example of American idealism is a delusional farce. The “Freedom Agenda” brought us a Hamas government in Gaza, after a Palestinian election that no one but the Bush Administration wanted. It brought the empowerment of Hizballah in Lebanon.

Legal Pot: Death of the Emerald Triangle?


How the Legalization of Marijuana Is Destroying the Cannabis Capital of the U.S. and Its One Shot at Survival

Tucked away in the very northwestern-most corner of California are three relatively small rural counties that are, despite their size and isolation, known around the world in certain circles.

These counties — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity — have, since the mid-’70s, specialized in the production of a much-sought-after export that was, until relatively recently, completely illegal: marijuana.

The growers there have produced such a high-quality product for so long that the drug has come to define the area, known as the appropriately-colored Emerald Triangle. Mention of the Emerald Triangle among even small-time pot enthusiasts is met with a knowing smile — and a wildly different reaction from long-frustrated federal authorities.

The drug is the lifeblood of the counties, woven inseparably not just into every aspect of the local economies, but into the everyday lives of thousands of residents. But with the legalization of pot for medical use and potential legalization for recreational use, the Emerald Triangle is facing a daunting threat in the form of a pot price freefall fueled by industry-style mass production.

For a region of California that has for more than three decades defined and lovingly cultivated an entire culture in the shade of marijuana leaves, the legalization of pot signals a seizmic shift that will change the Emerald Triangle forever — assuming it survives at all.

The Emerald Triangle: Where People Come to ‘Grow Their Lives’

Radio talk show host Anna Hamilton came to the Humboldt County 28 years ago but still considers herself in the “second class” of migrants to the Emerald Triangle.

The Problem With Bicycles

Via Energy Bulletin

Once people get into their heads that maybe the personal automobile is not really such a good idea — in other words, after they have moved beyond the biodiesel/electric car phase, as if the only problem with the personal automobile is the fuel it uses — they usually fixate on bicycles.

I say “fixate” because this often becomes an eco-fetish like so many other such things, as if more bicycles were better, and if you could just get enough bicycles in one place, you could “save the world.”

The focus on bicycles is typically because, in the mind of this person, they still assume that they would be living in Suburban Hell, or perhaps some earlier variant of Suburban Hell (the 19th Century Hypertrophic Small Town America). Of course, if you are stuck in Suburban Hell, with its endless expanses of NoPlace and absurdly long distances between Places, then you would want a bicycle at the very least.

However, in a a properly designed Traditional City, most people don’t need bicycles. This is true even today. In cities where people often do not own a car, such as New York or Hong Kong or Paris, these non-car-owning people usually do not own a bicycle either. Or, if they happen to own a bike, they do not use it every day as a transportation device. They get by just fine on foot, and using the transportation options available, especially trains and, if a train is not available, a bus. Occasionally a taxi. A bike is best as a least-desirable option, for those trips that are too long to walk comfortably, and not convenient by either train or bus. Ideally, these would be as few as possible, as a well-designed city should be a place where you can easily walk or ride a train (a bus if you have to) just about everywhere.

Full article with photos here.

The Corona Hand Mill and Homemade Tortillas


The original Corona mill was developed by Landers, Frary and Clark of Connecticut some time before 1900 and was apparently sold worldwide. In 1951, a company, LANDERS Y CIA. S. A., was formed in Columbia to make these for home nixtamal production. It still produces this ancient cast-iron, hot tin plated mill along with Columbian rival Victoria, and the Mexican-made mill Estrella. These three mills are virtually identical, the Estrella being painted rather than tin-plated…

I’ve been making more tortillas and other pan breads lately because summer weather makes oven baking a sweaty pain in the ass. I had been using dried masa harina and the result is much better than store-bought tortillas. Realizing that GMO corn is the norm these days, I went looking for organic masa harina and didn’t have any luck. I can get whole corn from my local co-op for only about $0.50 a pound if I buy it in 25 lb. bags, so why not get one of those cheap mills and make the good stuff myself? Ebay has new Coronas for $64.29, Victorias for $60.24 and the Estrella for $58.99, including shipping. Shipping is a killer for these heavy cast-iron mills. I found a used Corona for $24.50 with $8.99 shipping. I later found the all-time best deal at Amazon for a new Victoria Corn Grinder at $34.99 with free shipping (I had been searching for ‘grain mill’ and missed it)…

There’s just one Mexican grocery in the county where I live, so next time I was in the area, I picked up some reddish blue whole corn and a little package of Cal (slaked lime). I tried grinding some of the untreated dry corn and the mill was a lot stronger than I expected! Corn meal, grits or polenta is easily ground with by adjusting the coarseness of the grind. A few days later, I made some fresh tortilla masa.

Tortillas made from fresh masa taste and smell much better than ones made from dried masa harina, which in turn are much better than store-bought corn tortillas…

Survivalists tout these as necessary items to have on hand for the ever-impending collapse of civilization…

Full article with photos here.

William Greider: If President Obama Thinks There’s Room for Austerity with Social Security, He’d Better Get Ready For A War


William Greider has been writing about economic issues since the 1960s, and is best known for his book Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country. He’s been warning us that the Obama administration intends to cut Social Security (this video is a year old):

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. After all, he is targeting Big Government’s most beloved and trusted program—the New Deal’s most prominent pillar.

Obama’s initiative rests on two falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda—the notion that Social Security somehow contributes to the swollen federal deficits and that cutting benefits will address this problem. Obama and his advisers do not say this in so many words, but their rhetoric implies that Social Security is a big source of the deficit problem. Major media promote the same falsehoods. Here is what the media don’t tell you: Social Security has accumulated a massive surplus—$2.5 trillion now, rising to $4.3 trillion by 2023.

May I PLEASE tell you how much I don’t care?

Thanks to Janie Sheppard

My property taxes just doubled. My water bill just rose 40%. My local elementary school just laid off 35% of the teaching staff for next September. I may be a victim of a brand new strain of E.coli that is immune to the drug cocktail I have been consuming for the past 6 weeks. I have just spent a fortune trying to survive weeks of 100+ temps, with no rainfall, in this most temperate part of the mid-Atlantic.

I really don’t care about Afganistan.

I don’t care if they have schools. I want my local schools to garner the same level of support that we have tossed into that stone age hell hole.

I don’t care if they have a stable government. If they can’t get their heads out of their asses long enough to express at least a modicum of interest in joining the 21 century, let them blast each other to Hell and let the Devil sort ’em out.

I don’t care if water distribution is an issue in the middle east. I live next to one of the largest lakes on the eastern seaboard, and water treatment is so expensive that they are making drinking water a luxury. The treatment is necessary because the farm runoff is so polluted that it is recommended that you not eat the fish.

I don’t care if they have state of the art medical treatment. I want a sufficient investment in US medical research, and a sufficient reduction in antibiotics in my food stuffs, so that I do not face the specter of dying from a Super Bug.

I don’t believe that men and women dying for some testosterone poisoned old man