The paradox of middle-class aspiration

Thanks to Herb Ruhs

[This Guardian article is as cogent an assessment of economic paradox in the US as I have found. The paradox of middle-class aspiration:Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy? -HR]

Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy?

The generally accepted explanation of why many Americans, even those that are poor, are opposed to raising taxes for the rich is the enduring belief in upward social mobility or that they may one day be rich themselves. We still believe America is the land of opportunity. You can be born in the ghetto and rise to super stardom. A welfare recipient from a broken home may become president. But the truth is, for the vast majority of people, these dreams are out of reach and, in fact, the US actually has the lowest social mobility of any industrialised nation.

Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy?

One thing we can thank the Great Recession for is that it has finally drawn attention to the growing inequality in American society. Any study or report you care to look at leads to the same sorry conclusion: the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class are disappearing. These trends have accelerated since 2000, but they have been in place for decades; yet, a large percentage of people who are suffering as a result of the inequality seem to favour, or at least tolerate, the policies that perpetuate it.

Bruce Anderson Sues Supervisor Kendall Smith: Give the taxpayers back their money!

From UDJ

Newspaper editor Bruce Anderson, in his capacity as a taxpayer, took the first step Wednesday toward filing a small-claims lawsuit against Mendocino County for failing to reclaim $3,087 of travel reimbursements overpaid to 4th District Supervisor Kendall Smith.

Anderson, who is editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, filed a claim as an individual against the county seeking to recover the amount on behalf of the county’s taxpayers.

His claim states, “We do not seek to recover any funds ourselves, but we demand the county recover $3,087 (as documented by the Mendocino County grand jury) plus all applicable costs, fees, interest and penalties from Supervisor Smith since the time of her claim.”

Smith allegedly claimed reimbursement for business trips between her Fort Bragg home and Ukiah from January 2005 until November 2006, “when there was no actual travel and when her cost of overnight lodging was little or nothing because she either stayed with friends or in a room which she rented for $100 per month (in Ukiah),” according to a letter District Attorney Meredith Lintott wrote in 2008 to Smith’s former attorney in the matter.

Anderson notes the claim is “preparatory” to seeking an injunction that would require the county to recover the money Mendocino County Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford determined Smith was overpaid, a calculation Ford said she did at the behest of the grand jury.

“Damages are suffered by the citizens of Mendocino County who are deprived of the use of funds wrongfully given to Supervisor Kendall Smith,” Anderson’s claim states

Transition Streets

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Dan Hamburg: Obama Declares Wrong Emergency


It’s often said by supporters of President Obama, with some justification, that too much has been expected of him. Sure he went in with high ideals about moving the country in a more progressive direction, but the reality of money and power in the nation’s capital have rendered him unable-at least in the two years he’s been in office-to achieve the objectives he so glowingly promised.

Contrary to this view of the president’s predicament, we would direct our fellow citizens’ attention to the action taken by the president on September 10. On that day, the White House released the text of a letter sent by Mr. Obama to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entitled “Letter from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks”.

The O Man (Updated)

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“You Elected Me To Do What Was Right”

“We don’t quit!”


Obama’s speech to Gen44 tonight knocked my socks off. It’s streaming on CSPAN here. If you’ve forgotten why many of you worked your ass off for this guy, and felt hope for the first time in many years, watch it. He deserves criticism when necessary as this blogazine has not shied from at times. But he remains in my judgment the best option this country still has left – and it’s far too easy for the left and far too dangerous for serious conservatives and independents to abandon him now.

What I particularly loved about the speech was his direct attack on the fiscal irresponsibility of the Pledge To America, the $700 billion it means we will have to borrow from China to sustain the unsustainable Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 a year. And what I agreed with was his embrace of government that is lean and efficient, because these are times when the government is necessary to help reverse self-evident decline, mounting fiscal crisis, deeply dangerous enemies, and socially dangerous inequality, exploited at home by ugly demagogues and know-nothing nihilists. Here is his invocation of Lincoln’s core argument about the role of government:

I believe the government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.

Then this passage where he soared like he hasn’t since the campaign:

I believe in a country that rewards hard work and responsibility, a country where we look after one other, a country that says I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, I’m going to give a hand up, join hands with folks and try to lift all of us up so we all have a better future, not just some – but all of us. That’s what I believe.

I do too. I do not believe for a second that the GOP of Palin and Boehner and Beck and DeMint represents anything but more debt, more war, more social division and more denial about the deeply serious problems this country faces and the profound dangers that are metastasizing in the world. I have no love for the Democrats but I do fervently believe that this president’s record is far better than many now fashionably claim, that his inheritance was beyond awful, and I am not giving up on this president’s immense task now, and neither, in my judgment, should any of those who voted for him in 2008.

Know hope; and fight the cynicism and nihilism that is increasingly the alternative.

Ben and Jerry’s admits ice-cream with a liberal conscience not ‘all natural’


Unilever’s premium brand abandons claim after US food health watchdog notes use of unnatural ingredients such as corn syrup

[OMG! Stabbed in the heart! -DS]

Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have had a difficult relationship with Unilever. Cohen said when the firm was bought by the multinational it was ‘just about the worst day of my life’.

The carefully cultivated socially liberal image of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has suffered a knock with a decision by the Vermont-based manufacturer to stop calling its food “all natural” following pressure from a watchdog that questioned whether ingredients such as partially hydrogenated soya bean oil fitted the billing.

Book Review: An Investigation into the World’s Most Hated Company


Once upon a time, a chemical company in St. Louis discovered that normal limits did not apply to it. Whether its products sickened an entire town in the Midwest or poisoned villagers in Southeast Asia, things seemed to break its way. Regulators seemed reluctant to regulate, and judges delivered stupefying decisions with straight faces.

Microsoft’s monopolistic behavior resulted in trial conviction, and heavy penalties. Top executives of Archer Daniels Midland went to prison for price-fixing. Meanwhile the corporation with the sweet Spanish name went on a global tear, flooding the American food supply with dubious genetics, seeding government agencies with sympathizers, intimidating opponents, buying the loyalty of scientists, and transforming the rural landscape in country after country, always for the worse. Only the European Union, resisted it with some success. Only one of its major projects, transgenic wheat, was blocked decisively.

Nutrition: Can something as simple as sea minerals be more effective than all the high-tech drugs and vaccines?


Newspapers, magazines and electronic media outlets all over the world recently announced a break-through vaccine that will hopefully protect women against breast cancer.

The following report — from CBS — is typical of what was said by numerous sources: “In the current study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated — half with a vaccine containing the antigen and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with the antigen developed breast cancer, while all the other mice did.”

Dr. Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the project to create the vaccine, sums up the impact: “We believe this vaccine will some day be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children. If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental.”

Transition Culture: Solving For Pattern

Transtion Culture

My years as a teacher taught me that if one person asks a question, even if they think they are “missing something obvious”, chances are that many others are wondering the same thing.  This is probably an opportune moment in the rolling out of this patterns approach to stop and take stock as to whether everyone is still with me here!  This was triggered by an email I received yesterday from Kate Clark:

“As a member of a Transition initiating group (Transition Whatcom) and a huge proponent of Transition, I have a lot of respect for your work. However, I am finding the term and concept of “Pattern language” to be very vague and frustrating.  I keep trying to make sense of it, as if I can find a ‘pattern’ in the language (repeat first sentence once, second sentence three times, then first sentence twice, then repeat the whole pattern five times?)!  Can you send me a single sentence description of pattern language? Where is the pattern? What is the language- do you mean permaculture terminology?  Sorry if I’m being dense. I’m a communications specialist, and finding this one to be so vague that I feel I must be missing something obvious. I have NO idea how to explain this to anyone else, as a result”.

Letter to the Editor — The AVA


To: The Anderson Valley Advertiser


A friend, author Gene Logsdon, recently wrote a book published by a major publisher: Holy Shit – Managing Manure to Save Mankind. In his blog, Gene lamented that Prairie Public Radio interviewed him and the Chronicle of Higher Education praised his latest book, in both cases carefully avoiding mentioning the title, which includes one of George Carlin‘s “seven dirty words you can never say on television” or on the radio or in major print media.

For example, a current bestseller is titled, Sh*t My Dad Says. Childishly, and hypocritically, we in America are shielded by our media from the most used, or second most used, word in the English language for fear of offending the three fundamentalist church ladies who still shudder at its mention.

The AVA may be the only newspaper in America where, in many more ways than one, shit really is shit. We shall see.

Noam Chomsky: The Iranian Threat


The dire threat of Iran is widely recognized to be the most serious foreign policy crisis facing the Obama administration. General Petraeus informed the Senate Committee on Armed Services in March 2010 that “the Iranian regime is the primary state-level threat to stability” in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the Middle East and Central Asia, the primary region of US global concerns. The term “stability” here has its usual technical meaning: firmly under US control. In June 2010 Congress strengthened the sanctions against Iran, with even more severe penalties against foreign companies. The Obama administration has been rapidly expanding US offensive capacity in the African island of Diego Garcia, claimed by Britain, which had expelled the population so that the US could build the massive base it uses for attacks in the Central Command area. The Navy reports sending a submarine tender to the island to service nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines with Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads. Each submarine is reported to have the striking power of a typical carrier battle group.

19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind


The United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.

It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II. But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little.

Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us. The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume

‘Conservatism’ Has Turned Into ‘Crackpotism’


If you can think of a better, more apt term, please let this columnist know.

I’m at a loss for words, so I need your help.

Not so long ago, Republican officeholders in our country were conservatives, a political philosophy that literally encompasses the notion of conservation. Those Republicans wanted to conserve important things–including our public infrastructure, the rule of law, public education, and even our environment. During the last 30 years, though, voters in the GOP’s primaries systematically culled these classic conservatives from office, replacing them with right-wing, laissez-faire ideologues. These new-breed Republicans largely rejected our country’s commitment to the common good, instead supporting privatization of government functions and tax favoritism for the corporate elite.

The media, however, made no linguistic adjustment to this fundamental change in philosophy, simply shifting the “conservative” label to the right-wingers. But if they can be called conservative, what the hell do we call the new new-breed Republicans who’re presently displacing those politicos who displaced the actual conservatives?

This year, the Republican primary races went from plain old right-wingism to right-wing crackpotism. In Nevada, Wisconsin, Colorado, Delaware, New York, Kentucky, and elsewhere, many GOP nominees to Congress and other offices are farther out than Pluto! “End Social Security,” they rant. “Stop punishing BP,” “Cut off unemployment benefits to jobless Americans,”

OK, I Was Wrong — We Don’t All Have to Eat Vegan to Save the Planet

The Guardian

I used to think being a vegan was the only ethical way to eat. But an important new book suggests we can change our food system to allow for healthy meat consumption.

This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.

In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world’s livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism “is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue”. I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I’m about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.

In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, [Available in US January 2011] Simon Fairlie pays handsome tribute to vegans for opening up the debate.

Sheila Fetzer & Bob Daley, Mendocino Hotel Tonight 9/25/10

Hooked On Growth – Life After Growth


[This column dedicated to Wendy Roberts and her ‘dumb-growth ideology’ supporters. “Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves… So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.” As Wendy Roberts says, “polling indicates that Dan is right that the ‘growing on our own strengths’ is the winning argument.” Vote for a smart, local, healthy, sustainable economy. Vote for Dan Hamburg, 5th District Supervisor. -DS]

Dave Gardner’s upcoming documentary looks at modern society and asks, why are we behaving irrationally? There’s overwhelming evidence we’ve reached the limits to growth, yet continue in our addiction to it. In a search for the cure, Dave starts with the need to tell different stories and shares examples from several folks he’s interviewed. He highlights an amusing segment which depicts a family’s impacts remaining in their yard! This “crowd-produced” film will also show activities at the community level which could make a huge positive difference.

Economic Growth
Job Growth, Increasing Production And More Consumption – Holy Grail Or Siren Songs Leading Us To Destruction?

* In our documentary, Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity, our examination of population,

Wendy Roberts’ Dirty Tricks Campaign

Mendocino County Listservs

The Press Democrat article ended with these two sentences: “Hamburg is a Green Party member who generally is embraced by the county’s liberal, no-growth and alternative living crowd. Roberts is a democrat who claims liberal credentials, but her supporters include some of the county’s staunchest conservatives.” This goes to the heart of the issue of who is supporting Wendy Roberts and why.  Apparently more than a few major Roberts supporters don’t live in the Fifth District: e.g. Jared Carter, a right-wing lawyer who has made a decades long career of serving every destructive corporate entity with interests in the county. Clearly their agenda is to get a third pro-“development” vote on the Board of Supervisors who will reliably support whatever the big money interests want.  They are willing to invest big bucks in Wendy, betting that their investment will be small compared to the big payback they anticipate.

The FPPC says: “Easily accessible and transparent disclosure of political information lies at the heart of any democracy.” I fully agree with that statement, so I call for Wendy Roberts to make a complete, easily accessible and transparent disclosure of who her political backers are,

Democracy Now: Greed is the dominant value in the world today

Thanks to Tom Davenport

Guest: Manfred Max-Neef, Chilean economist. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics.

AMY GOODMAN: While President Obama is reporting looking into tapping a former corporate executive to become his next top economic adviser, many economists question the path the United States is on. Last week, during our trip to Bonn, Germany, I had a chance to speak with the acclaimed Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his bookOutside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. I began by asking him to explain what barefoot economics is.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Well, it’s a metaphor, but a metaphor that originated in a concrete experience. I worked for about ten years of my life in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle, in urban areas in different parts of Latin America. And at the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud—not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley,

Despair, Hope, and the Built World


A description of the human condition: we are habituated to the world long before we become aware of it, and we are aware of it long before we are aware of our habituation to it.

This assumes, of course, that we ever become aware of our habituation. But, whatever our awareness, the fact of our habituation does not change. We are “at home.”

But it is difficult for me to believe that anyone aware of his habituation can remain “at home” in the world for long—I mean this scientized technological everything’s-for-sale world we’re habituated to. If the world isn’t exactly the dung heap (and we the maggots that crawl upon it) that Dulcinea pronounced it to be, it surely isn’t the sort of place we can look at and be particularly proud of or comfortable in. We may be at home, but we are at home only in a kind of somnambulant homelessness. Something needs remodeling, even if we aren’t exactly sure what it is.

But that “something” is precisely what’s at stake. So let us look about.

We are habituated to an immersive ugliness in architecture, civic design, and infrastructure. We are habituated, if not also addicted,

(Breaking) Poll: 1 In 5 Americans Believe Obama Is A Cactus

Thanks to Ron Epstein

WASHINGTON—According to a poll released Tuesday, nearly 20 percent of U.S. citizens now believe Barack Obama is a cactus, the most Americans to identify the president as a water- retaining desert plant since he took office.

A growing segment of the population believes the president is pollinated by moths and hummingbirds.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found a sharp rise in the number of Americans who say they firmly believe Obama was either born a cactus, became a cactus during his youth, or has questionable links to the Cactaceae family.

“We asked people of varying races, ages, and backgrounds the same question: ‘What is President Barack Obama?'” Pew spokeswoman Jodi Miller told reporters. “And a fifth of them responded, ‘A cactus.'”

According to the poll, Obama has lost favor among many voters who supported his candidacy in 2008 but have since come to doubt he is a mammal. While these Americans concede Obama may not specifically be a cactus, most believe he is a plant of some kind, with 18 percent saying the president is a ficus, 37 percent believing him to be a grain such as wheat or millet, and 12 percent convinced he is an old-growth forest in Northern California.

Doctor’s Orders: Eat Well to Be Well

From NYT
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Oakland–Dr. Preston Maring was striding along a hospital corridor at double speed on a recent Friday morning, his tall frame, white hair and frequent gesticulations prompting waves of greetings from colleagues, who also took care to sidestep his forward momentum. His destination was the weekly farmers’ market he started in 2003, just outside the front door at the Kaiser Permanente medical center here.

“Since it’s mine, I made the rules — all organic,” he said as he skimmed by a line of stalls where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to hospital workers, passers-by and even, he said, those bringing patients to the emergency room.

Dr. Maring, 64, a gynecologist and obstetrician with three decades as a surgeon, is well known as a former physician in chief at the hospital, the man who spearheaded the creation of its new pediatric neurosurgery unit.

But increasingly, his reputation and perpetual motion revolve around his conviction that in the health professions, the kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic. Food is at the center of health and illness, he argues, and so doctors must make all aspects of it — growing, buying, cooking, eating — a mainstay of their medical educations, their personal lives and their practices.

Though Dr. Maring blithely refers to himself as “that food nut around the hospital,”

Bruce Patterson: PTSD

Anderson Valley

“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others.” –Thomas Jefferson

The late comedian George Carlin did a bit about Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (back then it wasn’t called a Disorder). During WW1, Carlin reminded us, we called it “shell shock.” Now those two words pack some punch, don’t they? It’s shocking language, really. So during WW2 we started calling it “combat fatigue.” As if war makes a soldier sleepy and, after a nap, milk and cookies, he’s as good as new. During Vietnam we started calling it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? You’re given a choice between “trauma” and “post-trauma”—which are you going to take? Experiencing “Stress” is something we can all sympathize with. Getting stuck in traffic is stressful. And who knows what a “Syndrome” is? Yet it’s a pretty word that rolls off the tongue…

Gene Logsdon: Selling A Book That Has No Name


Prairie Public Radio interviewed me recently about my latest book, Holy Shit. The interviewer was kind about my writing. He knew a lot about farming which is rarely the case but always a relief when discussing agriculture before an urban audience. The only problem was that he did not mention the title of the book during the entire interview! He said that he would get fired if he did. Regulations forbid the utterance of that awful word, shit, even when it is in the title of a book.

It happened again. The excellent website, The Chronicle of Higher Education, referred to my book with kind praise, even calling it “charming.” But never once did the reviewer give the title of the book. Policy, he said.

Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Draft Horse Journal in which I felt obliged out of sheer honesty to use the naughty word. This proved to be a problem for Maury Telleen, the editor. He didn’t have a problem actually, but his lovely wife, Jeannine, (they are two of my favorite people) ruled the roost when it came to proofreading and she did not intend for the naughty word to soil her publication. They compromised and rendered the word

Mendocino County Health Care News

Mendocino County

There remains among the public a great deal of uncertainty about how President Obama’s health care initiative will impact health costs and protect consumers. The new law continues to take center stage in an increasingly heated political climate.

We believe that as provisions designed to protect consumers become law, and as election-season fervor subsides, the mood around country and county will allow for a less cynical outlook on the most important piece of social reform in the last half century.

First Health Care Reform Provisions Enacted

On the six month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage, a series of important reforms mark the first steps of the health industry overhaul.

As of September 23rd, all private health plans will be prohibited from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. In addition, all private health insurers will be prohibited from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Annual limits will also be subject to strict regulation.

They’re Tracking What You Browse Online

From NYT
Thanks to Rosalind Peterson

Sandra Person Burns used to love browsing and shopping online. Until she realized she was being tracked by software on her computer that she thought she had erased.

Sandra Person Burns is among those taking legal action against companies that track computer users’ activity on the Internet.

Ms. Person Burns, 67, a retired health care executive who lives in Jackson, Miss., said she is wary of online shopping: “Instead of going to Amazon, I’m going to the local bookstore.”

Ms. Person Burns is one of a growing number of consumers who are taking legal action against companies that track computer users’ activity on the Internet. At issue is a little-known piece of computer code placed on hard drives by the Flash program from Adobe when users watch videos on popular Web sites like YouTube and Hulu.

The technology, so-called Flash cookies, is bringing an increasing number of federal lawsuits against media and technology companies and growing criticism from some privacy advocates who say the software

Skill Up, Party Down

Rob Hopkins, Founder, Transition Towns


Transition Towns plan a gentle descent from oil dependence—and have a blast in the process.

Ciaran Mundy, a successful high-tech entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in soil ecology, started a website to update people on all the “terrible news about climate change.” But after a while, he felt it wasn’t working—that it would never work. “It took me years to realize there’s no point in putting up more facts and figures,” he says. “They just bounce off people.”

Then he stumbled across the Transition Town movement, which was just picking up steam in his city—Bristol, England. When Mundy attended a training session on Transition Towns, he found a group of people addressing the big problems of our time, and doing it with optimism and a sense of celebration.

The Transition movement is built around making the transition to a world after peak oil—the time when world oil production reaches an all-time high, then goes into irreversible decline. Oil prices will spike and the economy will stop growing, wreaking havoc in our society, which depends on petroleum for nearly everything, from growing food to maintaining economies.

Crash Course In Resilience


We can strengthen our communities and ourselves to prepare for the uncertain world of failing economies, climate change, and oil depletion.

To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.—Wendell Berry

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
—Victor Frankl

Not long ago, a rocket took off from a Florida launching pad taking Americans to the moon. The moon shot signified to many that Americans could do anything we set our minds to.
Today, in another part of Florida, toxic oil is washing up on beaches. Hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast have been devastated, and people whose resilience was tested by Hurricane Katrina are being tested even more severely today. There are good reasons to believe many more of us will have our resilience tested in coming months and years.

Future historians may see this time as a turning point for Western civilization. In the popular zeitgeist, there is much discussion of end times.

Dave Smith: State Budget Talks Heat Up. Take Action in Support of Sales Tax Fairness.


We need to you to act now. The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, and the American Booksellers Association are urging you to please contact the Governor Schwarzenegger’s office and ask him to support the “affiliate nexus” (sales tax fairness) provision in the budget. Please call the Governor’s office today (Monday) or tomorrow, at the latest.

The most reliable information we have tells us that this is the moment to act. We’ve heard that budget talks have swung into high gear, and in the proposed state budget package, there is a sales tax fairness provision that mirrors

Peak Complexity: Standing On the Brink of Release


[…] Buzz Holling was instrumental in describing the adaptive cycles of complex ecological systems, and specifically he studied forest ecosystems. He identified 4 general stages of evolution in complex ecological systems (what he termed “fractal adaptive cycles”), and these could just as easily be applied to human systems that have been built on the foundation of those ecological systems (my descriptions will be greatly simplified – follow the referenced sources for more detail) :

1. Growth – The system finds an abundance of available resources and spaces which are exploited for material wealth, and this flow of energy/resources allows the development of many inter-dependencies, efficiencies and specialized functions. Diversity of agents within the system increases as does overall wealth.

2. Conservation – The system’s rapid growth decelerates as it becomes highly specialized and opportunities for novel exploitation strategies diminish. Increasing amounts of energy are directed towards conserving the existing system instead of growth, and “wealth” is extracted from the periphery to central parts of the system. The system’s complex inter-dependencies become more rigid

Six Reasons Why I’m Not On Facebook


[This goes for this old dude, too… DS]

“David, you’re sounding like an old dude!” Matt Flannery, who runs social-lending website Kiva, couldn’t understand when I explained that, no, I wouldn’t be keeping in touch with him via Facebook. “What are you worried about?” he teased in a break at the PINC conference in Holland. “Only old guys get worked up about privacy.”

Well, Matt, I admit I’m the wrong side of 30, and that I still avoid using emoticons in formal correspondence. But let me explain why I’m not active on Facebook, nor sharing my credit-card purchases on Blippy, nor allowing Google Buzz to mine my contacts list, nor even publishing my DNA on My cautious use of the social networks has nothing to do with paranoia about privacy; and yes, I celebrate the unprecedented transparency and connectivity that these services can empower. But what’s increasingly bothering me is the wider social and political cost of our ever-greater enmeshment in these proprietary networks. Here are half a dozen reasons why.

Take Action! 13-year Old Takes to the Web to Just Say “No” to Pesticides


[Local Context: Many towns, cities, and counties in north America are banning the use of cosmetic chemicals on lawn and gardens. In our local, so-called “progressive community” our city and county lawns, parks, golf courses and ball fields are saturated with poisons and not managed organically… to the detriment of our collective health. We have the world’s first organic brewpub, we were the first county to ban GMO plants and roadside spraying, our co-op sells only organic produce, several of our wineries are organic and biodynamic pioneers, our environmental centers have brought world attention to the destruction of the redwood forests, yet our children and pets roll around on chemical-saturated grass, our school kids play in poison, and the Big Box colonizers and locally-owned home improvement stores sell thousands of gallons of expensive and unnecessary chemical treatments every month. What’s wrong with this picture? -DS]

A thirteen-year old girl in a Northern Virginia suburb has recently launched her own campaign

Amy Goodman: Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto

Video here

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held. The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 and has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech company Monsanto for years. In 1997, Percy and his wife Louise won the Right Livelihood Award for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights. I spoke with Percy Schmeiser yesterday in Bonn, but first I want to turn to Bertram Verhaag’s documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

    NARRATOR: The pesticide Roundup produced by the multinational concern Monsanto is the most widely sold spray in the world. Monsanto made its canola resistant to Roundup. This means Roundup kills every plant without exception.

Rosalind Peterson: Take Action! What You Can Do By October 11, 2010 About The U.S. Navy’s New Threat To Northern California And Gulf Of Mexico Marine Life

Redwood Valley




USA TODAY broke this news when they published a news story titled: “Navy Plans Could Affect More Marine Mammals” on August 5, 2010 [1]. According to USA Today news article, backed up by federal documents from the U.S. Navy and NOAA: “…The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training…

Organic: It’s Worth It

Diversity of Benefits Documented in Major Organic Strawberry Study

The long-awaited Washington State University (WSU) organic versus conventional strawberry fruit quality study has been published in the prestigious journal PLoS ONE (September 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 9: e12346).

The study compared 13 pairs of organic and conventional strawberry fields matched to include the same three varieties, harvest schedule, irrigation methods, soil types, and weather.  The team found that the organic strawberries were more nutrient dense, stored longer, and were produced in soils characterized by greater microbial diversity and capacity to overcome stress.

The organic fruit was, on average, smaller, which some commentators noted as a disadvantage, but in reality, it is an important advantage if the goal is to produce tasty, nutrient dense fruit

Greenhorns: the network breathing new life into US farming

The Ecologist

It‘s helping attract youthful talent into sustainable agriculture across the US, but can the Greenhorns movement survive in the land of Big Ag?

The Greenhorns is an exciting new movement tearing up the turf (gently) in the USA. This fresh network of young farmers is mapping the future of food production with ambitious targets, incisive communication and savvy marketing – all fertilised with plenty of organic passion.

Severine von Tshcarner Fleming started the Greenhorns because she was fed up with the negativity she kept encountering while studying agroecology, and the low levels of funding available for sustainable agriculture. She wanted to reflect ‘the incredibly positive uprising of people engaged in the day-to-day rebuilding of our food system’ found everywhere she worked on the land. Hence these ‘young farmers’ are united more in attitude than age.

Todd Walton: Art Rant (includes favorite films)

Under The Table


Rae’s eyes were red and swollen. They sat on the couch side by side, in silence, waiting for the doctor.” from Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott

The silence of the eyes rings true, and the eyes being side-by-side seems plausible, but how in heck did those eyes get onto that couch without Rae?

I was thirteen and had devoured a thousand books before I discovered the first typo of my reading career, an error that struck me as a scandalous affront to the artistry of writing. I was an insatiable reader, and wanting to be a professional writer I did not skim, but read every word. And when I found passages that wowed me, I copied their lines longhand to teach my sinews the feel of great writing.