Q&A with Michele Simon — activist, attorney, badass

From The Ethicurean

It’s always fun to talk with someone who has such a sense of purpose that she doesn’t feel the need to make nice. Michele Simon is one of those people. Let me be clear: Simon, a public health attorney for the Marin Institute, and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back is a lovely individual — friendly, thoughtful, and soft-spoken. But she’s also totally unafraid to speak her mind, consistently skewering Coca-Cola, Kraft, and other companies she feels contribute to the poor health of our children, and our nation.

Recently Simon chatted with me about school food, social justice, and why we all need to get more involved with the politics of food.

Let’s start with school food. What do you think about all of the momentum around school food reform?

It’s great that so many people are focused on school food, because schools are such an obvious place that needs reform. But the problems in schools are just a microcosm of a bigger issue. I think sometimes that gets lost. We have wonderful dedicated groups of advocates pushing for school food reform, and I can point to a number of great efforts that are happening around the country. And we need to remember that school food is a part of a larger broken food system that needs to change.

What would you say that change looks like?

Right now, our entire food system is based on profit and growth. That’s what our government policies support. But our policies could, instead, support a system that’s based on values and democracy, so good food is priced in a way that everyone can afford it. It’s a question of policy; better policy can help ensure that truly healthy and sustainable food is available to everyone.

And you think policy change is feasible at this time in history?

It’s a good question. There’s some very disturbing discourse now about how everything government does is bad. And, that anything government might do to “control” your behavior is bad, so if government makes food policy changes, those must be bad, too. But this argument assumes that government is not already involved in your food choices. It completely ignores the reality that government is already involved with everything you eat. Every single meal, every bite you take is already shaped by policy; it’s just that the policy is in corporate interests, instead of the public interest. Government shouldn’t be obstructing Americans’ ability to eat well; it should be supporting it.

I wrote something recently about how despite all the attention, the problem of obesity continues to grow.  A friend then asked me, flat out, “Why should I even care? If I’m taking care of myself, if I’m eating apples and not Cheetos, why should I even care about someone who makes the reverse choice?” What would be your answer to this person?

One answer could be the health care argument – that we’re all going to pay in the form of higher health care costs. But I don’t leave it at that because I come to this work with an altruistic perspective. I believe we have a moral obligation to make the world better for everyone. As human beings, we’ve always needed to support one another,

9 things I learned by shadowing a home-energy inspector


[…] It helps to learn firsthand. The most interesting part of the four-hour visit was the blower-door test. Paul used a large fan with an airtight skirt to blow air out the front door, depressurizing the house and accelerating small air leaks so they’re easier to find. Cold air coming up from the basement doorway felt like a minor squall. Even tiny leaks passing through light-switch plates were perceptible. Langdon followed Paul around and felt each leak for himself — which make it easier to understand the problem.

Thermal imaging cameras are nifty. They make it visual and perceptible where heat escapes — both through air leaks through solid surfaces. Langdon will get a series of photos that Paul shot.

Attics should get insulation first, then walls and basements. Because heat rises. Windows are so expensive they’re rarely worth replacing for heating-bill savings alone…

Utilities are driving the retrofit industry right now… Utilities aren’t paying for reviews and retrofits because they’re tree huggers. They’re doing it because cutting demand is cheaper than building new power plants. All together now: Efficiency is the cheapest form of energy

Full article here

Is this the coolest website on the internet?


[In the tradition of the Whole Earth Catalog… -DS]

True Films


Food, Inc. is a very smart, very visual explanation of the industrial nature of our food system. Some of the characters and arguments are repeated from Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Ominvore’s Dilemma (which I have reviewed previously), and Pollan plays a large role in this film. Like the book, this film makes a very memorable case for the downsides of agribusiness, although, unlike the book, it is light on solutions. Nonetheless, the film is eye-opening, head-shaking, and disturbing in a good way. If you eat in America, you really should see this film to get a sense of what you are eating. It’s one of a handful of true films than change people’s behavior.

— KK


Rebooting the American Dream – Chapter One: Bring My Job Home!


Also See: Rebooting the American Dream: Introduction

By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he [the entrepreneur] intends only his own security, and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
—Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776

The White House called me.

About a year after President Barack Obama took office, on the first anniversary of his major economic recovery legislation, his administration was struggling to get the word out that the legislation was, in fact, quite a success story. I found myself invited to the White House as part of a small group of well-known authors and bloggers to meet with a top administration economist as part of this promotion effort.

It was an odd problem they were facing, given that this president was masterful during the 2008 election campaign in communicating his ideas and his vision to the American public. So what happened? Why didn’t America know that the $787 billion legislation represented one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, that it had demonstrably created or preserved between 1.5 million and 3 million jobs, and that it had, in all probability, prevented the severe recession Obama inherited from George W. Bush from turning into a second Republican Great Depression, at least in the short term?

Peak Moment Television: Meet the Women of YES! Magazine


Todd Walton: Le Village

Under The Table

“I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” Katherine Mansfield

A soggy afternoon, the last Friday in October of 2010, Halloween two days away. I moved to Mendocino from Berkeley on Halloween five years ago and I have yet to tire of going to the beach. I mention the beach because almost everyone I met during my first two years here assured me that I would soon tire of going to the beach. These same people also told me that after I lived here for a year or two, I would grow stir crazy and hunger for the cultural excitement of the outer world. They were adamant I would want to travel to Mexico or Hawaii or Europe or Manhattan, or at least to San Francisco, but after five years here I have yet to experience the slightest urge to go anywhere but the village, the forest, and the beach.

Today was the last farmers’ market of the year in Mendocino. I love our little mercado. I hope one day to be one of the people selling things in our market. I will vend vegetables and fruit and books and CDs and greeting cards and Giants T-shirts and Giants baseball hats and Cliff Glover and Marion Miller ceramics, and each week zany and eccentric friends will make guest appearances at my booth. I will also have a weekly poetry contest (one entry per person), and a guess-how-many-beans-are-in-the-jar contest, with valuable prizes.

Today I would have bought a farmers’ market pie from the wonderful Garden Bakery people, but I am gluten free now and the Garden Bakery people only sell pies full of gluten. I’m predicting big things for gluten-free foodstuffs in the near future.

This is the Guy: A Small Fraction of a Man



George W. Bush was all over my television this past week, all over the newspapers, and the feelings inspired by his sudden reappearance are almost beyond my capacity to describe. There was the story about his hearty approval of waterboarding. There was the story that had him contemplating dropping Dick Cheney from the administration. There was the story that had him describing himself as a “dissenter” on the Iraq invasion. He did interviews, and excerpts of his new book dribbled out, and it was all too much to endure.

This is the guy, I thought to myself when I saw his face or heard his voice. This is the guy.

This is the guy who took a massive Clinton administration budget surplus and gave it away to his friends at the top of the tax bracket, a move that laid the groundwork for our current economic calamity.

This is the guy who breezed past a pointed warning about Osama bin Laden, terrorism and airplanes on August 8, 2001, because he was on vacation and couldn’t be bothered.

This is the guy who parlayed that massive failure into a constant goad of fear to be wielded with impunity against the people he purported to lead. Plastic sheeting and duct tape, anthrax under your pillow, and of course, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

This is the guy who, not even a month after the Towers came down, looked into a television camera and said, “We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates.”

Richard Heinberg: 300 Years of Fossil-Fueled Addiction in 5 Minutes


See Also ‘Holy Shit’ by Gene Logsdon book promo video here

Herb Ruhs: When will we stop the lyin’ and the denyn’


When will we stop the lyin’ and the denyn’ and face the fact that, in every way, in every time, and in every place, the monster that is SOCIAL CLASS is the source of virtually all of our societal afflictions. Eden is just beyond the door where we leave class behind as a means of ordering society. Rank is the rankest of the rank things that escaped, unnoticed in denial, from Pandora’s box.

In a recent book (on order for me at Laughing Books in Boonville) called Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Spencer Wells, described as “renowned geneticist and anthropologist” takes the position (at least according to the review at Google Books) that our current existential crisis began with the advent of farming and the abandonment of the hunter gatherer life style. With all due respect, if the review was accurate, (I love Wells’ work) I think he is wrong.  From my study I suspect that most of us would be quite happy as early Neolithic farmers on the periphery of the “great civilizations” where the sociopaths had already gotten a foothold and instituted mono-cropping of grains with coerced labor.

My understanding is that our decline began with the invention of class.  Our torment since that time has been the inevitable consequences of class. Class war, a concept that, for me, includes all aspects of class violence, economic, spiritual and educational, is our primary reality.  Those who advocate for peace yet ignore class as the engine of war are pursuing a illusion.

Much of what is taught in our universities about prehistory is bull. Most of what people think they know about our origins is conditioned by the rightist political views of powerful folks in the Academy. Fact is that our species had the brass ring in our hands at the end of a ten thousand year run of good weather following the last ice ages. We began our descent with the establishment of hierarchical institutions like religion,

Roll Back the Reagan Tax Cuts


[It’s very, very simple. Forget all the gibberish from the Deficit Commission about cutting Social Security and Medicare. That is a class war con job on the middle and working classes. To clear up the deficit in a very few years, simply roll back the Reagan tax cuts for the very rich that started this financial disaster. Done. Why is no one else talking about this? Maybe because the wealthy news guys and gals, left and right, will be negatively affected? -DS]

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

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

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

The answer is pretty straightforward.

Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years

Repost from January 2009

This weekend, House Republican leader John Boehner played out the role of Jude Wanniski on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Odds are you’ve never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a “successful” president, Republicans never would have taken control of the House or Senate, Bill Clinton never would have been impeached, and neither George Bush would have been president.

When Barry Goldwater went down to ignominious defeat in 1964, most Republicans felt doomed (among them the then-28-year-old Wanniski). Goldwater himself, although uncomfortable with the rising religious right within his own party and the calls for more intrusion in people’s bedrooms, was a diehard fan of Herbert Hoover’s economic worldview.

In Hoover’s world (and virtually all the Republicans since reconstruction with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt), market fundamentalism was a virtual religion. Economists from Ludwig von Mises to Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman had preached that government could only make a mess of things economic, and the world of finance should be left to the Big Boys – the Masters of the Universe, as they sometimes called themselves – who ruled Wall Street and international finance.

Hoover enthusiastically followed the advice of his Treasury Secretary, multimillionaire Andrew Mellon, who said in 1931: “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. Purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down…

Mendo Volunteer Events

Together We Can! Mendocino

Dear Members and Friends of Together We Can! Mendocino,
We have five new posted volunteer events, all for the Ukiah Senior Center.  The first three take place on Thanksgiving Day.  The Senior Center will be serving two separate Thanksgiving Day Meals and need volunteers to help with each of them, as well as clean up.  This will be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings ($7/person).  Here are the links to sign up:
If you are unable to help with the Senior Center Thanksgiving Day Meal during the times we have posted, they also need help on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and in the morning of Thanksgiving Day.  Here is the information on what they need for volunteers:
Wednesday, November 24th
Shifts available: 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.     Making pies
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon   Kitchen Prep
12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m.   Kitchen Prep
3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.     Kitchen Clean up
Thursday, November 25th
Shifts available: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon   Kitchen help
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.   Carving Turkeys
Please contact Lavonna Silveria at 707-462-4343 x 106 or usclavon@pacific.net if you would like to help.
The other two posted volunteer events take place on December 10th at the Senior Center.  We will be helping them with their Holiday Comfort Dinner.  This will be a lasagna dinner with wine or beverage and a special dessert ($10/person).  Here are the links to sign up:
Volunteer Calendar Here

Dear Tea Party: You will now get yours


And now, hot on the heels of our recent letter to whiny young Democrats, a loving shout-out to all those moderates and independents, confused conservatives and hard-line Repubs who went just a little more than slightly insane this past election.

To all of you who either flip-flopped your wishy-washy ideals and switched your vote from bluish to reddish this past election because Obama and the lukewarm Dems failed to solve all world problems in 700 days, or because you got yourself so emotionally riled up/mentally watered down by the sexy caveman grunts of the Tea Party that you actually bought the BS line about being “mad as hell” about nothing even remotely coherent.

Here is your grand message: You are hereby wonderfully, thoroughly screwed.

Oh darling, it’s so very true. The fun-filled news is, despite all the bluster and rhetoric, thinly veiled racism and rampant Islamophobia on display, the new army of jittery, anti-everything GOP bobbleheads that you just voted into office doesn’t care a single iota about you, or your haphazard values, or what you sometimes occasionally stand for. And what’s more, deep down, you secretly know it.

Are you slightly offended? Are you scowling and mistrustful of the notion? I’m delighted to hear it. Also: It doesn’t really matter.

You don’t have to believe me. Just wait until nothing at all is done to service the Tea Party non-agenda, because it’s ridiculous and impossible to service. Just wait until you note how there is no actual shrinking of government, no restoring some bogus sepia-toned idealism that never existed, no saving of your job.

What has Jason Bradford been up to since leaving our fair county?

A Socially Conscious Way to Invest in Farmland: An Interview with Dr. Jason Bradford about Farmland LP

The following post is an interview with Dr. Jason Bradford, who answers questions about his business, Farmland LP, which is an investment vehicle that allows its investors to own farmland which is farmed using organic and sustainable practices.

Kalpa: Please start by giving us a small background on Farmland LP. What is it, what are its goals, and who might be interested in investing in it?

Jason: We are an investment fund that buys conventional farmland and converts it to certified organic, sustainably managed farmland. Historically, farmland has been an excellent, inflation-hedged investment. Our firm, Farmland LP, adds value to farmland by converting it to organic farmland and managing it ongoing. Our goal is to play a role in the transformation of the food system while benefiting the environment, people, and our investors.

Potential investors include any accredited individual investors (an SEC requirement) and institutions such as pension funds, university and charity endowments. They are often interested in holding tangible, inflation protected, cash flowing assets, and farmland meets those criteria. Also, since we are an environmentally and socially responsible management company, we attract those interested in making sure their money is doing good work…

It was co-created with my business partner, Craig Wichner. I had the basic agroecological model in my head and was looking for a way to make it happen…

Complete story here

Laura Hamburg: Mendocino Access TV Grand Opening


I am on the Board of Directors for our new community access television station. I would love for you to give us your feedback on what kind of community programming you’d like to see — or even better come with your own ideas for your own show. Sky’s the limit on what you might do — all things Mendo, localization, food safety, politics, arts, music, children, theater, sports, gardening, farming & ranching, cooking, marijuana, interviews, on-location programming and more…

Come to our Grand Opening this Friday — November 12, 5 pm at the Brush Street station. Food, drinks and frolic.

What Do You Want To See? What do you want to create? A weekly, monthly show, a once-in-a-while film project? All content must be either educational, community-oriented, or government. Other than that, there is NO CENSORSHIP.

Programming is seen on Comcast stations 3, 64 & 65. And content is shared with 1,500 other public access television stations nationwide.

A $30 yearly membership fee buys you the ability to check-out and borrow the station’s state-of-the art cameras to film wherever you like, use the studio and the studio equipment for production and editing, and hands-on-training with our wonderful Director of Programming Jason Killilea.

Thom Hartmann: Rebooting the American Dream – 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country


Truthout is proud to bring you an exclusive series from America’s No. 1 progressive radio host, Thom Hartmann. Starting today, we’ll be publishing weekly installments of Hartmann’s acclaimed new book, “Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country.” We invite Truthout readers to join us over the next 12 weeks as, chapter by chapter, we explore these groundbreaking ideas for national transformation. We begin today with the book’s introduction.

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820

On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, showed up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington that he’d just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation’s capital, New York City.

Why Republicans are So Intent on Killing Health Care Reform


It’s not just about expanded care. It’s about proving our government can be a force for the common good.

[Michael Moore has long ago proven the lies that conservatives and tea partiers will tell to kill even the feeble new health care laws we have. We need to stand tall and stop these big lie, sicko bastards in their tracks. -DS]

Why are John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell so intent on stopping health care reform from ever taking hold? For the same reason that Republicans and the corporate Right spent more than $200 million in the last year to demonize health care in swing Congressional districts. It wasn’t just about trying to stop the bill from becoming law or taking over Congress. It is because health reform, if it takes hold, will create a bond between the American people and government, just as Social Security and Medicare have done. Democrats, and all those who believe that government has a positive place in our lives, should remember how much is at stake as Republicans and corporate elites try to use their electoral victory to dismantle the new health care law.

My enjoyment of the MLB playoffs last month was interrupted by ads run by Karl Rove’s Crossroads front group against upstate New York Rep. Scott Murphy, who was defeated last Tuesday. Rove’s ads rained accusations on Murphy, including the charge of a “government takeover of health care.” Some might have thought that once the public option was removed from the health care legislation, Republicans couldn’t make that charge. But it was never tied to the public option or any other specific reform. Republicans and their allies, following the advice of message guru Frank Luntz, were going to call

The end of cheap oil will be the end of globalization

The Oil Drum

One of the keynote speakers at the recent ASPO-USA conference was Jeff Rubin, former Chief Economist with CIBC World Market. Rubin talked about why he believes high oil prices caused the recent recession. He also talked about how high oil prices are likely to vastly reduce globalization. He views this as a positive situation, because he expects this will change supply curves in such a way as to make American-made products more competitive. He believes that we will find our new smaller world much more livable and sustainable.

Every major recession in the post-war period has oil’s fingerprints all over it. The 1973 first oil shock led to what was then the deepest post-war recession, at the time. The second OPEC oil shock led to no less than two recessions: 1979 and 1982. And then when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and left half of its oil fields on fire, and oil spiked to the then unheard-of price of $40 barrel, lo and behold, the industrialized world again fell into recession.

Gee, I wonder what happened to oil prices before this recession. It seems to me that oil prices went from about $30 barrel, at the beginning of 2004, to almost $150 barrel by 2008. Even in real terms, that is, inflation-adjusted, that price increase was over double the price increase of either the first or the second OPEC oil shock. If they had led to devastating recessions, why would not the biggest oil shock of them all, be the obvious culprit for what has been the deepest recession to date?…

I will tell you where I think oil prices are going. Even in this most anemic of economic recoveries, we are going to see triple digit oil prices. We are not going to see triple digit oil prices in 10 to 15 years. And it is certainly not clear to me that the global economy is

Book Review: ‘Death Of The Liberal Class’ by Chris Hedges

From NPR

From organizing workers to preventing war to making the economy more green, journalist Chris Hedges argues that, for decades, liberals have surrendered the good fights to corporations and ruling powers.

In his new book, Death of the Liberal Class, Hedges slams five specific groups and institutions — the Democratic Party, churches, unions, the media and academia — for failing Americans and allowing for the creation of a “permanent underclass.”

Hedges says that, for motives ranging from self-preservation to careerism, the “liberal establishment” purged radicals from its own ranks and, as a result, lost its checks on capitalism and corporate power.

“For millions of Americans, including the 15 million unemployed Americans,” Hedges tells NPR’S Neal Conan, “the suffering is becoming acute.”

He sites a recent trip to Camden, N.J., per capita the poorest city in the nation, as an example.

Cover of 'Death Of The Liberal Class'

“When you get up and see the human cost of what this has done — these foreclosures, these bank repossessions, the fact that one in eight Americans and one in four children depend on food stamps to survive,”

FDR Sanity: Time to Try Government as Employer of Last Resort


[If you really wanna piss off your right wing friends, this one will send them over the moon! -DS]

In the wake of the highest unemployment rate in 25 years, the Roosevelt Institute asked historians, economists and other public thinkers to reflect on the lessons of the New Deal and explore new, big ideas for how to get America back to work. Marshall Auerback calls for government to step in as employer of last resort.

At 10.2%, unemployment is now at its highest level since 1983. Nearly 16 million people can’t find jobs even, though we are constantly being told that the worst recession since the Great Depression has officially ended. Yet instead of trying to revive the productive economy, most of the Obama Administration’s recovery efforts still remain focused on cardio-shock treatment for Wall Street. The President still seems curiously hamstrung by his Herbert Hoover-like devotion to fiscal rectitude: he wants to spend but not add “one dime to the deficit,” as he announced at his Congressional address on health care in September. He does this even though deficits are a natural consequence of slowing economic growth, falling tax revenues and higher social welfare payments.

To all of the “Chicken Littles” (including the president), who fret about “excessive” government spending, we would simply point out that it is far better to deploy government spending in a way that reduces unemployment instead of settling for having it rise as a consequence of this spending.

Another Jim Kunstler Classic: Pre Post Mortem


The poetry of dynamic forces does not lend itself to easy explication. Thought exercise: Imagine the vector of a Chevy Trailblazer and a CSX coal train of four 3000-horsepower diesel engines hauling 88 loaded hopper cars four miles north of Chugwater, Wyoming. The Chevy driver left his meth lab, say, fourteen minutes earlier after piping up and doing three tequila shots. The lead engineer on the coal train, a sturdy fellow, five-feet-ten-inches and 270 pounds, having finished his supper of double deluxe nachos (with two meats and extra cheese) is entering a less than blissful realm of myocardial infarction. Meanwhile, a meteor the size of a basketball has passed into the troposphere on a trajectory to strike the planet Earth at precisely the point where the CSX line crosses state road no. 44. That there would be a snapshot of your US political economy.

Of course, lying and doubletalk don’t help none, either. Such as the widespread falsehood that a “recovery” to the consumer credit nirvana and rising house prices of yesteryear is underway (Krugman, Friedman, et al). Or that a program called quantitative easing represents anything more than a national check-kiting scheme ramping up so many zeros that the goddess of infinity herself would run shrieking from the scene in embarrassment.

I saw a black swan in the botanical garden at Melbourne a week or so ago and it reminded me most poetically of Mr. Taleb’s proposition that nobody really knows what is going on in this republic. And so, appropriately, we held an election in which many candidates who know nothing found themselves…
Full article here

Voters: Forget Politics. Jobs, Please!



The most widely accepted narrative to emerge from the 2010 midterm elections, in which Democrats took a “shellacking” and lost the most congressional seats since World War II, was this: Sick of liberal overreach, voters—especially independents—shifted their favor to the right, choosing Republican candidates in huge numbers.

Not so, according to a new exit poll by the firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The firm’s findings, released Friday, show that voters weren’t necessarily allying themselves with the GOP, but rather were voicing their disapproval with Washington as a whole, and especially with the federal government’s inability to restart America’s economic engine. To wit, voters polled gave equally poor favorability ratings to both parties as well as the tea party, the poll found. Twenty-six percent of voters said their vote was a message to “both parties,” while 20 percent said it was a rebuke of Obama and 15 percent said it was a rebuke of congressional Democrats. Voters’ chief complaint was “too much bickering in Washington”—a charge directed at both parties.

What matters most to voters isn’t political nit-picking or Washington drama but the economy, plain and simple. As pollster Stan Greenberg, a former Clinton White House staffer, put it, “While this clearly was a blow…to the president and Democrats for failing to fix the economy, there’s very little indication it was an affirmation of conservative ideology and agenda. In fact, we were rather surprised in many ways at the fact that the voters, in large numbers, are still looking for larger answers to an economy that’s not working for them in a situation that they find for the country very worrisome.”

Grant Awarded to Defend Pesticides Use on Food Crops

Via Mother Jones

The Alliance for Food and Farming acts as a front group for the fruit and vegetable industry, claiming the safety of numerous pesticides.[1] According to its website, the group “was formed in 1989 and currently has a membership of approximately 50 agricultural groups representing a wide range of organizations including commodity boards, major farm groups and individual grower/shippers.” [2] It was registered as a non-profit in 1997 and does not disclose its member organizations. In July 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming held a webinar and released a paper aiming to “debunk” the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables that should be purchased as organic whenever possible.

In September 2010, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced a grant of $180,000 to the Alliance for Food and Farming for a project titled “Correcting Misconceptions about Pesticide Residues.”[3] The CDFA press release describes the project as follows:

“The project seeks to correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues. Claims by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides have been widely reported in the media for many years, but have largely gone uncontested. Continued media coverage of this misleading information is damaging to producers of California specialty crops and may also have a negative impact on public health. Utilizing sound science backed by a team of nutrition and toxicological experts, the Alliance for Food and Farming will seek to provide the media, the public and various target audiences

It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it since WWII

Via The Oil Drum

Summary:  A status report about the end of the post-WWII world.  The great recession has accelerated the process, revealing its weaknesses and showing the people of the rapidly growing emerging nations that they have outgrown it.  The US is almost its lone defender, a futile effort wasting time and resources that could be spent adjusting to the new world being born.

The post-WWII era slowly winds down, slowly but noisily.  It consists so far of two sets of interrelated dynamics.  First, a reversion to the mean of history:  the center of economic power returns to the East, ending a few hundred year long aberration.

  • The economic and political regimes of the developed nations (US, Japan, Europe) are failing under pressure of aging demographics and their accumulated public policy errors.
  • Growth in the Emerging Nations (EM’s) is accelerating as they adopt modern social and technological patterns.

Second, the foundations of the post-WWII’s geopolitical and financial regimes are washing away:

  • western leadership, with the US and Russia as hegemonic powers,
  • US dollar as the reserve currency,
  • free trade, and
  • (since 1970) free capital flows between nations.

How long will the transition take?

Large transitions take one or even two generations. The long peace (1815-1914) was the greatest period of peace and prosperity in recorded history.  

Surface Area Required To Power The World With Solar Panels Alone


Click on Post Title To Enlarge

Original Map here
Thanks to Ron Epstein

[The hard-to-read map says: These 19 contiguous areas show roughly what would be a reasonable responsibility for various parts of the world. They would be further divided many times, the more the better to reach a diversified infrastructure that localizes use as much as possible… -DS]

Bill Maher: There’s a difference between a mad man, and a madman!

[Transcribed for the dial-ups…oops, video pulled off the internet Sunday, so now transcribed for everyone…  – DS]

New rule: If you’re going to have a rally where hundreds of thousands of people show up, you may as well go ahead and make it about something. It seems if you really wanted to come down on the side of sanity and reason, you’d side with the sane and reasonable, and not try to pretend that the insanity is equally distributed in both parties.

Keith Olbermann is right when he says he’s not equivalent of Glenn Beck. One reports facts, the other one is very close to playing with his poop (prolonged laughter and applause).

And the big mistake of modern media has been this notion of balance for balances sake… that the left is just as violent and cruel as the right, that unions are just as powerful as corporations, that reverse racism is just as damaging as racism.

There’s a difference between a mad man, and a madman!

Now, getting over 200,00 people to come to a liberal rally is a great achievement… it gave me hope. And what I really loved about it was that it was twice the size as the Glenn Beck crowd on the mall in August. (applause)… although it weighed the same. (prolonged laughter and applause).

But the message of the rally as I heard it was that if the media would just quit giving voice to crazies on both sides, then maybe we could restore sanity. It was all non-partisan and urged cooperation with the moderates on the other side…

Book Review: “The Witch of Hebron” by James Kunstler

Energy Bulletin

Having stated publicly that he is not anti-feminist as many concluded from his first post apocalyptic novel, World Made By Hand, Kunstler attempts to redeem himself with the title character. The Witch of Hebron is a delectable goddess of a woman who survives living alone through the grace of various psychic powers and the healing of men with a good lay. Armed thus, she appears to have an edge in a world peopled with robbers and filled with frequent violence.

I also greeted, like old friends, the white flight sensibilities of the community of middle aged men who peopled his first novel. The most “colorful” characters being the ridiculously archaic religious order of white men from the South fleeing the race riots, but that is not mentioned again and we are safe for now.

He begins the novel by fleshing out the psychic talents of the porcine queen bee spiritual leader of the religious order, though this does take away a bit of the mystery. And despite his having decreed that dogs are rare in a post apocalyptic world (because there would be no more canned dog food), he introduces quite a healthy dog and a boy. The boy sets the plot in motion due to the dog’s death (by horse stomping).

As we follow along we realize that this boy is everything to the book. And in this regard, Kunstler wins me over by giving the boy such capabilities as have gone missing in the last decades of overcautious parenting. The boy has been apprenticing with his doctor dad since he was 8 and now at 11, he shows a good deal of confidence and success in doctoring at every opportunity as he sets off across the countryside.

“Whatever” happend to real friends


Everywhere you look on TV, there are crowds of friends and extended families all together all the time. What does it say about viewers?

Facebook, in fact, only underscores how much traditional friendship — friendship in which you meet, talk and share — has become an anachronism and how much being “friended” is an ironic term… It is Facebook with hundreds of “friends” but without any actual contact with any of them, only the virtual contact of watching… But what none of these theories of television has noticed is that TV has learned how to compensate for the increasing alienation it seems to induce. And it compensates not by letting us kill time with “friends” on screen but by providing us with those nonstop fantasies of friendship, which clearly give us a vicarious pleasure…

One feels a little churlish pointing out how phony most of this intimacy is. After all, these shows, even one as observant as “Modern Family,” aren’t about realism. They aren’t about the genuine emotional underpinnings of friendship or family, and they certainly aren’t about the rough course that almost every relationship, be it with a friend or family member, takes — the inevitable squabbles, the sometimes long and even permanent ruptures, the obtuseness, the selfishness, the reprioritization, the expectations of reciprocity, the drifting apart, the agonizing sense of loneliness even within the flock. These shows are pure wish fulfillment. They offer us friends and family at one’s beck and call but without any of the hassles. It is friendship as we want it to be.

Authoritarian Pathocrats and the Hard-Core Base of Fox News

From Sott.net
Thanks to Don Sanderson

Perhaps the most important question of our time why, throughout human history, have despicable characters repeatedly risen to the pinnacles of power. The 20th Century alone witnessed an estimated 140 million war deaths and another 16 million from genocide. Mass starvation kills millions in an era when there is plenty enough food to feed the world. And not coincidentally, in the world today 40% of the world’s wealth is held in the hands of 1% of its inhabitants, while the bottom 50% owns only 1% of the world’s wealth. That means that the top 1% owns 40 times more than half the world’s population. There are of course numerous reasons for this sorry state of affairs. But certainly the tremendous wealth and power disparity in the world, along with the abuse of that power by so many who have the most of it explains a great deal. Why have so many despicable characters throughout history acquired the ability to inflict so much suffering on the rest of humanity?

I have read two books in particular that provide much insight into this issue: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer (This link is to a free electronic version of Altemeyer’s whole book); and, Political Ponerology – A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrew M. Lobaczewski. Both books talk about much the same process, but Altemeyer approaches it from the individual psychological perspective, whereas Lobaczewski approaches it more from the societal level. Both books were recommended to me by fellow DUer Larry Ogg.

Bob Altemeyer is a retired psychology professor who spent most of his life researching authoritarianism. Lobaczewski was a Polish psychiatrist and one of several scientists

Todd Walton: Sport


“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” Thich Nhat Hanh

My maternal grandfather, Myron “Casey” Weinstein, went to the University of Michigan in 1918 on an athletic scholarship to wrestle and play baseball. Casey was the backup catcher behind the great Ernie Vick, and proudly recited this historic tidbit even after Alzheimer’s had robbed him of virtually every other memory. My paternal great grandfather, Charles Walton, was a world champion roller skater in the days when skates had steel wheels. His world’s records for sprints and long distances stood for decades after steel skates were things of the distant past.

Even so, my parents were horrified to discover they had given birth to a son, yours truly, who shortly after learning to walk wanted to do little else but play ball. My father was a non-athlete and openly contemptuous of men who played or followed sports. My mother was fond of saying that only boys who weren’t smart enough to do anything else became athletes. I knew this was nonsense because I was one of the smartest guys in my class (judging by the number of silver stars after my name on the class chart) and I adored sports. In fact, the smartest guys I knew, the best guys, were crazy about sports. Kickball, dodge ball, four-square, tetherball, baseball, football, basketball. If a ball was involved, sign me up. I liked bows and arrows and spears, too, but I was most enamored of balls. In an earlier epoch, I would have been a warrior and a hunter.

What is local?



With the explosion of interest in local food, consumers now have more choices of products, labels, and ways to shop, so, many people are left wondering where to start. Food choices can be overwhelming, and changing where and how we shop can be stressful. On the other hand, the benefits of buying local can be great…

What exactly is local food?
Talk of local food is everywhere. But what does it mean? How local is local? Local is shorthand for an idea that doesn’t have a firm definition. Unlike organic standards, which entail specific legal definitions, inspection processes, and labels, local means different things to different people, depending on where they live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are looking for.

Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. The next ring out might be food grown in our immediate community – then state, region, and country. For some parts of the year or for some products that thrive in the local climate, it may be possible to buy closer to home. At other times, or for less common products, an expanded reach may be required.

People who value local as their primary food criterion are sometimes referred to as locavores. The term “locavore” was coined by Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area for World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100 mile radius. With such excitement and momentum building in the local food movement, the New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore as its word of the year in 2007.

One easy way to start buying local is to choose one product to focus on. Produce also offers a good introduction

Tea Party? Ain’t nothing populist about it…

Thanks to Mari Rodin

[Progressive base loses faith: This Dylan Ratigan clip with Glenn Greenwald is highly recommended… -DS]

The tea party spoke! Loudly, powerfully and proudly.

But besides, “Throw the bums out,” what did it say? And now that the party part is over and the nasty business of governing begins, what does it all add up to? What’s its governing agenda? How does it make anything positive out of the disparate mish-mash of issue positions within its own rank and file?

And then there’s the big one — the huge, grotesque, democracy-choking monster that the party invited into the center of its own movement: corporate money. Throughout the election, tea partiers demurely averted their eyes from this ugly dude, for the monster was lavishing millions of corporate dollars on their candidates. But now, whether they meant to or not, they’ve ensconced it as the unrivaled, controlling power in the new Congress. What will they do as it asserts its selfish interests over theirs, devouring their ideals and their pretension that they are in control?

The media establishment insists on referring to the tea party as a “populist” movement — but real populists fight corporate power, they don’t hug it! The party certainly is a popular uprising, and a successful one, but there’s nothing populist about it. Indeed, its leaders and candidates have vociferously opposed the populist ideals of egalitarianism, social justice, cooperative action and the common good.

“Shrink the Government” sounds good as a campaign cry, but its substance, as expressed by many of the most prominent teabag nominees and electees, is to kill Social Security… Complete article here

An October Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition


[…] In the US, Transition Town Houston has lots of interesting activities coming up including solar tours, permablitzes and film screenings, while Transition Lyons (Colorado) has given us an update on all the activities they’ve been getting up to. Transition groups in Los Angeles held a seed and herb swap with all sorts of side events, and there are loads of useful resources and information on the webpage too, so have a look and grab some ideas! Transition Northfield organised a community workday to bring to community together and they prepared fresh apple cider, planted a tree and built a chicken coup. Transition Town Ashland has been reviewing and discussing their town’s updated transport plans and preparing people to given written or verbal input into the process to encourage a low carbon/low energy future. If you’re around that way then why not get involved so you can add to the pressure for a sustainable transport system.

Congratulations to two new Transition Towns – Viroqua Transition Town Initiative and Transition Coastside – so we welcome you both! And then congratulations to Transition Reno on their Great Unleashing and becoming the 50th official TT in the US! Two stories for you to enjoy here and here. Transition US held a Regional Summit in Cascadia, with lots of US Transitioners describing and discussing various Transition activities going on in the US. Transition Staunton Augusta has a new online magazine – Transition Voice – so take your time and read all about it. Transition Sarasota is hoping to harvest 30,000 pounds of fresh produce for their local food banks and they need volunteers to help out. They’re also holding a local food open space and a local currency debate, great activities to get involved with if you’re round that way. And finally for the US, here’s Sandpoint Transition Initiative’s fantastic Folkschool, which teaches the arts and crafts of sustainable living, and there’s a lovely story for you to enjoy too…

Full article here

Letter to a whiny young Democrat

Hey, at least this guy voted. Obama won in ’08 with 66% of the 18-29 vote. Most of that demo stayed home this time and played Cut the Rope and drank vodka/Red Bulls and tweeted about not caring anymore. Ah, silly youth.


Oh, now you’ve done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party’s newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as “the long view”?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren’t immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?

Check it out, kiddo: This is not just any Republican party you allowed back into power; these mealy folks are not anything like the war-hungry, Bush-tainted army of flying monkeys and Dick Cheney moose knuckles you so wonderfully helped bury in the history books last election.

Gene Logsdon: The Best and Worst Smells On A Farm

Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Pat Leuchtman brought up an interesting subject when she reviewed my book, “Holy Shit,” on www.commonweeder.com. She reminisced about her early experiences on the farm and how much she liked the smell of cow manure in the barn when she was a child. Lots of us agree with Pat but it has been awhile since I’ve heard anyone praise the smell of manure right out loud. It got me to thinking about the subjectivity of nasal sensations. I wonder if you, dear reader, would agree with my list, below, of the worst and best farm smells, or if you have riper candidates.

The worst farm smells:

1. A bucket of decaying potatoes.
2. An egg so rotten that what remains inside the shell is just a rubbery, almost dry remnant of yolk.
3. Liquid manure slurry from factory hogs fed with a high soybean meal protein supplement. When this manure is being stored in underground pits, the odor will lay you out prostrate on the ground.
4. Buzzard vomit. I don’t know this from experience but my father always said this was “by far the worst smell God ever created.” If you are innocent enough to approach a buzzard nest, this might be your fate.
5. Rotting plant residue on a cabbage field after harvest.

The best farm smells:

1. Wild grape blossoms
2. Good quality hay curing in the mow
3. Freshly-turned, rich, moist soil
4. Air filtering through a woodlot in the spring after a rain shower
5. Blooming apple trees over an orchard floor of white clover.

The odor of barn manure after it has been soaked up and mixed with straw bedding and aged a bit is not offensive to me. It smells like money. As I try to show in my book, high quality manure is going up in value. That’s because commercial chemical fertilizer prices are skyrocketing…

Full article here

“Expect next phase of market crash and a large one for that matter…” – Interview with Nicole “Stoneleigh” Foss


Nicole Foss alias Stoneleigh – the co-editor-in-chief of the blog The Automatic Earth, together with Ilargi – is one of a few “big picture“ persons and it was a delightful experience to meet her at ASPO peak oil conference. For her, business-as-usual is not an option and current form of capitalism is a Ponzi scheme. She is clear about peak oil (it is here and renewables will not come to the rescue!), but she is even much more clear about financial markets – they will make everything worse. The next phase of debt-deflation and final bubble bursting will hinder future investments in energy sector. In the short term oil prices will go down, not up, as probably most of peak oil energy analysts expect. Unless we are in debt, nothing is solved, and she says that Paul Krugman is a monetarist whose recommendations will make nothing better (except maybe prolonging the life of banks – which is not good either). One planet for her would be not enough, but she hopes that that what she does justifies this. Decide for yourselves.


Alexander Ac: Here at ASPO-USA conference in Washington everybody seems to understand implications of energy scarcity. What would be your message to a lay person? What are the main implications of peak oil for the daily life?

Stoneleigh: We are going to have to get used to a much lower energy lifestyle. Energy has been cheap for a very long time, so we have developed a structural dependency on it. Energy is not going to be cheap for much longer though, and that means many of the things we take for granted will no longer be affordable.