Michael Laybourn: Unsmart Meters and Mismanaged Utilities


From MICHAEL LAYBOURN
Hopland

Tip of the fedora to Greg Krause in Philo, who has an article about this same issue in the 12/15 AVA. I recently contacted a group called TURN (The Utility Reform Network) who keeps a close watch on utility energy companies. I first became aware of the group when PG&E tried to stuff that constitutional amendment down California’s throat so they could be a complete monopoly and not be bothered with other competition. TURN worked hard with almost no money to fight the proposition. And won.

Now, in a rush to take advantage of U.S. stimulus money, utilities across the country are quickly installing thousands of smart meters to homes each day. Projects in the U.S. are being accelerated because of the $3.4 billion in the stimulus funds set aside for ‘smart-grid’ technologies. PG&E is now sticking smart meters to Mendocino County and anywhere the company operates in California. Many California cities and counties, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Marin counties, have decided to reject “Smart” Meters. Cities declining include Sebastopol, Berkeley, Cotati, Fairfax, Santa Cruz, Piedmont, Scotts Valley, Capitola, Watsonville, Sausalito, San Anselmo and others.

What’s so bad about these ‘smart’ meters?
The main issues are:

1. Security of data and private information. Billions [of dollars] are on the table, so they are moving forward with metering projects and they’re spending money as fast as they can,” said Jonathan Pollet, founder of Red Tiger Security which tests security features in SCADA systems. “The security isn’t where it should be, but the vendors aren’t going to turn down orders.” So there is little security built

Aurora Borealis Timelapse



Full screen video: Aurora Borealis timelapse HD – Tromsø 2010 from Tor Even Mathisen on Vimeo.
~~

Will Parrish: Sonoma County, Banana Republic of Wine-Grapes



From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

In 1993, American wine industry goliath E&J Gallo (annual revenue: $2 billion) founded its first subsidiary dedicated solely to producing high-end, “premium” vintages: Gallo of Sonoma. The move reflected a dramatic shift for the Gallo empire, which accounts for one in four bottles sold in the US wine market.

For several decades, Gallo’s forte was cheap, fortified jug wines such as Thunderbird and Night Train — each at least 18 percent alcohol by volume. The company initially cornered this dubious market in the ’50s and ’60s, via clever ad campaigns complemented by aggressive promotions in so-called inner-city “colored bars” (a process described by journalist Ellen Hawkes in her book Blood and Wine) and off-reservation American Indian communities. The dislocation, poverty, and alienation endemic to many of these areas provided fertile grounds for alcoholism, which the Gallo patriarchs Ernest and Julio shamelessly bred and profited from.

By the early-’90s, the American wine market was moving increasingly upscale. With its wide variety of favorable microclimates and soils, as well as relatively low land prices vis-a-vis Napa County to the east, Sonoma County emerged as the epicenter of the “premium grape rush,” a finance-driven speculative bubble that has accompanied the shift in consumer taste. In keeping with the prevailing market trend toward high-end varietal wines — that is, those made from a single named grape variety — Gallo moved its center of gravity out of the urban ghettos once and for all, and into the sleepy north county town of Healdsburg, a 17 mile drive up Route 101 from Santa Rosa.

Before long, Gallo of Sonoma had amassed a collection of sprawling

Todd Walton: Slow Going


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

Five years ago, a few weeks before I made my move from Berkeley to Mendocino, I came within a few inches of being killed by a young man who was driving his pickup truck very fast while simultaneously using his mobile phone. I had just stepped into the crosswalk at the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Avenue, having been given the go ahead to cross by the illuminated symbol of a human being taking a walk. The young man who was driving his pickup very fast apparently did not see the red light or me or possibly anything as he sped through the intersection with his phone pressed to his ear. I don’t know if he was talking to someone or listening to someone else talking, or perhaps he was listening to music; I am only certain he was pressing his phone to his ear as his two-ton missile shot by within inches of my puny little flesh and blood body. And whether there is such a thing as fate or whether life is a muddle of meaningless happenstance, had I been one step further along at that moment, I would have been smashed to smithereens.

So today I’m driving our old truck into our soggy hamlet to get the mail and groceries, a cold rain falling, and because I am the unelected president of Mendocino Drivers Not In A Hurry To Get Anywhere, I’ve only gotten a few hundred yards down the Comptche-Ukiah straightaway before my rearview mirror is filled with the sight of a pickup closing fast upon me. As is my custom in these situations, I move to the outer edge of the road and slow to a crawl, timing my move so that whoever is driving that oncoming pickup will have an easy time passing me—the road ahead empty, the broken yellow line entirely on our side. But this particular pickup (going at least seventy miles per hour) zooms to within a few feet of my bumper

Gene Logsdon: Fertilizer prices putting manure in the limelight



From GRIST

People talk about Peak Oil, but we’re also at Peak Fertilizer.

I never thought I’d see the day when shit — the bodily kind — would make headlines the way it is right now.

When my book about managing manure, Holy Shit, came out recently, erstwhile friends grinned and remarked, “You’ve been shooting the bull all your life so, sure, why not write a book about it?”

But this time what I’m writing is definitely not B.S. The current fertilizer crisis is real. Chemical fertilizer prices rise and fall with every change of pulse in supply and demand, but they are definitely on a long-term rise — not only because production and transportation costs are increasing, but because of anticipated shorter supplies in the future. People talk about Peak Oil, but we’re also at Peak Fertilizer. Without plenty of some kind of fertilizer, there will not be enough food to go around. The headline hype is not just overreaction from the press: recently farming news sources such as DTN were reporting all over their networks about how international traders in phosphorous and potash are elbowing for bigger chunks of the remaining fertilizer pie.

I would like to puff up and brag about how smart I must be to see this coming, but actually for anyone who has milked cows for a living like I have, it’s a no-brainer. Although I spent an awful lot of time in classrooms studying weird subjects like theology and anthropology, my real education began as a hired man for a dairy farmer in Minnesota, who was very astute and rather wealthy, too. He made money even though the bright boys at the university would say he was backward. He still used horses for much of his farm power, and he didn’t use any “bought” fertilizer. As a farm boy from Ohio who thought he knew a thing or two about farming, I was surprised to see how well his corn grew anyway.

Who Were You?


From PEAK OIL BLUES BLOG

A year or so ago, I read a book about the collapse of civilizations, and how some just vanished without a trace.  It puzzled me how that could happen among civilizations that were very advanced for their time.  As the peak oil discourse became more widespread, I began to see how that could happen even to us as a society today.  Then I realized it is happening to us individually even today, and we aren’t even aware of it.

I have in one closet or other old photo albums of my grandparents, parents or our own, some with pictures dating back to the late 1800s, of various relatives that have long since departed this life, as well as pictures of my youth and my wife, son, and grandchildren.  Then 10 years ago, technology started changing the way we captured and stored these photos, not as images on paper in albums, but as digital images on hard drives or cds.

One of the aspects of the decline of the oil age that I have not seen addressed is that over the last 5 years or so, we have seen a great move away from hard copy anything; pictures, books, magazines, and even newspapers.  As the decline begins to happen, we will see a sharp decline in imports of non-essential goods, including PCs, IPads, e-readers, and other useful devices.  Even if such a decline wasn’t in the cards, the changing technology may render any stored information about us useless.  What if all your family photos were on 5 ¼ floppy disks right now?  For all practical purposes they would be lost.  Yet 15 years ago, that was a stable and common medium for data storage.  If we begin to see a decrease in availability of equipment to read and display our stored data, it will be like we are slowly vanishing.

We have taken for granted that the information age will survive long into the decline of the oil age.  I don’t think that will be the case.  The economy will decline with the energy shrinkage.  The internet doesn’t just exist because it is useful, it exists because it makes money… lots of it.  As the economies around the world shrink,

Mendo Island Transition: Local Jobs and Infrastructure


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

The Challenge

The infrastructure required for a more localised and resilient future, the energy systems, the mills, the food systems and the abbatoirs, has been largely ripped out over the past 50 years as oil made it cheaper to work on an ever-increasingly large scale, and their reinstallation will not arise by accident. They will need to be economically viable, supported by their local communities, owned and operated by people with the appropriate skills, and linked together.

Core Text

“ The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.

Winston Churchill.

The picture above shows the last working mill to close in Totnes. It was situated in the centre of the town, was powered by the river than runs past it, and deliveries were made to and from it using a horse drawn wagon. How’s that for a low-carbon local food enterprise? Now it is the town’s Tourist Information Office, and a very good one at that., but clearly it is much easier to turn a flour mill into a Tourist Information Office than it is to turn a Tourist Information Office into a mill again.

Much of the infrastructure that would have traditionally supported a more local food economy, and have generated much of the employment in our communities has since been dismantled, converted into flats, converted to other uses. Quite clearly, the infrastructure most settlements have today is completely unequipped for functioning in an energy-scarce context. We aren’t able to grow much of our own food, process the milk from our local fields, turn our local timber into useful things, process milk into cheese,

An Open Appeal to Dan Hamburg and our Supervisors: How Peak Oil Can Save Our County


From LINDSAY CURREN
Transition Voice

[For our new county supervisor, Dan Hamburg, and our supervisors: This essay as written is an appeal to Obama. But since all politics is local, as you read it, please substitute yourselves for Obama, and the ideas herein as the orientation we need here in Mendocino County now: to bravely face our local future. Dan campaigned on this issue. His opponent promoted job creation in the predictable areas rather than facing a very different future. As we move into the new year, and Dan takes on his newly elected duties, what is needed most from our leadership is frank talk and innovative solutions. We’re counting on you, Dan, and our supervisors already in place, to help move us into our local future. Yes, balancing the budget is crucial, but we need to begin pulling out of this bogged-down morass and make meaningful plans. Please! -DS]

E. J. Dionne Jr.’s recent column in the Washington Post, “Can Obama Find His Morning in America?” notes an increasingly widespread domestic view that America is in decline. Dionne argues that such an infectious tumult could either cripple Obama or, alternatively, create an opportunity to right his presidency and recapture the confidence of the American people.

What Obama needs, says Dionne, is a morning in America moment. But what he lacks, Dionne believes, is a compelling narrative around which to rally the people and tap into their latent positive energy about American possibility.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Dave Pollard: Does It Matter Who Is Perpetrating the Destruction of Our World, or Why?


From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World Blog

[Another thought-provoking post from Dave. -DS]

Keith Farnish thinks it’s useful, perhaps even necessary, to get angry at the perpetrators of the destruction of our world. He believes it can shake us out of our lethargy and our sense of helplessness. I’ve never found anger particularly useful, since I usually end up feeling that the objects of my anger didn’t mean to do anything outrageous, so I feel angry and upset at myself more than at them. But perhaps that’s precisely the perpetrators’ intent: Just as they would have us accept our share of ‘blame’ for the BP Oil Spill, the Alberta Tar Sands and other ecological disasters, if they can convince us that we are complicit in our world’s destruction, and they are merely trying to provide us with what we think we want or need, then the heat is off them. Maybe he’s right.

Following is an article I wrote as an introduction to the chapter on The Tools of Disconnection in Keith’s upcoming book Underminers, that explores this in more detail.

Paved With Good Intentions

Keith Farnish tells us we need to get angry before we will be moved to act to undermine the industrial civilization that is killing our planet. Then, he says, we need to focus our attention on the “tools of disconnection” — the means by which the perpetrators of our disconnection from our intuition, our positive emotions, our senses, each other, and all-life-on-Earth keep us disorganized, confused, fearful and dependent.

Take Action! Rally and Public Meeting with the U.S. Navy in Ft. Bragg Today Thursday 12/16/10 4-7pm


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley

Military Testing Off the Mendocino Coast and Other Areas – Coming Soon Unless We Stop Them…

Watch Sherri Glaser’s video and be sure and come to the meeting Thursday; I understand the meeting made national news last night (ABC). 

The U.S. Navy wants to conduct military testing in our Ocean Sanctuary here on the Pacific North West Coast! (Northern California, Oregon & Washington). The Navy admits that their sonar tests and explosions may harm as many as 2.5 million sea creatures per year over the next 5 years in the Atlantic, Pacific & Gulf of Mexico. We’re talking about the death of whales, dolphins, seals, fish and countless other life forms right off of our Mendocino Coast, Northern California, Oregon & Washington in the NWTRC (Northwest Training Range Complex).

***Please watch the video and PLEASE come to the public meeting with the U.S. Navy on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 from 5-7pm, Pentecost Hall, 822 Stewart St., Fort Bragg, CA. There will be a Rally at 4:00 P.M.  before this meeting.

Please share this message with your friends and neighbors!   To Read the Navy Final E.I.S. or their Record of Decision go to http://www.nwtrangecomplexeis.com/Documents.aspx and read the Record of Decision which means that new weapons will be tested in this area as well.

Thank you.

On November 10, 2010, NOAA approved the “taking” (harming) of marine mammals in Northern California by issuing a permit to the U.S. Navy

Herb Ruhs: Time Running Out


From HERB RUHS
Anderson Valley

Sixty five years ago, when I was born, the United States was seen as the white knight saving the world from expansionist tyrannies that believed in economic expansion by means of aggressive war and torture as instruments of state policy.  Now I must confront the exquisite irony, sixty five years later, that the United States supports aggressive war, the greatest of all crimes according to the Nuremberg Trials that saw the execution for this crime of some of the highest placed leadership of the Nazi regime, AND torture as legitimate policies of the state.  My parents and many of my relatives fought, some died, to rid the world of aggressive war and torture and it turns out that they fought and died for nothing.  An even greater irony is that the elder population by and large, in their moral confusion — which is the product of high tech propaganda — the survivors of that very same war to free the world of these things, now tend to support what they fought and died to stop.

Compassion dictates that we seek to alleviate suffering when we can, but where does compassion have a foot hold here? I guess it is a character weakness of mine, but I have a hard time being compassionate toward mass murderers and torturers and the clueless hypocrites that support them. I would like to be compassionate toward my country, fallen so far in the moral universe, but to what use?  Is there any evidence that this tide of depravity in the US can be turned? Doesn’t seem so, but I would love to be wrong about this.

On the other hand, I now have the opportunity to commiserate with those liberal and progressive elements of Weimar Germany that watched helplessly as their country turned into a mass insane asylum.  It is with great sadness that I am encouraging my children, and anyone for that matter who will listen, to emigrate NOW while

Bruce Patterson: Harvesting Christmas Trees



From BRUCE ‘PAT’ PATTERSON
Anderson Valley

I’d driven down this particular beaver slide twice already this year, but never with a full trailer during a cloudburst. My brand-new, one-ton diesel, company pickup truck’s full blast windshield wipers were allowing me flickering peeks of the straight-shot clay road down below, the distant bottomlands seemingly as flat as a pond, and the road looked like a yellow-brown waterfall slicing in two a pure green munchkin Doug fir forest planted at double-arms interval. If I slid out of control, I knew, I was going to wipe out some Christmas trees and, worse, get my truck and trailer mired axle-deep in mud. I’d also scratch the truck’s pristine paint job and maybe even give its front side and fenders some inaugural dings. Imagining such a veritable catastrophe, I could see my boss’s face lengthen and redden and then lengthen and redden some more as I bashfully spilled the beans.

Yet we were already late getting to the landing, and I couldn’t very well sit there idling at the top of the beaver slide awaiting a change in the weather. I couldn’t back out of there, either, or ignore my three soaking wet and shivering compadres huddled atop the load. The only way to take the chill off their bones was to get them back to work, and the best thing about off-loading Christmas trees was how it got your body warmed up and put the feeling back into your fingers. Then, if worse came to worst and I crashed, my body wouldn’t get hurt and we had a D-7 Cat tractor parked not two miles away that could come get us back on the road. “Better late than never,” I recited to myself while steeling my nerves.

After telling my three compadres to climb down off the load and then walk behind me down the hill,

If you’re a Mendo Socialist, please stand up!


From BRUCE ANDERSON
Editor/Publisher, Anderson Valley Advertiser

[Bruce Anderson published this a couple of weeks ago in the AVA and online, and the Ukiah Daily Journal just got around to printing it as a Letter to the Editor this week. Bruce identifies himself here as “Mendocino County’s sole uncloseted socialist” and together with Richard Johnson, who claims himself as “the one true green” they are apparently the left-wing’s only local representatives. We must have a vast wasteland of nothing but liberals, centrists, teapartiers, conservatives and right-wing nuts around here. Of course, we have a lot more greens than just Richard starting with Dan Hamburg. And I know one of our local elected politicians who is definitely a socialist, but I don’t know if he has “come out” or not. At least the right-wing nuts think he’s one and that’s a badge he wears proudly, as well he should.

The only nationally elected politician I have any respect for at all is Senator Bernie Sanders, the only declared socialist in Congress, but that doesn’t make me a socialist. I’m registered as an independent, and as a small-town small business person I’m a small-c capitalist, i.e., small is beautiful. For me it’s about scale. Capitalism goes bad when it gets big, ugly, and monopolizes, and it needs regulations to tame it… and here I agree with Bruce: It’s now broken loose and will kill us all. We now need a big dose of socialism to bring these current greedy capitalists to heel, and if that’s a badge on me, I’d wear it proudly too. How about you?  Meanwhile, Bruce writes about the local vocal wingnuts in all their wretched glory… and please see Sean Re’s comment/link below. -DS]

MARK ALBRECHT AND JOHN HENDRICKS do tag-team political comment for the Sunday Ukiah Daily Journal. The two of them comprise “SOS-USA, dedi­cated to promoting the conservative point of view in Ukiah.” Every week, as Ukiah yawns right on past their crude opinions, Albrecht and Hendricks

No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted



From CHRIS HEDGES
truthdig

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater. These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them

Henry Dakin — A Life Lived True 1936 – 2010


From VERGILIA DAKIN
Ukiah

Bioneers, Mendocino Environmental Center, Social Venture Network

A fourth generation Californian, Henry used his resources and knowledge to empower individuals and businesses ignored by the traditional philanthropic community.  Additionally, he worked tirelessly for peace during the Cold War by fostering lines of communication between the citizens of the US and USSR. Henry overcame an early family life marked with great tragedy to raise a successful family and leave an indelible professional mark with his selfless generosity.

Henry spent his early professional career in San Francisco and Berkeley conducting cutting edge technological research. After graduating from Harvard University, he worked at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in the 1960s, and designed a pocket radiation detector that still protects workers in risky radiation environments.

In the 1970s from his 3101 Washington Street office in San Francisco, Henry researched parapsychology and mind expansion. He was a member of the Physics Consciousness Research Group — purportedly the inspiration for the film Ghost Busters — along with Robert Anton Wilson, Fritjof Capra, and Uri Geller among others. He was closely involved with the Esalen Institute and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He also authored a book on Kirlian photography, a technique for photographing the energy fields that surround living things. That book become his longest standing best seller.

At this time Henry began translating and publishing “Samizdat” undergound newspapers and writings smuggled out of political prisons in the Soviet Union. He was once mentioned in the Soviet newspaper Pravda as “the most dangerous man in America.”

Rebooting the American Dream – Chapter Five: Medicare “Part E” for Everybody


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout
Article with footnotes here

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.”
– Lyndon Baines Johnson

There are two important reasons for having a strong social safety net, one based in sound economic policy and the other in our common humanity. So it’s no surprise that the countries that have strong social safety nets tend to have resilient economies and a higher quality of life.

Ultimately, social safety nets are about managing risk and unforeseen contingencies. On the one hand, there are the risks that we want people to take, such as starting a new business. On the other hand, there are unforeseen events that are so severe – like becoming paralyzed in an accident – that no one person (unless incredibly wealthy) could handle the expenses associated with them. In both cases, by setting up a social safety net that distributes the costs of responding to them across the wide spectrum of society, we minimize both the societal cost and the individual suffering.

I’ve started seven businesses in my life, five of them successful enough that my wife, Louise, and I could sell them off, take about a year of retirement (better to retire when you’re young was our philosophy), and have enough left over to start the next company. In most cases, when we started the business we had no health insurance, even though in every case we had children.

Ugh! Has Stewart Brand Gone Over To The Dark Side?


Photoshopped Image?

From GEORGE MONBIOT

While pressing Stewart Brand to admit he was wrong, it seems that I might have stumbled across a new tactic in the corporate propaganda war.

Last week I gave Stewart Brand a simple challenge. In his book Whole Earth Discipline he claimed that the pesticide DDT “was banned worldwide” as a result of campaigning by environmentalists, killing millions. The claim was repeated in the film he fronted for Channel 4 – What the Green Movement Got Wrong, but was partly cut at the last moment. I challenged Brand either to provide evidence to support his claim or to admit that he got it wrong.

In replying to me he did neither. He also failed to provide the sources he had promised to show me during the televised debate following his film. I wrote this up for the Guardian’s website. In response he sent me a long series of emails, which you can read in full on my site.

None of them meet my challenge, but they have opened my eyes to what I fear is his real agenda – one that seems very different to what he claims to be doing. Here is the open letter I have just sent to him, in which I answer his new claims and voice my concerns.

Dear Stewart,

Thank you for your emails and sorry for taking a while to reply: I had to check your claims before responding to them. Before I go on, let me remind you of some of things you say in your book:

“Every interview with a public figure should include the question “What have you been wrong about, and how did that change your views?” The answer

Adios – It’s the end of ‘consume’ as we’ve known it


From ENERGY BULLETIN

So get down to the nitty gritty and this is what it has all been about. Converting oil or coal into shoes, hamburgers, cellphones and SUVs. However, a reckoning is coming.

It’s not the end of the world, just the end of consumerism. We are about to wave goodbye to the dream of endless economic growth – always, every year, more stuff. However, we have enough already. We really do.

Dr Susan Krumdieck, an engineering professor at the University of Canterbury, addresses her audience with a smile. The message is radical, but she believes it will be good news once we have had time to get used to it.

A change is about to be forced on society because energy consumption pretty much is the economy. And we are about to run short of the cheap energy which has been driving the past century of unchecked economic expansion.

There is this myth going round, says Krumdieck, that with every decade we have grown wealthier because we have collectively become smarter and more productive. If everything is bigger, better, brighter, well, it has been earned.

Yet actually we have just been digging up and burning more fossil fuel. Graph the world’s energy consumption against its gross domestic product (GDP) and the two lines track. So get down to the nitty gritty and this is what it has all been about. Converting oil or coal into shoes, hamburgers, cellphones and SUVs.

However, a reckoning is coming. The ecological limits on growth have come into view. Climate change and over- population. But peak oil most immediately.

Over the past year, this has even become semi-official. Towns like Dunedin and Timaru

Joe Bageant: America! Y Ur Peeps B So Dum?



From JOE BAGEANT
Author, Deer Hunting With Jesus
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga

In the historical view, cultural ignorance is more than the absence of knowledge. It is also the result of long term cultural and political struggle. Since the industrial revolution, the struggle has been between capital and workers. Capital won in America and spread its successful tactics worldwide. Now we watch global capitalism wreck the world and attempt to stay ahead of that wreckage clutching its profits. A subservient world kneels before it, praying that planet destroying jobs will fall their way. Will unrestrained global capitalism, with all the power and momentum on its side and motivated purely by machinelike harvesting of profits, reduce the faceless masses in its path to slavery? Does a duck shit in a pond?

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? Those wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and

Herb Ruhs: Our Imperfections and Vulnerabilities Make Our Mutual Dependency Strong


From HERB RUHS
Mendocino

I have been working on the growing insight that our imperfections are what makes our social groupings strong. Real humans feel best when deeply embedded (did the Army ruin that word?) in a dense network of mutual dependency. That only really works if evolution has equipped us with vulnerabilities that lead us to depend on others. No vulnerability, no society.

Try to imagine a society built of only Robinson Crusoes, fully self-reliant, hyper-libertarian types with no need for anyone else. Actually, we tend to have a form of that here in Mendoland, and it is why our society is weak and we find ourselves continually at the mercy of human predators, the lizzards in human skin to whom we give power over ourselves.

We are meant to find those individuals and groups that compliment our weaknesses, make us more whole. Instead we are taught to look for people as much like ourselves as possible and try very hard to never feel in debt to anyone, except possibly our parents. It is a terrible way to live. As a result we get all kinds of people who end up bad at what they try to do because they are continually trying to model themselves on “successful” people in order to gain acceptance. They end up trying to do things that they are least equipped by nature to accomplish. We have become a nation of conformist failures because we denigrate our uniqueness and treat our varying disabilities as shameful rather than the raw material of the social links we are meant to make in order for our social group to be stronger than the sum of its parts.

The current authoritarian conformist dominant view is like watching people trying to work a picture puzzle where all the pieces are alike and none fit together properly. Dr. Brown, “Connection, Shame, and Vulnerability” video, explains this concept beautifully in twenty minutes. Time well spent.
~~

Todd Walton: Happiness



From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.” Edith Wharton

November thirtieth. The weather report said Mendocino could expect rain tonight and for the next several days, so in anticipation of the deluge I spent an hour giving my three garlic beds their second mulching with some well-aged horse manure. I planted my garlic on October 17, my birthday, and now all but a few of the hundred and forty cloves I inserted into the friable soil have sent up sturdy green shoots.

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Mark Twain

Both garlic and humans gestate in their respective wombs for nine months before arriving at the optimal moment for emerging into the light. The poet in me finds this similarity delightful and significant.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette

I am sixty-one and have grown garlic every year for the last thirty years. I began growing garlic while living in Sacramento where I had a large vegetable and flower garden in the backyard of the only house I ever owned. I have grown vegetables since I was six-years-old, but waited to sew my first bed of garlic until I was certain I would be living in the same place for more than a year.

Before I planted my first garlic crop, I consulted pertinent chapters in gardening books and interviewed an elderly Italian woman who grew gorgeous garlic plants in a large circular patch in the center of her impressively green lawn a few blocks from my house. I gathered from my research that in the event of an early and persistently wet winter I might not need to water my garlic until spring, but if no rain fell for some weeks at a stretch

James Houle: Oh! Those Wicked Bleeps!


From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The marvelous display of backstairs gossip at US Embassies by WikiLeaks has upset the American Empire in ways that are both amusing and frightening. We have seen nothing that reveals current US strategies or overseas operations in these low level cables. Yet the reaction of the State Department and the Attorney General’s Office has amounted to an all-out attack not only upon the bearer of these messages, an Aussie named Julian Assange, but also upon the freedom of access to information that has made the Internet a great bulwark of our freedom to know.

Background: 1112 cables have been released (Dec. 10th) out of a total of 251,287 inWikiLeaks possession. Of the total held, 97% were originated by US Embassies overseas and the remainder at Foggy Bottom in Washington where our State Department is permanently mired. None of the cables are classified as ‘Top Secret’, and only 6% are ‘Secret’. The remainder (94%) are merely ‘Confidential’ or ‘Classified’. None are cables between various branches of our military and none involve our 16 Intelligence Agencies. Approximately 23 million people are already cleared for access to these three levels of confidentiality by the US Government. They were written over the past several years and up through February 2010. Nothing more current is displayed.

Are These Cables All That Explosive? None of these cables seem to cover discussions of policy, but are mainly focused upon providing information about meetings and local events, or passing along gossip about the activities of foreign dignitaries and their discussions with US Senators and Congressmen on foreign junkets. They pass on the rumors and allegations gathered by the imperial diplomats of the United States and seem to represent quite well this groups interests and mind-set but do not seriously question our imperial objectives or recommend changes in policy. It seems

 Naomi Wolf: We are all Julian Assange


From NAOMI WOLF
The Espionage Act: ICH
Thanks to Herb Ruhs

How the Government Can Engage in Serious Aggression Against the People of the United States

This week, Senators Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein engaged in acts of serious aggression against their own constituents, and the American people in general. They both invoked the 1917 Espionage Act and urged its use in going after Julian Assange. For good measure, Lieberman extended his invocation of the Espionage Act to include a call to use it to investigate the New York Times, which published WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables. Reports yesterday suggest that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may seek to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange.

These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans’ ignorance of their own history — an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act — a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used — was designed deliberately to be used — specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.

The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 — because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens — educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists — who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted ‘crime’

Swindle of the year: How Obama snookered the GOP into a second stimulus


From WASHINGTON POST
Thanks to Bob Daley

Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 – and House Democrats don’t have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years – which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat?

If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.

No mean achievement. After all, these are the same Republicans who spent 2010 running on limited government and reducing debt. And this budget busting occurs less than a week after the president’s deficit commission had supposedly signaled a new national consensus of austerity and frugality.

Some Republicans are crowing that Stimulus II is the Republican way – mostly tax cuts – rather than the Democrats’ spending orgy of Stimulus I. That’s consolation? This just means that Republicans are two years too late. Stimulus II will still blow another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.

At great cost that will have to be paid after this newest free lunch, the package will add as much as 1 percent to GDP and lower the unemployment rate by about 1.5 percentage points. That could easily be the difference between

Jim Hightower: Meet Your New Neighborhood Food Market


From JIM HIGHTOWER
Otherwords

[Locally in Ukiah we have the Walmart store massively expanding its food section, adding 80 employees, which will destroy at least one, maybe two supermarkets and 120 better-paying jobs for a net loss of 40+ jobs. See also: Big Box Bully: Walmart Is Out To Kill Every Other Store In Town; and Watch the Bully metastasize (carpet-bomb) before your very eyes. -DS]

The $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, is putting on a “local” mask.

The signature phrase of America’s booming good food movement has been expanded from “organic” to “local and sustainable.”

Good! The phrase suggests great quality, strong environmental stewardship, and a commitment to keeping our food dollars in the local economy. If you support the local-economies movement, as I do, no doubt you’ll be thrilled to hear that a new, local food store is coming soon to your neighborhood. In fact, it’s even named Neighborhood Market.

Only, it’s not. It’s a Walmart. Yes, the $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, now is putting on a “local” mask. The giant is promising to buy nine percent of the produce it’ll sell from local farmers. Big whoopie. This means that 91 percent of the foodstuffs offered in its “Neighborhood” chain will come from Wayawayland.

But even the nine percent number is a deceit, for Walmart says that it defines “local” as grown in the same state. Excuse me, but

How Dan Hamburg Won Election


From WILLIAM P. MEYERS
Point Arena

Dan Hamburg won his 2010 campaign [with 57.4%] to become 5th District Supervisor of Mendocino County California. This is an extremely liberal, mainly rural and small town, and geographically large district.

The key elements of the campaign were:

1.  Dan decided he wanted to be County Supervisor and started campaigning at least a year before the filing date. His early campaign consisted mainly of re-introducing himself to activists, which helped him launch with a large campaign committee and initial list of endorsers. That made Dan the frontrunner, and likely headed off endorsements of other candidates by people who knew and liked several of the candidates.

2. His campaign team was large and relatively experienced. Many on the team had worked together on previous campaigns for or against local propositions or candidates. The team included an overall coordinator, a coastal and an inland campaign manager, a database person, treasurer, and other advisors.

3. Dan ran a non-partisan, issues-based race. He always admitted to being a Green Party member when asked, and refused to re-register Democrat when pushed, but campaigned on issues and his capabilities. Many of his campaign workers were decline to state or registered Democrats, in addition to registered Greens.

Neil Davis: Is it just me, or is this nutty?



From NEIL DAVIS
Mendo 2 Mile Challenge
Ukiah

Somehow my second month of winter town biking has slipped by. It’s been chilly to cold, in a Northern CA kind of way, so not really that cold. But I am glad to have my gloves and a nice wool cap on in the morning.

We had 3.8 inches of rain (less than normal) in November and not very much of it landed on me, or my bike, despite my riding at least twice a day five to six days a week. There were two days when I rode in a light rain, a couple when the road was wet (but my fenders handled that) and one day when I decided to skip a meeting rather than ride to it in the pouring rain. So the weather hasn’t really provided any excuse to drive the car, nor have I needed to be particularly valiant in my quest to leave the car at home.

I felt kind of guilty when I realized I was deciding to skip a meeting rather than ride in the rain and it made me question my moral fortitude (actually I think I just regretted losing the self righteous high ground). Then as I thought about it more, I realized this makes sense. Is it really bad to decide to stay home when it’s stormy out? Is it bad to actually think about, and weigh the pros and cons, of travel in dirty weather? Is it worth it to go out? Is it safe? I don’t have the stats to back it up, but I suspect there are many more accidents, bike or car, in stormy weather.

Staying at home when it’s stormy is likely the age-old norm. There’s no way Cro magnon Neil would have

Todd Walton: Changing Seasons


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Every year for the past four years I have been commissioned by Bay Woof, a Bay Area Dog magazine, to write a Christmas story for them, a short short story about dogs and their people at holiday time. I hope you enjoy the tale.

1

Early December. A sunny kitchen. Tea and cookies.

“The dog is the problem,” says Carol, wasting no time stating the case to her brother Ben. “And because I have four cats, two little kids, a busy husband, a formal Japanese garden ill-suited to a large dog, and no time to take the dog for walks; and you are single, self-employed, have a big unkempt, pardon my French, backyard, and your grown daughter visits only rarely, you should take the dog.”

Ben waits before responding, certain his sister has more to say.

“We’re so close to resolving this,” she adds with a hint of ferocity. “He needs to move.”

“Pop or the dog?” asks Ben, the quip irresistible, though he knows Carol will take him literally.

“Pop, of course,” she says, exasperated. “He spends half his time at Fall Creek Village with Mary already. He’d move tomorrow if he could feel okay about leaving the dog behind.”

“Kirk,” says Ben, stating the dog’s name, short for Kierkegaard, their father a retired philosophy professor. “The last time I talked to Pop