Janie Sheppard: What happens to Post Office Art?

Ukiah Post Office Mural

Mendocino County

As everyone now knows, the Ukiah Post Office is home to an authentic New Deal mural.  Noted artist Ben Cunningham painted it specifically for the Ukiah Post Office after consulting with respected members of the community.  The mural reflects the agriculture and timber industry of the Ukiah Valley, as it was in the 1930’s and even now.

A recent trip to the East Coast where I searched out post office murals led me to reflect on the particular style of post office murals and the significance of preserving the murals “in situ” (in their natural place).

The Ukiah post office mural exemplifies New Deal art, funded by the federal government to embellish federal buildings and provide employment for artists during the Great Depression.  We are fortunate to have in our everyday lives authentic New Deal art by an artist who went on to paint pieces that hang in the Smithsonian, adorn Coit Tower in San Francisco, and continue to be sold in fine art galleries.

If we convince the US Postal Service to retain the 1936 historic Ukiah Post Office, the mural will remain in its natural home.

If the Postal Service ignores our request, the Postal Service would sell the Oak Street Post Office and the mural would end up far from home, and, in any case, out of our everyday sight.  Viewers, wherever and whenever, would have to be told of the economy of the Ukiah Valley in the Depression

A Primer on Class Struggle

Common Dreams

When we study Marx in my graduate social theory course, it never fails that at least one student will say (approximately), “Class struggle didn’t escalate in the way Marx expected. In modern capitalist societies class struggle has disappeared. So isn’t it clear that Marx was wrong and his ideas are of little value today?”

I respond by challenging the premise that class struggle has disappeared. On the contrary, I say that class struggle is going on all the time in every major institution of society. One just has to learn how to recognize it.

One needn’t embrace the labor theory of value to understand that employers try to increase profits by keeping wages down and getting as much work as possible out of their employees. As the saying goes, every successful capitalist knows what a Marxist knows; they just apply the knowledge differently.

Workers’ desire for better pay and benefits, safe working conditions, and control over their own time puts them at odds with employers. Class struggle in this sense hasn’t gone away.

Seth Godin: On The Tribes We Lead

Click On Post Title For Full View


The New Renaissance

(Address Delivered to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, March 7, 2002)

Back in 1995, when I was visiting a school in Albuquerque that had used Ishmael as the year’s focus book, I was asked to meet with a very high-level group of health care professionals–the assembled department heads of Presbyterian Health Care Services, which functions as a regional hospital system. I accepted the invitation but wondered what I might have to say that was relevant to their professional concerns. I know nothing about hospitals or health care or the medical profession. I don’t even watch ER.

It was clear when I sat down with them–perhaps twenty men and women–that they’d all been deeply moved by my book. But none of them could quite explain why it was relevant to them in their profession. I think what it really came down to was that, as a result of reading Ishmael, they themselves had changed, simply as human beings, and they were trying to figure out

Wall Street’s days are numbered. Ours need not be.

Yes! Magazine

The End of Empire

In an earlier day, our rulers were kings and emperors. Now they are corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers. Wall Street is Empire’s most recent stage. Its reign will mark the end of the tragic drama of a 5,000 year Era of Empire.

Imperial historians would have us believe that civilization, history, and human progress began with the consolidation of dominator power in the first great empires that emerged some 5,000 years ago. Much is made of their glorious accomplishments and heroic battles.

Rather less is said about the brutalization of the slaves who built the great monuments, the racism, the suppression of women, the conversion of free farmers into serfs or landless laborers, the carnage of the battles, the hopes and lives destroyed by wave after wave of invasion, the pillage and gratuitous devastation of the vanquished, and the lost creative potential.

Nor is there mention that most all the advances that make us truly human came before the Era of Empire—including the domestication of plants and animals, food storage, and the arts of dance, pottery, basket making, textile weaving, leather crafting, metallurgy, architecture, town planning, boat building, highway construction, and oral literature.

As the institutions of Empire took root, humans

Getting The President To Laugh


The kind of readers who visit this website may have noticed that one of our heroes, Wendell Berry, made President Obama laugh right out loud the other day. Wendell recently received a National Humanities Medal in Washington, and when the President leaned forward to drape the award over Wendell’s shoulders, the two exchanged whispers and the President broke out in a huge grin. It is a wonderful picture and appeared in many newspapers. To be able to get the president of the United States to laugh like that in front of the whole world in these awful times… well, that’s a real accomplishment. I am not surprised, however. If you know Wendell, he can make very funny remarks at the most unexpected times. I asked him what he whispered to the president but he’s not talking. Says he can’t remember.

Two other writers who received a National Humanities Medal this year were Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth. Jacques Barzun, the historian, got one too. This is top notch stuff, and I don’t know anyone who deserves the recognition more than Wendell. He is the hardest worker I know, traveling and giving speeches incessantly. He’s written 40 books so far and still manages to do a little farming with the help and support of his equally amazing wife, Tanya, and his son Den and daughter Mary and their families. His message, now and always, is that society is ignoring and abandoning ecological and economic common sense

Unequal Protection — Chapter Three: Banding Together for the Common Good


A corporation has no rights except those given it by law. It can exercise no power except that conferred upon it by the people through legislation, and the people should be as free to withhold as to give, public interest and not private advantage being the end in view. ~ William Jennings Bryan, address to the Ohio 1912 Constitutional Convention

In the beginning, there were people.

For thousands of years, it was popular among philosophers, theologians, and social commentators to suggest that the first humans lived as disorganized, disheveled, terrified, cold, hungry, and brutal lone-wolf beasts. But both the anthropological and archeological records prove it a lie.

Even our cousins the apes live in organized societies, and evidence of cooperative and social living is as ancient as the oldest hominid remains. For four hundred thousand years or more, even before the origin of Homo sapiens, around the world we primates have made tools, art, and jewelry and organized ourselves into various social forms, ranging from families to clans to tribes. More recently, we’ve also organized ourselves as nations and empires.1

As psychologist Abraham Maslow and others have pointed out, the value system of humans

James Houle: No Making Peace With Atoms?

Redwood Valley

In May 1955, less than ten years after the United States had cremated 150,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in a raid that ended WWII and led to the eventual death from radiation of a total of 300,000, President Eisenhower introduced the still staggering Japanese nation to “Atoms for Peace”. A delegation of American industrialists, financial gurus and scientists brightly explained how this atom that had decimated their people just ten years ago was actually a wonderful gift. The delegation was disrupted during their presentation at Tokyo’s Hibya Park by protesters more concerned with the continuing plutonium poisoning and other still lethal gifts of nuclear fission. Atoms for Peace seemed a cruel joke in a country where hundreds of thousands still faced a slow death from radiation. The Japanese Diet did not see the humor in this cruel joke: it immediately established the Japan Atomic Energy Commission which eventually approved 55 nuclear power stations spread up and down the coasts in the world’s most earthquake hazardous country. (Will Parrish, Nuclear Chickens)

Approvals were streamlined, inspections waved, and technological short cuts introduced

Film Review: The Economics of Happiness

Transition Culture

[Available for rent at Mulligan Books]

The concept of localisation is one increasingly being discussed as the debt-based, high carbon, energy vulnerable model of economic globalisation increasingly comes apart at the seams.  A recent conference run by Transition Colorado had the subtitle “food relocalisation as economic development”.  I think we might argue for localisation in general, not just in terms of food, being seen now as a key strategy of economic development.  ‘The Economics of Happiness’, as a film that argues that “’going local’ is the way to repair our fractured world – our ecosystems, our societies and our selves” has therefore arrived at the right time, but is it the convincing, accessible and rousing film about localisation that we need in order to raise the issue to the next level of the debate?  Here is the trailer:

Joe Bageant: Escape from the Zombie Food Court

[Joe Bageant has died. ‘Redneck’ Rebel and Popular Progressive Author, Dies at 64. Progressives have lost one of their most talented writers in Joe Bageant, who assailed the corporate takeover of American democracy and the collapse of the middle class. Here is one of his blog posts…]

Joe Bageant recently spoke at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University at Lexington, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, where he was invited to speak on American consciousness and what he dubbed “The American Hologram,” in his book, Deer Hunting With Jesus. Here is a text version of the talks, assembled from his remarks at all three schools.

I just returned from several months in Central America. And the day I returned I had iguana eggs for breakfast, airline pretzels for lunch and a $7 shot of Jack Daniels for dinner at the Houston Airport, where I spent two hours listening to a Christian religious fanatic tell about Obama running a worldwide child porn ring out of the White House. Entering the country shoeless through airport homeland security, holding up my pants because they don’t let old men wear suspenders through security, well, I knew I was back home in the land of the free.

Anyway, here I am with you good people asking myself the first logical question: What the hell is a redneck writer supposed to say to a prestigious school of psychology?