Joe Bageant 1946-2011: Lost in the American Undertow


From JOE BAGEANT

The following is the introduction to Joe Bageant’s newly released book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir

Did you ever stand and shiver, because you was lookin’ in a river …? ~ Folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

The United States has always maintained a white underclass — citizens whose role in the greater scheme of things has been to cushion national economic shocks through the disposability of their labor, with occasional time off to serve as bullet magnets in defense of the Empire. Until the post-World War II era, the existence of such an underclass was widely acknowledged. During the Civil War, for instance, many northern abolitionists also called for the liberation of “four million miserable white southerners held in bondage by the wealthy planter class”. Planter elites, who often held several large plantations which, together, constituted much or most of a county’s economy, saw to it that poor whites got no schooling, money, or political power. Poll taxes and

Transition Declaration of Independence and The 200 Artisan Skills Required to Make a Town Functional



From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

[By removing Corporate Personhood from Ukiah and Mendocino County, we will exercise more democratic control over our forests from which future value-added jobs can be generated and sustainable harvesting implemented. -DS]

Here is something rather wonderful that emerged in late 2008 from New Zealand, thanks for Dr. Susan Krundieck. It is an update of the US Declaration of Independence, brought up to date for a generation facing peak oil, climate change and economic contraction, and is attributed to the Representatives of the Transition Committee of Oamaru (a town in New Zealand).  I love the list of ‘the Growth Economy has for its own sake…’ accusations statements… there is a deep, forceful power to this, a clearly spoken and resonant declaration of intent.  Prepare yourself for a goosebumps moment.

10,000 Toothpicks and 37 Years Later Man Completes Incredible Model of San Francisco


From SINGULARITY HUB
Video and story here

For all you ping pong balls out there, get ready to take a tour of San Francisco that will blow your fictional minds. Since 1974 Scott Weaver has been working on his masterpiece, Rolling Through the Bay: an artistic recreation of his hometown that features four rolling tracks for ping pong balls, each taking you down a different path through the city. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Haight-Ashbury, Coit Tower, etc. – all the major landmarks of San Francisco are represented. The most amazing part of this ping pong roller coaster isn’t the more than 3000 hours Weaver spent in its creation, nor the intense details shown in the 9 foot by 7 foot by 30 inch model. No, what is truly eye-popping is that Weaver built this moving sculpture entirely out of toothpicks, more than 100,000 in all, collected from nations all over the world. Don’t miss the amazing video demonstration of Rolling Through the Bay below,

The Problem with Rototillers


From KIM CHASE
Chase Farm, Helena, Montana

We do have a roto-tiller attachment for our lawn tractor, which we used to use and will continue to use when preparing brand new ground for garden. But it turns out that roto-tilling every year is not optimal in several ways.

  • It ruins soil structure. It pulverizes the soils, breaks up soil aggregates, breaks up macropores (large spaces) in the soil and destroys all the tunnels your worms have worked so hard to build.  All this space in your soil improves drainage, facilitates movement of nutrients and water.
  • It causes compaction. Once those soils aggregates are broken up and the soil is reduced to its particles, the soil is nice and fluffy. But since there is no real structure, the soil will settle into a more compacted state.
  • And then there is the problem of tiller-pan. The weight and action of the tiller causes a compacted layer just below where the tines reach, further decreasing soil drainage and the ability of roots to penetrate the soil.
  • It inverts your soil. Tilling turns your soil right upside down. The delicate ecology of soil develops as it does for a reason. Certain helpful bacteria, fungi, and earthworms were at a certain depth in the soil because it had the right moisture and aeration conditions. Turn the soil upside down and you will disrupt this ecology for at least a while.
  • It plants weed seeds for you. Ugh.

Broadfork to the Rescue article here
Available locally – Ubar: Bountiful Gardens
~~

Mendo Transition: How can we grow more food locally?


From TRANSITION CULTURE

Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible Todmorden speaks in Bath, England

Transition Bath recently posted this film of an excellent talk they hosted from an event called ‘How Can We Grow More Food Locally?’. The talk was part of a wider series of ‘Transition Talks’, the next one being called ‘Does money make the world go round?’ which features Mark Boyle (‘the Moneyless Man’)  and Molly Scott Cato.

Parts two through five here

Comment left by Robert Hopkins on website:

If every available small piece of land is filled with garden, instead of grassy lawns and asphalt parking spaces, it would be feasible to grow vastly larger quantities of food locally than in the current city context. It is true that I live in a small university city in Florida,

Todd Walton: Old Pot Folks


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“How’s your back?” asks Marvin, handing me cash for pruning his fruit trees.

“Pretty good,” I say, lifting my ladder into the back of my pickup.

“Mine’s all fucked up,” he murmurs, looking away. “Can’t lift a damn thing.”

“You need something lifted? I’m good up to fifty pounds.”

“Well,” he says, fidgeting. “I…the thing is…” He frowns. “You want to earn a quick hundred?”

“How quick?” I say, looking at my watch. “I have a couple big apples to get done before dark.”

“Half an hour,” he says, nodding. “Hour at the most.”

“I charge forty an hour for pruning, so…”

“This isn’t pruning,” he says, taking a deep breath. “This is pot.”

“You have a prescription?”

“Two,” he says, beckoning me to follow him. “One for me and one for Candy. Need to empty the old mix and fill the pots with new stuff, but the bags…”

So I follow him to the house where Candy appears on the front porch and shields her eyes from what I don’t know since the sun is hidden behind dark clouds. Candy is seventy-two, petite, with shoulder-length gray hair

Most of us ought to be preparing for a life without electricity



From SHARON ASTYK

A lot of us worry about extended power outages, and for good reason – they are incredibly disruptive to large areas. The more one knows about our extant outdated electric grid with its weak infrastructure, the more this sort of thing is worrisome. I certainly do think that there are some compelling reasons to worry about the ability of the existing grid to satisfy the needs of a society that, because of oil and gas depletion and carbon reduction, is moving more and more of its energy burden to electricity.

Many of the proposals to clean up carbon involve changing the source of energy away from oil to either nuclear energy or coal plants with scrubbers and sequestration (I will have more to say about the problems of carbon sequestration from coal plants in another post – I am less sanguine than many people that we can actually do this). In many proposals we would begin powering our transportation with electric cars, buses and trains, replacing oil with electricity, etc…

While I have my doubts about whether we will ever do all of these things, if we did, it would certainly place enormous pressure on the grid, and require enormous investments in infrastructure. It is no big deal to recharge a few thousand electric cars – if everyone had one, this would be something of an issue. But regardless, I think it is also possible that we could accomplish this, or that we could fail to convert our infrastructure quickly enough (this is an enormous economic undertaking) thus overburdening the grid and leading to widespread power disruptions. I officially take no strong position here.

But what I do have a strong opinion on (you knew there had to be something ) is this:

Mutual Aid: The Poorest Place In America, and None Richer


From NYT

The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.

And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County.

About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.

About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs.

Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically.

Women marry young, remain in the village to raise their families and, according to religious strictures, do not use birth control. As a result, the median age (under 12) is the lowest in the country and the household size (nearly six) is the highest. Mothers rarely work outside the home while their children are young.

Become your own expert; you can’t trust those who claim they are


From STEVE KNOX
Transition Voice

As I listened to videos of the “experts” speaking at what was billed as the Second Bretton Woods Conference held near my home in New Hampshire earlier this month, one thought crossed my mind.

Economists appear to be more interested in impressing their peers than in discussing issues with lay people. Thus, if you’re an average person attending a conference where economists are speaking, you’ll need a dictionary handy when they’re talking, and maybe a translator.

Aside from impressing their peers, the economists may also be trying to show that this stuff is too complicated for the average citizen. That implies we should leave it all to them. But the track record of economists over the past 30 years doesn’t justify that confidence.

Life is complicated, but you don’t need a PhD in economics to figure it out, nor do you need computer models or charts.

Instead, understanding a few basic facts will go a long way to explaining much of our economic life. Here are a few that I find most useful:

Fact #1 — You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. Only fools and economists think otherwise. As demand exceeds supply, resource shortages, especially oil shortages, start to appear. It’s time that the word “limits” becomes part of our vocabulary.

Fact #2 — Energy is the ability to do work. Thus, the more energy you have, the more work you can do. Growing economies need more energy, and when that energy becomes scarce or expensive, then economies stop growing.

Fact #3Future growth is the collateral for all today’s public and private debt. Yet, if fact #2 applies, there may not be

So that we can live our safe and self-important lives, many meaningless others must die cruel deaths


From BRIAN BECKER
Answer Coalition
Thanks to Don Sanderson

U.S. surge in Afghanistan launches reign of terror

“You can’t just convince them through projects and goodwill,” another Marine officer said. “You have to show up at their door with two companies of Marines and start killing people. That’s how you start convincing them.”

This was the comment made by a Marine officer to the Washington Post for its April 16 story about “signs of progress” for President Obama’s surge strategy in southern Afghanistan.

The officer was discussing how the U.S. strategy succeeded in the signing of a security pact between elders of the Alikozai area in southern Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed Karzai government.

Many hundreds of young men from the Alikozai area were killed in an onslaught by U.S./NATO troops in months leading up the agreement, according to the Washington Post account.

“We started stacking bodies like cordwood,” said an officer in Sangin, who like other Marines asked for anonymity to speak frankly. “And they came to a point where they said, ‘Holy [expletive], there aren’t that many of us left.’”

The Washington Post is an enthusiastic supporter of the expanding war in Afghanistan. The newspaper editorial policy insists that the war is necessary for an improvement

Unequal Protection — Chapter 6: The Early Role of Corporations in America


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

An effort is being made to build a railroad from Springfield to Alton. A [corporate] charter has been granted by the legislature, and books are now open for subscriptions to the stock. The chief reliance for taking the stock must be on the eastern capitalists; yet, as an inducement to them, we, here must do something. We must stake something of our own in the enterprise, to convince them that we believe it will succeed, and to place ourselves between them and subsequent unfavorable legislation, which, it is supposed, they very much dread. ~ Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln, addressing the leaders of Sangamon County, Illinois, June 30, 1847

Jane Anne Morris is a corporate anthropologist and writer in Madison, Wisconsin, and she is affiliated with the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), one of the leading organizations doing research and work in illuminating the story of corporate personhood.

Morris discovered that on the eve of his becoming chief justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, Edward G. Ryan said ominously in his 1873 address to the graduating class of the University of Wisconsin Law School,

[There] is looming up a new and dark power…the enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power….The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine, which shall rule—wealth or man [sic]; which shall lead—money or intellect; who shall fill public stations—educated and patriotic freemen, or the feudal serfs

Gene Logsdon: Archeology Not Agriculture Teaches Good Farming


From GENE LOGSDON
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

I’m thinking lately that a farmer can learn more about sustainable farming from history rather than from current science. Agriculture has been taking giant leaps “forward” and archeology giant leaps “backward,” both with intriguing and absorbing results. Both work under a handicap. Archeology studies a silent past and has to worry that it’s getting the story right. Agriculture assumes a future that may not turn out to be true either. The two sciences have markedly different philosophies. Agriculture is interested in making farming a money-profitable business. Archeology is interested in finding out why profitable farming invariably leads to wrecked civilizations.

Archeologists are discovering new information all the time, especially in Central America and in North Africa because in both cases the past is not so silent after all. Written records and datable non-written records are coming to light especially for the Mayan empire on this continent and the Carthaginian Empire and its aftermath in North Africa. For example, researchers are reporting new evidence indicating that the Mayan Empire was maybe a thousand years older than it had been thought to be. The Yucatan Peninsula supported a population of millions more people than historians previously had concluded. Supporting those millions was an extremely advanced maize or corn agriculture, the profit-farming of that time. But whenever the Mayans figured out yet more clever ways to increase corn yields, the population increased and that required yet more yield increases. One example: the people literally built upland fields for corn by carrying rich mud up from swamp land that they could not otherwise drain. Sadly, the Mayans used the wealth from their profit-farming

Visiting Our Future: The Original Transition Town


From TRANSITION CULTURE
Photo Essay

Totnes, Devon, England. Just over 23 thousand inhabitants, is the most ecologically developed city in the world. According to the good authority of “Observer”. Exactly, Totnes is the first of Transition Towns. This project was devised years ago by Rob Hopkins, perfect applied in the green Devon, and repeated all over the world in 35 communities. In Italy something similar is in Prato allo Stelvio. Solar panels on the roofs, chimneys and wood stoves, vegetable gardens in the house gardens, fruit trees on the sidewalks, advanced (and respected) waste recycling’s schedule, electric public transports, electric cars, electric bicycles. These are the strong points of Transition Towns, that, besides environmental sustainability, let save a lot of money. Today Totnes is a technological artistic and unique laboratory in the world as well a model that should be assumed in all.

Portrait (above) of Holly Tiffen. This farm is part of Transition Town Totnes Food link initiative. This is a project that aims to increase the availability of local food, by linking local farmers and producers with retailers and restaurants in Totnes. In the Southwest there are many small-scale farmers producing bountiful quality food that has helped the area to build up it’s reputation as a place rich in fantastic food and foodie outlets. Despite this most of the food produced is sold outside of our region, travelling across the country to distant consumers. At the same time, much of their food purchased locally is brought in from far and wide. The Food Links project aims to build a more resilient local food economy by building confidence and loyalty between producers and retailers within the locality.

The Tyranny of Entitlement


From DERRICK JENSEN
Orion

A lesson in limits

I’m continually stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned. Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.

Some of those who believe in perpetual growth are out-and-out nut jobs, like the economist and former White House advisor Julian Simon, who said, “We have in our hands now—actually in our libraries-—the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years.” And showing that, when it comes to U.S. economic policies, insanity is never out of season, are yet more nut jobs, like Lawrence Summers, who has served as chief economist at the World Bank, U.S. secretary of the treasury, president of Harvard, and as President Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, and who said, “There are no… limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future… The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.”

Others are a bit more nuanced in their nut-jobbery. They may acknowledge that, yes, physical limits might possibly exist, but they also believe that if you just slap the word sustainable in front of the phrase “economic growth,” then you can still somehow have continued growth on a finite planet, perhaps through so-called “soft” or “service” or “high-tech” economies, or through nifty “green” innovations like a really neat

Ukiah: Taking Control of Our Common Destiny


From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

In this time of Peak Oil [link], Climate Change, and Disaster Capitalism, we Ukiahans will take democratic control of our own food, our money, and our energy resources, or others from elsewhere will surely succeed in taking that control away from us. Disaster Capitalism takes advantage of short-term social and financial bedlam and turns it into long-term privatizing schemes that convert our democratic control of crucial resources and services — such as schools, libraries, water and waste systems, prisons — into top-down, corporate-controlled, long-term cash cows for the very few. These schemes have utterly failed to become more efficient and save tax payers money. How could they? Profit-seeking constant-growth corporations privatize the profits and socialize the costs to our public detriment. And we citizens, instead of lower-cost, democratically-controlled resources and services, transfer our public money to the wealthy, and pay and pay and pay.

We also find ourselves continuously playing whack-a-mole… fighting off those who wish to impose their private will on our public community, leaving little time to think and act and build a positive inviting future worth fighting for.

There are several things we Ukiah citizens could be doing now instead of waiting for events that force us into decisions not in our common best interests:

1. Corporate Personhood: The state legalizes an activity – such as commercial water withdrawals, or factory farming, or big-box colonizers that take our jobs overseas – and communities are legally prohibited from saying “no” to it. Or, as may happen in our case, we reject by a huge majority vote a zoning change that protects a prime industrial parcel, and also reject by popular demand the closing of our downtown

Will Parrish: What BoxCo Does Best


DB

From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

For most of the past 150 years, the California North Coast has had a clearly defined role in the state’s political economy.  The region was blessed with vast, nearly impenetrable forests of huge redwood trees and accompanying great stands of douglas fir.  As Ray Raphael noted in his 1974 book on regional history, An Everyday History of Somewhere, an early historian of the Redwood Empire wrote with regard to timber’s economic importance, all the way back in the 1870s, that “at every available point for shipment stands a saw mill turning trees to lumber, furnishing employment for labor and investment for capital.”

For close to eight decades, one of the regional lynchpins of the pervasive timber trade was a spur of the Southern Pacific rail line called the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.  Beginning in 1914, freights ran up and down the line with remarkable consistency – remarkable because they had to  traverse the choppy mountains collectively known as the Coast Range.  The line originated at a point just outside Eureka and bustled along on stops down to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Though the railroad provided commuter service for most of these years, its greatest function was as a ready route to San Francisco’s markets, which have ACTED for upwards of a century as commercial hubs on behalf of much of the United States and many nations across the Pacific.  At any given point, timber made up roughly 80 percent of the cargo on the Northwestern Pacific line; in many years, greater than 90 percent.

The present economic period – call it “neo-liberal globalization,” or simply “the offshoring of the US economy,” if you prefer a more parochial framing – brought about wrenching changes on the North Coast. During the 1980s and ’90s, the process of converting

What Government Dare Verify This Photographic Proof Reactor Core Exploded At Unit 3 Spewing Deadly Plutonium World-Wide? (Updated)


From ROSALIND PETERSON
CaliforniaSkyWatch
Redwood Valley

Hi-Res Photographic Proof Reactor Core Exploded At Unit 3 [Many Images]

…and here: http://tinyurl.com/627o5n7

[Update] Maybe not… http://www.fairewinds.com/content/gundersen-postulates-unit-3-explosion-may-have-been-prompt-criticality-fuel-pool
~~

Social Security: Their numbers are bullshit, they’ll steal us blind, please pass this on!


From MANNY GOLDSTEIN
Democratic Underground

OK, by now we all know that the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in 26 years, and only a portion of benefits will be paid after that. Actually, that “known fact” is pure BS, a product of cooked numbers. What they aren’t telling you is that this projection assumes that over the next 75 years, the US economy will grow at a far lower rate than it has in the past. (They weren’t expecting us to check the calculations, were they?)

Since 1960, US GDP growth has averaged 3.2%. Even in the decade before the 2007 crash, which included a recession and jobless recovery, GDP growth averaged about 3.0%. However, in creating its publicized projection, the Obama administration assumes that the future US economy will grow at a rate of about 2.1%, much lower even than the 2.9% rate in 2010, which most of us would agree was a tough year for our economy. Even in this very pessimistic projection, Social Security is still able to pay more than 75% of promised benefits after 27 years. (Note that we need about 2.5% growth just to break even with our increasing population.)

And what if the economy stays the same as in 2010, and we continue to lurch forward at 2010’s 2.9% growth rate? The same projection showed that at a 2.9% rate, the Trust fund would remain flush with cash as far as they projected (75 years).

So, unless the US economy is about to get even worse than today and stay that way, Social Security should pay full benefits for our lifetimes and beyond.

If you believe otherwise, then the bad guys have already won: they now have a pretext for stealing you blind

Todd Walton: What’s Going On?


From TODD WALTON
Underthetablebooks.com
Mendocino

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X

One of my guilty pleasures is watching sports highlights on my computer, many of which are prefaced by thirty-second ads for shoes, cars, beer, and the Army. I have become adept at turning off the volume and relaxing for those thirty seconds before each highlight, but occasionally a new ad grabs me and I’ll watch and marvel at the senseless inventiveness of capitalism. The last Army recruitment ad I watched began with a video-game-animation of Caucasian American soldiers morphing into actual Caucasian American soldiers interdicting and arresting impoverished American black men, brutally and at gunpoint.

I haven’t the slightest doubt that twenty years ago such an ad would have caused a huge public outcry for its racist violence and for the implication that American armed forces are servants of a racist police state. But this ad, I have since been informed, has been running for several weeks through several mainstream media outlets, and no outcries are being reported (which, of course, doesn’t mean outcrying isn’t going on.)

“I think I’m an actor because I have a very strong imagination and empathy. I never studied acting, but those two qualities are exactly the qualities that make for an activist.” Susan Sarandon

As I was pondering this latest indication of the thorough conquest of our media by the corporate state, my brother sent me a link to an article about a large new study by the American Red Cross that reveals nearly sixty percent of American teenagers (both male and female) think brutal torture

How Small, Mostly Conservative Towns Have Found the Trick to Defeating Corporations


From Alternet
Thanks to Dan Hamburg

[The next logical step after we defeat the USPS’ plan to gut our town by moving our Post Office to the freeway, is to ban corporate personhood at a local level. By hiding behind the privatized part of the USPS charter and refusing our requests to see the numbers they say force their decision, it is incumbent upon our citizenry to deny this subterfuge in the future by others intent upon killing our local democratic process and buying up everything in sight. Disaster Capitalism is in full sway and needs to be stopped NOW. -DS]

As the Right pushes privatization as a solution to the economic collapse, one organization is teaching communities how to defeat corporations. California’s treasurer just announced that the state may need to begin issuing IOUs if the governor and legislature can’t close the budget gap. And California’s not the only place that’s hurting. The Great Recession, hit not only businesses and individuals, but governments as well. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that 31 states are facing a combined shortfall for fiscal year 2011 of nearly $60 billion.

So, what’s being done? “Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything

Reinventing the Medieval Home for the Post-Carbon Era



From SHARON ASTYK

Lucy Worsley has a Guardian piece about the merits of medieval architecture as a model for a lower-resource use future:

Domestic life in the past was smelly, cold, dirty and uncomfortable, but we have much to learn from it. I spend much of my time working as a curator in Britain’s historic royal palaces. But recently, for a television series, I’ve visited a lot of normal homes dating from the Norman period to the present day, and I’ve concluded that the houses of the past have a huge amount to teach us about the future. When the oil runs out, I think our houses will become much more like those of our low-tech, pre-industrial ancestors.

The first point is that the age of specialised rooms is over. Now, legislation governing the design of new houses contains echoes of the past: it insists that once again rooms should multi-task. The living room, for instance, must have space for a bed in case the occupant becomes incapacitated; medieval people, for instance, lived, ate and slept in one room – as I do, in my open-plan flat.

Next, architectural features from the past will start to reappear. The chimney disappeared in the 20th century, but it’s coming back, as solid fuel-burning stoves make a return. In terms of fuel conservation the sun is becoming important again too: once upon a time people selected sites with good “air”; now well thought-out houses are situated to minimise solar gain in summer and maximise it in winter. Most future houses will need to face south, a challenge to conventional street layout.

Speaking as someone who saves a lot of her energy by living sort of like a medieval person

What Jesus Would Want



From MARK MORFORD
SFGate

Please step away from the fear

Recently did my fine and ever-loving and yet slightly overworried parents, still married and flirty and sort of amazing after something like 147 years together — and no, I have no idea how the hell they did it, so don’t even ask — forward on a terrifying hunk of email to me, full of sound and fury and unchecked socioeconomic gloom, signifying nothing.

It was an email, I quickly surmised, that had bounced around their group of retired, largely Republican friends and then commented on and fretted over a bit too much, all about what the hell is happening to the world, how dramatically things have changed, what can or cannot be done about it and, more than anything else, how they feel fearful for their kids — which, for the purposes of this column, we’ll call, me.

It was an email, simply put, about the end of the world. More specifically, the end of the American empire, of the United States as global economic superpower, primarily due to various and sundry “horrific” factors having to do with the threadbare American workforce, the staggering loss of manufacturing and factory jobs in this country, the spiraling debt, the shocking erosion of our industrial base, and so on.

“Facts About The De-industrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind” screamed the email’s headline, instantly indicating its mad desire to be not the slightest bit tactful or reasonable. The piece then went on to list all manner of “horrifying” data about America’s post-industrial implosion, from the mundane (a single Ford factory closing due to “globalization”) to spurious forecasts about China,

Mendo Island Transition: Reskilling Initiative


From GREEN HANDS

[Maybe combine this with our Mendo Time Bank, Together We Can Mendocino, and Gardens Project?… -DS]

Philosophy

Peak Oil

Many people now believe that the world’s petroleum supply is at or near its peak production capacity. As it gets increasingly  difficult to maintain or expand the supply of this vital resource (aka “Peak Oil”), the economies that rely on cheap, abundant fuel  in increasing amounts will falter. As they do, we will need to devise alternatives to the industrial model we currently rely upon for basic necessities.

It’s not the purpose of this site to convince anybody of the reality and practical ramifications of Peak Oil. I encourage readers to do a search on it… there’s plenty of information available online…

Reskilling

Reskilling – the development of skills more directly connected with basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and recreation – is one practical response to the manifold problems that society may well face in the wake of peak oil and economic displacement and collapse.

Looking for a way to make it easy and practical for people to connect and share skills, I came up with the idea of the Green Helping Hands Reskilling Initiative.  Whether you’re a skilled composter/gardener or an artist with a pair of knitting needles, or if  you are seeking these or other skills, just post a sign with a green hand on it – or look for one near you.

Why a physical sign, one might ask, and not a website? After all, I’m promoting the concept through a website. The answer is, signs are cheap, fast and local, and don’t rely on high-tech anything to get started.

Take Action Ukiah: Saving Our Post Office Meeting Tonight 4/21/11 6:30pm


From BARRY VOGEL
Radio Curious
Ukiah

The United States Postal Service has plans to close post offices in cities, small towns and rural areas across America. This edition of Radio Curious is a case study of how the federal government plans to close the main Post Office in Ukiah.  The Postal Service says it operates under a “corporate model” and is not subject to public information requests, even from local government. It is unwilling to share the bases of it cost analyses or even let the City of Ukiah conduct its own evaluations. We visit with three members of the Save the Ukiah Post Office Committee: Ukiah Mayor, Mari Rodin, Alan Nicholson and Mike Sweeney. They discuss the community efforts to save Ukiah’s downtown post office and why.

Radio Curious Interview here
~

Letters to the Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal, from Joe Wildman, Richard Shoemaker, Janie Sheppard and Mike Sweeney…

From JOE LOUIS WILDMAN

A bureaucratic bungle

All of the folks I talk with are up in arms about the Postal Service proposal to close the Downtown Post Office, but several letter writers seem to think it’s a good idea.

These contrarians want to believe the line Postal Service management is dishing out about “financial necessity.” The Postal Service claims it can save $186,921 per year by cutting a hole in the heart of Ukiah’s downtown and remodeling the out of the way annex as a replacement.

Rosalind Peterson: Red Alert! Press Conference on Fukushima with Helen Caldicott


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley
~

[Karma happens… killing ourselves slowly… -DS]

Fukushima Forecast: Series of radiation clouds to hit US West Coast beginning April 24 

Video here

AREAS WHOSE FOOD PRODUCTS MAY NOW CARRY RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT

The Entirety of the Northern Hemisphere around the world is affected by fallout, as well as the Pacific Ocean.

Most Serious: Japan, Pacific Ocean, and Pacific Rim States

Most Contaminated food areas of North America (based on fallout wind spread patterns charted by European scientific research agencies) in order of likely intensity of contamination, starting with the most contaminated:

Entire Pacific Coast (note that much of the produce in North America comes from this region, especially California)

Northern U.S. States close to Canada, and Canadian areas close to the U.S. (including Toronto etc.)
Eastern States

Central States of the U.S., and Far Northern areas of Canada

SAFEST AREAS OF ORIGIN FOR FOOD PRODUCTS

Ayn Rand Was A Lunatic, Her Economics Nuts, Her Philosophy Cruel: Republicans, Of Course, Love Her


From JOHANN HARIJ
Slate

[Want to know what the Republicans are really trying to do to our democracy? Read on… -DS]

The perverse allure of a damaged woman

Ayn Rand is one of America’s great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that “the masses”—her readers—were “lice” and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them. Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is “evil” and selfishness is “the only virtue,” she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters. So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?

Two new biographies of Rand—Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller—try to puzzle out this question, showing how her arguments found an echo in the darkest corners of American political life. But the books work best, for me, on a level I didn’t expect. They are thrilling psychological portraits of a horribly damaged woman

Gene Logsdon: Tired of Tires


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Do you know how many pneumatic rubber tires you own? I bet when you count them up, you’ll be surprised. Even on my little one horse farm, there are 40 tires in use, not counting the ones on the car. And ten percent of them are flat at any given time. This is partly because most of my tires were vulcanized in the late Middle Ages or thereabouts. But it is also because there is something unsustainable and unnatural about riding around on air wrapped in a substance that comes from trees that grow half a million miles away.

This is the time of year when I fare forth to another season of mowing and planting. I know without looking, that my first chore, after getting all the motors (6) running, will be fixing flats. I thought maybe this year would be an exception. The green tractor started right up and the hydraulic system on it worked fine. I backed up to the disk to hitch up and the hole on the disk tongue lined up with the drawbar hole perfectly on the first try. Oh perfect joy.

One pass across the field and behold, the left tire on the disk was as flat as a pancake. I pumped it up (by hand) and proceeded on to the gardens which were actually dry enough to disk (the corn ground wasn’t) and worked up two of the plots before the tire went flat again. Pumped it up again and it lasted until I had finished the other two plots. I would not have been so stubborn about it except rain was threatening and it might be another two weeks before the soil was dry enough to work again.

Have you ever stopped to think just how dumb it is to have pneumatic tires on a disk? They are only in use when the disk is not disking and that would mean, in my “operation”, about three hundred feet a year at a speed of not more than two miles per hour.

Unequal Protection — Chapter 5: Jefferson Versus the Corporate Aristocracy


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

Let monopolies and all kinds and degrees of oppression be carefully guarded against. ~ Samuel Webster, 1777

Although the first shots were fired in 1775 and the Declaration was signed in 1776, the war against a transnational corporation and the nation that used it to extract wealth from its colonies had just begun. These colonists, facing the biggest empire and military force in the world, fought for five more years—the war didn’t end until General Charles Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781. Even then some resistance remained; the last loyalists and the British left New York starting in April 1782, and the treaty that formally ended the war was signed in Paris in September 1783.

The first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, was written in 1777 and endorsed by the states in 1781. It was subsequently replaced by our current Constitution, as has been documented in many books. In this chapter we take a look at the visions that motivated what Alexis de Tocqueville would later call America’s experiment with democracy in a republic. One of its most conspicuous features was the lack of vast wealth or any sort of corporation that resembled the East India Company—until the early 1800s.

The First Glimpses of a Powerful American Company

Very few people are aware that Thomas Jefferson considered freedom from monopolies to be one of the fundamental human rights. But it was very much a part of his thinking during the time when the Bill of Rights was born.

In fact,

Obama Returns to His Moral Vision: What is America at Heart and What is America to be



From GEORGE LAKOFF

Last week, on April 13, 2011, President Obama gave all Democrats and all progressives a remarkable gift. Most of them barely noticed. They looked at the president’s speech as if it were only about budgetary details. But the speech went well beyond the budget. It went to the heart of progressive thought and the nature of American democracy, and it gave all progressives a model of how to think and talk about every issue.

It was a landmark speech. It should be watched and read carefully and repeatedly by every progressive who cares about our country — whether Democratic office-holder, staffer, writer, or campaign worker — and every progressive blogger, activist and concerned citizen. The speech is a work of art.

The policy topic happened to be the budget, but he called it “The Country We Believe In” for a reason. The real topic was how the progressive moral system defines the democratic ideals America was founded on, and how those ideals apply to specific issues. Obama’s moral vision, which he applied to the budget, is more general: it applies to every issue. And it can be applied everywhere by everyone who shares that moral vision of American democracy.

Discussion in the media has centered on economics — on the president’s budget policy compared with the Republican budget put forth by Paul Ryan. But, as Robert Reich immediately pointed out, “Ten or twelve-year budgets are baloney. It’s hard enough to forecast budgets a year or two into the future.” The real economic issues are economic recovery and the distribution of wealth. As I have observed, the Republican focus on the deficit is really a strategy for weakening government and turning the country conservative

Fukushima Radiation Fallout Tracking Tool


Tool here

Thanks to Robert Ross
~~

Mendo Island Transition: Remember the Boycott…



From RAN PRIEUR

[Yes, it is important to focus more on what we can do in positive ways to assist in transitioning our communities as the culture collapses around us, but there are also negative tools that can assist us in bringing about needed change on a local basis. For example, Branches Chop House Restaurant in Ukiah has been advertising “locally raised products” and as “specializing in locally grown products” which is not true (see our article here). A sustained local boycott could be organized to help change their ways just as some of us have participated in national boycotts. Stay tuned. -DS]

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of a war. There are bullets flying and explosions all around, and I’m trying to organize people on my side to fight effectively, and instead they’re just standing around saying, “Look, they’re shooting at us! I can’t believe they’re actually shooting at us! Look at those bad, bad people doing that bad, bad thing! Shame on th- (takes bullet in head)”

There’s only one place for morality in this world, and that is that your actions must serve the greatest, widest good that you can perceive. Beyond that, it’s all strategy and tactics. Applying morality to the actions of other people is a strategic error. I think this error goes back to our tribal ancestors. If one person does something to harm the tribe, the others will use shaming to bring this person into line. If this feels to us like a moral action, it’s because it was easier for our ancestors to mindlessly throw righteous indignation at the wrongdoer, than to carefully discern why a behavior is harmful and how shaming will correct it.

The New Republican Landscape of Destruction


From NYT Editorial

Six months after voters sent Republicans in large numbers to Congress and many statehouses, it is possible to see the full landscape of destruction that their policies would cause — much of which has already begun. If it was not clear before, it is obvious now that the party is fully engaged in a project to dismantle the foundations of the New Deal and the Great Society, and to liberate business and the rich from the inconveniences of oversight and taxes.

At first it seemed that only a few freshmen and noisy followers of the Tea Party would support the new extremism. But on Friday, nearly unanimous House Republicans showed just how far their mainstream has been dragged to the right. They approved on strict party lines the most regressive social legislation in many decades, embodied in a blueprint by the budget chairman, Paul Ryan. The vote, from which only four Republicans (and all Democrats) dissented, would have been unimaginable just eight years ago to a Republican Party that added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Mr. Ryan called the vote “our generation’s defining moment,” and indeed, nothing could more clearly define the choice that will face voters next year.

His bill would end the guarantee provided by Medicare and Medicaid to the elderly and the poor, which has been provided by the federal government with society’s clear assent since 1965. The elderly, in particular, would be cut adrift by Mr. Ryan. People now under 55 would be required to pay at least $6,400 more for health care when they qualified for Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Fully two-thirds of his $4.3 trillion in budget cuts would come from low-income programs.

Why Bicycles are Faster than Cars


From IVAN ILLICH
Via No Tech Magazine

“The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.”

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well. The bicycle lifted man’s auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible.”

“Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems.” ~ Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich, 1978.
~
See also Mendo 2 Mile Challenge
~~

You are not alive



From DAVID ROTHSCUM
The Netherlands

[Thanks to Ran Prieur blog: “And I just discovered David Rothscum Reports, an anti-civilization and fringe politics blog out of the Netherlands. Remember what I said yesterday, that you should focus on the path and not the obstacles? Rothscum focuses almost completely on the obstacles, but I appreciate his enthusiasm.”]

There are many subjects I can address, but few if any as important as this one. Take a look around you. Nobody around you is truly alive. And most likely, neither are you. Since being alive requires one to actually live, and what you do is not living at all. You’re involved in some bland alternative to living.

Every man, woman and child’s life now consists of the same repetitive pattern that starts at about 4 years of age and will end when they die. You go through school, not to learn any particular skills at all. You’re taught how to conform, how not to be a nuisance to society, and how to hold on to a job.

The first lesson taught is being quiet. The second is to sit still behind a disk, for multiple hours at a time. The act of sitting still is a process that injures the body. It leads to various illnesses, regardless of the amount of exercise you engage in.[Link] After spending most of it’s youth sitting still however, the child can see no other way than to sit still. This step of domestication is permanent in most people.

Some children fail to sit still for long periods at a time. We tell their parents they have ADHD, and proceed to medicate them against their will…. More here
~~

Scale of the Universe


Go Here

Thanks to Todd Walton
~~

Three Cups of Tea a Hoax? [Update]


Mortenson
From LA TIMES
Thanks to Ron Epstein

[Mortenson responds here]

An investigation by “60 Minutes” to be broadcast this weekend will cite multiple sources that contend some of the most inspiring stories in Greg Mortenson’s books “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones into Schools” are not true.

Significantly, Mortenson’s origin story — of being saved by a remote village in Afghanistan and promising to build a school for them — appears to be a fabrication.

In a news release, the television program explains:

B of A Street Protest Ukiah 4/15/11: Behind the Line


The usual suspects…
~

TED Talks: The Antidote to Apathy

Thanks to Sean Re
~~

Mendo Island Transition: Community Seed Banks that empower women and protect biodiversity


From SUPRIYA KUMAR
Worldwatch

For fifteen years, Muniyamma, a farmer in Karnataka, India, practiced agriculture with the help of agro-chemicals, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but in recent years she noticed a drastic decrease in yield.

After attending a village meeting conducted by the GREEN Foundation about organic farming, she decided to try their environmentally friendly techniques to grow bananas. When it was harvest time, Muniyamma’s plot was healthy and green, while her neighbor’s banana plot, which still relied on agro-chemicals, showed stunted growth, pale leaves, and thinner stems. That was enough to convince Muniyamma of the benefits of organic farming.

The GREEN Foundation works to preserve natural ecosystems and sustain rural livelihoods by teaching farmers the importance of agricultural biodiversity. Through village meetings, the foundation informs farmers about organic practices, such as creating fertilizer from organic waste, that are better for the environment and result in higher yields, at a lower cost, for farmers.

To protect the local biodiversity and preserve traditional seeds, the GREEN Foundation, in partnership with other NGOs, including the Seed Saver’s Network and The Development Fund, has created community seeds banks throughout the state of Karnataka, India. All villagers can become a member of a community seed bank by paying an annual nominal fee. Members, who receive seeds free of cost, sow the seeds, harvest the crop and return double the amount of seeds to the bank. To maintain purity of the seeds, farmers must follow rules – such as no chemical fertilizers and pesticides – when growing their crops.

Because these seed banks are managed by self-help groups (SHG) made up of women,

Don Sanderson: We Shall Overcome


From DON SANDERSON
Hopland

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – John Steinbeck

The winds of disaffection and dissent are blowing everywhere and those in charge are bringing out their big guns to finally put us in our place. What must we do? It appears this question has an enormous multiplicity of answers, many conflicting. Most of these we Americans fear because they challenge our hopes of ever achieving our ideal lifestyles as depicted on television, in movies, in magazines, and in advertisements everywhere, even if this means kowtowing to those who assert they are our masters. Still, unease has become the rule, perhaps because we really know that these hopes are mirages that are beginning to lose their substance. Here, I shall explore an answer, actually a collection of conjoined answers that have actually been under consideration for centuries, surviving and even thriving in spite of continual attacks by authorities.

I awoke the other morning from a dream, actually a series of dreams of which I shall tell you later, when the word “retrenchment” came to mind for unknown reasons. I’m unaware that I’d ever personally previously used it. Retrenchment is of French origination likely from WWI – re-trench-ment: return to the trenches after a failed foray. This in turn reminded me of the lost battalion. You all undoubtedly know this story and others I shall tell and I likely will make mistakes in their telling; please forgive me, for that is peripheral to the big story I shall relate.

It is summer 1918 and the Germans have surrounded an American battalion. For weeks they attacked with all the forces they could marshal without overcoming American resistance, which was becoming increasingly demoralizing. What finally broke

Todd Walton: Young Pot Moms



From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“Youth is wasted on the young.” George Bernard Shaw

When I and my middle-aged and elderly Mendocino Elk Albion Fort Bragg peers convene, talk often turns to the paucity of younger people coming along to fill the local ranks of actors and musicians and writers and artists and activists. The excellent Symphony of the Redwoods plays to audiences of mostly white-haired elders and is itself fast becoming an ensemble of elders, ditto the local theater companies, ditto the legions of Mendocino artists and social activists. People under fifty in audiences and at art openings hereabouts stand out as rare youngsters; and the question is frequently asked with touching plaintiveness, “Will it all end with us?”

“The supply of good women far exceeds that of the men who deserve them.” Robert Graves

A few days ago I was waiting my turn at the one and only cash dispensing machine in the picturesque and economically distressed village of Mendocino, my home town, and I couldn’t help noticing that the woman using the machine was young (under forty), expensively dressed, and pushing the appropriate buttons with an ambitious energy that made me tired.

When it was my turn to stand before the cash dispensary, I noticed that the young woman had declined to take her receipt, which hung like a punch line from the slot of the robot. Being a hopeless snoop, I took possession of the little piece of paper, affixed my reading glasses, and imbibed the data. Did my eyes deceive me? No. This young woman had a cash balance in her Savings Bank of Mendocino checking account of…are you sitting down?…377,789 dollars.