The L-Curve


What are the implications of this picture?

I am not an economist, but then again, most likely you aren’t either.  On the other hand, the economy affects you and me, so we need to come to grips with these issues to participate intelligently in the political process.  There needs to be a genuine national dialog on these issues at all levels.

If we divided the income of the US into thirds, we find that the top ten percent of the population gets a third, the next thirty percent gets another third, and the bottom sixty percent get the last third. If we divide the wealth of the US into thirds, we find that the top one percent own a third, the next nine percent own another third, and the bottom ninety percent claim the rest. (Actually, these percentages, true a decade ago, are now out of date. The top one percent are now estimated to own between forty and fifty percent of the nation’s wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%.)

Mendocino County: Declare Local Sovereignty!


The Mendopendence Conference is an exciting forum for individuals and organizations to come together and highlight some of the most exciting initiatives underway in our community, and to take specific action on new efforts that will create a sustainable and healthy local living economy.

What better time to discuss local sovereignty than Independence Day weekend?

The program focuses on four main topics: Food, Energy, New Economy and Media. There will be more than 10 panels & workshops featuring local and national speakers.

Together, we will draft  and sign a “Declaration of Local Sovereignty,” with principles to guide the future of decision-making in Mendocino County.

Come create with us!

July 1-4th, 2011 in Mendocino, California Mendocino Recreation Center

Presented by DreamLabs and the Mendocino Coast Environmental Center in partnership with Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District.

Conference Schedule

Friday night 4:30p Registration/Check-in 5:45 Carpool meet-up at Fort Bragg City Hall parking lot

Top Censored Stories of 2011

The Machine Stops

Published: 1909

The Machine Stops is a short science fiction story. It describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual lives in isolation in a ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Most humans welcome this development, as they are skeptical and fearful of first-hand experience. People forget that humans created the Machine, and treat it as a mystical entity whose needs supersede their own. Those who do not accept the deity of the Machine are viewed as ‘unmechanical’ and are threatened with “Homelessness”. Eventually, the Machine apocalyptically collapses, and the civilization of the Machine comes to an end. –Wikipedia



Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment

Dave Smith: Democracy still works locally

To the Editors:

Democracy still works locally. Thanks to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors for responding to citizens by, hopefully, pounding the final nail in the Monster Mall coffin, and preserving our farm land.

Despite the silliness of some who tried to confuse the issue by misinterpreting the overwhelming vote against the mall, the faithful souls of smart growth and environmental sanity have once again prevailed. Thank you all.

Dave Smith

Breaking the Chains Campaign

Breaking the Chains Campaign is focusing consumers’ attention on how each purchasing decision can lead to a safer, greener, and more equitable society. Millions of green minded consumers around the world have broken the chains of corporate control in their own lives, by supporting organic, Fair Made, and locally produced products and businesses.

It is time for these individuals to come together as a single voice to break the influence of big chains, corporate agribusiness, and sweatshop driven economies the world over.

Economics as if Survival Mattered

Excerpts from The Wealth of Nature, 2011

The end of the Information Age

Very few people realize just how extravagant a supply of resources goes to maintain the information economy. The energy cost to run a home computer is modest enough that it’s rarely noticed, for example, that each one of the big server farms that keep today’s social websites up and running use as much electricity as a midsized city. Multiply that by the tens of thousands of server farms that keep today’s online economy going, and the hundreds of other energy-intensive activities that go into maintaining the Internet and manufacturing the equipment it uses, and it may start to become clear how much energy goes into putting pretty pictures and text onto your computer screen…

The gigawatts used by server farms are not the only unnoticed energy that goes into the Internet, though; putting those gigawatts to work requires an electrical grid spanning most of a continent, backed up by the immense inputs of coal and natural gas that put electricity into the wires, and a network of supply chains that stretches from coal mines to power plants to the oil wells that provide diesel fuel for trains and excavation machines…

Origin of ‘Hobbit’

Online Etymology Dictionary

…1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).

Hobbit  is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when the people was referred to at all, was banakil  ‘halfling.’ But … the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk  …. It seems likely that kuduk  was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan  [=’hole-dweller’]. The latter I have translated … by holbytla  [‘hole-builder’]; and hobbit  provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla , if the name had occurred in our ancient language.” [Tolkien, “Return of the King,” 1955, p.416]

“On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why.” [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]

The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d.1859), printed in volume 2 of “The Denham Tracts” [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham’s scattered publications. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland.

“What a happiness this must have been

Seriously, WTF is Cricket?

The Morning News

Question: Seriously what the fuck is cricket? Please ask one of your British correspondents to lay it out.—G.S.

Answer: In order to have a decent game of cricket, you must first ensure that it isn’t raining.

For a game invented in that global capital of rain, that dominion of drizzle, England, this fact alone should give you a sign that cricket is something special.

The English have thousands of words for precipitation, but only one way of calling off a game of cricket because of wet weather: “Rain stopped play.”

Cricket, like photographic film, or Tara Reid, is light-sensitive. A game can be called off simply because it’s getting a tad gloomy. This, from a cold, rainy, overcast, gloomy nation like England seems incongruous. But cricket was invented for a reason. And that reason was sandwiches…

More at The Morning News

Careful Exegesis and the Au Bleu Ribeye

Front Porch Republic

I have it on good authority—my own—plus that of a few others who know more about these things than I do, including one fellow who “attended the best culinary school in the country” (a claim I take on good faith, not knowing the name of a single culinary school, good or bad), not to mention that stern preceptor, experience (is this sentence going somewhere?)—I have it on good authority, as I say, that there is scarcely a credible reason to order a steak when you dine out.

The reason is that hardly anyone can prepare a steak as well as you can at home, and I’m not talking about doing anything particularly fancy like aging the beef or rubbing it with some mythical magical rub or any of that cowflubdubbery. I’m talking about nothing more than beef to advantage dressed.

So, as Kipling said, hear and listen and attend, O best beloved.

Choose a ribeye. Do not be impressed by the name “New York strip” or “sirloin tip” or anything else that rhymes with “hip.”

Will Parrish: Paul Hobbs & Ken Wilson — Wine Country’s Clearcutting Crooks

Hobbs’ Vineyards


Paul Hobbs, internationally renowned winemaker with headquarters in Sebastopol, is described in his web site biography as a “trailblazer” and “prospector.” Those are fitting designations, if not always in the ways his publicist intends. Formerly the winemaker at two of the most prestigious wineries in the country, Opus One and Simi, Hobbs currently “crafts” — to use the term of trade — numerous acclaimed vintages under his own self-titled label, also working as a consultant on 30-35 other wines at a given time, in as many as six countries spanning three continents. By advertising Hobbs’ association with their brand, those who hire him automatically see a boost in sales.

Kenneth C. Wilson, real estate capitalist and winemaker with headquarters in Healdsburg, is not the first person wine industry observers would typically associate with Hobbs. Whereas Hobbs is widely regarded for his winemaking artistry, as a veritable winemaker’s winemaker, Wilson

Can I be your friend? [Updated]


Update: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange releases video blog of his house

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline

[Recently an acquaintance told me they had signed an anti-corporate petition circulated on Facebook, and the following day they were fired by their two corporate accounts… their main sources of income. Having also learned more about Facebook privacy policies, I have now removed all my “friends” from my Facebook account except for my immediate family. Does not solidarity demand action where such injustice and blatant privacy-invasion occurs, especially as corporate policy?…~DS]

Todd Walton: He Is Us

Photo by Marcia Sloane


“When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without the proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.” David Hume

I may be wrong. I thought I’d begin with that disclaimer to defuse the notion I think I’m right. What troubles me most about zealots is that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is not only deemed wrong, but bad. Oh, get to the point, Todd. Well, but this is a big part of the point, this trouble I have with people who think they have the one and only true answer, true faith, true way to grow strawberries. There’s no way to have a meaningful discussion with them.

When I had my oh-no-we’re destroying-the-earth-we’d-better-change-our-ways epiphany in 1965 at the tender age of fifteen, even most of my fellow Sierra Club members thought I was either crazy or a dangerous radical. Forty-six years later, my assertion that radically reducing our individual resource consumption can help save the earth is scoffed at and ridiculed by a growing cadre

Home-Scale Energy Now

The Archdruid Report

The logic applied in last week’s post to photovoltaic solar power can be applied more generally to a fairly wide range of technologies that can, under the right circumstances, provide a modest supply of electricity to power those things for which electricity is really the most sensible power source. I want to talk about a couple of those in tthe weeks to come, partly for the sake of completeness, partly because the options I have in mind offer some distinct advantages, and partly because touching on a series of examples will make it easier to grasp certain common themes that aren’t often addressed on those rare occasions when discussions of the future of technology manage to make it out of the realm of popular mythology in the first place.

I don’t mean that last comment as a joke, by the way. If mythology can be defined as the set of stories that people in a given society use to make sense of the universe and themselves, contemporary beliefs about the future of technology in the cultural mainstream of the industrial world fill that role, doubled, tripled, and in spades. Those of my readers who have

Bounty Hunters: A review of two new local-foods cookbooks

The Ethicurean

As the local food movement expands and the numbers of small farms, CSA programs, and farmers markets increase, so grows the crop of cookbooks aimed at helping people make the best use of that seasonal bounty. Following in the path of Deborah Madison’s excellent overview of America’s farmers markets, Local Flavors, two new cookbooks share the joys of regional harvests throughout the year.

The first, Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, bases its recipes in the old and new traditions of New England agriculture. This collaboration between dietitian Diane Imrie and chef Richard Jarmusz combines a healthy approach to eating with simple preparations that enhance the fresh flavors of local fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats. While many recipes take old favorites and spruce them up for

Home Power Plant Nation

Bay Journal News Service
Via Transition Voice

The old dream of going off-grid has changed into today’s reality of using the grid as your own battery

It’s a gorgeous day full of singing birds and sunlight. Beautiful, streaming sunlight. Soon the photovoltaic system that added some aggression to my passive solar house in the mountains of western Virginia will be one year old, the time of reckoning.

Getting off the grid has always been nirvana for 1970s back-to-the-landers like me. With net-metering – a 21st century update of the dream – I am still connected, selling excess electricity in summer when the sun is high, and buying electricity at night and in winter. The grid has become my battery, although my home system includes batteries for three sunless days of essential services if the grid is knocked out: water pump, stove, freezer, and playing old movies through the storm.

In rural Appalachia, self-sufficiency is the traditional way of doing things.

Janie Sheppard: Looking for Elusive New Deal Art

Mendocino County

Determined to see another example of mural art by Ben Cunningham, the artist who painted the mural in the Ukiah Post Office, I trekked to Coit Tower in San Francisco. There, my Internet research assured me, was another example of Ben’s art, a mural entitled “Outdoor Life.” No mention of the fact on the Internet that the nine by twenty-two foot mural is off limits to the public.

To see a photo of the mural I bought an expensive but beautiful book, Coit Tower San Francisco: Its History and Art, by Masha Zakheim, photos by Don Beatty. Searching the Internet for a good picture of Ben’s mural

Transition and Collapse: Voices from the Margins

Via Energy Bulletin

It was at my suggestion that our Transition Book Group read The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, by John Michael Greer. Known online for his blog the Archdruid Report (he is a high priest of the Druid Order) Greer belongs to a small group of thinkers that I would call “collapse-theorists” (others might say “doomers”), who dare to describe the future of energy descent, the massive crises of the economy, climate and peak oil. All of the material we read in the book group is difficult. Jokes are made about who we are sending our therapy bills to each month as we gather. Something about Greer proved extra-challenging, and although we all liked the book as much or more than anything else we have read, it brought up the unique grief of contemplating a grim future.

Though gentler, and more rational than many writers of his genre, Greer has a knack for formulating the truth in ways that are hard to dispute.

Gene Logsdon: Stay Home And Make Some Real Money

Walt Curlee Art

The Contrary Farmer

Far be it from me to criticize the American way and it wouldn’t change if I did. But it seems to me that another way of looking at life needs to be presented occasionally. Those of us who choose to live the home-centered garden and farming way have some built in advantages when it comes to profits and losses.

If time is money, I’ve lost thousands of dollars waiting for traffic lights to change or traffic jams to clear up or planes to get back on schedule. The fuel and blood pressure burned up in the process could cost me a whole lot more than four dollar gas. On trips, if you don’t pack some food, a meal on the road is going to average out at about eight dollars a head. If you stay at a motel, deduct another bunch of bucks. But the bedbugs are free. All this is what you get for the thrill of staring at the scenic sides of huge semi-trucks as you roar down the highway always three feet and three seconds away from death.

Our Participation Fuels Financial Tyranny

Mendocino County

Our debt and transactional consumerism fuels the tyranny which oppresses us.

The basic dynamic is profound: the political and financial tyranny of Wall Street and the “too big to fail” banks is fueled by our own participation. “Reformers” both within the Central State and outside its halls of delirium-inducing power, keep hoping that some tweaking of policy or regulations will relax the grip of Wall Street and the big banks on the nation’s throat.

They are willfully blind to the obvious: that with enough money, any rule can be bent or evaded. Just look at the thousands of pages of tax codes which are supposed to impose “fair and equal” taxation on the citizenry. Yet the Power Elites pay less than half (around 18%) of what self-employed entrepreneurs pay (a basic rate of over 40%–15% self-employment tax and 25% Federal tax). For example, Hedge funders pay a mere 15% on their $100 million earnings because they bought a law in Congress which declares their earnings,

What is a Transition Enterprise?


Fiona Ward of Transition Network’s REconomy project has written the following to try and answer the question “what would a social enterprise founded on Transition principles be like?  This posted is intended to stimulate discussion, so do comment below.  Over to Fiona…

Why do we need this definition?

This document defines what is meant by a Transition Enterprise (TE). This definition is useful to the Transition Network because it helps us clarify:

  1. The kind of trading enterprises we would most like to see, as they best support the wider aims of Transition, and
  2. Where we should first direct our limited resources (e.g. via the REconomy project).

Other types of commercial enterprises can also help meet the aims of Transition. In fact, we need a wide range of business models in each local economy to provide the diversity that helps build resilience, including

A Brief History of Attacks on Social Security

social-security-200From TED MARMOR
New Deal 2.0

As Obama’s Fiscal Commission prepares for its June 30 hearing, New Deal 2.0 invited leading thinkers to participate in our Social Security’s Fiscal Fitness series, which examines the soundness of the program, its relationship to the federal deficit, and the vital role it plays in America’s economic future.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform set up by President Obama claims both that reducing the projected federal deficit should be a major national objective and that Social Security should be considered as one potential source of relief either through reducing benefits or enhancing revenues or some of both. That much is simply a fact.

But this commentary is about ideology. It is to remind readers that the same attacks on Social Security have been going on — in different guises — for at least four decades. The stagflation of the 1970s, precipitated by the oil crisis of 1973-74, provided long-term, ideological critics of social insurance an opportunity

Rosalind Peterson: Take Action! Social Security Alert!

Redwood Valley

There are currently seventeen [8], bills pending in either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate that are related to changes in Social Security [1-2].  This staggering number of Social Security bills, now being considered in various committees, where amendments will be added or the bills changed, shows how determined many elected officials are in either privatizing or killing two of the most beneficial programs to protect the public ever created (with the exception of the U.S. EPA and our Clear Air and Water Act Laws).

President Obama and members of the U.S. House and Senate have placed Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block in ongoing debt ceiling negotiations.  In these secret negotiations, far away from public enlightenment or debate, deals are being cooked-up to undermine, cut or privatize these important and highly beneficial programs.

The income cap, for example, in Social Security should be increased so that the rich pay their fair tax share of these costs.  Instead more payroll tax holidays are planned allowing the rich to escalate their riches by paying less in taxes.

Is the Dramatic Increase in West Coast Baby Deaths a Result of Fukushima Fallout?

A 35% Spike in Infant Mortality in Northwest Cities Since Meltdown


U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate… The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 – 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011  – 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000

The Real Cost of Private Insurance vs. Medicare

From digby

And Medicare takes care of the very sickest people in our country.


If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If private insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper.

It’s a mystery why anyone claims that shifting more people into private insurance is a good idea. Actually, no, it isn’t a mystery; it’s an outrage.

Imagine if people over 50 had been allowed to buy into Medicare as was proposed during the Health Care debate. They would have been paying into the system as they already are and also paying for their current insurance. And they would have been getting their care from the less costly system at a time when they are starting to have health problems.

In fact, imagine if everyone were in the less costly system.

The Mood at Culture Jammer HQ

From AdBusters

Alright, you 90 thousand jammers, anarchists, politicos, rabble rousers and do gooders on the other side of this screen, here’s the mood at Culture Jammers HQ right now:

The global situation is deteriorating faster and faster … instabilities, disruptions and singularities are emerging not just in our ecological and financial systems, but now, as the depression epidemic spreads worldwide, in our psychological systems as well. We are racing towards nightfall, a second great dark age.

Apocalyptic foreboding hangs over us, yet on the personal/activist front we feel guardedly optimistic watching the insurrectionaries in Spain, Greece and throughout the Arab world. Intellectually we feel alive like never before. Radical change and potent new ways of strategic thinking are cropping up everywhere. One of the most exciting tracts we’ve come across in awhile is Saul Newman’s The Politics of Postanarchism. Some of it is a bit academic, but he’s got a few killer ideas that just may offer a new paradigm for action. In one inspiring passage he writes:

“The liberal idea