The chance of a lifetime…


[Progressives, social activists, and social entrepreneurs, please take note… DS]

A friend asked me the other day, “…given the sorry state of so much in the world, what’s possible to look forward to?”

The state isn’t sorry. It’s wide open.

Interest rates are super low, violence is close to an all time low, industries are being remade and there’s more leverage for the insurgent outsider than ever before in history.

The status quo is taking a beating, there’s no question about it. That’s what makes it a revolution.

I said this nine years ago and I stand by it. In the years since I wrote this essay, people have started social movements, built billion dollar companies, toppled dictators, found new jobs, learned new skills and generally made a ruckus.


Hindsight is 20/20. People are already looking back on the 1990s and wishing that they had had more courage. When you look back on the 2000s, what will you have to say for yourself? [The following is reprinted from 9 years ago].

Here’s a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, “I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing.” Because that’s what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

Occupy protesters continue full steam ahead, planning a more focused force…


Protesters nationwide link up through large-scale conference calls and plan what’s next…

Local occupations around the country are linking up through frequent, massive conference calls, tightening what is now an extremely loose national network that operates under the Occupy banner into a more focused force.

The effort, now known as InterOccupy, started out of Occupy Wall Street in New York in mid-October. It has since grown into an elaborate website with multiple weekly phone calls during which occupiers trade ideas, coordinate multistate actions, and plan for the future. Participants at about 150 occupations around the country (and a few internationally) have now participated in the calls, organizers tell me.

“The [weekly] national calls have brought people together, including people who are otherwise isolated in their own occupations,” says Nate Kleinman, an Occupy Philly participant and InterOccupy organizer. “There’s usually a strong particular culture at individual occupations. It’s immensely valuable to have a place once a week where people come together from across the country and share ideas and their hopes for what the movement can accomplish.”

Sometimes that has meant planning specific coordinated actions.

On Dec. 12, Occupy protesters on the West Coast held a day to “shut down Wall Street on the waterfront,” resulting in the partial closure of several ports. In the two weeks before the protests, there were six InterOccupy conference calls in which representatives from 25 occupations planned the day of action, according to Joan Donovan, an InterOccupy organizer and Occupy Los Angeles participant. Those calls covered everything from coordination of the timing of protests up and down the coast to lessons learned from Oakland organizers from a previous port demonstration to strategies to minimize arrests, she said.

Here are 10 reasons why organized Labor Unions are going to win…

Common Dreams

Yes, congressional Democrats and President Obama have been major disappointments, and yes, the forces arrayed against organized labor have done considerable damage.  But despite the damage, despite the hype generated by Fox News, and the self-serving propaganda disseminated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the anti-labor crowd has run out of steam.  They’ve lost their momentum. Here are 10 reasons why organized labor will prevail.

  1. Ideology.  The dynamic that exists between management and labor hasn’t changed since the Industrial Revolution.  Despite those catchy slogans about “synergy” and “team-building,” people who earn a wage and people who pay a wage don’t necessarily want the same thing. They want different things, divergent things.  One wants a larger slice of the pie for themselves and their families, the other wants to keep the whole pie.  Hence, workers collectives.
  2. Numbers.  Despite the hand-wringing over declining union rolls, there are still (as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) 14.7 million union members in the country.  That’s twice the population of Israel.  On November 15, 1969, when an estimated 500,000 people participated in an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., it was billed as an historical turnout.  Think what 14 million could do if mobilized.
  3. Citizens.  Those “heroic” workers in the community—cops, firemen and nurses—are going to step up to the plate and remind the public that unions aren’t the horrible monsters the Koch brothers and Mitch McConnell wing of the Republican Party make them out to be.  They’re our neighbors, our friends, our benefactors.  Demonizing the firefighters and nurses is a tactic that’s guaranteed to backfire.
  4. Exposure.  The drive to privatize public schools will fail. In fact, those grandiose promises about how brilliantly for-profit charter schools

Amazing Eagle Owl video…

Amazing hi-res slow-motion video of Eagle owl landing at 1000 frames per second towards a camera. Thanks to Dave Pollard.

Folks, this ain’t normal… we’ve been snookered…


Joel Salatin is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Self-described as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer,” you’re probably more familiar with him as the “beyond organic” owner of Polyface Farm featured in Michael Pollan’s landmark book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc.

I sat down with Joel recently to talk about his latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. On the outside, Joel does not appear abnormal in the least. He was well dressed, well spoken, extremely polite and fiercely intelligent—a gentleman in every way. But once you get him talking you quickly see that his ideas make him an anomaly in modern society, not because they are far-fetched, but because they come from so many different sides of the political and societal spectrums. People are rarely this thoughtful

2012: The year to stop playing nice…

Appetite For Profit

Given all the defeats and set-backs this year due to powerful food industry lobbying, the good food movement should by now be collectively shouting: I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

If you feel that way, I have two words of advice: get political.

I don’t mean to ignore the very real successes: increases in farmers markets, innovative and inspiring programs such as Food Corps, and an increasingly diverse food justice movement, just to name a few. But lately, at least when it comes to kids and junk food, we’ve been getting our butts kicked

Original article here

We are family farmers, we grow food for the people, we stand with Occupy Wall Street…

Thanks to Peggy Backup

The story of the historic Occupy Wall Street Farmers March.

On December 4, 2011, farmers and activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for “a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food.” The Farmers March began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers addressed an excited crowd about the growing problems in our industrial food system and the promise offered by solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based food and agricultural production. This was followed by a 3 mile march from the East Village to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I see mankind as a herd of cattle…


I see mankind as a herd of cattle inside a fenced enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures ans plenty for the cattle to eat, while inside the fence there is not quite grass enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are tramping underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence.

I saw the owner of the herd come to them, and when he saw their pitiful condition he was filled with compassion for them and thought of all he could do to improve their condition.

So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. And that they called Charity.

Then, because the the calves were dying off and not growing up into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a pint of milk every morning for breakfast.

Because they were dying off in the cold nights, he put up beautiful well-drained and well-ventilated cowsheds for the cattle.

Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence, he put corks on the horns of the cattle, so that the wounds they gave each other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over 70 years of age.

In fact, he did everything he could think of to improve the condition of the cattle, and when I asked him why he did not do the one obvious thing, break down the fence, and let the cattle out, he answered: “If I let the cattle out, I should no longer be able to milk them”.

Well worth reading the week before every new year…


David Foster Wallace — Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think”. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college

Seeds are a source of wonder…

Photos by Dave Smith

Many seeds are so small that their beautiful features escape us. Many others, although large enough to see easily, are such common, everyday objects that we do not really see them. They are, however, worth our careful observation.

The first and most obvious beauty in most true seeds is in the perfection of their simple forms. Their outlines or silhouettes exhibit endless variations in the curve of beauty. In their entirety, too, we find wide ranges of proportion and different graceful and simple masses that are pleasing to look upon.

The sphere is a thing of beauty in itself, although quite unadorned. Artists have tried to produce nonspherical “abstract” forms that possess such grace and proportion as to call forth a satisfying emotional or intellectual response in the beholder. Some of the nicest of such forms lie all about us, unnoticed, in seeds. The commonest are such basic forms as the sphere, the teardrop, and the ovoid and other variations of the spheroid.

As Economic Growth Fails, How Then Do We Live?

Energy Economy Online
Part II: Out With The Old

There is a growing consensus the world economy is in a lot more trouble than politicians and media talking heads are letting on.  The four major headwinds to growth were covered in Part I of these three articles, and there dubbed “The Four Horsemen of the Economic Apocalype”:

1.  Too Much Debt
2.  Resource Limits
3.  Destruction and Decay of Infrastructure
4.  Greed

That article was a brief summary of the extreme challenges we now face.  These next two articles are an attempt to move beyond this understanding of what has gone wrong, to develop a sense of what we can do now, as individuals and as a society.

We cannot “set things right” in the sense of restoring things to the way they once were, but we must begin now to adapt to the new realities if we are to reduce suffering and continue an advanced culture.  Today’s article, “Out With the Old”, will discuss the end to seven unsustainable practices.  In the next and final article in this series, “In With the New” will discuss new ways of living we can adopt as economic growth fails.

Out With The Old — Seven Outcomes as Economic Growth Fails:

Before we allow our society to sink into a chaos of devastation and deprivation, there are many wasteful, or otherwise doomed, practices that will end.  The “Out With the Old” list is not a proposed agenda for politicians to adopt.  They are too committed to the existing order to voluntarily make these changes.  Rather, the end of these practices will come (and much of this is already happening) as pragmatic realities sink in.  They are unsustainable Dead Ends, so they will not be sustained:

1.  If You Can’t Pay the Debt — Don’t! Debt that cannot be repaid, won’t be repaid. This is hard for conscientious borrowers to accept, but reality takes hold.For those borrowers who wish to avoid default, “not paying the debt” may mean not paying it all oneself, but instead sharing the load. There will be a wave of down-sizing, as the cavernous spaces of McMansions are split into more affordable sized living spaces, through multiple-generation households

10 Winning Moments for the 99% in 2011


2011 will be remembered as the year the world woke up and began to fight back against a tiny minority that had held on to control—of money, of political power—for far too long.

Time Magazine named “The Protester” its person of the year, but the story is much deeper than that. Here in the US, the year began with despondency—a new class of Tea Party-supported legislators and governors were taking office around the country, and taking immediate steps to impose their anti-worker austerity agenda.

But the austerity class met resistance—first in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker moved to take away workers’ right to collective bargaining. The people in Wisconsin responded by occupying their Capitol building, kicking off a movement which spread through Ohio and Indiana, then seemed to subside before erupting in the fall with Occupy Wall Street.

But throughout the year, organizers were working around the country, fighting the power of Wall Street, big business, and the right-wing governors who do their bidding. We asked ten of them to talk about the moments that stood out for them this year, the moments that gave them hope. Some are moments you’ve heard of, some might have slipped past you. But all of them were signs of long-overdue change.

1. Melissa Ryan, New Media Director at New Organizing Institute – Wisconsin Leads the Fight Back

“For Wisconsin I think the big moment was when the 14 Democratic State Senators left the state [to avoid a vote on Walker’s collective bargaining bill]. I really think that’s what triggered the energy around the recall of the Senators, really triggered the energy around the recall of Walker. It changed from people taking to the streets because they didn’t know what to do to really having the energy to change something.

Creating an Ecology of Hope


Mark Karlin: At a time when there is such gloom about our global warming and pollution crisis, why are you optimistic about unleashing the capacity of the “EcoMind”?

Frances Moore Lappé: Mark, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am a dyed-in-the-wool possibilist! By this, I mean with an eco-mind, we see that everything’s connected and change is the only constant. From there, something shifts for me. I can see that we’re all actually co-creating our future moment to moment – which feels like endless possibility. One of my Buddhist buddies distrusts the idea of “hope” because it can distract from the present moment. I get that. But for me hope isn’t wishful thinking or blind faith about the future. It’s a stance toward life – one of curiosity and humility. With an eco-mind, we get ready for surprises, for we realize it’s just not possible to know what’s possible. How freeing. That’s the hope I hope “EcoMind” helps to unleash in the world.

Mark Karlin: You have a section in your first chapter: “So why are we moving backward?” Can you summarize that? Aren’t mobilizations such as the one taken against the Keystone XL Pipeline moving forward?

Frances Moore Lappé: When I say “backward,” I am talking about global trend lines of ecological disruption and human suffering. Yes, there are many positive mobilizations, but what’s been pushing me along all these years is the big “why”: why are we together creating this downward spin, a world that, individually, not one of us would ever choose? Gradually, I came to see there’s only one thing powerful enough to explain it: the power of ideas.

We see the world through a “mental map” – our core assumptions about how the world works. If our mental map is life serving, we’re fine, but I argue in “EcoMind” that, unfortunately, the prevailing mental map is not just badly, but perversely, aligned both with human nature and wider nature. So, it brings out the worst instead of the best in humans

Happy Christmas!


Society of Friends Meeting House

The Morning News

Most of what is truly historic in New York has been pushed to the margins of the city. As the city grew outward from Manhattan, the modern world (of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries) covered or dismantled the foundations laid by New York’s earliest European inhabitants.

My trips to view historic sites, then, have taken me deep into Staten Island, just north of the Bronx, and this past weekend to Flushing in northeasternmost Queens, where the Quakers’ original Meeting House stands today.

I called to confirm the house would be open and tours would be available. I certainly didn’t want to schlep all the way there only to find the house locked and empty. The woman on the other end of the line assured me the house would be open for services and tours would be available starting at noon. I asked her when the service began, and she told me 11, then asked if I’d ever been to a Quaker service before. No, I hadn’t. She explained that Quaker services are “silent”—there is no program, no predetermined speakers, but should any participant feel the spirit, they speak. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but I figured I’d learn soon enough.

Unlike my previous visits to historic sites, I didn’t invite anyone to accompany me to the Friends Meeting House. I guess I’m just not comfortable asking my friends to go to church with me. This wouldn’t be a bunch of re-enactors playing dress-up, after all. At the Meeting House we would only find real people genuinely enacting their faith. I figured that I should show at least some respect, especially since I was going into their house of worship, and I’d be more inclined to laugh at things if I brought someone.

I took the 7 train to Flushing, the last stop on the line. I curiously noted that I was pretty much the only white guy in the whole crowd at the station. Once topside I noticed that, much like Chinatown on the Lower East Side

Todd Walton: Occupy Christmas


Two mornings before Christmas on a brilliantly sunny day in Sacramento, Max wakes to his phone ringing and smiles in honor of his wife Celia who was always the one to answer the phone when she was alive.

“Ahlo,” he says, enjoying how deliciously warm he feels under his pile of blankets.

“Daddy?” says Carla, 54, Max’s only child. “Did I wake you?”

“A lucky thing,” he says, sighing contentedly. “Today’s the day we go cut the tree.”

“Why not wait for us?” she asks with little enthusiasm. “Save your back.”

“I’m going with the Riveras,” he says, happy to think of Juan riding up front with him while Rosa and Hermedia and the kids enjoy the spacious backseat. “Placerville, here we come.”

“Listen, Daddy, about tomorrow. We’ll just get a cab from the airport. Save you a trip in that horrible traffic.”

“But I like picking you up,” he says, disappointed. “The weather is gorgeous, and we can take the river road. Dylan loves riding in the Rolls with the top down.”

“Well, but … Daddy, I don’t think that would be such a good idea. Not this year.”

Max frowns. “Why not this year? Could be raining next year.”

“Well …” she sighs. “Dylan is quite caught up in the whole Occupy Wall Street thing, and …”

“So now he doesn’t want to ride in his grandfather’s Rolls Royce?” Max chuckles. “I hope you assured him I am not among the evil 1 percent, but well-entrenched among the blessed 99.”

“Daddy, it’s … he’s 18 and he’s in college now, and …”

“What about my mansion in the Fab Forties?” asks Max, gazing out his window at the bright blue sky. “Are you two gonna stay in a motel and meet me for meals at Denny’s?”

“Daddy, don’t. Dylan knows you and Mommy bought the house long before the bankers took over the country. And the Rolls … it’s just what that represents now.”

“Whatever you say, sweetie,” says Max, closing his eyes. “I’ll see you when you get here.”

Max is proud of his old car, a mahogany brown 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud he rescued from the wrecking yard in 1997, the year he retired from the U.S. Postal Service. Max is 78, a widower

The Homeless Garden Project — Santa Cruz

[Homeless people die 30 years younger than the national average… -DS]

The Homeless Garden Project provides job training and transitional employment to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The programs offer trainees an opportunity to rebuild and develop basic life skills and a sense of worth as human beings.

Our Mission:

  • Bring Together people from throughout the community in the beauty and security of our certified organic garden.
  • Practice and Teach principles of economic and ecological sustainability through classes and hands-on experience.
  • Provide homeless men and women job training and transitional employment.

Trainees in the program:

  • Take advantage of transitional employment in the safety of a structured environment
  • Learn basic life skills required for employment
  • Learn a variety of other marketable skills
  • Share four hot meals a week with staff, other trainees and volunteers
  • Give to the community by growing food for other programs that serve homeless and needy populations
  • Grow organic fruit, vegetables and flowers for the SC community through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program
  • Educate students and other groups who use the garden
  • Create value-added products from farm grown materials which are sold at the Women’s Organic Flower Enterprise Store

Who we serve

The program serves and depends on a community volunteers, interns, customers, and trainees who form strong bonds through the work. This “strengthened” community breaks down the profound sense of isolation experienced by many homeless people. Together, the extended work towards common goals that impact individuals as well as other local agencies and services.

Meet the people who benefit from the Homeless Garden Project …

Why We Do It

Homelessness and joblessness go hand in hand. Lack of job skills, recent work history, social support network and low self esteem all make the transition out of homelessness more difficult. The integrated approach of the Homeless Garden Project’s programs addresses all of these needs. More…


In May of 1990, the Citizens Committee for the Homeless, a Santa Cruz County non-profit, began a new project by opening the gates of an organic garden on Pelton Avenue. The Homeless Garden Project would provide job-training and meaningful work in a therapeutic environment. The Project began as a place to provide sanctuary, refuge and meaningful work within the healing environment of the organic farm. More…

Jim Houle: Something’s Rotten in the White House

Redwood Valley

Oh how easily we are all deceived:

Iraqi Smoking Guns and Mushroom Clouds; The Libyan rebels are all Freedom Fighters;

The Lands of Judea and Samaria (commonly called Palestine) belong to the Jewish people forever;

Iran is well advanced in building a nuclear bomb to wipe out Israel;

Good King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sends a thousand tanks across the causeway to help little Bahraini King Hamid al Khalifa suppress democracy on a small island where the 70% Shi’ites are ruled by Sunnis royals who control most of the wealth; (Hillary Clinton wrings her hand noiselessly but makes no protest).

Pfc. Bradley Manning goes on trial for releasing confidential (not Top Secret) State Department cables that the government initially dismissed as well-known and not news.

Something is Rotten in Libya: Forty-eight hours after Hillary Clinton lands in Tripoli and calls for “Gadhafi to be captured or killed as soon as possible”, he is captured, and brutally assassinated by the TNC. (Ruppee News 11-13-11). TNC is the Transitional National Council we stacked with ex-CIA operatives, a few al-Qaeda types, MI 5s from Whitehall, and assorted bag men. NATO was authorized by the UN (Resolution 1973, 3-17-11) to impose a “No Fly Zone” so as to protect civilians being threatened by Gadhafi in Benghazi and to immobilize Gadhafi’s air defenses. The US and its allies subsequently hit 5900 targets in 9700 sorties and left much of the country in ruins.(NYTimes survey 12-18-11). NATO and the UN admit scores of unarmed casualties but won’t come up with a death toll. This demolition derby took a mere 240 days. By comparison, Qadhafi had worked for 40 years to increase oil revenues to far better than other countries enjoyed and to share this wealth with the people. Individual income rose from $34 per year to $34,000 and the people have the best medical care and lowest infant mortality rates in all of Africa. The UN Human Rights Council commended Libya in its 2010 report for its remarkable progress. When confronted with grisly videos of Myomar Gadhafi’s death, our own Hillary Rodham Clinton giggled “We came, we saw, he died.”(Christian Amanpour, ABC and Franklin Lamb of RT). The TNC ‘democratic rebels’ as we like to call them, after having assured Gadhafi’s convoy of safe passage, then called in

Todd Walton: Zorba & Kurt & Hermann


“As you walk, you cut open and create that riverbed into which the stream of your descendants shall enter and flow.” Nikos Kazantzakis

In 1965, when I was sixteen and deeply unhappy, I went to the Guild Theater in Menlo Park, California to see the movie Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Lila Kedrova, and the not-yet-widely-known Alan Bates. I knew little about the film and nothing about the novel the film was based on. I went because I loved Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia and because I preferred foreign films to American movies. And the moment that fabulous Greek music began to play and those gorgeous black and white images took hold of the big screen, I was shocked out of my psychic lethargy into a whole new state of awareness.

The next day I went to Kepler’s Books, just around the corner from the Guild Theater, and bought a copy of Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. I devoured that novel three times in the next four days and then went to see the movie again. Thereafter, in quick order, I bought and read every Nikos Kazantzakis book published in Englishsave for The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, an eight-hundred-page epic poem that took me two years to read. I consumed a page every day, reading each line twice so I would not skim, and when I finished that monumental tome in the summer following my second year of college, I gazed up at the depthless sky and recited the last line aloud—today I have seen my loved one vanish like a dwindling thought—and decided to quit school and wander, as Van Morrison sang, into the mystic.

Not having seen Zorba the Greek in twenty years, Marcia and I watched the film a few nights ago, and I was surprised to find I no longer resonated with the male characters, but identified entirely with the woman portrayed by Irene Papas, a defiant widow forced to subsume her strength and intelligence in deference to a society controlled by violent and emotionally vapid men.

At sixteen, I strongly identified with the Bates character, a bookish fellow longing to experience a more sensual

Will Parrish: Is Premier Pacific Vineyards Dead?


Some of the wealthiest and best-connected land speculators in the western hemisphere came together for a conference two months ago in Miami, from October 19-21, to discuss their accelerating feeding frenzy, more like a hoarding frenzy. Land speculation booms throughout much of the world, even with the torpid state of the global economy, which seems frequently on the verge of an even worse downturn. Persian Gulf states are working out land deals in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe; China is buying up large tracts throughout Africa; and 33 million hectares of the Amazon have been licensed to petroleum companies.

In 1976, economist Susan George noted that only .23 percent of landowners own more than half of all the world’s land (never mind those who own no land at all), a trend that has likely only worsened in the interceding 35 years.

“The Agriculture Investment Summit Americas is a three-day senior-level conference for US, Canadian, and Latin American investors to access global agribusiness and farmland opportunities,” the conference web site reads. The confab was designed as an opportunity not only to gain advice, but as a place to “benefit from intensive networking opportunities” with, for example, potential investors.

One of the featured speakers in this gathering of the global “.23 percent” was Richard Wollack, co-chairman of Premier Pacific Vineyards (PPV) based in Napa. He was the only Northern California resident on the program. Few people in our region understand land speculation as Wollack does.

Premier Pacific, which Wollack operates 50-50 with long-time vineyard developer William Hill, claims to own the largest vineyard portfolio in the country with acreage in Washington and Oregon, and holdings running up California’s coastal zones from Santa Barbara to a massive 30-square-mile (20,000 acre) slice of the Gualala River watershed on the Sonoma-Mendocino border — a project known euphemistically as “Preservation Ranch.” The company owns three large vineyard estates in Anderson Valley, including the parcel of the so-called “Big Dig,” a notorious large pond off Anderson Valley Way.

PPV’s largest project

Can you take on consumerism without being a Scrooge?

YES! Magazine

I signed on to my email this morning, and there, at the top of the list, was a very sensitive, careful email from my Aunt Katie. She was broaching the ever-touchy subject of Christmas presents for my daughters, Saoirse and Ula. What is acceptable this year? USA-made? Eco-friendly? We will be allowing gifts, yes? And, can we please make some time to talk about the holiday menu and what foods will be allowed?

Here’s the bitter truth. I’m my family’s biggest pain the ass every Christmas. Most radical homemakers probably are. We want to honor the earth and her inhabitants at all times, to create quiet time for reflection, to encourage generosity in our children (as opposed to the greed of gift-receiving). And, more likely than not, we adhere to dreadfully annoying dietary regimes that render our relatives insane: gluten-free, local foods only, no refined sugars, vegetarian fare, no processed foods, only organic and grassfed meats, dairy-free—the list is endless and (admittedly) ever-changing. We’re sick of the consumerism, we’re sick of feeling sick after all the crappy food, we’re sick of being pushed around with our kids in an endless stream of command visits and activities, we’re sick of the over-stimulation wrought by endless, ecologically rapacious, quickly- broken toys.

Since we embarked on our path 12 years ago, every Christmas has been different as we’ve experimented with new ideas for traditions. From the time Bob and I entered onto our radical homemaking path, Christmas has been a touchy subject. The worst Christmas ever ended, 7 years ago, with my mother standing six inches from my face screaming “SCROOGE” at the top of her lungs while tears of frustration poured down her face. I held baby Saoirse close to my body in an effort to protect her from the toxicity of an American holiday. The best Christmas was last year, when Bob and I woke up with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve, and my extended family whisked Saoirse and Ula away from our tree-side, eco-friendly vomitorium to have a holiday while we barfed in peace and watched foreign movies.

This year, we’re changing things. Again. We’re ambushing relatives well in advance with pre-approved, inexpensive gift suggestions for the girls; we’re advocating for all away-from-home holiday meals to be potlucks so that our quirky food choices won’t interfere with other friends and relatives’ celebrations. We’re paring back our schedule so that we are not out of the house more than once or twice per week over the season. We’ve hand-made candles with the kids from our beef tallow and beeswax

What’s Next? Joanna Macy, Protest, New Structures, Personal Change & Occupy


— a working paper —

Joanna Macy, a scholar, Buddhist, writer and activist, has written about the three necessary ingredients for a “great turning.” She says that there needs to be the “protest” part which includes resistance, blocking and refusal (see below for comments on the OWS movement). The next one needs to have the “new structures,” those new organizations and businesses that reflect what we really need and desire in a socially just and sustainable foundation, what truly sustains us and what we ought to be supporting. Third category, she writes about, is the need for “personal consciousness change.” And more importantly she says that these three categories are non-hierarchical, which can be problematic if one is totally enmeshed in one arena and not that concerned about the other two.

I have been using this framework to guage what is going on and what is possibly next, and giving us a sense of answering/exploring what is happening out there and inside here so that exploration of ideas can instill some excellent conversations and inner spaces… where people can meet and engage in debate and explore together since often times the new ideas often emerge during coffee discussions or at various workshops as in the relatively recent Occupy Wall Street workgroups.

And one element that I like to add here is the strange proclivity that us humans seem to have which declares that our specific answers, our solutions are the only ones worth listening to. Whether you have it or not is not in question since this paper is basically a working paper exploring these ideas and to see how relevant these are regarding the curious question of “what is next?”

However, I will spill the beans now so we can see earlier on where I’m going with this. Since these categories are non-hierarchical, let’s assume that all three categories are very important and that each needs to go deeper and they all need to talk with each other. Very plain and very simple!

Let’s take the number two category “new structures” as a beginning point. Since food seems to be the top priority of many new structure type organizations we can see this easily in terms of community gardens, new young farmers, CSA’s and the investing in the infrastructure of such new structures. There are many green businesses

Gene Logsdon: Any “Tidings of Great Joy” This Sad Christmas?

The Contrary Farmer

Yes. I was reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer the other day when I came across the most intriguing photograph. It was of a dark-skinned woman in colorful clothing with a huge basket of fresh vegetables balanced on her head. Behind her was a large, immaculately neat and verdant garden. Probably someplace in Africa, I thought, but why on the front page of an American newspaper? Then I did a double-take. The caption under the picture said the locale was near downtown Cleveland, and the woman in the picture was a Clevelander from Burundi, Veronika Inabigo, who works with the Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program. REAP helps refugees adjust to new communities. These refugees were doing what they did in their homeland, that is raise their own food. Their example was helping native Clevelanders understand that they too can gain food independence, even in the city.

I think this is good news, good tidings of great joy this Christmas. All over our cities, vacant lots and deteriorating residential areas are being returned to food production and verdant landscapes. There are the naysayers who worry that some of this soil might be tainted with too much lead or other contaminants, but tests can easily find that out. Although it is rarely pointed out, much of this soil is fairly pristine, not ever having been farmed and not even disturbed except right around cellar excavations. Much of this land went from forest to city with little disturbance except for lawns and landscaping.

When in Cleveland recently, we drove to one of the new “food hubs” that are being established (Community Greenhouse Partners) around old closed churches and in ghetto ruins. Not much is going on there yet, but looking at the lay of the land around the empty church and crumbling parsonage, a gardener’s fingers just itch to get in there and rehabilitate the surroundings. The old church has lots of room for various kinds of food processing and storage too. The forlorn landscape of weeds, abandoned houses, and crumbling fences around it indicates land that has just been abandoned, not abused like the eroded soil of old farmed out fields.

Food hubs are happening in inner cities all over and we ramparts people should rejoice. Our domain is not only out in the country on the fringes of industrial agribusiness but also in the cities on the fringes of industrial degradation such as you can see in Detroit. Parts of Detroit look almost as bad as bombed out Dresden in World War II. But Detroit is one of the places where gardens and a real farm are being established in the inner city desolation.

2011: The Last (Debt-Consumerist) Christmas in America

of two minds . com

The end of debt-based affluence: welcome to The Last Christmas in America (TLCIA).

Almost 35 years ago, as unemployment rose toward 10%, the January 1975 cover of Ramparts magazine blared: The End of Affluence: The Last Christmas in America.(TLCIA)

The article wasn’t referring to the religious celebration; it was referring to the postwar concept of Christmas as the frenzied, exhausting year-end pinnacle of our one true secular faith, Consumption, a final orgy of buying and binging.

It is instructive to recall how the Federal government responded to unemployment, high inflation and rising budget deficits in the early 1970s: it began fudging numbers, manipulating data to mask the politically inconvenient realities of rising inflation, unemployment and deficits by playing switcheroo with Social Security Trust Funds, inflation data, etc.–games it continues to play in 2011 to cloak reality from the media-numbed public.

The market was not so easily fooled. The Bear market, reflecting the “real” recession, lasted 16 years, from 1967 to 1982. Now statistics are echoing that last great recession: rising prices for essentials, systemically high unemployment and stagnant wages while the corporate media and the organs of statistical manipulation (a.k.a. the sprawling, putrid public-private cesspool of the Ministry of Propaganda) trumpet “the return of growth” and skyrocketing corporate profits.

(Today’s propaganda: housing starts blip up due to statistical noise, and though starts are less than half pre-recession levels, this is heralded as “evidence” that “strong growth is back.”)

The difference between the postwar boom of 1946 and the boom that followed 1982 is the last boom was based on the explosive expansion of debt. People didn’t save and invest in productive assets; they went into debt to consume more and to become a “bigger” persona via the miracle of credit.

I often use this chart to make this point: if credit had expanded along with GDP, then we’d be considerably less indebted. Instead, it required a vast expansion of debt–some $30 trillion more than the rise in GDP–to fuel the 1982-2000 boom…

Complete article with charts here

Dear Jamie Dimon…

The Reformed Broker

Dear Jamie Dimon,

I hope this note finds you well.

I am writing to profess my utter disbelief at how little you seem to understand the current mood of the nation.  In a story at Bloomberg today, you and a handful of fellow banker and billionaire “job creators” were quoted as believing that the horrific sentiment directed toward you from virtually all corners of America had something to do with how much money you had.  I’d like to take a moment to disabuse you of this foolishness.

America is different than almost every other place on earth in that its citizenry reveres the wealthy and we are raised to believe that we can all one day join the ranks of the rich.  The lack of a caste system or visible rungs of society’s ladder is what separates our empire from so many fallen empires throughout history.  In a nation bereft of royalty by virtue of its republican birth, the American people have done what any other resourceful people would do – we’ve created our own royalty and our royalty is the 1%.  Not only do we not “hate the rich” as you and other em-bubbled plutocrats have postulated, in point of fact, we love them.  We worship our rich to the point of obsession.  The highest-rated television shows uniformly feature the unimaginably fabulous families of celebrities not to mention the housewives (real or otherwise) of the rich.  We don’t care what color they are or what religion they practice or where in the country they live or what channel their show is on – if they’re rich, we are watching.

When Derek Jeter was toyed with by the New York Yankees when it came time for him to renew his next hundred million dollar contract, the people empathized with Derek Jeter.  Sure, this disagreement essentially took place between one of the wealthiest organizations in the country and one of the wealthiest private citizens – but we rooted for Jeter to get his money.  Nobody begrudged him a penny of it or wanted a piece of it or decried the fact that he was luckier than the rest of us.  In the American psyche, Jeter was one of the good guys who was deservedly successful.  He was one of us and an example of hard work paying off.

Likewise, when Steve Jobs died, he did so with more money than you or any of your “job alliance” buddies – ten times more than most of you, in fact.  And upon his death the entire nation went into mourning.  We set up makeshift shrines to his brilliance in front of Apple stores from coast to coast.  His biography flew off the shelves and people bought Apple products

One seed at a time, protecting the future of food

From TED
Video here

The varieties of wheat, corn and rice we grow today may not thrive in a future threatened by climate change. Cary Fowler takes us inside a vast global seed bank, buried within a frozen mountain in Norway, that stores a diverse group of food-crop for whatever tomorrow may bring…

From a comment…

Whether or not Monsanto controls the distribution of these seeds is only more pressingly relevant when we are not considering our ability to, with time, grow our own seeds and store our own seeds.

Yes, the stability and comfort of a bank museum is profound and appropriate. However, if we participate directly in our seed and food production, we will build and adapt our seed reality to each local region (freezing is only mandatory for long term storage, as has been mentioned). Even if our participation is limited to the support of local production, through a continued financial contribution. Participation is the key.

In many cases, financially supporting the declining number of local, organic, heirloom seed farms is in-fact, most helpful. In part due to the financial difficulties of non-subsidized agriculture and likelihood we do not have the space, time, or motivation to grow ourselves.

However, it is essential to have, not everyone, but more people growing. Seeing as not any one farm can produce a sufficient supply and diversity of crops on one piece of property. Farmers must consider the isolation distance, pollination vector, proximity to gm pollen, crop failure, labor force, subsidies, so on, and so forth, of each variety. Point being, this is a community movement. A world community movement involving one of our low-common denominators as a human species. Our food.

Whether or not we choose to participate in the production of our source fuel does not eliminate our dependance on it’s consumption.

Script of talk…

I’ve been fascinated with crop diversity for about 35 years from now, ever since I stumbled across a fairly obscure academic article by a guy named Jack Harlan. And he described the diversity within crops

Love and Haight — Summer of Love


Filmed during the Summer Of Love (1967) in the Haight-Ashbury, this groovy documentary features commentary from visionary poet Michael McClure, footage of The Grateful Dead hanging out at their Ashbury Street home, a visit to The Psychedelic Bookshop, The Straight Theater, scenes from McClure’s play The Beard and rare shots of the bard of The Haight, Richard Brautigan, walking through Panhandle Park in all of his glorious splendor.

And the wingnuts go wild…

From digby

The other day I wrote about Norman Lear’s inspiring speech at the People For the American Way dinner:

Over the past several decades, the power-grabbing right has built a powerful infrastructure of radio and TV networks.

They’ve built think tanks, colleges and law schools.

And funded political groups that prepped the way for the Supreme Court, in Citizen’s United– to grant Corporations

OWS takes Trinity Church property at Duarte Plaza chanting “We are unstoppable… another world is possible…”

For weeks, Occupy Wall Street has been talking about occupying a vacant lot next to Duarte Square in SoHo. On Saturday, it walked the talk. At about 3:30 p.m, several hundred marchers left the square along with two large wooden ladders concealed beneath banners. They circled the block and converged at the lot’s northwest corner, where they hoisted one of the ladders up to a tall chain-link fence. The first person over was retired Bishop George Packard…

Date a girl who reads…

Thanks to Mori Freya

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top

The Soil is Our Liberator

Excerpted from her lecture
to the Soil Association conference,
One Planet Agriculture, England

There is increasingly reference to the Carbon Economy and I kind of shudder when carbon is addressed because carbon is what we eat also. I’d rather talk and differentiate between the fossil fuel existence of carbon and the renewable existence of carbon in embodied sunshine transformed into all the edible matter we have.

I differentiate between the fossil fuel economy of agriculture and the biodiversity economy of agriculture. One is a killing economy and one is a living economy. Interestingly the word ‘carbon’ is increasingly used as an equivalence term across the board and then everyone is being made afraid of every form of carbon, including living carbon.

If we add up the amount of fossil fuels that are going into food; take production, Pimentel has done all the calculations. We are using 10 times more calories in production of food than we get out as food. And there was a Danish study done some years ago. I remember I was at the conference where the environment minister laid out these figures. For a kilogram of food traveling around the world, it’s omitting 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide. So you are wasting a 10-fold amount in the production and then generating a 10-fold amount of carbon dioxide, all of it totally avoidable because better food is produced when you throw the chemicals out…

The part of GATT that really troubled me was something called TRIPS within it – the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement – basically an agreement forcing every country to patent life. To me it was a scandal so I went back and started to save seeds

Monsanto Squeezes Out Seed Business Competition

Certified Organic Apache Red Corn
Photo: Dave Smith

From AP

ST. LOUIS — Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices reveal how the world’s biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found.

With Monsanto’s patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts.

Declining competition in the seed business could lead to price hikes that ripple out to every family’s dinner table. That’s because the corn flakes you had for breakfast, soda you drank at lunch and beef stew you ate for dinner likely were produced from crops grown with Monsanto’s patented genes.

Monsanto’s methods are spelled out in a series of confidential commercial licensing agreements obtained by the AP. The contracts, as long as 30 pages, include basic terms for the selling of engineered crops resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, along with shorter supplementary agreements that address new Monsanto traits or other contract amendments.

President Obama Richly Deserves To Be Dumped


[Thanks to Janie Sheppard who writes: “I don’t know if I’m ready to agree with MacArthur because in a world where the bankers rule, I just can’t figure out how someone outside of the bankers’ thrall could make it in politics. Anyway, here is an essay making a strong case for someone (who?) else.” -DS] 

As evidence of a failed Obama presidency accumulates, criticism of his administration is mounting from liberal Democrats who have too much moral authority to be ignored.

Most prominent among these critics is veteran journalist Bill Moyers, whose October address to a Public Citizen gathering puts the lie to our barely Democratic president’s populist pantomime, acted out last week in a Kansas speech decrying the plight of “innocent, hardworking Americans.” In his talk, Moyers quoted an authentic Kansas populist, Mary Elizabeth Lease, who in 1890 declared, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”

A former aide to Lyndon Johnson who knows politics from the inside, Moyers then delivered the coup de grace: “[Lease] should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup, and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as fat cats, then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.”

As it happens, Moyers’s remarks anticipated the trenchant question posed in an interview by another prominent liberal

Will Parrish: Lake County To Elem Pomo: The One Percent Are Exempt


As you read these words, one of the Northern California East Bay Area’s wealthiest men is getting away with an act of cultural genocide. Construction crews employed by wireless technology magnate John Nady began trenching grading, excavating, and building atop Rattlesnake Island last week, in the latest phase of Nady’s seven-year-long effort to build two houses on the sacred grounds of the Elem Pomo tribe. Reportedly, private security guards flank the construction area in case of any attempt by the Elem and their supporters to occupy the island, as occurred during a previous developer’s attempt to build there in the early-70s.

Rattlesnake Island is a lush 56-acre expanse in Clear Lake located just outside the Highway 20 town of Clearlake Oaks. For more than 14,000 years, the Elem’s home has encompassed an area in and around southeastern Clear Lake. For more than 6,000 of those years, Rattlesnake Island has been the Elem’s cultural and religious center.

Elem Cultural Leader Jim Browneagle best summed up the significance of Nady’s project to his people in a Free Speech Radio documentary that aired on Thanksgiving. The documentary borrowed its title from a previous piece I published here in the AVA and at, “The Struggle for Rattlesnake Island.”

“If there’s a home built right there, it’s gone — the sacredness of it,” Browneagle said. “We’re going to do the best we can to prevent that. We want to preserve it as it is, without homes. It’s really the last sanctuary of our nation.”

Todd Walton: Yes, But…


“If there’s not drama and negativity in my life, all my songs will be really wack and boring or something.” Eminem

For many people, December is the most neurotic month; and Christmas marks the apogee of shame, jealousy, disappointment, and self-loathing. Indeed, most psychotherapists aver that Christmas in America might as well be called Crisismas. One can theorize endlessly about why Christmas/Hanukah (and the attendant mass gift buying) inflame the dominant neuroses of so many people, but the picture that sums it up for me is of a child surrounded by dozens of presents she has just frantically unwrapped, not one of which satisfies her craving to be loved.

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

When I embarked on my first experience of formal psychotherapy, I knew my parents had abused me, but I could not clearly elucidate the rules of behavior instilled in me by their abuse. My therapist suggested I try to write down the basic rules governing my behavior so I might gain a more objective view of how those rules impacted my life.

One of the most deeply entrenched rules I uncovered was: Nothing I do is good enough. Sound familiar? I ask because I subsequently learned that this rule runs many people’s lives. And though I doubt our parents ever came right out and said, “Nothing you do is good enough,” I know that in myriad other ways

The Perfection of Financial Tyranny


The Truth Hurts–And Heals

Confidence in a systemically corrupt financial system cannot be restored without a complete public exposure of all the lies, fraud, misinformation and complicity.

The truth has a unique sting, and an equally unique ability to heal the destruction wrought by dishonesty, fraud and lies. The truth hurts, because the daylight of truth demands changes that the self-serving and those in denial desperately wish to avoid.

But there can be no healing or reconciliation without the truth, baldly stated and plainly spoken without artifice or spin.

If we can finally be truthful with ourselves as a nation, then we must admit that our financial system is fundamentally based on lies, fraud, embezzlement, misinformation, perverse filters and incentives, shadow systems that mock transparency and regulation, class privilege and the systemic flouting of the rule of law.

This is the truth that hurts because it reveals the financial system as one stupendous exploitative fraud; but it also reveals the complicity and irrelevance of our judicial system and the complete capture of the legislative and Executive processes of governance.

There is a system of government in which rule of law is merely a propaganda screen