Dave Smith: Pursuing Happiness…

To the Editors: The AVA, UDJ, WN

Are you happy? Chances are, if you live here in the United States, you are not. Despite the enshrinement in our Declaration of Independence of the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness” as one of the sovereign rights of mankind, we are way down on the list of the happiest countries in the world. In fact, we are not even in the Top 10.

According to a study by “24-7 Wall Street” that looked into the OECD’s Better Life Index to determine what the happiest nations on the planet are, it turns out that the happy nations spend far more of their GDP on social programs than we do here in America. The study examined quality of life things such as health, education, housing, the environment, jobs, community, work life, and income to figure out what truly makes a nation happy.

Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on the list. These include the “socialist” Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, all way happier than we are down the list at number 19.

Does it surprise you that the happiest nation, Denmark, also has the highest taxes of all?

As we are continually warned and berated by the tiresome scolds in our local opinion columns and letters to the editor to fear those who hold firm on providing a basic social safety net for the least among us, we must ask ourselves what motivates such a steadfast and determined assault on our personal and community happiness.

Dave Smith

Hey Ayn Rand Worshippers: Face the Facts and STFU — Our Liberal Blue States are the Providers while Your Conservative Red States are the Parasites…


Last week, the New York Times published a widely discussed article updating an argument that progressive bloggers noticed a very long time ago. It’s now well-understood that blue states generally export money to the federal government; and red states generally import it.

TPM published a great map showing exactly how this redistribution works: (click here) Progressives believe in the redistribution of wealth, so we’re not usually too upset by this state of affairs. That’s what it means to be one country. E pluribus unum, and all that. We’re happy to help, because we think we’ve got a stake in making sure kids in rural Alabama get educations and seniors in Arizona get healthcare. What’s good for them is good for all of us. We also like to think they’d help us out if our positions were reversed. It’s an investment in making America stronger, and we feel fine about that.

Gina Covina: Planning ahead to save your seeds…

Laughing Frog Farm

[Gina’s seeds from Laughing Frog Farm now available at Mulligan Books & Seeds. -DS]

If you haven’t saved seed from your vegetable garden, here are the basics you need to know before you plant. Some planning is required – you can’t reliably save seed as an afterthought.

First, be sure you’re starting with an open-pollinated variety rather than a hybrid. All the food crops we know and love were developed by countless generations of seed savers and will breed true to type from seeds you save – that’s open-pollinated. Hybrids are first-generation crosses between varieties – F1 crosses – that result in a very uniform set of characteristics (handy for mechanical harvest and for transport and sales) and a boost in robustness that is known as hybrid vigor. Save and grow the seed from your hybrid and the result (the F2 generation) will revert to a large range of characteristics, with most plants being unsatisfactory from an eater’s perspective.

Hybrids were developed as a way for seed companies to create and hold a market

Occupy chock full of traitors, infiltrators, and provocateurs…


On the very first day of the Occupation of Wall Street, we saw infiltration by the police. We were leaving Zuccotti Park and were stopped in traffic. We saw the doors of an unmarked van open and in the front seat were two uniformed police. Out of the back came two men dressed as Occupiers wearing backpacks, sweatshirts and jeans. They walked into Zuccotti Park and became part of the crowd.

In the first week of the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., we saw the impact of two right wing infiltrators. A peaceful protest was planned at the drone exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. The plan was for a banner drop and a die-in under the drones. But as protesters arrived at the museum, two people ran out in front, threatening the security guards and causing them to pepper spray protesters and tourists. Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at the American Spectator, wrote a column bragging about his role as an agent provocateur. A few days later we uncovered the second infiltrator, Michael Stack, when he was urging people on Freedom Plaza to resist police with force. We later learned he was from the Leadership Institute, which trains youth in right wing ideology

The Ungodly Godly…

The Big Weasel’s Weblog

[…] The huge advantage to religious demagoguery is that you can use the name of the Christ Jesus to persuade people to oppose their own best interests. You have to be careful, of course, because Jesus was a socialist and anti-authoritarian besides. There was that “eye of the needle” and “the least among you” stuff that had to be glossed over, and a right wing group has been busy writing a version of the New Testament that eliminates all the touchy-feely left-wing stuff and essentially creates the impression that Jesus was a supply sider and probably wanted to keep Jews out of his country club.

Neo-cons are still in disrepute, despite the ongoing efforts to gin up a war against Iran, and the Occupy movement has made appeals to peoples’ supply-side sensitivities a limited one. People aren’t as willing to give to billionaires so they can soar like eagles as they were a few years earlier. The only thing that comes from soaring eagles is predation and eagle shit, and people who are already struggling don’t find that in their own best interests.

That leaves religious demagoguery. Which is why you have a religious nut like Rick Santorum leading the race (for now) in the GOP, and why Newt Gingrich, of all people, has been trying to exploit this by mooing religious noises of his own.

The GOP have nothing to offer

OWS: How to Create, Buy and Sell Criminals…

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), owner of the largest private prison system in the United States, recently sent a letter to 48 states offering up to $250 million to manage government-owned detention centers. The letter lists the criteria of eligible purchases, which include an assurance that state corrections agencies “have sufficient inmate population to maintain a minimum 90 percent occupancy over the term of the contract.”

This guarantee isn’t difficult to rationalize when considering it from CCA’s point of view. They are paid by the government for each prisoner they house, so they want to house as many prisoners as possible in order to maximize their revenue.

But what if there aren’t enough prisoners to fill CCA’s quota? Private prisons have faced this dilemma before, and they’ve responded by buying prisoners through legislation, government infiltration and old-fashioned bribery. And in the not too distant future, these conditions may mean that the mass arrests of Occupy protesters could become a windfall for investors.


1. Write the Laws

Transition Ukiah Valley Film Series: The Economics of Happiness at the Saturday Afternoon Club – Tonight 2/27/12 6:30 pm


Are you concerned about the future?

Communities around the world are recognizing the reality of peak oil and climate change, and are coming together to create economies that are more sustainable, resilient and socially just. This film explores the problems we are facing and how a renewal of localization can heal both the earth and ourselves.

The Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
107 S. Oak Street
Monday, February 27th
6:30 PM
$5-10 Donation requested
Light refreshments provided

Transition Ukiah Valley is part of an international localization movement to build community resilience in the face of climate change, peak oil and environmental degradation.

Learn more about us here…

A Fiscally Sponsored Program of the Cloud Forest Institute

Not Ready to Do What’s Needed…

How To Save The World

There is a period in most relationships when one or more of the members knows in their heart that the relationship is not sustainable and something very difficult must be done, but they aren’t yet ready to do it. Most likely they are hoping that someone else will acknowledge it as well, and maybe even do it for them, save them the trouble. This period of awkwardness, tension, partial denial, suffering and unspoken grief, can last a long time.

I think we, the human species, in our astonishing relationship with each other, in this contract we call “civilization”, are now in such a period, and we have been for some time. We don’t want to give up on the relationship — it has given us a lot, we are used to it, and we can make ourselves believe it still has promise

Hey! There IS no tomorrow…


Gas prices set records, soon to reach new highs

Mainstream media outlets throughout the country are now reporting on record-breaking gas prices, the highest ever for this time of the year.  Also making the rounds is the commonly cited prediction by former Shell CEO John Hofmeister that there is a better than 50 percent chance that gas prices will reach $5 a gallon by this summer in the U.S.  This is in spite of the fact that U.S. oil production is up and oil consumption down, since 2008.  What the media isn’t reporting on is the rest of what Hofmeister said in a recent peak oil themed debate he had with Tad Patzek on Feb. 14.

In the debate, Hofmeister said that we’re heading for $7 to $8 gas and rationing by 2015, and rolling blackouts and brownouts.  He also made clear that oil is the lubricant

Basketry: Out of hundreds of traditional crafts, none has so many everyday applications…

Low-Tech Magazine

We tend to think of technology as rock and metal – from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, from pyramids and statues to Viking swords and pirate cannons. We think of the things that survive to be placed in museums, in other words, and tend to neglect the early and important inventions that ordinary people used every day but whose materials did not survive centuries of exposure.

29,000 years of history

Virtually all human cultures have made baskets, and have apparently done so since we co-existed with ground sloths and sabre-toothed cats; for tens of thousands of years humans may have slept in basket-frame huts, kept predators out with basket fences, and caught fish in basket traps gathered while paddling along a river in a basket-frame boat. They might have carried their babies in basket papooses and gone to their graves in basket coffins.

The earliest piece of ancient basketry we have comes from 13,000 years ago, but impressions on ceramics from Central Europe indicate woven fibres — textiles or baskets

The Wobblies Legacy…


The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the other anti-capitalist forces of today could find no greater inspiration than the Industrial Workers of the World – the IWW, one of the most influential organizations in U.S. history, that was founded in Chicago in 1905 by a band of fiercely dedicated idealists.

The Wobblies, as they were called, battled against overwhelming odds. Their only real weapon was an utter refusal to compromise in a single-minded march toward a Utopia that pitted them against the combined forces of government and business.

Their weapon, their goals, the power of their opponents, the imperfect world about them made it inevitable that they would lose. But this is not to say the Wobblies failed because they didn’t reach their goal of creating “One Big Union” to wage a general strike that would put all means of production in the hands of workers and transform the country into a “Cooperative Commonwealth of Workers.”

To say the Wobbles failed

Dave Smith: ‘Dumb Farmers’…

to be of use (2005)

The most fundamental of businesses, and one whose values I believe come closest to those taught by the wisdom traditions, is organic family farming. I’ve found my own Creative Action Heroes among the peasants and those who look at life with a peasant’s perspective — organic market farmers, organic restaurateurs, and others involved with the organic food movement. Their mission, and the missions of their businesses, address a problem, either directly or indirectly, that touches all of our lives: environmental pollution from toxic chemicals on the land, in our water, and in our food that cause health problems.

Our culture’s idyllic idea of the small farm features the white farmhouse with the red barn, chickens clucking in the barnyard, pastured animals munching sleepily on green hills, and the farmer rocking gently on the front porch at dusk. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. A small organic or sustainable farm is a beehive of swarming activity from before first light until way after the sun has disappeared. I remember reading somewhere that 70 percent of Americans, if they had the choice, would live on a farm. Whether or not they would choose to work that farm is another matter entirely.

Gene Logsdon: Our Hidden Wound

From GENE LOGSDON (1992)
The Contrary Farmer

I’m a hayseed, I’m a hayseed,
and my ears are full of pigweed.
How they flop in stormy weather—
gosh oh hemlock, tough as leather…

—From a children’s rhyme heard in the Midwest in the 1930s and forties.

Most of us grew up in a society where farmer was often merely a synonym for moron, and I am quite sure that many farmers are still haunted by feelings of inferiority laid on them by this kind of urban and urbane prejudice. In fact, I suspect that many of the most competent farmers among us continue to expand their farm empires not out of greed or an insatiable desire for wealth, but because they feel compelled to prove again and again that, by God, they are not inferior to anyone. They want to cram that fact as far down the throats of their boyhood taunters as they can, and, sadly, they spend their lives doing it.

In my high school days in the late forties, supercilious town girls routinely claimed that milking cows

Todd Walton: Greek To Me


“The church is the great lost and found department.” Robert Short

The terrace at the Presbyterian in Mendocino can be a wonderful place to sit and read and write and eat a snack, especially on a sunny day. From every bench one has a view of either the ocean sparkling in the distance or of the stately white church with its impressive shingled spire. Tourists and itinerants frequent the terrace, and sometimes these visitors will notice me there on a bench, deduce from my appearance and demeanor that I am a local character, and then ask me questions, which I do my best to answer.

“Where is the historical monument?” I think you mean historical landmark, and this church is the landmark.

“Is it a Catholic church?” No.

“Can you go inside the church?” I can, but I prefer to stay out here.

“I mean can we go inside the church?” If the door is unlocked, ye may enter.

“Is there a good Mexican restaurant in the village?” No.

“Is there a homeless shelter around here?” Not in Mendocino, but there is Hospitality House in Fort Bragg providing shelter for well-behaved homeless people.

“How far is it to Fort Bragg?” Eight to ten miles depending on which sign you believe.

“Is there an inexpensive motel around here?” No.

“Where is the best place to watch whales?” Alaska.

“We meant around here.” Take Little Lake Road to where it ends at the ocean. Get out of your car and…

“We have to get out of our car?” No. You can watch from your car, though your chances of actually seeing a whale or a whale spout will be greatly diminished if you stay in your car.

“Is there a good Chinese restaurant around here?” No.

“German?” Nein.

“Pizza?” Frankie’s.

Will Parrish: A Travesty Of A Mockery Of A Sham


The United States government’s “compensation” to American Indians for past and present injustices typically amounts to what Groucho Marx called “a travesty of a mockery of a sham.”  Case in point: In 1974, the California State Legislature voted to pay enrolled members of California Indian nations $0.47 an acre – about $650 per Indian — in exchange for having expropriated all the land of California.  California officials arrived at their $0.47-an-acre calculation because that’s what land was worth in the state, on average, in 1853.

Another example is an agreement announced last week between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bradley Mining Company, and the Elem Pomo’s US federal government-recognized tribal administrators. As compensation for poisoning the Elem’s land and waters with prodigious amounts of methyl mercury tailings for several decades, thereby causing premature deaths, birth defects, cancers, and bodily deformities among tribal members, while in the process destroying the tribe’s ability to grow food or harvest fish safely (as they have for more than 10,000 years), the Bradley Mining Company would pay the Elem $50,000 and give them five land parcels under the settlement. The EPA says the 380 acres that make up these parcels have been decontaminated.

In exchange, the Elem would never again be allowed to sue the United States government, including the EPA and BIA, or even the Bradley Mining Company, for any reason.

Within days of the settlement agreement’s release, Elem Cultural Leader Jim Browneagle submitted a “public comment” letter to the US Department of Justice and the EPA denouncing the terms of the settlement.

“If the current settlement agreement is approved, it will be a travesty of the federal justice system and violation of Indian Civil Rights Act and Indian Self-determination, while undermining the protection of natural resources and tribal sovereignty,” he wrote. He also called the settlement “a setback of environmental justice [and] a denial of fair and equal compensation to the living surviving Elem members and families for their lifelong pain and suffering and loss of tribal lifeways (gathering of healthy foods and fish).”

The Politics of a Local Economy with Doug Mosel Tonight 2/24/12 7-10 pm…

Presentation and discussion with Doug Mosel, founder of the Mendocino Grain Project and Campaign Coordinator for Mendocino’s Measure H (no GMO) initiative…. in the Plowshares Community Room, 1346 S State Street.  $5-$10 donation requested for this benefit event.
From Occupy Our Food Supply Global Day of Action Next Monday 2/27/12:

Vandana Shiva, Indian physicist and internationally renowned activist, adds: “Our food system has been hijacked by corporate giants from the Seed to the table. Seeds controlled by Monsanto, agribusiness trade controlled by Cargill, processing controlled by Pepsi and Philip Morris, retail controlled by Walmart – is a recipe for Food Dictatorship. We must Occupy the Food system to create Food Democracy.”

Raj Patel, activist, academic and author of The Value of Nothing, reflects: “It’s hard for us to imagine life without food corporations because they’ve made our world theirs. Although we think food companies make food for us, in almost every way that matters, we – and our planet – are being transformed to suit food companies. From their marketing to children and exploitation of workers to environmental destruction in search of profit, the food industry represents one of the most profound threats to sustainability we face today.”

Occupy Wall Street’s Sustainability and Food Justice Committees issued this statement in support of #F27: “On Monday, February 27th, 2012, OWS Food Justice, OWS Sustainability, Oakland Food Justice & the worldwide Occupy Movement invite you to join the Global Day of Action to Occupy the Food Supply. We challenge the corporate food regime that has prioritized profit over health and sustainability. We seek to create healthy local food systems. We stand in Solidarity with Indigenous communities, and communities around the world, that are struggling with hunger, exploitation, and unfair labor practices.”

“On this day

Are you happy? Is this really as good as it gets?…


Are you happy? Chances are… you probably aren’t. That’s because according to a new study by “24-7 Wall Street” that looked into the OECD’s Better Life Index to determine what the happiest nations on the planet are… the US didn’t even crack the top 10. The happy nations spend far more of their GDP on social programs than we do here in America. What’s the point of being exceptional – as Ronald Reagan would describe America – if that exceptionality doesn’t make us happy? Until we fix our elections – and kick the corporate millionaires and billionaires out – and claim once and for all that our democracy belongs to We The People – that it’s part of the commons – then we’ll always be stuck in the muck wondering if this… is as good as it gets…

Transition: What’s happening around the world right now…

Complete Story with all videos here

Let’s start this month’s round up in Derbyshire, where Melbourne Area Transition have received planning permission to install 48 PV panels on the roof of their local 12th century church, and there they now sit, in their energy-generating splendour.  Here’s a short film made by Chris Bird (author of the Transition book ‘Local Sustainable Homes’ who blogs here) where MAT’s Graham Truscott gives him a tour of the roof.

In a second video, Chris and Graham get in off the roof and talk in more depth about how the scheme came into being, and the obstacles it overcame:

TT-Llandeilo in Wales are fighting to save their historic Market Hall while plans are being considered for a new Sainsbury’s supermarket to the north of the town – read more in This is South Wales.  Picking up a story from last month’s round up, which was explored in more detail in the last Transition podcast, here is an article in Treehugger on TT-Whitehead planting 60,000 trees which includes their fantastic video that we featured here last month.

#Occupied: Reports From the Front Lines…


Mexico City: #Occupied. Photo: Miguel Angel Guzman

This week in Occupy, there was an outpouring of solidarity for Greece, Ric Santorum got mic-checked in Tacoma and the NYPD continued to rack up lawsuits as a result of its thuggery.

#As Greece faced a second bailout, its citizenry continued to protest the government’s severe austerity measures. Occupiers everywhere took to the streets in solidarity. In Berlin, militants from several groups organized protests in front of the Greek embassy and Occupy Berlin organized protests at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

#Stop-and-frisks performed by the NYPD increased 14 percent in 2011; 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic.

Occupy Tampa

#Anthony Bologna, A.K.A. Tony Baloney, the pepper-spraying New York cop, is being sued by the unarmed women he sprayed during a demonstration in September in an incident that brought Occupy Wall Street to global prominence.

Secret Crying Places

The Contrary Farmer 

I was up in the haymow throwing hay down to the sheep the morning after our grandson scored the winning points at the buzzer in a high school basketball game. It had been a thrilling moment in our lives, of course, and I was still riding high on the memory. I happened to look over in the corner of the loft and saw lying there in the corner, a basketball, now partially deflated. Nearby the old homemade banking board hung from the wall with cobwebs streaming down from the hoop. Over the last decade, there is no telling how many hours Grandmother and I played there with Evan and his brother, Alex. I joked that I had taught the boys everything they know about the game but the truth was just the opposite. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help wondering if all that dribbling, passing, and shooting might have contributed to Evan’s dramatic drive to the basket with just four seconds left in the game. And yes, as I sat there on a bale, staring at the old deflated basketball, I was crying my eyes out.

My barn has often been the place I go to cry. No one can see me there except the cats. We must never let the young people know about secret crying places. Perhaps oddly, I go there to cry more over happy events than sad ones. I went there to cry when our daughter and then our son grew upMore...and left home as they must do, to start their own families. Now the grandchildren too will leave, nevermore to ripple that old basketball net, and I will go to the barn to weep even as I cheer them on.

I knew I needed a secret crying place when my mother died. We were living the suburban life then, but had managed to turn our big backyard into a kind of secluded garden with a chicken coop at the center of it.


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