A country for old men…


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Unless you suffer from an overactive bladder as many of us do, you may find this essay a bit on the crude side. But nevermind, you will get there too eventually unless you are lucky. In terms of overactive bladders, there is an advantage to living on a farm that rarely gets mentioned, even though the “fall out” from it is quite significant for society at large. Farms provide owners with a private place far from any bathroom where they can relieve themselves.

You know all the old jokes, even if they aren’t all that funny. How old men develop the habit of checking every building they enter for the location of the bathroom before they do anything else. How the farmer with the round barn had an “accident” as he frantically looked for a secluded corner to pee in.

Until I joined the legion of men with enlarged prostates, I did not appreciate the full meaning of tranquility on the farm. In public, I must keep a furtive eye on the nearest bathroom and make sure I do not move more than a minute or two away from it. If I have to give a speech, I am usually safe beforehand because I am too scared for any bodily function to work no matter what. After the speech, however, if I avoid eye contact and abruptly breeze by you as if I am trying to steal second base, please understand. Even in my office at home, absorbed in writing, I have to make mad dashes for the bathroom. This is another unsung advantage of cell phones. You don’t have to hang up in this situation.

But in the field or garden hoeing, or among the trees sawing and chopping, or in the barn trying to convince my sheep that Lucretius said it all over 2000 years ago, no problem.  Believe me, knowing this adds another dimension to the calming effect that a rural environment can bestow.

But using your farm for a bathroom has social significance too. What if, as in my perfect world, some 50 million Americans (out of 300 million) lived and worked part of the time on their own little farms. Let us say they committed half their bodily waste directly to the soil or to the animal manure bedding in the barn

Cooperatives are the biggest secret in the world economy…


From DAVID BOLLIER
On The Commons

Cooperatives employ more people than multinational companies

There’s more than Olympics and Elections going on in the coming months. 2012 has been named International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations [6] in recognition of the fact that more than 800 million people around the world belong to one of these economic networks. Coops flourish in all sectors of the economy proving that economic efficiency and equitability can co-exist. They represent a commons-based alternative to both the private market and state controlled enterprises.

Four in ten Canadians are coop members (70 percent in the province of Quebec). In the U.S. 25 percent of the population belongs to at least one coop ranging from credit unions to food coops to major firms like REI and Land O’ Lakes dairy, according to the International Co-Operative Alliance [7] In Belgium, coops account for 20 percent of pharmacies: in Brazil, 37 percent of all agricultural production is from coops; in Singapore, coops account for 55 percent of supermarket purchases: in Bolivia, one credit union handles 25 percent of all savings; in Korea and Japan, 90 percent of farmers belong to coops; in Kenya, coops account for 45 percent of the GDP; in Finland, 34 percent of forestry products, 74 percent of meat and 96 percent of dairy products come from coops.

Around the world, coops provide 100 million jobs, 20 percent more than multinational companies. But what’s most remarkable is how little attention they receive in business coverage or anywhere else.

“We may be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.”— Gar Alperovitz

While a great many commons seek to develop alternatives to conventional businesses – and even to bypass markets altogether – the struggle to democratize capital should not be lost in the shuffle. Popular ownership of capital

The Commons — Short, simple, and sweet…


From DAVID BOLLIER
On The Commons

The classic commons are small-scale and focused on natural resources

The commons must be understood, then, as a verb as much as a noun. A commons must be animated by bottom-up participation, personal responsibility, transparency and self-policing accountability.

I am always trying to figure out how to explain the idea of the commons to newcomers who find it hard to grasp. In preparation for a talk that I gave at the Caux Forum for Human Security, near Montreux, Switzerland, I came up with a fairly short overview, which I I think it gets to the nub of things.

The commons is….

*A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.

*A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.

The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children. Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.

*A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State.

There is no master inventory of commons because a commons arises whenever a given community decides it wishes to manage a resource in a collective manner, with special regard for equitable access, use and sustainability.

  • The commons is not a resource.* It is a resource plus a defined community and the protocols, values and norms devised by the community to manage its resources. Many resources urgently need to be managed as commons, such as the atmosphere, oceans, genetic knowledge and biodiversity.

Where is Kropotkin when we really need him?…


From DAVID MORRIS
On The Commons

Kropotkin honored Darwin’s insights about natural selection but believed the governing principle of natural selection was cooperation, not competition. The fittest were those who cooperated.

On February 8, 1921 twenty thousand people, braving temperatures so low that musical instruments froze, marched in a funeral procession in the town of Dimitrov, a suburb of Moscow. They came to pay their respects to a man, Petr Kropotkin, and his philosophy, anarchism.

Some 90 years later few know of Kropotkin. And the word anarchism has been so stripped of substance that it has come to be equated with chaos and nihilism. This is regrettable, for both the man and the philosophy that he did so much to develop have much to teach us in 2012.

I am astonished Hollywood has yet to discover Kropotkin. For his life is the stuff of great movies. Born to privilege he spent his life fighting poverty and injustice. A lifelong revolutionary, he was also a world-renowned geographer and zoologist. Indeed, the intersection of politics and science characterized much of his life.

His struggles against tyranny resulted in years in Russian and French jails. The first time he was imprisoned in Russia an outcry by many of the world’s best-known scholars led to his release. The second time he engineered a spectacular escape and fled the country. At the end of his life, back in his native Russia, he enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the Tsar but equally strongly condemned Lenin’s increasingly authoritarian and violent methods.

In the 1920s Roger N. Baldwin summed up Kropotkin this way.

Kropotkin is referred to

OWS: We must reassert our rights to occupy public spaces…


Tahrir Square in Cairo, where a revolution coalesced

From THOMAS HINTZE and LAURA GOTTESDIENER
The Occupied Wall Street Journal

After the raid on Liberty Plaza, the absence that opened up in the center of our movement was greater than the size of the physical space in that tiny, granite park. For us, space is not a mere necessity—a place to lay our head, to eat our meals, to congregate and assemble—it is also a symbol and a direct action. Literally, vacant lots are voids that we fill with physical representations of our concerns, hopes, fears, and dreams. We invite others to join us and create an infrastructure that liberates minds. We must reassert our rights to occupy public spaces.

Privatization has created a dichotomy of those with and those without, those with being landowners—a fraction of the population. We must partner with communities, artists, educators, not just taking for ourselves, but opening locked gates for all to occupy.

Now that we are rebuilding, some say that it is in our best interest to occupy indoor spaces. Occupying indoor spaces, such as foreclosed houses and abandoned buildings, politicizes individual struggles. It answers the question of how to survive through the winter and how to create a life outside of the spectacle of this revolutionary project. It allows the message of our movement to enter communities through individual voices. But occupying indoor space is fundamentally about reclaiming private space, a shift from our notions of what it is to be public, transparent, inclusive and collective.

Outdoor spaces symbolically oppose Wall Street in a manner that directly threatens its stability, and maintaining our presence in opposition is crucial to enfranchising more supporters moving forward. Indoor spaces are an important compliment to whatever we do, but we must remember that outdoor public spaces embody the heart of this movement. With each space we consider, we must ask whether it gives form to our collective desires. This is our metric. We will not wait for channels of bureaucracy to gift spaces to us. We will liberate them.
~~

Move to Amend Speaker David Cobb in Ukiah Tonight Monday 2/13/12 at the Saturday Afternoon Club 7pm…



David Cobb is National Projects Director of Democracy Unlimited. He is a lawyer, political activist, and engaged citizen. He has dedicated his adult life to making the promise of a democratic republic a reality in the United States.

He has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials,  run for political office himself, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. He truly believes we must use ALL the tools in the toolbox to effect the systemic social change we so desperately need.

His talk tonight: Creating Democracy and Challenging Corporate Rule
~

Proposed Amendment

Section 1 [Corporations are not people and can be regulated]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]

Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State and local government shall require

The First Dominoes: Greece, Reality, and Cascading Default…


From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
oftwominds.com

I asked frequent contributor Zeus Yiamouyiannis to comment on the coming Greek default. Here is his insightful response.

Greece is the epicenter of a drama that threatens to unwind with all the intrigue and subterfuge of ancient Greek myths and tragedies. As with the legend of Icarus, big, and now bigger, transnational banks provoked the gods with their wax-and-feather financial fabrications to create the appearance of soaring wealth. Now that they have flown too close to the sun and their wings have melted, these banks are being brought to earth by the obligations and consequences imposed by their fabrications.

Rather than take responsibility, these banks seek to appease the gods by sacrificing taxpayers. In fact, if one looks closely, these banks aspire to be gods themselves. They clothe themselves in their indispensability and shield themselves from accountability with tales about how many innocent citizens will be hurt if they don’t get their next bailout. It is as if they say, “We are above the law… We are the law.” Mathematics, legal enforcement, restraint, humility all must fall under the sword of their hubris.

In the end, just as with a Greek tragedy or a Yeats poem, this center cannot hold and things fall apart. When one abuses the laws and principles of mathematics and capitalism, claiming to be a faithful servant, consequence and accountability eventually catch up. The breaking point inexorably nears. Citizens are beginning to think, voice, and act: “We can do without the false idols that call themselves banks. In fact, we need them to be dissolved for us to survive and thrive.”

Reality is the revenge of the gods.

Not just about fairness: Everything unwinds

This is not just about fairness anymore; it is about the exposure of central, global illusions that affect everyone, not just banks. For the last three plus decades, debt-fueled “growth” has instilled

Whole Foods Fraud: The Myth of So-Called Natural Foods…


From RONNIE CUMMINS
Organic Consumers Assn

[What’s true for the so-called “natural foods” at Whole Foods is also true for our local “Natural Food Stores” and “Natural Food Co-ops” who should have labled GMO products on their shelves years ago and boosted the demand for organic foods. Demand Certified Organic foods and GMO labelling, and get the GMOs out of our treasured local stores… -DS]

On Jan. 31, organic and natural foods giant Whole Foods Market (WFM) once again attacked the Organic Consumers Association, the nation’s leading watchdog on organic standards, as being too “hard-line” for insisting that retailers like WFM stop selling, or at least start labeling, billions of dollars worth of so-called “natural” foods in their stores – foods that are laced with unlabeled, hazardous genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

WFM’s most recent attack on OCA predictably backfired, throwing gasoline on the fiery debate surrounding my previous essay “The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto.” In that essay, written in January 2011, I criticized WFM and several other well-known organic companies for their foolish (now hopefully repudiated) stance of espousing “co-existence” with the USDA and Monsanto, in exchange for minimal federal regulation of genetically engineered crops.

In subsequent articles OCA has called for an end to “organic infighting” and for the organic industry, farmers, and consumers to join forces and pass laws or state ballot initiatives (like the current campaign in California) that would require mandatory labels on products containing genetically engineered ingredients, as well as to make it illegal to label or market GE-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

Anger is now running so high against Monsanto and the USDA, as well as anyone appearing to tolerate “co-existence” with either group, that rumors are fast spreading that Monsanto has bought out, or plans to buy out, WFM. That rumor is untrue. However, it has focused attention once again on the critical issue of food labeling. WFM, and all of us in the organic community

OWS: A New Declaration…


From DERRICK JENSEN
The Occupied Wall Street Journal

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That the real, physical world is the source of our own lives, and the lives of others. A weakened planet is less capable of supporting life, human or otherwise.

Thus the health of the real world is primary, more important than any social or economic system, because all social or economic systems are dependent upon a living planet.

It is self-evident that to value a social system that harms the planet’s capacity to support life over life itself is to be out of touch with physical reality.

That any way of life based on the use of nonrenewable resources is by definition not sustainable.

That any way of life based on the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources is by definition not sustainable: if, for example, fewer salmon return every year, eventually there will be none. This means that for a way of life to be sustainable, it must not harm native communities: native prairies, native forests, native fisheries, and so on.

That the real world is interdependent, such that harm done to rivers harms those humans and nonhumans whose lives depend on these rivers, harms forests and prairies and wetlands surrounding these rivers, harms the oceans into which these rivers flow. Harm done to mountains harms the rivers flowing through them. Harm done to oceans harms everyone directly or indirectly connected to them.

That you cannot argue with physics. If you burn carbon-based fuels, this carbon will go into the air, and have effects in the real world.

That creating and releasing poisons into the world will poison humans and nonhumans.

Transition: 10 Reasons for Financial Optimism (If You Invest Locally)


From MICHAEL SHUMAN
LivingEconomies.org

Even though these are tough times for tens of millions of Americans, there’s reason for hope.  That’s the message of my new book from Chelsea Green, Local Dollars, Local Sense:  How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity, which showcases dozens of ways individuals, businesses and communities are reinvesting their money locally and creating new jobs.  To give you a little taste of what’s in the book, let me share my Top 10 Reasons for Optimism.

10.  Wall Street’s Decline – Fortune 500 companies have long enjoyed an unnatural competitive advantage as all of us have unquestioningly forked over some $30 trillion of our retirement funds into their stocks and bonds.  This lemming behavior is now coming to a close. Occupy Wall Street has been so effective that even Newt Gingrich is questioning our fealty to “vulture capitalism.”  My book documents that the long-term historic rate of return for U.S. stocks has been an astonishing 2.6% per year.  Against that record, all kinds of many local investment opportunities seem fabulous!

9.  Main Street’s Rise – Evidence continues to mount that local small businesses are the best job producers in the U.S. economy, at least as profitable as their global competitors, and becoming increasingly competitive (thanks in part to groups like BALLE).  Local investment can pay off, big time, if we can figure out how to create, pool, trade and evaluate local “securities” more efficiently.

8.  The Crowdfunding Revolution – The bad news is that archaic

Producers Vs. Moochers, Freeloaders And Losers — The Cruel Pro-Rich Propaganda Of The Right…


From DAVE JOHNSON
Campaign for America’s Future

“Producers” and “parasites.” Cruel language justifying extreme greed seems to be mainstream now. Even Presidential candidates feel free to disparage 99% of us! In today’s right-wing folklore government by We, the People is an evil thing that takes from “producers” and gives to “moochers,” “freeloaders,” and “losers.” Government and taxes “take money out of the economy.” Decision-making by We, the People is “collectivism” and “mob rule.” And those of us who think the insanely wealthy should pay fair taxes suffer from “envy.”

In today’s discourse wealthy elites receiving $20 million a year in “capital gains” while paying almost no taxes are “producers,” while janitors or nursing home workers, working two jobs and not making enough to pay rent and feed themselves, are “moochers” and “freeloaders.” Right.

This email came in to CAF yesterday, (see also Richard Eskow’s take on it, John Galt Is A Crybaby And So Are You)

I am really curios to know what motivates the mind of a socialist. Why do you think its fair to penalize those of us who produce while rewarding those who do not? If healthcare should be a right then where does it stop?

Could one not use the same argument that everyone has a right to free housing? A free car? Perhaps free air travel? Who will pay for all this?

What happens when the government has exhausted the money acquired from the producers? I have a feeling producers will stop producing

Will Parrish: ‘Full Court Press’ Or War On Immigrants?


From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA.com

From behind the glass partition in Yuba County Jail’s basement visiting room, Ramiro Hernandez Farias speaks matter-of-factly about the incredible ordeal to which he has been subjected by both Mexican drug cartel paramilitaries and the Mendocino County branch of the US drug war.

Farias, 28, has never been charged with a crime. Yet, for more than six months, he has been confined within a prison cage in the small, economically depressed town of Marysville, on the northern end of California’s Central Valley. He finally departs on February 14th, only to attend a hearing in San Francisco where an immigration judge will determine if he is allowed to remain in the United States – or whether he must return to his native Mexico. If he’s sent back, he will likely be tortured and killed by one of the country’s most violent drug cartels, La Familia Michoacán.

While reciting the events that have led to his harrowing predicament, Farias’ otherwise calm and measured voice becomes tinged with sadness, perhaps also some resignation, as he discusses the fate of his wife, Flor, and their six-year-old son, Eric.

“I think all the time about my family,” he says through an interpreter. “They’re suffering a lot economically, and also emotionally because of the distance between us.”

Until this past July 21st, the family lived together in a small Ukiah home off of South State St. Flor, a US citizen, attended classes at Mendocino College and looked after the couple’s domestic life, including raising Erik. Ramiro put in long hours as a landscaper and laborer for Saul’s Vineyard Contracting of Ukiah, as well as for Rosewood Vineyards in Redwood Valley

Todd Walton: Junior High


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Hemingway never grew out of adolescence. His scope and depth stayed shallow because he had no idea what women are for.” Rex Stout

Today I fit several important pieces into the jigsaw puzzle of life, having found the first of those pieces a few days ago while I was at Mendocino K-8 School on Little Lake Road, shooting hoops despite the biting chill in the air and…

Wait. Doesn’t it strike you as remarkable, even astonishing, that in Mendocino of all places, a town known the world over as a seething vortex of artists and poets and potheads, that our K-8 school doesn’t have at least a mildly groovy name? Fantasia Archetype School. Raven Big Tree Learning Center. Earthling Haven Academy. Middle Earth Education Fulcrum. Doppelganger Nine. Fields of Elysium Lyceum. Mind Body Spirit Cognition Node. But I digress.

So…I was shooting hoops despite the biting chill when down the steps from the school to the playground came two people, a shapely young woman with hair of spun gold and a boy some four inches shorter than the young woman, a skinny, dorky boy with drab brown hair wearing a blue Mendocino K-8 School sweatshirt. And though I was a hundred yards away, I knew this boy and woman were courting, that they were the same age, numerically speaking, and that they were headed for the swings where many Mendocino K-8 junior high couples go to swing and flirt and talk about whatever junior high kids talk about these days.

Seeing these two physically mismatched lovebirds, I journeyed back through my memory archives

Certified Organic, Open-Pollinated, Heirloom Seeds now available at Half Price or less from Mulligan Books & Seeds…


Underground Seed Co.

Certified Organic Seeds-By-Hand

From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

Here is a comparison of Imported-from-Vermont High Mowing Organic Seeds-By-Packet prices and local California-Grown Underground Organic Seeds-By-Hand prices…



Underground Seed Co. is a project of Mulligan Books & Seeds
~

Why Save Seeds? Here’s the Big Picture view from last week’s Laytonville Garden Club meeting…


From GINA COVINA
Laughing Frog Farm
Laytonville

Agriculture began as a partnership between people and plants. Every plant we know as food was co-created, sometimes over a thousand years of growing seasons, by the equivalent of a backyard gardener in partnership with the plant. Someone started selecting the best teosinte seeds from that wild Mexican grass, planting and nurturing them with special care. By the time Europeans arrived in the New World, indigenous gardeners in partnership with teosinte had created 7,000 distinct varieties of corn, some of them adapted to thrive as far north as New York.

This is plant breeding. As William Tracy (dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison) pointed out at the Organic Seed Growers Conference in Port Townsend, Washington in late January, plant breeding is not a science but a technology. “Plant breeding is working with plants – the breeder selects, and the plant creates solutions.” It’s a process ideally suited to small ecological farmers and home growers, whose success depends on close observation and careful selection. Every discerning seed saver is a plant breeder, as long as they pay attention to two important conditions: the minimum population necessary to ensure the particular species’ genetic diversity, and sufficient isolation from related species that could cross-pollinate with undesirable results.

Where does our seed come from today? The exponential curve of seed industry consolidation is the same curve shown by wealth consolidation

A Day in the Life of a Transitioner…


From CHARLOTTE DU CANN
Transition Norwich

It was cold when I woke up last Sunday. The jackdaws were gathering in the fields and there was a hard frost on the ground. Ah, good I said to myself. Then I sighed, put on two large jumpers and went downstairs to put the kettle on for coffee and a hot water bottle. Switched on the computer and got down to work. It was 7am.

How has Transition changed my life? Utterly, completely, forever. This is not how I would have started a Sunday morning several years ago. I would not, for example, have known why the birds were feeding in the arable fields, I would not have rejoiced in and lamented the frost, thinking simultaneously of the vegetables and the fruit trees that need a winter to flourish and the shivering people in the Occupy encampments. I would not have put on two recycled jumpers or got down to write a blog at 7am. The central heating would have automatically warmed up the house, and I would be up around nine, thinking about my private world, lying in a hot bath.

I could go through each moment of that Sunday and every detail would form part of a Transition narrative: from my breakfast millet (Sustainable Bungay buying group) and apples (our Produce Swap day) to our neighbour’s car that we now share. But most of all it would show how that narrative is shaped by the times I go up to Norwich and my relationships with the people there.

Here I am at 11.30am talking to Kit at Occupy Norwich about Occupied Times in London. I’ve put some stuff in the kitchen, I tell him

A deep, complex garden book that is fun to read…


From SHARON ASTYK
casaubonsbook

There are a lot of gardening books out there, and whenever anyone asks me for my favorite ones, I find myself struggling to make a list. There are three rules about garden books to remember.

1. All garden books are local to one degree or another, unless they are very general. That is, all garden books are fundamentally about the experience of gardeners in particular places and in particular circumstances. Beyond basic books, the best garden books are by authors who remember this and try and connect what they have done with others, while also acknowledging the limits of their experience. Bad garden books become prescriptive “no one should use mulch” or “everyone should use mulch” or whatever because their experience with mulch is deemed to be universal.

2. There is a difficult middle-space gap in garden writing between books that are written for the absolute beginner (many) and speak in such general terms that after you’ve mastered the basics, you don’t really need to read more of them, and the technical research papers that often present new research or ideas. By this I mean that the experienced, engaged gardener who doesn’t need to read another basic explanation of how soil fertility works or how to start seeds leaves them with little truly new, exciting and creative to read. The papers can be useful and inspiring, but they are rarely readable or entertaining, the general books may be fond and familiar material, but one goes back to them as reference, and there are only a few dozens of good books written for the expert gardener who wants to learn something new.

Transition: Seeing Wendell Berry’s Wilderness Again…


From CHRIS CHANEY
Transition Voice

In the early ’90s I made the conscious decision to drop out of college. I distinctly remember the day I withdrew from classes and made the call to my parents. I remember thinking: “Now I’m a statistic.” College dropout.

I watched as the debt grew and my confidence in finding a suitable career faded. I made the decision to drop out based on the reality that I could avoid debt and simply work. I resolved to be satisfied with less. I broke my social contract outright.

Believe it or not, I had a plan.

No, I didn’t start up a software business. I didn’t pursue any entrepreneurial track to riches. My plan was simply to get any job I could and spend my free time exploring the Red River Gorge which is located near where I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. My plan had no long term component.

I don’t know when I first discovered Wendell Berry’s The Unforeseen Wilderness, but it was about this same time in my life. I wanted to read it, but as a poor college dropout with little cash to spend on books it remained out of my hands for a time.

One day I was out with a friend and saw it on a bargain table. I had no cash, but the friend, seeing my eagerness to read it, bought it for me. It was a fortunate encounter because the book changed the way I looked at the world, my life, and the landscape of my soul.

Gene Logsdon: Cold Weather Conundrum…


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I say that a love of nature is at the root of my love for farming, but in fact I hate cold weather, an integral part of nature in the north. How can I explain the contradiction? I’ll give you my line of reasoning as long as you don’t hold me to it too strictly. I argue that cold weather is the biggest threat to human existence on earth. That’s why I hate it. We seldom think about it but humans, unlike other animals, can only survive in northern climates with some kind of artificial heat, which means burning up the earth’s supply of stored sunlight as fuel. We are not polar bears. We live through northern winters by plundering the rest of nature.

What made me think of this again is that, much to my surprise, fur prices are on the rise. Muskrat pelts are selling for $8 and up at auctions, coyotes at $60 and up, red foxes from $25 to $50, and raccoons from $13 to $19 each. China and other “newly rich” countries are driving up the prices because the people there not only think fur coats are fashionable but because animal fur is a very good insulation against cold weather. Muskrat belly fur for example, makes an excellent lining for cold weather boots because it is nearly impermeable to moisture.

Obviously, as humans migrated from their natural environment of warm weather, they not only had to discover fire but gird themselves in animal skins until they figured out how to make insulated underwear out of polyester. Before that there must have been eons of migration from warmer climes to colder and back again as winter approached, a practice still honored by migrating birds and quite a few corn-beans-and Florida farmers. With furs and fire, humans slowly learned how to stay in the north through winter. This led to the whole silly culture of clothes and heaven only knows how much that has cost the earth. Even with clothes, humans had to have shelter to survive bitter cold. They used caves or built structures out of wood or stone or ice, leading to the ultra-extravagant housing industry of today.  All of this, in the beginning, just to stay warm.

As fuel supplies seem to diminish now and dreams of grandeur soar, this kind of un-sustainability continues. We cover entire sports arenas from the weather; we set up acres of solar panels to produce electricity. More and more, greenhouse tunnels and hoop houses become part of agriculture.

Occupy Monsanto: The seed is the foundation of civilization and of democracy…


From ANNA LEKAS MILLER
Alternet

Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America‘s Crops

Monsanto, if you will, is the 1 percent of Big Agriculture–the scourge of small farmers everywhere. But now those farmers are fighting back, backed by activists from Occupy Wall Street.

First, some history. In 1982, Monsanto scientists were the first to genetically modify a plant cell. Three years later, the US Patent Office ruled that plants were a patentable subject matter.

By 1985, Monsanto had already become a corporate giant by creating RoundUp, the most popular herbicide in the world. Now that it had the legal protection of seed patents in addition to the biotechnology to genetically manipulate its seeds, Monsanto scientists engineered a specific brand of Monsanto seeds that were RoundUp-resistant—unlike organic, natural seeds, these seeds are sterile and have to be re-planted each year, ensuring that customers return year after year to replenish their supply.

In order to achieve a monopoly over the market, and keep farmers from saving their own seed as they have done for centuries, Monsanto begin to purchase as many seeds as possible—spending $8 billion and acquiring over 20 seed companies over the past decade alone. Today, Monsanto controls 93 percent of soybean crops, 86 percent of corn crops, 93 percent of cotton crops, and 93 percent of canola seed crops in the United States alone.

Monsanto is far from finished. To continue its corporate monopoly and push more seeds off the market, Monsanto specifically targets organic farmers, often testing their crops without permission. If the crops are resistant to RoundUp, Monsanto’s signature pesticide, Monsanto sues the farmer for patent infringement.

In many instances, pollen from a neighboring farm growing Monsanto’s genetically modified crops can migrate to an organic farm, contaminating its crops. In addition to losing these crops and losing important organic buyers due to this genetic trespass, many organic farmers face undeserved, crippling lawsuits from Monsanto that force them into debt, bankruptcy

When did vegetarianism become passé?…


From LISA HYMAS
Grist

It used to be that when I told a fellow progressive I’m a vegetarian, I would get one of three reactions: (1) an enthusiastic “me too!,” (2) a slightly guilty admission of falling off the veg wagon, or (3) a voracious defense of the glories of steak.

These days, there’s another increasingly common reaction: People look at me with a mix of pity and confusion, like I’m some holdover from the ’90s wearing a baby-doll dress with chunky shoes and babbling on about No Doubt. I can see what they’re thinking: “You’re still a vegetarian?”

At some point over the past few years, vegetarianism went wholly out of style.

Now sustainable meat is all the rage. “Rock star” butchers proffer grass-fed beef, artisanal sausage, and heritage-breed chickens whose provenance can be traced back to conception on an idyllic rolling hillside. “Meat hipsters” eat it all up. The hard-core meaties flock to trendy butchery classes. Bacon has become a fetish even for eco-foodies, applied liberally to everything from salad to dessert, including “green” chocolate bars and “sustainable” ice cream.

All of which has led some vegetarians to give up their plant-based ways. But food fads aside, vegetarianism still has its place and deserves its due respect.

Let me state, for the record, that I wholeheartedly support the shift from factory farming to more sustainable meat production. Treating animals humanely, letting them eat what they’re naturally inclined to eat, raising them without antibiotics and hormones, incorporating them into holistic farmsJoel Salatin-style, and, once they’re slaughtered, eating every last bit of them, nose to tail — that’s all good stuff.

But let’s get real. Only a teeny-tiny fraction of meat in the U.S. is actually produced in any way that could conceivably be described as “sustainable” — less than 1 percent, according to the group Farm Forward — and only a teeny-tiny fraction of that is raised in the super-duper-über-conscientious Salatin style. Most of the meat raised even by those trying to do it right comes with serious environmental impacts, from high water consumption to large land footprints to excessive methane emissions.

So it really gets my goat (ahem)

Transition: Building community resilience to cope with collapse…


From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World

In my previous article, I recapped and built upon Nicole Foss’ (Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth blog) presentation in Vancouver last week. The first part of her presentation, I noted, was about the current intractable economic (and specifically debt) problems we face at all levels (governments, corporations, individuals), and how neither of the most-supported top-down alternatives (austerity or stimulus) can hope to improve the situation or avoid total economic collapse.

The second part of Nicole’s presentation focused on what we can do, at the local community level, to prepare for and build resilience to cope with this collapse. There are a number of things, she said, we can do personally:

  • Get out of debt, so that our property cannot be foreclosed upon or repossessed when the situation worsens and we are unable to repay these debts.
  • Keep as much cash on hand (and not in the bank) as reasonably possible (enough to last several months).
  • Acquire useful, non-perishable hard assets (when the economy fails, so will trade, making many hard goods hard to obtain and expensive).
  • Do not depend on governments to do anything useful.
  • Be wary of banks (they may simply close when ‘runs’ begin, preventing you from accessing your money).
  • Be wary of insurance companies and plans (they will not be able to pay out when their investments collapse).
  • Find the right place to live and move there (in or near small towns near healthy agricultural areas; avoid suburbs).
  • Learn practical essential skills, both technical and non-technical (e.g. mediation, facilitation).

There was considerable discussion near the end of the presentation

Harris Quarry Project: ‘Something wicked this way comes’…


From JACK MAGNE
LTE Willets News
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Something wicked this way comes is, of course, the famous line from the Shakespearean play Macbeth, which forewarns of an impending ominous, dangerous and traitorous entity.

Fast-forward from the 17th century to a real threat we now potentially face in Mendocino County, which is perhaps no less insidious or alarming; with modern day wide-reaching consequence for the entire county.

The proposed Harris Quarry Expansion Project is the benign-sounding name of a determined push to install a 300-ton per hour asphalt manufacturing plant neighboring the LaVida Charter School, Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule and Golden Rule senior residential park, which are proximate to the famous Seabiscuit Ranch, former home of legendary racehorse.

The Bountiful Gardens research garden and cherry orchard also are nearby.

The proposal also seeks to ambitiously involve the entire county through zoning changes specifically allowing heavy industrial/manufacturing uses on land designated in the general plan as “RL-Range Lands,” which includes 90 percent of the private property in Mendocino County.

Everyone’s “back yard” in Mendocino County could potentially be vulnerable if the designers and proponents of this plan get their way.

There is legitimate concern the so-called Mineral Processing Combining District Overlay feature of this proposal is an add-on, benefiting special interests. Sooner or later this (ear-mark) may affect unsuspecting citizens countywide, in a very up close and personal way.

Many are concerned this movement which is portrayed ostensibly as a need for a single asphalt plant, is actually a much farther-reaching agenda “opening the door” to manufacturing related development of not only more asphalt plants around the county; but also possibly for the development of oil refineries (to accommodate off-shore drilling), natural gas, geothermal and concrete manufacturing plants, along with a whole host of other activities which could bring adverse

Why Newt is afraid of the gutsy organizer Saul Alinsky…


From BILL MOYERS
Moyers & Co

[See also Excerpts from Reveille For Radicals and Right Wing Understands Saul Alinsky — Why Doesn’t the Left? -DS]

BILL MOYERS: Time, now, for a word about a good American being demonized, despite being long dead. Saul Alinsky is not around to defend himself, but that hasn’t kept Newt Gingrich from using his name to whip up the froth and frenzy of followers whose ignorance of the man is no deterrence to their eagerness, at Gingrich’s behest, to tar and feather him posthumously.

Here’s how you slander someone who can’t answer from the grave:

NEWT GINGRICH: If you believe as we do in the Declaration of Independence and you think that’s a better source than Saul Alinsky, welcome to the team […] The president believes in a kind of Saul Alinsky radicalism which would lead to a secular European socialist model […] If you have a Reagan conservative versus a Saul Alinsky radical, it’s a pretty easy debate.

BILL MOYERS: So clever, so insidious. The same tactic Newt Gingrich invoked with those radioactive words he used in the GOPAC memos to demonize his opponents. The crowd knows nothing about the target except that they are supposed to hate him.

And why not? There’s the strange foreign name. Obviously an alien. One of them. And a socialist at that. What’s a socialist? Don’t know. But Obama’s one, isn’t he? Barack-Hussein-Obama-slash-Saul-Alinsky. Bingo! Two peas in a pod — a sinister, subversive pod at that.

Just who was Alinsky? Born in the ghetto of Chicago’s South Side, he saw the worst of poverty and felt the ethnic prejudices that fester, then blast into violence when people are crowded into tenements and have too little to eat. He came to believe that working people, poor people, people put down and stepped upon, had to organize if they were going to clean up the slums, fight the corruption that exploited them, and get a hand-hold on the first rung of the ladder.

He became a protégé of the labor leader John L. Lewis and took the principles of organizing onto the streets, first in his home town, then across the country. He was one gutsy guy.

SAUL ALINSKY: The first rule of change is controversy. You can’t get away from it

Will Parrish: New Real Estate Predators…


From WILL PARRISH and DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM
Ukiah
TheAVA

“During depressions, assets return to their rightful owners.” — Andrew Mellon, banker, US Treasury Secretary, and intellectual father of “trickle down” tax cut ideology.

“Buy on the fringe and wait. Buy land near a growing city! Buy real estate when other people want to sell. Hold what you buy!” — John Jacob Astor, real estate speculator-cum-fur trader and global opium trafficker.

Throughout much of the North Bay and North Coast, real estate values closely correlate with the value of wine. In recent decades, the wine industry’s relentless development of “raw land” — as industrial agriculturists refer to forests, prairies, savannahs, meadows, deserts, or any other landbase not yet totally subsumed by the industrial economy — into vineyards has markedly driven up regional property prices. The industry has further impacted real estate values via its integration with the real estate economy as a whole. More than any other artifact or image, it is the vineyard and wine glass that have come to epitomize the “Good Life” of Northern California for a global market of real estate investors, vacation-takers, and home buyers. The political and business establishment tout wine’s economic impact in triumphalist terms, virtually never exploring the dark sides of gentrification and growing inequality.

With the 2007-8 collapse of the real estate market, and the attendant decline of pricey “premium” wine brands, new forms of predatory real estate capital have emerged to prey on the “distressed assets” that now pervade the suburbs, exurbs, and countryside. “Distressed” is a financial sector euphemism for assets that have lost significant value due to the fact that the middle class has been gutted by foreclosures, high unemployment, loss of savings and other factors. Most often, of course, those who are truly distressed by this state of affairs are families or individuals who can no longer afford to pay bills, save, or even survive, let alone purchase the growing inventory of foreclosed homes that have glutted the market.

To understand how this development ties into the fate of this area’s wine industry, it helps to recount the rise and recent fall of one of the wine industry’s largest speculative entities of the last decade, Premier Pacific Vineyards (PPV).

OWS: 5.6 Million Americans have switched their Banks in the last 90 days…


From PAT GAROFALO
Think Progress

Back in November, the Occupy Wall Street movement inspired “Bank Transfer Day,” a day for Americans fed up with the actions of the nation’s biggest banks to move their money to a different institution. Initial estimates of the impact of Bank Transfer Day placed the number of accounts moved at around 600,000, but later estimates revised that downward to around 200,000.

However, new estimates from Javelin Strategy and Research, a research and consulting firm, show that the original numbers were closer to the truth. Javelin found that 5.6 million people have moved their bank accounts in the last 90 days, with 610,000 citing Bank Transfer Day as their reason:

Bank Transfer Day and the Occupy Movement have received tremendous attention, and for the first time we have market research data to measure the impact on the financial services industry. Javelin’s research estimates that 5.6 million U.S. adults with a banking relationship changed providers in the past 90 days. Of those switchers, 610,000 US adults (or 11% of the 5.6 million) cited Bank Transfer Day as their reason and actually moved their accounts from a large to a small institution.

Javelin noted that this pace of account closing is three times the normal rate. While 11 percent of people moving their accounts cited Bank Transfer Day, one quarter said they moved their money because their old institution charged too many fees. Account closures at Bank of America, the nation’s second largest bank, actually jumped 20 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, potentially driven by the bank’s ill-fated decision to implement a $5 monthly fee for its debt cards.

According to the consulting firm cg42, the nation’s 10 biggest banks could lose as much as $185 billion in deposits this year due to customer defections. Of those banks, “Bank of America is the most vulnerable and could lose up to 10% of its customers and $42 billion in consumer deposits.”
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Saturday Song: Love and Happiness…


For J. Lovejoy’s contributions to our community…
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Rosalind Peterson: How to opt-out of PG&E SmartMeters…



From ROSALIND PETERSON
Re: PG&E SmartMeter Opt-Out

[The PG&E Opt-Out is based on a California Public Utilities Commission Decision on February 1, 2012. See my notes below… -RP]

What are the costs to opt-out of the SmartMeter™ Program?
There is an initial $75 setup charge and a $10 monthly meter-reading charge. For income-qualified customers (those enrolled in our CARE or FERA programs), the initial setup charge is $10, and the monthly meter-reading charge is $5.

Why do I have to pay a charge to opt-out of SmartMeter™?
Generally, the opt-out costs include an initial setup charge, which pays for the technology changes necessary to offer two meter-reading systems plus the initial visit, which is to install a new analog meter, or test the existing analog meter. The monthly service charge provides for a meter reader to read the meter on a monthly basis as well as other costs associated with the maintenance of separate meter programs.

Will PG&E refuse to provide me an analog meter if I don’t pay?
No. We will process your opt-out request and install your analog meter, but you still will be responsible for these charges.

Do I have to pay a setup charge and monthly charge for each of my meters?
No, the setup charge is per residence, not per meter. If you have both a gas meter and an electric meter at your property, only one setup charge and one monthly charge will be added to your energy statement. However, if you would like to opt-out for other residences on your account, there is a setup charge and a monthly charge for each additional household.

Once I opt-out, when can I expect to receive my analog meter?
We’re working as quickly as possible to assist all of our customers with their opt-out preferences. We do not have

Todd Walton: Practice(ing)


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Marcia and I were walking on Big River Beach yesterday, the wet sand firm underfoot—Big River swollen and muddy from the recent deluge, a light rain falling.

As we reveled in the windy wet, free from our various indoor practices, our conversation ran from gossip to silence to politics to silence to memoir to silence to what we might have for supper. And at some point Marcia asked me about a speaking engagement I’ve accepted, a keynote address at a writers’ conference, the dreaded topic—The Creative Process—chosen for me by the conference planners. I say dreaded because I think most of what I’ve ever read about the so-called creative process is hogwash, and I fear that anything I might add to the dreaded subject would be hogwash, too.

Long ago I worked in a day care center overseeing a mob of little kids. The day care center was located ten minutes from Stanford University and we were forever being visited by earnest graduate students writing theses about educational techniques, educational philosophies, educational processes, and God knows what else pertaining to mobs of little kids. Having no degree of any kind, let alone a degree in Small Child Management, I found it highly amusing to be the frequent recipient of attention from these humorless academics, some of whom, I’ll wager, went on to author textbooks for aspiring nursery school teachers, kindergarten teachers, and other Small Child Management educators. Could it be that information gathered from interviews with me conducted by these earnest humorless people helped shape curricula for early childhood education in America? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Transition to Democracy: Facing the future with full employment and a renewed commitment to civil action…


From DAN KERVICK
New Economic Perspectives

There is a war going on everywhere between the corporate form of organization based on authoritarian control and elite hierarchy and the democratic form of organization based on shared power, empowered citizenship and the cooperation of equals.  Right now, the corporations and plutocrats are winning...

The failing neoliberal world system is beyond wrong: it is a stupid, backward and barbaric system, and the countries who continue to practice it inflict needless losses and suffering on their own citizens.

As you read this, millions of Americans who desperately want to work either cannot find employment at all, or cannot find the quantity and quality of work they need to meet their own needs and the needs of their families.  This is real suffering.  The unemployed are real flesh-and-blood people, not just fractions of percentage points on Labor Department spreadsheets.

At the same time, we have tremendous unmet social needs.  Any well-informed high school student can point to large, daunting national challenges that we sorely need to address, but that we are not addressing with anything approaching the urgency and commitment that the gravity of the challenges would seem to demand of us.

So the availability of unemployed human labor power is extremely high, while the need for applied, energetic human effort is extremely acute.

Mainstream textbook economics tells us that these kinds of problems

You can thank Reagan Republicans for Climate Change Hell…


From SAM PARRY
Consortium News

The documentary “A Road Not Taken” chronicles the story of the 32 solar panels that President Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House in 1979, the same solar panels President Ronald Reagan unceremoniously removed.

After being taken down in 1986, the solar panels were stored away in a government warehouse, like that scene at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Arc.” They were mostly forgotten until 1991, when Unity College, a small private school in central Maine that promotes sustainability, acquired them and put them to use on the roof of the school’s cafeteria.

Later, one of the panels was donated to the American History Museum in Washington, DC, and another found its way back to Jimmy Carter, given to the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia, where it was made a permanent exhibit in 2007, recalling Carter’s early commitment to renewable energy.

Yet, besides following the fate of these particular solar panels, the 2010 documentary reflects on the lost opportunity for the United States and the world in the change of direction that the solar panels represented, the fateful turn on energy issues from Carter’s presidency to Reagan’s.

President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels being installed

The Decline and Fall of the Mall…


When was the last time you danced at Walmart or Costco?
Downtown Iowa City offers many things you can’t find at Big Box

From JAY WALLJASPER
Shareable

[See also Why We Need Resilient Communities below… DS]

In December while you were wrapping presents and sipping egg nog, a huge shift was occurring in the American economy—one that will have a major influence on our towns and cities.

What happened?  A lot of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Solstice shopping migrated to the Internet.

It’s been a steady trend for years, but finally hit home in 2012.  After enduring dampened sales over the past three holiday shopping seasons, America’s retailers were counting on a consumer comeback.  Big sales on Black Friday looked promising, but when all the receipts were counted, it was another year of yuletide restraint—at least in brick-and-mortar stores.  Meanwhile Internet sales continued to rise.

After New Years Sears, K-mart and even swank Bloomingdale’s announced nationwide store closings. It’s very likely holiday shoppers will discover even more empty storefronts next December

Similar to the housing bubble that burst in 2008, some places will be more devastated than others. Brooking Institute Real Estate expert Christopher Leinberger documents how many outlying suburban areas were swamped by massive devaluation of housing prices–more than established neighborhoods in cities and inner-ring suburbs.

I think the same will hold true for the coming retail crunch. Downtowns and neighborhood

Transition: New film being unveiled in England today…


From TRANSITION NETWORK

[New film series from Transition Ukiah Valley to be announced soon… -DS]

‘In Transition 2.0’ is nearly ready to be unveiled to the world! We are very excited about this inspiring new telling of the Transition story, and want to tell you more about it here, and about how it will be rolled out over the coming months. To get us started, because we are so excited about sharing this with you, here is the film’s trailer, directed by Caspar Walsh.

Hopefully that has sufficiently whet your appetite for what is a remarkable film. We describe it thus:

“In Transition 2.0 is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You’ll hear about communities printing their own money, growing food everywhere, localising their economies and setting up community power stations. It’s an idea that has gone viral, a social experiment that is about responding to uncertain times with solutions and optimism. In a world that is awash with gloom, here is a story of hope, ingenuity and the power of growing vegetables in unexpected places”.

It has been produced by Emma Goude, with animation by Emilio Mula, photography by Beccy Strong and with stunning original music by Rebecca Mayes. They have drawn together stories from around the world showing Transition initiatives at the various stages of transitioning their communities. In order to be able to feature some of the stories from overseas

What the Farm Bill could accomplish…


From SHARON ASTYK
casaubonsbook

Kari Hamerschlag has a post up about the upcoming Farm Bill and its potential to move money away from large scale industrial agriculture and towards smaller producers. For most small farmers producing for local markets, the idea is heady – after all, the economics agriculture are tenuous for many of us – we get all of the burdens of regulation without any of the economies of scale that accompany large scale agriculture. Most small producers are driven, then, to serve communities that can pay, rather than necessarily their poorer rural neighbors (although all of us do some of that too). We then get accused of being elitist (as I’ve written about before), usually with the word “arugula” mentioned somewhere (I’ve never fully grasped why a perfectly nice green, fast growing, easy to grow plant like arugula is actually a code word for “rich asshole” – why not “mustard greens” or “kale?”)

The accusation that local food is elitist is actually a product of the industrial food infrastructure – that is, the requirements of an industrial food system, the presumption that the basic structure of food production should be industrialized is what makes the price of good food higher. The accusation that local food isn’t “serious” because it costs more is an accusation in bad faith – the reason it costs more is because the same system makes it cost more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing in favor of farmers’ not getting a fair price for their food, but consider the cost of a gallon of milk. I can produce a gallon of milk from my barn for about $2.40 in hay, grain, amortized goat costs, and a tiny chunk of my mortgage payment.

Jim Houle: Setting Aside Assad…


From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The Propaganda Buildup to Regime Change in Syria has gone on since last spring but almost no one in the US pays much attention. Partly this is because the stories that are floated on the air waves sound so much like the usual buildup to war: whether it be the NATO intervention in Libya last year, the recent Somalia intervention, or the Iraqi invasion back in 2003. The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has kept most foreign journalists out and we are left with precious little of that bloody street fighting video our bored TV watchers can sink their chops into. When we tried to enter southern Syria ourselves last May, the border was suddenly closed while the Army proceeded to shoot unarmed protesters in the southern town of Daraa.

Last November, our Arab League vassals got President Assad to invite 165 “observers”, wearing those orange vests that highway workers normally wear around here, to see what Assad was doing. Their mission expired recently and there was little enthusiasm to risk further stray bullets on the streets. They were unsuccessful in curbing the bloodshed and opposition groups within Syria felt they had merely whitewashed the Assad regime’s suppression. A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, Burban Ghalioun, complained that: “conditions did not allow observers to submit an objective report”. Nevertheless, the Qatar foreign minister bravely stated: “We are with the Syrian people and with their will and their aspirations” ( NYT -1/22) and wanted foreign troops to enter so long as they were not Qataris.