Dave Smith: Cesar Chavez and Me…

Excerpted from To Be Of Use
The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work (2005)

“When we are really honest with ourselves,” Cesar Chavez once said, “we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of men we are. … Our cause goes on in hundreds of distant places. It multiplies among thousands and then millions of caring people who heed through a multitude of simple deeds the commandment set out in the book of the Prophet Micah, in the Old Testament: ‘What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’”

While my [Fundalmentalist preacher] dad was building a church, Cesar Chavez was building a union. My dad believed that by winning others to his belief system, he was building himself a mansion in heaven on a street paved with gold. Cesar was living and organizing for a better life for farmworkers in a San Jose barrio called Sal Si Puedes, which means “Escape If You Can.”

What I loved most about the farmworkers’ movement when Cesar asked me to join in 1968 was our complete and utter absorption in the cause. The work consumed our everyday lives 24/7, and it had real meaning. I had gone from work that was, for me

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

Ramiro Hernandez Farias


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.

Tomatoes hurt…


The Other Side of the Tomato

On our way towards Immokalee, Florida to visit with Immigrant Farm laborers, we decided to stop into a Chipotle. We pride ourselves on not eating fast food, and have only stopped at 1-2 along the way (always either Subway or Chipotle, and always vegetarian). But there is something about Chipotle that makes me feel like I’m not eating at a fast food joint. Their decor of metallic, aztec-ish mosaics on the walls; smell of cilantro rice; and clean metal tables is familiar and comforting so far from home. Their motto is “Food with Integrity” (it’s right there when you pull up the website), and they pride themselves on working with small farmers (when they can) and providing good, local, farm-supporting food. And it tastes good. So, we pulled off of interstate 41 without any guilt and stopped in for a quick bite.

I got what I usually get: veggie bowl with lots of rice, topped with a little bit of black beans, cheese, lettuce and their mild salsa chocked full of red tomatoes

Todd Walton: Balance — a short story

Photo by Marcia Stone


I was the only child of elderly parents. They both died the year before I evolved out of puberty, and I was left in the care of a diminutive maiden aunt. She had absolutely no short term memory and even less money. My bedroom was my haven, my black and white television my constant companion. I was an uninspired student, a mediocre athlete, and I think it fair to say that I had no real friends, no one to confide in, no one to discuss my fears and fantasies with.

I cannot remember when I first became aware of the feeling I am about to describe. I know that I felt it when my parents were still alive, and before I could read, which means I may have been as young as four. I suppose it is even possible that I was born feeling this way, but my memory only stretches back to my late twos, when our big dark tabby cat killed a huge rat, and I saw him eating the rodent, staining the kitchen linoleum with bright blood.

And yet, even now, after all these years of living by and for this belief, I hesitate to reveal my secret. I fear it may sound trite and stupid to you. I fear you will think it little more than a poor excuse for a life poorly lived, a delusional, idiotic notion. But I must risk your contempt. It is my duty.

All my life I have been convinced that something spectacularly good

Dave Smith: Best Damn Pizza in the Universe Bar None… (Update)

Oh no! This is NOT one of Greg’s pizzas!


When I make pizza at home, I always, always, pile way too much and way too many different ingredients on. I guess because it seems to be the American way of living large or something. Or maybe it’s because of all the choices available at Round Table and you fall into a pattern of having tons on top.

Here in Ukiah we have several good choices when we’re hankerin’ for something cheezy and greezy. There are home town favorite Marino’s and the ever-present Round Table. There are the (ugh) cheapo national chains. Schat’s offers tempting varieties sitting there amongst the croissants and sticky buns. And only recently the new owners of the Brewpub installed a pizza oven, hired away one of the Round Table managers, and offer pretty good selections which I assume are all organic.

And then there are Greg’s pizzas at Mama’s downtown (formerly Local Flavor, and before that the Garden Bakery). Greg Shimshak says he learned pizza-making “from mama” and then honed his skills while learning and working at Alice Water’s legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley. While there, he worked with our beloved Jacquie Lee who eventually migrated to Ukiah and opened the Garden Bakery, then retired and rented the building to Greg and Heidi. And that is why we have great, great pizzas available here in Ukiah.

Adbusters Media Empowerment Kit For Teachers Helps Break Earth-Killing Consumer Trance…


[Parents/Grandparents: Please don’t make your kid’s teachers buy this for their classrooms. Go in with other parents in your school and share this around… -DS]

Teachers – Adbusters’ Media Literacy Kit ($125) will inspire your high school students break out of the media consumer trance! Each kit includes:

  • a lesson binder with photocopy-friendly removable sleeves
  • a DVD chock full of images and video clips
  • For a limited time: Get a FREE 1-year subscription to Adbusters magazine with purchase of the Media Empowerment Kit.

Designed as a flexible teachers’ aid, the kit features 43 lesson ideas, including personal challenges, group activities, discussion starters and eye-opening readings. Lessons are divided into three areas:

I. Explore Your Mental Environment

  • NEW IDEA: What is the Mental Environment?
  • BRAINSTORM: Explore Your Mental Environment
  • NEW IDEA: Pollution of the Mental Environment

Silent Spring Dawns…

New. Clear. Vision.

Hot, Dry, and Merciless — Can We Keep the Flame of Hope Alive?

Usually I try to stay positive and keep the flame of hope burning brightly, a beacon for myself and for others.

But today this stark, in-your-face, first-day-of-spring evidence of the coming train wreck of climate change has guttered my hope.

Time is running short for us, just as it is for the bears and the birds and the native peoples of the forest.

We are coming inexorably into Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

Last week, turning the corner into the astronomical Spring, we went abruptly from warm winter to hot summer.  And I mean hot: it was 84 degrees Farenheit in western Massachusetts, brightly sunny, with puffy white cumulus clouds against a brilliant blue sky, unobstructed by any leaves.  No shade.

This day reminded me of a wax model: beautiful but blank.  The façade of beauty, with the crucial vital spark missing.

When I went for a walk up the mountain early that morning, the woods were eerily silent.

Radiation at Fukushima Plant Far Worse and Growing… Now So High It Will Kill Robots

Thanks to Meca Wawona

Radiation levels inside Fukushima’s reactor 2 have reached fatally high levels, and levels of water are far lower than previously thought, experts say today.

A radiation monitor indicates 131.00 microsieverts per hour near the No.4 and No.3 buildings at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture February 28, 2012. (REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/Pool)The current radiation levels are so high that even robots cannot enter. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says that new robots and equipment will need to be developed to deal with the lethal levels of radiation.

TEPCO spokesperson Junichi Matsumoto told the Associated Press, “We have to develop equipment that can tolerate high radiation” when locating and removing melted fuel during the decommissioning.

At ten times the lethal dose, the radiation levels are at their highest point yet.

At the current level of 73 sieverts, the data gathering robots can only stand two to three hours of exposure. But, Tsuyoshi Misawa, a reactor physics and engineering professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, told The Japan Times

Gene Logsdon: Watching Hens Eat

The Contrary Farmer

I’ve learned more about the economies of small scale food production from watching chickens than from any library or university.  The hens reveal a world almost foreign to our human experience. Ever since farming became a capitalistic enterprise, husbandry has been organized around the idea of making money, not making food.  When the farmer is freed from the yoke of money-making, wonderful alternatives become possible in food production. More people can do it, for one thing. It doesn’t take a quarter million bucks to get started.  If more people do it, eventually the gardeners will become the farmers and the economics of food production will be turned upside down.

It amazes me how, as a farm boy, I learned to raise chickens the money way and thought that was the only way. We lived on a farm that was close to nature, but we were already evolving factory farming. The factory way meant that farmers had to raise lots more chickens in one place than nature ever intended, and the more they raised, the more they had to raise to try to squeeze out a profit. The chickens were penned up, which meant that they had to be provided all their food and water. They developed various diseases in unnatural captivity, started pecking bloody holes in each other, got lice,

How Many Circles Does it Take to Make a Community?

How To Save The World

Last evening I spent a couple of hours with three of my Bowen In Transition colleagues — Don Marshall, Rob Cairns and Robert Ballantyne — discussing what, if anything, we might do to start preparing our community (Bowen Island, off Vancouver BC, population 3800, area 20 sq. mi.) for the economic, energy and ecological crises — and perhaps even collapse — we expect to see in the coming decades.

Bowen in Transition, like many global Transition Initiative communities, is already doing several short-term small-step activities — learning about and (at a personal level) applying permaculture principles, obtaining and acting upon home energy audits, compiling a list of local experts in sustainable food, energy, building etc., holding awareness events etc. But as I noted in my recent Preparing for the Unimaginable post, I am concerned that we need to start thinking about longer-term, larger-scale, community-wide changes if we want to have a community sufficiently competent, self-sufficient and resilient enough to sustain ourselves through major and enduring crises.

I have read

A Slow-Books Manifesto…

The Atlantic

[…] What about having fun while exerting greater control over what goes into your brain? Why hasn’t a hip alliance emerged that’s concerned about what happens to our intellectual health, our country, and, yes, our happiness when we consume empty-calorie entertainment? The Slow Food manifesto lauds “quieter pleasures” as a means of opposing “the universal folly of Fast Life”—yet there’s little that seems more foolish, loudly unpleasant, and universal than the screens that blare in every corner of America (at the airport, at the gym, in the elevator, in our hands). “Fast” entertainment, consumed mindlessly as we slump on the couch or do our morning commute, pickles our brains—and our souls.

That’s why I’m calling for a Slow Books Movement… In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They’ll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they’ll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too.

To borrow a cadence from Michael Pollan: Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics… Complete article here

Gina Covina: Saving tomato seeds from different varieties…

Laughing Frog Farm

[Mulligan Books & Seeds is working with Laughing Frog Farm, Sustainable Seed Co, Transition Ukiah Valley, and others to localize organic seed breeding, growing, saving, and trading with seeds adapted to our particular soils and climate… providing a more secure local food system. We plan to establish: a network of organic seed growers in Mendocino County, a local market for locally-grown seeds, and a seed bank. Please see Underground Seeds By Hand.

A Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers from Organic Seed Alliance condenses years of farming, gardening, plant breeding and seed saving wisdom, as well as conversations with many prominent seed experts. The guide covers the basics of seed growing from choosing appropriate varieties for seed saving to harvesting, processing, and storing seed. Download it here. -DS]

Do tomatoes cross-pollinate? That’s today’s burning question. Can you save seed from different varieties grown in the same garden? And how far apart do different varieties need to be? You’ll find as many answers as there are tomatoes, all contradictory, with the majority tending to the self-pollinating end of the spectrum, which is where I started when I first saved tomato seed. I did it casually, with no thought of isolation distances, and the first few times it seemed to work – the next year’s tomatoes were recognizably similar to the ones from which I’d saved seed.

Then I grew Big Rainbow, a beefsteak heirloom with swirls of red/yellow/orange inside and out, and so delicious I saved seed and eagerly waited for the next year’s crop. Which turned out to have the coloring of Big Rainbow, but a size closer to a cherry, and a taste so bland only the chickens would eat it.

There are two factors, it turns out, that contribute to a widespread belief that tomatoes do not cross-pollinate. The first is that sometimes it’s true. Modern open-pollinated varieties have flowers that are not capable of cross-pollination (as in the photo above). The pollen-carrying stamens are fused into a tube that encloses the stigma, which is the girl part that takes in the pollen and transports it to the flower’s ovary. You can grow these varieties right next to any other tomatoes and save the seeds with confidence. Mountain Gold is the only tomato seed Laughing Frog offers that has this kind of flower. It was developed twenty years ago

Organic Seed Stakeholders Meet in California…

Organic Seed Alliance

Did you know that California produces more vegetable seed than any other state? And that, according to a survey conducted as part of OSA’s State of Organic Seed report, the vast majority of California organic farmers surveyed agree that organic seed is important in maintaining the integrity of organic food production? Yet, only 38% of the vegetable seed used by California organic farmers surveyed was organic. Why are California farmers relying so much on conventionally produced seed? And how can we work to advance a seed system that benefits farmers and sustainable agriculture in the golden state?

In order to advance organic seed systems in California, OSA, with support from Columbia Foundation and in partnership with FarmsReach, convened an organic seed stakeholder meeting at the EcoFarm conference earlier this month to gather diverse perspectives on what’s working and not working in the seed industry and brainstorm ways to strengthen organic seed systems in California.

More than 20 participants — from farmers to certifiers to seed company representatives — identified opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and better communication across all phases of the seed supply chain. The interactive session gave these stakeholders a chance to make their voices heard. Some of the things we heard included:

From a farmer: “How do we work with the increasing number of private and public farmer training programs to incorporate seed saving/breeding curricula into their programs?”

From a seed producer: “We need more local trials.”

From a farmer: “Why do I go to the extra effort and money to buy organic seed while my neighbor gets away with using conventional seed?”

From a distributer: “We’re working on a new trial farm, but a database of seed trial [reports] would be incredible.”

By the end of the meeting, groups had formed to divise solutions in the following four areas:

– Information Networks for Seeds
– Seed Education & Training
– Seed Quality
– Seed Economics & Viability

I left the meeting inspired by the enthusiasm and insight of the participants. Moving forward, OSA will use both the input from this stakeholder’s session and the continued involvement of the members of these four focus groups to make targeted efforts to strengthen California’s organic seed system.

U.S. employs Vinnie the Kneecapper to collect student debt…


On the heels of the assessment we saw from Tyler Durden, via Fitch, of the implosion of US student loan debt, which stands at over $1 trillion, increases by $40-50 billion (!!) each month (or $500-$600 billion per year), and of which 27% is already 30 days or more delinquent, John Hechinger explains for Bloomberg how the US Education Department goes about collecting this debt.

Turns out, it’s case of “Eat your heart out, Tony Soprano”. Hard to believe this could happen in a supposedly civilized country, but there you have it. Here are some excerpts from Hechinger’s article:

Obama Relies on Debt Collectors Profiting From Student Loan Woes

The debt collector on the other end of the phone gave Oswaldo Campos an ultimatum:

Pay $219 a month toward his more than $20,000 in defaulted student loans, or Pioneer Credit Recovery, a contractor with the U.S. Education Department, would confiscate his pay. Campos, disabled from liver disease, makes about $20,000 a year.

“We’re not playing here,” Campos recalled the collector telling him in December. “You’re dealing with the federal government. You have no other options.”

Campos agreed to have the money deducted each month from his bank account, even though federal student-loan rules would let him pay less and become eligible for a plan — approved by Congress and touted by President Barack Obama — requiring him to

Shelf lives: my brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine…

Mother Jones

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave

[…] This town somewhere west of the Mississippi is not big; everyone knows someone or is someone who’s worked for Amalgamated. “But look at it from their perspective. They need you to work as fast as possible to push out as much as they can as fast as they can. So they’re gonna give you goals, and then you know what? If you make those goals, they’re gonna increase the goals. But they’ll be yelling at you all the time. It’s like the military. They have to break you down so they can turn you into what they want you to be. So they’re going to tell you, ‘You’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough,’ to make you work harder. Don’t say, ‘This is the best I can do.’ Say, ‘I’ll try,’ even if you know you can’t do it. Because if you say, ‘This is the best I can do,’ they’ll let you go. They hire and fire constantly, every day. You’ll see people dropping all around you. But don’t take it personally and break down or start crying when they yell at you.”…

“This really doesn’t have to be this awful,” I shake my head over Skype. But it is. And this job is just about the only game in town, like it is in lots of towns, and eventually will be in more towns, with US internet retail sales projected to grow 10 percent every year to $279 billion in 2015 and with Amazon, the largest of the online retailers, seeing revenues rise 30 to 40 percent year after year and already having 69 giant warehouses, 17 of which came online in 2011 alone…

Complete article here

Serfs up…


The Republican Vision of America Is One in Which 99 Percent of Us Are Condemned to Be Feudal Serfs…

Republicans in Congress [have] unveiled their vision for America, and if they succeed, the 99 percent of us are condemned to live like serfs. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, himself a multimillionaire, released his blueprint budget for fiscal year 2013 which includes massive cuts to food stamps, student loans, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The budget also dismantles Medicare as we know it — transforming an insurance program into a voucher program, leaving millions of senior citizens on their own to deal with for-profit health insurance companies.

And in a nod to the Republican Party’s super-rich members like himself, Ryan proposes enormous tax breaks for the 1 percent — lowering the top income tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent. According to the Tax Policy Center — Ryan’s budget would give $3 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans — all paid for by cutting spending on education, healthcare, and Medicare. Congressman Ryan said about his budget, “It’s up to the people to demand … a choice between two futures. The question is which future will you choose?”

That is the question indeed — will we choose the future in which a middle class can thrive again in America like it did for 50 years after the New Deal until Ronald Reagan blew everything up?

Or — will we choose Paul Ryan’s path to an Ayn Rand dystopia, in which only the super-wealthy can go to good schools and see doctors, and everyone else is left with what trickles down from the tables of the rich?

All this general bullshit started with Reagan…

This story is part of Dissent magazine’s special issue on Workers in the Age of Austerity

Alan Greenspan described the 1981 destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization as “perhaps most important” of all of Reagan’s domestic undertakings. The defeat of PATCO during the first summer of the Reagan administration “gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.” With employers’ “freedom to fire” renewed, entrepreneurial initiative could once again be unleashed. Reagan’s action thus inaugurated a miraculous era of “low unemployment and low inflation.” If we substitute Greenspan’s phrase “freedom to fire” with “break unions, strip them of the right to strike, redistribute wealth upward, and create massive economic insecurity,” then we have a story that is similarly satisfying to the Left. Indeed, the PATCO strike has become the pivotal event—both symbolically and substantively—in almost everyone’s understanding of the massive realignment of class power in the United States in the last few decades.

The PATCO strike may be the watershed moment in the consolidation of the post-New Deal order, but it has also become a bloated political symbol. Fortunately, Joseph McCartin gracefully moves the union and its famous strike from myth to complex historical analysis in his new book Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, The Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America. McCartin’s assessment captures the very real importance of the strike coolly, without reading too much into it: “No strike in American history unfolded more visibly before the eyes

Dave Smith: Inequality is the problem, not the solution…


To the Editors AVA, UDJ, WN:

In their fine, insightful book The Spirit Level, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett offer irrefutable, empirical evidence that what matters most in determining not only the health and mortality of any society but also the prevalence of a host of other social problems — including mental illness, obesity and homicides — is how wealth is distributed or, in other words, the extent of inequality.

In the most unequal societies — US, Britain, Portugal and New Zealand — the level of homicides, mental illness, teenage pregnancies and so on is much higher than in the more equal societies, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Japan. “The reason why these differences are so big is, quite simply, because the effects of inequality are not confined just to the least well-off; instead they affect the vast majority of the population.” Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier, unhappier lives all around.

America is one of the world’s richest nations, with among the highest figures for income per person, but has the lowest longevity of the developed nations, and a level of violence — murder, in particular — that is off the charts. For some, mainly the young, the experience of daily life at the bottom of a steep social hierarchy is enraging. The US has institutionalized economic and social inequality to the extent that, at any one time, a quarter of our respective populations are mentally ill. Yet we are constantly bombarded by the monotonous drone of the “free traders” and neo-conservatives touting low wages, low benefits and low public spending that increases inequality, and imposes unhappiness on us all, as the answer to our ills.

Don Sanderson: Notes on two recent Diet articles posted here on Ukiah Blog…


[Don’s article is well worth the time invested in reading it… -DS]

Re: Is Modern Medicine the biggest swindle of them all? and Red meat, mortality, and the usual bad science….

A problem I have with most articles appearing on the internet is they give little evidence of serious investigation, even when I agree with their premises. Of course, the issues are so complex and we mostly have so little time and background that we must defer. So, it isn’t surprising that telling counter arguments can be presented in response. In fact, I agree with the conclusions of both of these specific articles, but have reached them by what surely most would regard as heroic investigations by a layman. I’m a bulldog when an issue is important to me and won’t let loose until I understand at least how difficult the topic really is. Ok, I have a doctorate in mathematics and physics, so I’m unafraid of science. I’ve also had a longstanding interest in the biological sciences, much deeper it turns out than in my majors, which I chose for the job prospects.

I have Addison’s Disease

The original 1% wealthy white guys who stole our Democracy…

New. Clear. Vision.
Thanks to Don Sanderson

Rolling Back Democracy by Keeping the Rabble in Check

We learned in grade school about the Constitutional Convention, right? That summer of 1787 when the founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to write the US Constitution? Many of us would be shocked to learn that what the framers of the Constitution did was roll back democratic gains of the American Revolution. They were frightened of too much democracy.

Why does this matter? Because the pressures against democracy today — the interests of the 1 percent of the wealthiest, most powerful Americans who make corporate decisions that threaten the health and well-being of people and Earth — are the same pressures that led to limiting democracy at the start of this country.

The delegates who wrote the Constitution were the 1 percent of their time — white men of means who were merchants and landowners and slaveholders, the majority of them lawyers and a few of them, like Washington, extremely wealthy. They had been living in a democratic experiment for eleven years under the Articles of Confederation, and most of them didn’t like it. They’d seen social upheaval — poor farmers revolting because they were losing their land on account of taxes levied against them to pay for the revolution. Slaves growing more numerous

Todd Walton: The Manure Chronicles, Part Two

Part 1

“Pleasure is spread through the earth in stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.”— William Wordsworth

Long ago in the Santa Cruz of 1972, I was a member of a large commune occupying a grand old abode on the edge of the sea. A former stagecoach stop, hotel, brothel, and motel, the three-story main house shared a two-acre plot with four one-room cottages and a large barn that had once been a carriage house and served us as woodshop and garage. I am convinced that my vow to plant and maintain a big vegetable and flower garden was what decided the communards to vote me in, but it may also have been that they liked me.

In any case, I did plant a big vegetable and flower garden, roughly a fifth of an acre, and I not only grew enough vegetables to feed our twelve members and myriad guests throughout the year, but I frequently traded surplus vegetables for eggs and fruit produced by other communes in the area, and I made a bit of extra money for the communal pot from passersby attracted to my Pick-Your-Own-Bouquet sign affixed to the trunk of a fallen but still-living cypress at the mouth of our driveway. Our soil was sandy loam

Occupy UC Davis Shuts Down A Bank… Permanently

The Occupy movement is building towards a big bang in May


For the last two months, Occupy UC Davis has been blockading a campus branch of U.S. Bank. Now, in a victory for Occupy that potentially gives birth to a new movement tactic, U.S. Bank has capitulated and permanently closed the branch.

U.S. Bank has been a visible symbol on campus of the corporatization and monied corruption of education in part because, as The Aggie campus newspaper explains, “in 2010, all students were required to get new ID cards with the U.S. Bank logo on the back.”

The tactic of the occupiers was simple, nonviolent and highly effective. The Aggie describes the scene: “the blockade became a daily ritual. Protesters — typically numbering around 15 — would arrive around noon, followed by an officer from the campus police department. Thirty minutes later, bank employees would leave and the entire process would be repeated the next day.”

A celebratory statement posted on Occupy UC Davis’s website said, “the blockade of the U.S. Bank was a real battle against the privatization agenda, and its closure is a victory… This is not enough, this is not the end.”

The victory at Davis opens a new tactical horizon for Occupy. Can the bank blockade tactic be replicated across the nation? Could shutting down big banks every day for a month be the tactical breakthrough we need for May?

Will Parrish: ‘We Are Stealing Because We Feel Like It’


An expedition of Lake County-based Anglo-Irish settlers landed ashore Rattlesnake Island, just offshore the Elem Pomo Indian Colony in Clearlake, this past Saturday — St. Patrick’s Day – and christened it New Ireland. Despite the satirical act’s pointedly white supremacist rationale, it was performed in solidarity with the Elem, for whom the 56-acre island has been the political and religious center for more than 6,000 years.

Jeff Ott of Glenhaven, spokesperson for the New Ireland group, provided this legal rationale for “stealing” of Rattlesnake Island from current paper titleholder John Nady, an exorbitantly wealthy East Bay inventor and entrepreneur: “we Irish are White/European people, and in the United States private property is based on the age-old legal principal ‘White makes might makes right.’ We are stealing [Rattlesnake Island] because we feel like it.”

In just the last few months, Nady has run roughshod over regulations governing developments in archaeologically sensitive areas, even receiving a special exemption from normal grading regulations to begin developing his vacation home and related structures. In a press release, Ott pledged that his group would evict “the criminal Dutch settlement”

Is Walmart really going Organic and Local? Well, define Local…

Mother Jones

I live on an organic farm in North Carolina, so I don’t spend much time roaming my local Walmart looking for produce. But on a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I decided to stop by a busy supercenter to see how the company was going about its well-publicized push to sell more local and organic food.

The produce section sat between the in-store McDonald’s and some giant coolers packed with Hormel bologna. There were crates piled high with perfect orbs of cabbage and tomatoes, onions and melons. Elephant-ear-size collard greens sat in tight bunches; stacks of fist-size lemons beamed yellow. Plenty of fresh food, to be sure, though a few “Grown in USA” signs were the nearest thing I could find to an indication of local. Organic? A few bags of house-brand lettuce claimed that standard.

But you can’t judge Walmart on a single store. The company sells 18 percent of all the groceries bought in the United States—more than anyone else by a wide margin. And it’s not just Froot Loops and rock-hard tomatoes. Over the last decade, Walmart has emerged as a massive player in the organic-food market. By 2006, the year it made a splashy announcement about doubling its sales of organic food, it was already the nation’s No. 1 seller

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules Animated…


If you’ve listened to the past decade’s conversations about food, you’ll have noticed that eating, always a pursuit, has suddenly become a subject as well. One flank of this movement of enthusiasts has taken up Michael Pollan, a professor at UC Berkeley’s journalism school, as its leading light. Whether they agree or disagree with his principles, intellectually engaged eaters who don’t have at least a basic familiarity with Pollan’s books such asThe Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food can hardly consider themselves conversant in the food questions and controversies of the day.

Both Pollan’s potential boosters and detractors alike can get themselves up to speed with his latest volume, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, which boils down his culinary weltanschauung into a series of simple sentences, including “Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature,” “Pay more, eat less,” and, “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.” Pollan also takes positions on entirely gnarlier issues, such as the efficiency (or lack thereof) of agribusiness, and that’s when animators like Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle provide their enlivening services. In the two-minute video above, Jacimovic and Detalle use pieces of actual food to illustrate Pollan’s critique of large-scale food production.

… and you thought Monsanto was evil?…

Thanks to Granville

Scotts Miracle-Gro pleads guilty to selling poisoned bird seed

[Shelf life and profits trump bird life…]

Ohio lawn and garden care company Scotts Miracle-Gro has pleaded guilty to breaching federal pesticide laws by using an unapproved insecticide on bird seed sold nationwide for two years.

In Columbus, U.S. District Court Judge James Graham accepted the company’s guilty plea on Tuesday.

Scotts is proposing to pay a $4 million fine and give $500,000 to help support wildlife conservation and study. Judge Graham said he will issue his decision on the plea agreement at sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

The government alleges that beginning in 2005, Scotts produced a line of wild bird food products under names including “Morning Song” and “Country Pride” that contained insecticides.

Red meat, mortality, and the usual bad science…


[Complete article here with the science and the data. See also Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat]

The media lit up on the evening of Monday March 12th as a press release was issued about an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine published that day.

The BBC were among the first to pick up the story and the story was featured extensively on BBC Breakfast TV and Radio 4 on Tuesday 13th March. Interestingly, John Humphries asked the pertinent question of science reporter Tom Feilden “We’re all going to die – let’s accept that. So what does this lower risk mean?” Tom couldn’t answer the question. He replied “It’s very difficult to unpick these statistics – these numbers are used as bald headlines.” Quite so!

So let us try to unpick the data and see what this article is all about:

At the outset we must highlight the error that this, and every similar study, makes. All that a study like this can even hope to achieve is to suggest a relationship between two things. To then leap from an observed association to causation or risk is ignorant and erroneous. This article makes this mistake – as has every other study I have reviewed demonising red or processed meat over the past year such as this or this

Is Modern Medicine the biggest swindle of them all?

Author of The Long Emergency

[Followup to this article is here]

[…] Last week, after a four year misadventure on an ultra low-fat vegan diet (no meat, no cheese, no eggs), I turned around 180 degrees and resumed eating all those verboten things again. I had been feeling shitty for a long time, in particular with muscle pain, muscle weakness, penetrating fatigue, and some weird neurological symptoms and I decided to take drastic measures.

This personal misadventure started about four and half years ago when my doctor read me the riot act on my cholesterol numbers. The total was around 290. I forget exactly what the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) was, but it wasn’t good, and ditto the HDL (“good” cholesterol) and the triglycerides (oy vay). The upshot was that my doctor put me on a whopping dose of the most powerful statin drug, Crestor 40mg (made by AstraZenica). I left his office feeling like my identity was transformed from a healthy normal person to a prisoner on death row.

I thought I had been leading a healthy life. Being self-employed, and master of my own schedule, I was able to work in a lot of exercise. For twenty-five years I was a runner. A hip replacement put an end to that. During that same period, I also swam a mile a day in the local YMCA lap pool. After hip surgery, I walked daily instead of running, kept swimming, and also did at least four weekly sessions in the weight room (including the cardio machines such as the elliptical trainer

Transition: Preparing for the Unimaginable…

How To Save The World

[For those of us organizing for Transition, this may be the key insight… -DS]

One of the lessons of Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan is that the events that have caused the greatest changes (and collectively most of the substantive change) to our civilization and our way of life were completely unexpected, unpredictable “black swan” events. His new book argues that rather than trying to plan and prepare for a future we can’t predict, we should do things that improve our resilience, and create systems that are “anti-fragile”. Unlike most fragile, complicated human-made systems, “anti-fragile” systems (such as evolution and other complex natural systems) actively adapt to, learn from and benefit from upheaval and dramatic change.

I have often said that that I believe the key to resilience in the coming decades will be our ability, in the moment, to imagine ways around the crises we cannot prevent, predict or plan for, and then navigate them.

So now I am sitting down with a small group of colleagues here on Bowen Island, starting to think about creating what the Transition Movement calls an “energy descent” plan for our island, and wondering how we can hope to plan for the unpredictable, unforeseeable, and unimaginable future we face.

I’ve been part of several

Why do they hate us?…


Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War

The war in Afghanistan—where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal—feeds the culture of atrocity. The fear and stress, the anger and hatred, reduce all Afghans to the enemy, and this includes women, children and the elderly. Civilians and combatants merge into one detested nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short. And murder happens every day in Afghanistan. It happens in drone strikes, artillery bombardments, airstrikes, missile attacks and the withering suppressing fire unleashed in villages from belt-fed machine guns.

Military attacks like these in civilian areas make discussions of human rights an absurdity. Robert Bales, a U.S. Army staff sergeant who allegedly killed 16 civilians in two Afghan villages, including nine children, is not an anomaly. To decry the butchery of this case and to defend the wars of occupation we wage is to know nothing about combat. We kill children nearly every day in Afghanistan. We do not usually kill them outside the structure of a military unit. If an American soldier had killed or wounded

How Greece threatens you and how going local offers the only refuge…

Transition Voice

Banksters are now plundering Greece. How can turmoil in this tiny overseas economy affect your personal finances? 

For months now our stocks have gone up and down due to various concerns, but none more recurrent than concerns about the financial crisis in Greece. Morning after morning, New York City based casino capitalists trade with Greece and the latest rumors from Western Europe on their minds.

What will affluent Germany do to bail out the collapsing, debt-ridden country of Greece? Will France go along with those plans? Will the massive injection of liquidity by the European Central Bank help the banks to behave in ways that help Greece, among other countries? Day after trading day, the U.S.

Why? Greece is a country of just over ten million people with a GDP smaller than that of New Jersey. But because it is closest to the fiscal cliff, financial observers fear a domino effect. If Greece defaults badly, it could pull Portugal, Spain, Ireland and then possibly Italy closer to financial disaster.

Hey Mendo! So Cool! Free Skool Kicks Off Tonight 3/20/12 in Ukiah


Mendo Free Skool is a cooperative approach to living and learning. Run entirely by volunteers, Mendo Free Skool gives people an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge with one another. Anyone can be a teacher/learner/facilitator, so classes take on the flavor of whatever people are interested in at a given time. Through this project, we want to challenge dominant institutions and hierarchical relationships.

Some of the classes offered…

Brewing All-Grain Beer
Butchering Chicken Nicely
Creative Writing Workshop
Farm Day Frey Ranch
Field Video and Studio Production
Goat Milk Soap-Making
Intro to Guitar for Young People
Knitting and Radical Discussions
Practical Permaculture
Quilting Basics
Singing Circle
Bicycle Polo
Willow Basketry

Meet and greet each other for the initiation of the first Mendo Free Skool quarter of classes.

Collapse? Really?



[…] What’s interesting about the examples of Cuba is that it is further evidence to suggest that fairly small energy resource shocks can cause fairly serious consequences – one-fifth of all oil shouldn’t have led to serious hunger. Most people would reasonably argue that waste in the system and proper allocation of resources should have been able to absorb this – or will argue that the fault was the Cuban government’s. To some extent that last point is probably true, but we should remember that we have examples from the US that show that small energy supply disruptions can be extremely destructive – the oil shocks of the 1970s and the major recession that followed resulted from a reduction in imports of just over 5 percent.

So yes, I think we’re on a path toward some kind of collapse, without necessarily assuming cannibalism or even roving gangs of white-supremacist kale-stealers. I would like such a collapse to be averted very much, but it seems less and less likely that we will do so. And the evidence is becoming compelling that we are going to be facing economic, energy and climate crises all at the same time – and that I find it hard to imagine us navigating successfully. Is it impossible? Probably not, but certainly improbable.

What are the common features of collapsed societies?

Popup book of another kind…

Andreas Johansson, From where the sun now stands, 2011, paper and glue


I have in recent years been engaged in making hand-made collages. I take photos of areas in my neighborhood that I cut apart and join together again in new constellations. By doing this, I create imaginary places that are both recognizable and completely alien. These new sites are constructions and have no history, while the places where the photographs once were taken have a very important past. For me, deserted places have a great symbolic value. They represent society’s backside, but also freedom beyond control and regulations. As a child, it was the funniest playground imaginable.

See video display of book here

James Houle: United Nations — Just Another Imperialist Tool

Redwood Valley

One year after the United Nations gave their approval for NATO to intervene in the civil war just then erupting in Benghazi, their Human Rights Commission has issued a “mousey” report accusing both sides of violations of human rights but purposely avoiding any mention of the destruction of civilians neighborhoods of major cities and the wanton obliteration of whole towns by precision bombing raids conducted by Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States. NATO refused to cooperate in the HRA investigations. The article below by Vijay Prashad carefully summarizes the UN report. It does not take much imagination to see how the same tactics can be employed in Syria: NATO airstrikes to eliminate the air defenses, the import of foreign agents and mercenaries, and the smuggling of weapons.

NATO’S Craven Coverup of Its Libyan Bombing 
by Vijay Prashad March 15, 2012
Ten days into the uprising in Benghazi, Libya, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The purpose of the Commission was to “investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya.” The broad agenda was to establish the facts of the violations and crimes and to take such actions

Cabin Porn…


What It Means That Urban Hipsters Like Staring at Pictures of Cabins

“In dreaming about an idyllic past, we are also imagining the future.”

A generation of hipsters has contracted cabin fever. The Cabin Porn website has become one of these internet hits, spreading through blogs, Facebook posts, tumblr reposts, Twitter mentions, and so on. Why can’t all these people stop looking at cabins? What is the allure? Put simply, Cabin Porn is visual stimulation of the urge for a simpler life in beautiful surroundings. Commenters are likening it to “channeling your inner Thoreau.” Cabin Porn represents the return of the homesteader, living off the grid, self-sufficient and self-reliant… Story here