Pounding Beef



I walked into the kitchen today and found my wife engaging in the primitive practice of pounding on a slab of round steak with the edge of a saucer. Every so often she would pause and sprinkle flour over the meat, then savagely attack it with the saucer again. I have witnessed this strange behavior for so many years, first by my mother and then by my wife, and I have generally taken it for granted. But suddenly it struck me as so Neanderthal that I should maybe ask some questions. But questioning someone who is pounding meat with a saucer can be dangerous. When my mother used to do it she had that same fierce look on her face that she had when killing a snake with a hoe. One learns to address beef pounders very humbly and gently because they are liable to be in a bad mood from having to do such base work. In fact, one of my millions of theories about the human race is that people who decide to pound beef with a saucer are already in a bad mood and are taking it out on the poor round steak.

“Honey, shouldn’t I be doing that?”

Cold stare. “No, you won’t do it right. Go out and bring in some potatoes if you want to help.”

I don’t want to do that either. “Why don’t you use the regular metal meat tenderizer?”

Even colder stare. “That thing doesn’t do the job. And the flour plugs up the teeth. Go get some potatoes out of the pit.”

Thus it shall always be.

I like to talk about pounded round steak in this holiday season of eating high on the hog—or cow— mostly because I love the stuff, and when Carol turns it into Swiss steak with onions and tomato sauce and all sorts of mysteries out of the herb cabinet, this lowly kind of cheap meat tastes as good to me as the best prime Porterhouse steak in Omaha.

The Demanding Gifts of 2012


[Ukiah Blog returns early January… DS]


As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise — but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.

Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.  This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms.

For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us — the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small — to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species.

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to. This means we are losing crucial aspects of our most irreplaceable, sublime gift, and some of us are suffering the loss now — from sea snails whose shells are dissolving in acidified oceans to Hurricane Sandy survivors

William Edelen: Joseph Campbell, Religion and Myths…


The Contrary Minister

Bill Moyers had two interviews with Joseph Campbell for his national television program, Bill Moyers Journal. In his introduction Moyers said “Joseph Campbell is one of the world’s foremost scholars of mythology.” Anyone having an interest in becoming religiously educated and enlightened will be helped by insights from these interviews.

Campbell brings out, of course, that mythological themes or motifs such as flood, virgin birth, resurrected hero, “heaven” concepts, a sacred meal (or ritualistic cannibalism) have a world-wide distribution and are everywhere. They are organized and ritualized according to local needs. In the Moyers’ interviews, Campbell said, “When people try to interpret a spiritual symbol (in mythology) as though it referred to a concrete fact, you have lost the message.”

Moyers: “Give me an example.”

Campbell: “Well, the image of the virgin birth is perfect for an example. This is a motif that occurs in all the mythologies of the world. There are virgin births all over the place in all religions. ‘Virgin birth’ is symbolic of the birth of the spiritual life, and so with resurrection themes or motifs. Misunderstanding consists in reading spiritual mythological symbols as though they were references to historical, factual events.”

Other observations by Campbell in the interviews include the following: “The ‘hero’ in mythology is always the founder of something, a new religion, a new age, a new way of life. The ‘hero’ founders of all religions usually go on their vision quest. The Buddha went into solitude and sat beneath the tree of Immortal Knowledge; Jesus goes off into the desert for 40 days; Zoroaster goes off into the desert, and so it goes.

Murdoch’s brazen bid to hijack the presidency…


The Guardian

Did the Washington Post and others underplay the story through fear of the News Corp chairman, or simply tin-eared judgment?

So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch‘s ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America’s democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch’s goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

Thus in the spring of 2011 – less than 10 weeks before Murdoch’s centrality to the hacking and politician-buying scandal enveloping his British newspapers was definitively revealed – Fox News’ inventor and president, Roger Ailes, dispatched an emissary to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to turn down President Obama’s expected offer to become CIA director and, instead, run for the Republican nomination for president, with promises of being bankrolled by Murdoch. Ailes himself would resign as president of Fox News and run the campaign, according to the conversation between Petraeus and the emissary, K T McFarland, a Fox News on-air defense “analyst” and former spear carrier for national security principals in three Republican administrations.

All this was revealed in a tape recording of Petraeus’s meeting with McFarland obtained by Bob Woodward, whose account of their discussion

Will Parrish: Burnt Out On Fire Suppression


Walking through the chalky gray ashes and charred remains of the lifeless shrub forest that spans the canyons and slopes of North Cow Mountain, the peak of which is roughly eight miles northeast of Ukiah, it is hard to imagine anything ever growing here again. This is the site of the “Scotts Fire,” which raged across 9,000 acres of this Bureau of Land Management-owned terrain this past September. Fueled by several 100-degree days and relatively strong winds, the fire started in a canyon where Goatrock Campground is located on September 7th, quickly running up the ridges through dry brush and vegetation, and torching chamise, manzanita, and blue oaks like so many matchsticks.

It is December now, and the bases of charred shrubs poke out of the ground, scratching the limbs of any passerby who fails to exercise caution in maneuvering through them. The ashy soil is littered in some parts with flakes split off of boulders – proof of the intensity of the recent heat.

In spite of the bleak and silent setting of grays and blacks, this scene actually represents the beginning of one of Mama Earth’s most fascinating cycles of death and renewal. It is only a temporary stage in a complex series of miraculous events in which the original vegetation will gradually renew itself. With the arrival of the late fall rains, green leaves and shoots have started to emerge. Upon close examination, they are coming from deep subterranean woody stumps that the fires were unable to touch: features that these trees and shrubs have developed across millions of years to adapt to regular fires.

The landscapes of California, as with similar Mediterranean-type climates

Todd Walton: The Gift of the Old Guy


Under The Table


Ray, a slender man of eighty-two, his white hair sparse, gazes out the bus window at the passing fields. He is lost in thought, truly lost, unaware of who he is or where he’s going. Ray’s wife Vera, on the other hand, knows exactly who she is and where she’s going. A buxom gal of seventy-nine, her fantastically curly hair tinted pinkish blond, Vera is Flo’s mother and Otto’s grandmother, and she and Ray are on a Greyhound bus going to Ukiah to be with Flo and Otto for Christmas, which is only two days away now. She sits so her shoulder touches Ray’s as she knits an orange and black afghan, her mind crammed with gift lists, recipes, and words of wisdom for her grandson.

“We should have driven,” says Ray, frowning at Vera. “How are we gonna get around without a car?”

“We don’t have a car anymore, dear,” says Vera, smiling at her husband. “Remember? We sold it three months ago. Since I don’t drive and they took your license away, there wasn’t much point in keeping it.”

“Must you remind me?” he says with mock indignation. And then, straining to remember, “Why did they do that?”

“You had another accident. And thank God no one was hurt.”

Ray frowns. “The light was green. The light was not red. I don’t care what anybody says. The light was not green.”

Vera nods. “Yes, dear.”

Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, NOT Detachment…

How To Save The World

There is something seemingly unfathomable to the human mind about exponential curves. As I wrote last fall:

There is an old story about the invention of the chessboard, in which the inventor as his reward asks for one grain of wheat on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and doubling until all 64 squares are full. The seemingly modest request adds up to many times more than all the wheat the world has ever produced. The purpose of the story is to teach about our inability to grasp the impact and unsustainability of accelerating increases in anything, particularly in the final stages. Even when more than half of the squares have been filled the inventor’s request still seems manageable. It is only when it is too late that its impossibility is realized.

 Even when almost all the squares have been filled, the request still seems manageable. We are now living in a world where almost all the squares have been filled. We have used up the easy-to-get half of the Earth’s resources, which accumulated over billions of years. We have used most of that in the last two centuries, and most of that in the last two decades. In the process we have destabilized the planet’s climate systems. We are nearing what is now being called “peak everything”.

And there is certainly nothing “normal” to human eyes in what mathematicians call a “normal curve”, at least when time is the independent variable. We always seem to perceive the future as much like the present, only more so, and our favourite works of utopian and dystopian fiction turn out to be mostly somewhat hyperbolized reflections on the best or worst of the world as it was when the authors wrote them.

Noam Chomsky on Obama, Campus Activism, Mexico and the Middle East…



Noam Chomsky’s latest books are Occupy (Zuccotti Park Press) and Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance (City Lights Publishers).

RICARDO LEZAMA: Have you heard about the Stand With Us group/campaign?

NOAM CHOMSKY: No. Tell me about it.

LEZAMA: They are a group that spread favorable propaganda regarding the IDF on different campuses.

CHOMSKY: Never heard of them.

LEZAMA: Just trying to see how prominent their campaign was – must be a West Coast/Midwest thing. Moving on, What kind of repression do Palestinian Americans face in the U.S.?

CHOMSKY: In America, for one thing, all Muslims are subjected to a kind of Islamaphobia. That is endemic to the United States, and ranges from being detained in the airport, being followed by the FBI, problems at colleges, and elsewhere. Palestinians, of course, are a part of that, and there has been more in the past than today for Palestinian scholars in universities. For example, there have been efforts to defame them as anti-Israeli terrorists. However, it is the kind of repression that is familiar to ethnic groups out of favor with the U.S. government. I have plenty of Palestinian friends who make out fine.

LEZAMA: It is not off the charts?

The Ultimate Logic of a Society Built on Mass Murder…

Base Guide Cover Photo

Black Agenda Radio

Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion.”

As a native-born American, I grew up watching cowboy and Indian shoot-em-ups in which the highlight of the movie was when the white guys in the circled wagon train shot the Indians off their horses until all the red men were dead, and very silent. Indians didn’t do a lot of screaming in pain when they were shot; they just expired. Same thing with buck-toothed Japanese, line after line of them, charging into U.S. machine guns, falling instantly silent and dead. It was somehow quite clean, almost antiseptic, these cinematic rituals of death, all staged for the broadest popular consumption to demonstrate the inevitability — and cosmic justice — of ultimate white victory over the darker races.

This was mother’s milk to the white American nation — which is why Richard Pryor and kids like me rooted for the Indians. Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America’s contribution to European culture was to invite “all the nations of Europe” to come to these shores and become fellow “white” citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites’ collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them white Americans .

The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon.”

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation’s origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob

Monsanto’s Roundup Devastating Gut Health, Contributing to Overgrowth of Deadly Bacteria…



Much of the public forgets the gut when it comes to warding off the flu and other more threatening diseases, but the gut—and its army of beneficial bacteria—are essential in protecting us from harm. That’s why eating genetically modified and/or conventionally farmed food could be a direct assault on your own health. Most recently, research has shown that Monsanto’s herbicide, known as Roundup, is destroying gut health, threatening overall health of animals, people, and the planet significantly.

The journal Current Microbiology recently published a study that caught Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, suppressing beneficial bacteria in poultry specimens. Given that gut health is directly linked to chronic illnesses and overall health, this isn’t exactly welcome news for people who can’t always afford or who lack access to organic, locally grown food.

But it gets worse. While good bacteria died, highly pathogenic bacteria were unaffected by glyphosate. These pathogens include several strains of Salmonella and the class Colstridia, anaerobic bacteria known to be some of the deadliest known to us, including C. tetani (tetanus) and C. botulinum (botulin). Although botulin is used to ease overactive muscles and in Botox, America’s most popular cosmetic procedure, it takes but 75 billionths of a gram to kill someone weighing 75 kg (165 lbs).

“A reduction of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract microiota by ingestion of glyphosate could disturb the normal gut bacterial

Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security? (Updated)



Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits.

And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?

Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office. FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.

The birth of the now-ubiquitous “catfood” meme came on February 18, 2009 with this FDL headline:

As I wrote in August of 2010, Peterson’s keynote spot was the worst kept secret in town; I knew about it because I had been on a conference call with about 40 representatives of various DC interest groups, many of whom had received written notice from the White House that Peterson was scheduled to headline the event. But nobody wanted to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the administration in its early days.

Gene Logsdon: Another Advantage Of Backyard Hens


The Contrary Farmer

I have a hunch that the following scene happens only on one farm in the whole wide world so pay attention. You are driving down a two lane highway in Ohio when you pass a farmstead with a chicken coop in easy view through your windshield. In front of the coop stands a middle-aged woman with a kind of vacant air about her, cracking an egg on a fencepost and gingerly letting the white stuff ooze off onto the ground to separate it from the yolk. She tosses the shell back to the hens to eat. By now you probably have slowed almost to a stop because surely the poor woman has lost her mind from the hectic pressures of modern farming. She seems to be rubbing the yolk between the palms of her hand. A dog laps at the egg white drooling to the ground. By the way, she is also barefoot.

Unless you are an artist, and then maybe only a certain kind of artist, you are not going to believe what is going on here. The woman in the hen yard is Pat Gamby who with her husband Steve, has been farming at this location for 22 years. This is your typical Midwestern dairy farm except that it is organic, but neither Pat nor Steve is typical in any ordinary sense of the word. Besides being a farmer, Pat is a professional artist who started drawing at age four and, without any formal training whatsoever, was actually painting pictures on commission when she was still in high school. Steve, besides being a farmer, played minor league baseball until he got smart and realized that farming (and playing softball on my team) was more fun. I’ve found excuses to put them in several of my books, most recently Holy Shit, so readers might be familiar with them already. I thought I knew them fairly well too until I heard about this crazy, barefooted woman breaking eggs on fence posts to feed her dog and tossing the shells out to feed her hens.

Michael Laybourn: Local Clean Power News…



North Bay Business Journal:
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to create an initial governing authority for a proposed countywide renewable energy-focused power agency known as Sonoma Clean Power, a step needed before determining rates to charge potential customers when service is targeted to begin in early 2014.”

Sonoma County Supervisors voted to create a CCA (community choice aggregation) and call it Sonoma Clean Power, following Marin County’s successful creation and operation of Marin Energy Authority aka Marin Clean Energy.

Sonoma Clean Power, the proposed agency, follows the “community choice aggregation” model made possible by California’s 2002 legislation, Assembly Bill 117 written by Paul Fenn. Like the Marin Energy Authority in Marin County, the proposed agency would serve its customers by feeding power into the current grid maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

A CCA allows a local entity to create an energy authority in order to purchase power from other sources besides PG&E, giving more freedom of choice and the ability to deliver power that comes from more sustainable sources.

“Sonoma Clean Power can provide multiple benefits to our community. These include greenhouse gas reductions resulting from greener, less carbon-intensive energy sources as well as job creation through the implementation of local efficiency and power projects,” said Shirlee Zane, Chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors and Water Agency.

Other benefits include local control, rate stability and the ability to create significant financial incentives for customers who generate surplus power on their own through photovoltaic or other systems.

Only Economic Collapse Will Prevent Runaway Global Climate Change…

Nature Bats Last

Paula Manalo Gaska: Bringing money back down to earth…

Mendocino Organics

Let’s Also Remember the 176 Children Killed by US Drones…

Warning: graphic and not for the squeamish

Informed Comment

William Edelen: Christmas Myth, Legend and Folklore


The Contrary Minister

We are buried this time of year in mythology, legend and folklore. It’s good to get it all in perspective by rediscovering a few historical facts.

I have lost count of the thousands of time that we have been told that Christmas celebrates the origin of Christianity — which, of course, is false. Christmas was around for eons before Jesus was born.

The winter solstice comes from two ancient words, sol, the name of a sun god, and stice, meaning still, or the day that the sun stands still, the shortest day of the year.

Since all cultures have been so dependent upon the seasons, the four major festivals centered on the summer and winter solstices and the spring the autumn equinoxes. An equinox — equi, meaning equal, and nox, meaning nights, or equal nights — occurs midway between the winter and summer solstice, when days and nights are equal in length.

Those are the four corners of the celestial year. But with the return of the sun to once again warm the earth and bring forth a resurrection of life, the winter solstice became the greatest of all the festivals.

The ancient festival in Rome was known as the Saturnalia. The emperor Aurelian established an official holiday called “Sol Invecti,” meaning “unconquered sun” in honor of the sun god, Sol. It was held Dec. 24 and 25 and established Dec. 25 as the official solstice. All the other religions that worshiped sun gods also took Dec. 25 as their fixed date for their festivals.More...

Gun Control: Shut Down The Damn Pump…


From digby

Shut down the pump: a little parable for our time

Here is an interesting story for you to read today:

British doctor John Snow couldn’t convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby’s diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.
Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.

In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.

“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,” Dr. Snow wrote “As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”

Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump.

The Cult of Individualism



God died. The seas of metaphysics were limitless again. A new horizon of possibility opened for all beliefs and ideals. Values were re-evaluated, re-molded, re-constructed – and each new value was made in the image of its creator: the individual self.

We were “freed” to think whatever we want, say whatever we want and believe whatever we want – more or less, that is. What we got: apparent freedom, inalienable “individual” rights and in America, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Later came the prevalent I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude – with all its cool and edgy indifference. But I-don’t-give-a-fuck really means I-don’t-give-a-fuck-because-it-doesn’t-affect-me – this is the prevalent attitude of non-judgmentalism meets moral relativism. Sociologist Charles Smith found, after interviewing 230 young Americans, that the common response to standard moral questions (about rape, murder, theft) was one of bafflement. Young people lacked anything substantial to say about even extremely generic ethical questions. The default attitude was that moral choices are a matter of individual taste, where one’s morality is just a small piece of a carefully crafted individual self that one fashions at whim. “It’s personal,” many interviewees responded: “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say? Who am I to judge?”

When beliefs, aesthetic preferences and moral proclivities are all left to personal style, we have the hipster mentality, where nonchalant nihilism is cool.

Life Under Compulsion: Human-Scale Tools and the Slavish Education State


Front Porch Republic

This is Part V of a series of essays titled “Life Under Compulsion.” See Part IV here.  

When he was governor of Maine, Angus King made sure that there was a computer on the desk of every middle-school child in the state.  As I write these words, Mr. King is boasting of that accomplishment as he runs for the United States Senate as an independent dallasinistra. I am, of course, writing this essay on a computer.  I’m not entirely happy about that.  But it’s a machine, I use it, I put it away – or try to put it away.  Sometimes I have to make a vow to put it away, because the quick gratification that the on-line computer provides – click! – is addictive.  We all know this.  No pretending that it isn’t.

That’s a subject for another day.  What I want to look at now is the computer as a symbol of what modern education has become, and as a diagnostic sign of our severely depleted souls.  For the modern educator – and many people who consider themselves conservative will agree with this – education is essentially a problem of techne: it is technological, in the broadest sense of the word.  I don’t mean that it employs tools.  I mean that it submits to them.  The child is viewed as a problem that needs to be solved, a variable that needs to be settled, a vessel that needs to be filled, a connection that needs to be forged.  How do we give children the information they need?  Or, what methods can we use to ensure “student learning objectives” or whatever the techno-lingo is?  What skills – notice the word

Todd Walton: Receiving

Under The Table

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus, Acts 20:35

John Steinbeck’s preface to his wonderful The Log From the Sea of Cortez is a celebration of Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s friend and mentor and co-author of that fascinating record of their marine biological expedition to the Sea of Cortez—the text rich with philosophical asides. Steinbeck felt that Ed’s great talent and finest gift to his friends was his ability to receive, and in receiving with grace and delight and heartfelt gratitude, he gave the givers priceless gifts. The idea that receiving can be a gift contradicts hundreds of famous directives, Biblical and otherwise, but it seems deeply true to me.

Einstein said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” But I don’t think Einstein really meant receiving, I think he meant getting or taking. Receiving involves surrendering, and that is the gift—opening our hearts to the giver.

One of my favorite books is a little tome entitled Love Is The Wine: Talks of A Sufi Master In America, the master in this case being Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak. Here is the beginning of his talk on Generosity.

Many years ago, a traveler came to a small town.

Holiday Shoppers: HarperCollins is Grinding up Rainforests to Make its Kids Books…

Where the wild things aren't

Charismatic children’s character Fancy Nancy may be well known for saying that ‘every day is Earth Day,’ but her books have now been linked to one of the world’s most severe deforestation crises.

Independent forensic fiber tests commissioned by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and released today reveal significant quantities of Mixed Tropical Hardwood (MTH) and acacia fiber in the paper of one of HarperCollins’ best-selling children’s books, Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas. MTH pulp is produced using timber logged from the rainforests of Indonesia, home to critically endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger.

RAN is calling on its members to contact HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray to tell him they don’t want books linked to rainforest destruction. HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp.

“No child or parent should become an unwitting participant in rainforest destruction this holiday season,” said Robin Averbeck, a Forest Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. “It is past time for HarperCollins to sever ties with Indonesian rainforest destroyers APP and APRIL and join its peers like Scholastic, Hachette, and Disney by adopting a comprehensive global paper policy to keep deforestation, tiger extinction and human rights abuses out of its books.”

High risk acacia fiber was found in HarperCollins titles

The Founders on Taxation, Redistribution, and Property…



As the Fiscal Cliff looms, as Red States and Blues States stand more divided than ever, as the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest continues to widen, the question of taxation—its purpose and extent—is a subject of hot debate. Grover Norquist insists that any and all tax increases must be resisted while the President argues that some increases on those in the top income brackets are warranted. How should we think about these matters? Can taxation be used intentionally to promote social and political outcomes in addition to simply raising revenue? If so, what outcomes should be pursued?

It is interesting to step back and think about these issues from the perspective of the early days of the republic. While many who quote the founders highlight their emphasis on liberty, it is important to note that they were also concerned with equality, or at the least they worried about dramatic inequalities. Consider some of the leading lights of the American Founding.

Noah Webster, the same Webster who compiled the first American dictionary, was an ardent champion of the Constitution. In the fall of 1787, he published a pamphlet titled “Leading Principles of the Constitution” in which he provides a detailed discussion of the proposed document. Interspersed in that discussion is an argument about

The Vertical Farming Scam…



Why, after more than a decade, does the idea of “vertical farming” keep gathering momentum? Why hasn’t it collapsed under its own weight of illogic? And why is media coverage of vertical farming almost universally positive, often enthusiastically so?

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when a fantasy persists and thrives despite being unrealistic; after all, that’s what fantasies do. And the vertical-farming concept, unlike, say, creationism, aims at worthy goals. But when a pipedream comes to be regarded, wholly uncritically, as a means of fixing our broken food system, it becomes a dangerous distraction.

Out here in Kansas, for example, farmers and agribusinesses often back up their resistance to much-needed systemic change by claiming that America’s urban-suburban majority has no understanding of what it takes to produce food. And when they learn that city people are wanting to stack fields of crops one above the other, you can be sure that their convictions are reinforced.

Vertical farming, as originally conceived by Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, would involve using the floorspace of tall urban buildings for growing food plants through largely hydroponic methods. This is envisioned as a way to integrate food production

Gene Logsdon: Look Out, The World Is About To End Again…



Last summer I started to fall for the old Doomsday Disaster Doldrums again. It didn’t rain from the middle of May to September. Crops didn’t grow and pasture dried up. I was once more painfully reminded of how close we live to the brink of disaster at all times. The food cliff, if not the fiscal cliff, lurks just one misstep away, or so it seems. Of course the rains did come in September and more in October and now going into December, the pastures are lush and I don’t think I will have to feed hay until January. The latest weather roundup says rainfall in Ohio for the year is about normal. Ho hum.

I never learn. I got a good case of the DDDs in 1988 when it did not rain one drop here from April 11 until July 17. And I can remember my parents and grandparents in the 1930s despairing when it seemed that every other year the weather was taking us to the end of the world. And they didn’t have global warming to blame.

But it was back in the 1880s when the worst (so far) weather came our way. Our Sandusky River, here in northern Ohio, got a crust of ice on it in July, so the old papers say. A huge volcano had erupted in Indonesia in 1883 (Krakotoa) and it sent enough ash and debris into the atmosphere to shade the sun for several years even as far away as Ohio. But not many people here knew that and probably would not have believed it anyway. From every pulpit came the old DDD refrain: the end is nigh.

The future of our farms…

Students at Stone Corral Elementary in Seville, Calif. The school budgets $100 to $500 a month for bottled water.


About a month ago, Verlyn Klinkenborg, the New York Times resident writer on farm life, penned a piece about crop rotation. In the pre-chemical, pre-factory-farm days, of course, rotation was the normal way of nourishing the soil. Now some Midwestern farmers are rediscovering its uses; as Klinkenborg noted, oats are one of the few crops that can actually grow in a field sprayed with toxic manure from a factory farm.

Chemical problems are everywhere on our farms. Ten days after the Klinkenborg article appeared, Patricia Leigh Brown reported on water contamination in California’s Central Valley, one of the country’s most fertile farming regions. The water here is, simply, undrinkable: “It is the grim result of more than half a century in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have infiltrated aquifers, seeping into the groundwater and eventually into the tap.”

Two weeks later in the Nation, Elizabeth Royte published a investigative look at how the fracking industry is affecting our food supply. “Farmers need clean water, clean air and clean soil to produce healthful food,” she wrote. “But as the largest private landholders in shale areas across the nation, farmers are disproportionately being approached by energy companies eager to extract oil and gas from beneath their properties. Already, some are regretting it.” Sometimes farm animals exposed to fracking chemicals simply die; more often, their herd mates, who may appear healthy, are processed into meat as usual.

Why The Self-Help Industry Is An Enormous Failure…


Feeling grateful yet? Teenage poultry farmer dishes straight talk…


Denver Post

Over the past year I have been trying to earn money. I have been doing this by helping plant a big garden and then selling lettuce and other vegetables that I raise at farmers markets. I also have chickens and I sell eggs at a local dairy, farmers market, and from roadside signs telling people how to get to my house. I also sell live chickens and broilers.

People around me use words like “organic,” “farm fresh,” “local-food movement,” “free range” and “sustainability,” and I thought farming might be a good idea since we sort of do this for our family anyway. My dad raises our own cows because he does not want my brother or me exposed to growth hormones and antibiotics that are used to raise commercial meat. Dad thinks this is one of the reasons that my brother and I are thinner and smaller than our friends. I think it could just be that we work our tails off.

I charge $4.25 for a dozen of my eggs and $20 per broiler chicken based on my costs. Baby chickens cost me around $2 each. I lose around 10 percent of them because they just die for no reason when they are little.

An egg-layer chicken takes around 28 to 32 weeks to lay its first egg. A broiler chicken takes six to 20 weeks before it is ready to eat. All during this time, I have to feed, water and keep them warm. The layers are not laying eggs to sell yet. Heat lamps use electricity, and an electric bill can be around $200 per month.

A pound of chicken feed

The real war on Christmas and why it matters…

Bill O'Reilly

Transition Voice

So what if Bill O’Reilly and Fox News, in the name of defending Christmas, are really hijacking the holiday to pit people against each other and against the planet?

Christmas season is making me tired.

Every year, I get tired of hearing jaunty, NutriSweet-y jingles that sound like they’re sung by Hello Kitty touted as “Chrismas Carols” and played earlier and earlier in the fall. “Here Comes Santa Claus” on November 11 — it’s a revolting enough song if you have to hear it once. But do we really need to endure this particular brand of nausea for a full six or seven weeks?

And I’m just as tired of hearing Fox News announcers sound more and more shrill each year as they hammer on a War on Christmas allegedly waged by militant secularists, atheists and other non-real-American types. Fox’s usual targets are schools, city halls or shopping malls that decide not to put up a manger scene this year or even just ordinary people who dare to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

For years I tried to ignore this tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But this year, after pondering the role of consumerism in climate change and energy depletion, I’m starting to get a bit frothy myself about the way America does Christmas.

A war on the values of Jesus

Billionaires Warn Higher Taxes Could Prevent Them From Buying Politicians


The Borowitz Report

Introducing a new wrinkle into the already fraught fiscal cliff showdown, a consortium of billionaires today warned that if their taxes are raised they will no longer have enough money to buy politicians.

The group, led by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, commissioned a new study showing that the cost of an average politician has soared exponentially over the past decade.

While the American family has seen increases in the cost of food, health care and education, Mr. Adelson says, “those costs don’t compare with the cost of buying a politician, which has gone through the roof.”

The casino billionaire points to his group’s study, which puts the cost of purchasing an average House member at two million dollars and an average senator at several times that.

“And let’s say you buy a Senator like [South Carolina Senator] Jim DeMint and he decides to quit,” Mr. Adelson says. “Good luck trying to get your money back.”

The Vegas magnate complains that the media has ignored billionaires’ essential role in giving jobs to politicians who would otherwise have difficulty finding “honest work of any kind.”

Janie Sheppard: Three Dog Night — Installment One



Installments One | Two | Three |

It is a well-known fact that there can’t be a three dog night without three dogs.  And so–

Bill and I are inordinately fond of Jack Russell Terriers, believing them to be a special breed suited to living with a select group of slightly crazy people who have a fairly high tolerance for aberrant (for lack of a better word) behavior.

We believe, perhaps mistakenly, that we are among said slightly crazy group of people.

Last week we heard of a year-and-a-half-old male JRT (as they are known by their fans) who was in desperate straits (he had been sentenced to death).  Once more, we agreed, we could leap into the breach. After introductions via phone and email, Bill, accompanied by Heidi (one of our other 2 rescued JRT’s), drove to San Francisco to bring home number three, and after his interim rescuers duly appraised Heidi, who was on her very best behavior, we were deemed suitable adopters.

“Tashtego” was to be his new name.  And if you’re scratching your head trying to remember where you might have heard that name, here’s where you heard it: In Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s great novel incidentally about whaling, but really about how the world works (or mostly doesn’t), Tashtego is a Gay Head Indian harpooneer from Nantucket. Quequeeg (a South Sea Islander) and Daggoo (an African tribesman) are the other two. Think 19th century whaling: in Chapter 78, Tashtego slips while extracting spermaceti oil from the severed head of a huge whale, falling into its head just as it comes loose from its moorings and slides into the water.

Abe Lincoln loved preacher jokes…


The Contrary Minister

The movie out now on Lincoln is one of the most magnificent movies I have ever seen. It has motivated me to write about Lincoln, with perhaps another side that the public will not see in the movie.

Lincoln has been portrayed in more books and articles, and in more languages in more countries than any other American. He almost idolized Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and studied their writings in exhaustive detail.

Lincoln refused to be baptized or to join any Christian church. His wife said: “My husband is not a Christian… but he is a religious man, I think.”

Lincoln wrote these words: “I have never united myself to any church, because I could not give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine and dogma which characterize their articles of belief. When any church will inscribe over its altar…as the sole qualification for membership, only the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor that church will I join.”

Following the death of Lincoln, the most eloquent eulogies came from the Jewish community. Rabbi Nathan Krass, in Buffalo, New York, used these words:  “It is said that Mr. Lincoln was no churchman… and we know that is true.

Why second-hand bookshops are just my type…


The Telegraph
Thanks to Ron Epstein

Shelf life: browsing in bookshops is rewarding in a way that surfing the internet can never be…

Birds of a feather flock together: and if birds could be tweedy rather than feathery, I would be of that genus or species. With others of my ageing type, I assemble outside provincial book fairs waiting tremulously for them to open, as drinkers waited outside pubs in the days when they still had opening and closing hours. We all rush in, hopeful of finding something special and fearful that others will find it first. It isn’t only fish that get away.

How many hours, among the happiest of my life, have I spent in the dusty, damp or dismal purlieus of second-hand bookshops, where mummified silverfish, faded pressed flowers and very occasionally love letters are to be found in books long undisturbed on their shelves. With what delight do I find the word ”scarce’’ pencilled in on the flyleaf by the bookseller, though the fact that the book has remained unsold for years, possibly decades, suggests that purchasers are scarcer still.

Alas, second-hand bookshops are closing daily, driven out of business by the combination of a general decline in reading, the internet and that most characteristic of all modern British institutions, the charity shop. Booksellers tell me

The story of our time…


From digby

A good piece by Dan Froomkin this morning:

Post-mortems of contemporary election coverage typically include regrets about horserace journalism, he-said-she-said stenography, and the lack of enlightening stories about the issues.

But according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital’s media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

The 2012 campaign further proved their point, they both said in recent interviews. It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media’s fear of being seen as taking sides.

That is the story of our time. And it has been, by the way, for quite a while. And after watching the Senate refuse

Will Parrish: The Plight Of The Beautiful Tree



The Kashia Pomo of northwestern Sonoma and southwestern Mendocino Counties refer to it as “Chishkale,” meaning “beautiful tree.” Northern California pioneers selected their name for it on an altogether more utilitarian basis: Its bark was central to the vast leather tanning industry of the late 1800s and early 1900s, so they dubbed it “tan-oak.” Today, the timber industry often doesn’t even give it the dignity of a specific name, typically referring to it merely as a “hardwood.”

To wit, Mendocino Redwood Company Chief Forester Michael Jani, who published a letter in the Anderson Valley Advertiser this past August explaining MRC’s rationale for using an average of 5,500 pounds of the herbicide Imazapyr every year to eradicate tan-oaks, which are not marketable in the timber industry’s current economic climate: “Herbicide use has been an important and necessary tool in the replanting and restoration of the natural balance on more than 60,000 acres of MRC forestlands and the establishment of nearly six million redwood and Douglas fir trees that otherwise would not be on the land… Today, there are areas of the forestlands that still contain a much higher proportion of hardwoods to conifers than is natural.”

Earlier this summer, Elaine and Mike Kalantarian of Navarro helped spark a modest outcry regarding “Hack and Squirt,” a method of killing tan-oaks (and occasionally other hardwood trees) that timber outfits have widely used in Pacific Northwest forests

Todd Walton: Fiscal Cliffs


Under The Table

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” Bo Derek

So…immediately following and ever since the re-election of President Obama, we have been told day and night by the various media that we, America and her people, are approaching a fiscal cliff. Are we approaching this cliff from the bottom and looking up? No. According to the latest diatribes, we are moving inexorably toward the edge of a cliff over which we will fall to our fiscal doom if the Republicans and the Democrats can’t agree on how to proceed with taxing the American people (while barely taxing the corporations who have most of the money.)

Hmm. Whenever our overlords trumpet something like an impending fiscal cliff or constitutional tsunami or economic donnybrook, I think of Dorothy and Tin Man and Lion and Scarecrow trembling before the scary projection of the Wizard on the gigantic movie screen in Oz, trembling until they discover the projection is the creation of a wimpy old man hiding behind a curtain bellowing, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Which is to say, I wonder what we’re not supposed to be paying attention to while the mass media and her propaganda pundits scare us with fiscal cliff hocus pocus, and by hocus pocus I mean illusion.

America is awash in money. Last week a new kill-as-many-people-as-you-can video game was released and took in close to a billion dollars in just a few days.