Time to lock arms on Kauai

SUBHEAD: New Agricultural Strategic Plan begins to take shape.
By Coco Zickos on 06 April 2009 in The Garden Island News
Image above: Backyard banana tree contributes to our independence. Photo by Juan Wilson.
A sense of urgency is setting in and action is clearly on the rise as community members and representatives from organizations such as Natural Resources Conservation Services, the county Planning Department and Malama Kaua‘i gathered this weekend to formulate a revised Agricultural Strategic Plan for the island.
Public officials and residents are concerned about the future of Kaua‘i’s agricultural industry and are gearing up for the inevitable change that must occur due to the current lack of self-sufficiency.
Due to the organizational efforts of Ray Maki, a permaculture course instructor for Activate Kaua‘i and an experienced farmer, the weekend’s two-day event was deemed a success by many participants, with more than 250 people stopping by to listen or share their thoughts on Saturday alone.
Andrea Brower, of Malama Kaua‘i, said expanding the island’s agricultural industry will not only boost the local economy by creating more jobs and allowing money to flow through the community, it will also give individuals a chance to provide for themselves without relying on outside resources, especially when it comes to food.
“The main point of the event was to bring the agricultural community together and provide a networking opportunity, document priorities and goals, and put together a strategic plan to paint a picture of agriculture in the community,” Brower said Sunday.
Despite differing opinions, Brower was thankful there were no serious disputes at Saturday’s meeting.
“The main success was that there was such an energy and excitement and an air of collaboration,” she said.
Matt Field, an experienced gardener, said Saturday brought all the “heavy-hitters” together in one room where the buds of ideas began to grow.
“It was wonderful to see so many people coming together over this very important issue,” said former Councilwoman and Mayor JoAnn Yukimura in a phone interview Sunday.
“I was concerned, however, as to whether there was enough data and understanding of the history of agriculture on Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i because those are important things to know, but I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing the results,” she said.
Bill 2293, which Yukimura helped draft before she left the council in December, proposes that housing for farmers and their workers be allowed over and above the density that zoning currently permits.
This was just one of the discussions re-visited Sunday morning at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center, along with other topics ranging from carrying capacities for local water supply to land use and regulations.
The day also provided an opportunity for smaller groups to form, where individuals could commit to working with one another on topics of their particular interest, such as water, food, marketing or labor.
Key “drivers” of the committees offered their leadership including Lex Riggle of Natural Resources Conservation Services, who volunteered to assist with bridging information together regarding sustainable land use on the island.
Riggle said the “burning issue” is land access and hopes an ad-hoc committee of interested people, including farmers and landowners, will form.
“There’s so much land out there, but it’s all tied up,” said Arius Hopman, a solar energy and sustainability advocate, adding his thoughts to the conversation. “We’re dealing with a tremendous amount of stuff ... a paradigm shift ... there is a collapsing empire and a rising force replacing it. It’s happening and it’s going to take a lot more work to ground this.
”Keone Kealoha, of Malama Kaua‘i, reminded everyone about the necessity of working together and moving forward with a direct plan of action and goals.
“How can we support each other’s passions and work together?” he said Sunday. “I’m interested in making this process grow and not just fall away like dust on the shelf.”
Michael Pilarski of Activate Kaua‘i agreed.
“I know we can do this and take initiative,” he said. “This is what the people want and we’re demanding it; the time is right and the need is there.”
Glenn Hontz, coordinator and director of the Food Industry Program at Kaua‘i Community College, who is a proponent of home and community gardens, had a similar notion in mind.
“The new era is dawning upon us ... the more we can stay together as a group ... the better off we’ll be.”
Hontz will be spearheading the capital and financing sector, as well as the research and education areas of the new agricultural plan and will bring with him his knowledge and experience in teaching and grant writing.
“The economy is spitting a lot of people out of their jobs right now,” he said, emphasizing the need for trained farmers, as well as community members who know how to grow their own food.
While there was clearly not enough time to cover every issue at hand, Sunday’s meeting drew the weekend to a close and gave a more hopeful forecast for Kaua‘i’s agricultural future.
Groups will now focus on their areas of interest, such as promoting a strategic food supply and identifying water sources on the island.
“We don’t lock our doors, we lock our arms on Kaua‘i,” Kealoha said.
For more information and to weigh in on the discussion, visit kauaiagriculturalforum.org

Resist or Become Serfs

SUBHEAD: We're headed towards 21st century feudalism with private police and gated communities.
By Chris Hedges on 06 April 2009 in Truthdig -

Image above: Limbourg Brothers "September"
painted in 1416 ilustrating the grape harvest at the Chateau de Saumur. From http://www.sema-online.us/illuminatedimage_full.htm

America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate.

Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them.

We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs. We have been in a steady economic decline for decades. The Canadian political philosopher John Ralston Saul detailed this decline in his 1992 book “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.” David Cay Johnston exposed the mirage and rot of American capitalism in “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill),” and David C. Korten, in “When Corporations Rule the World” and “Agenda for a New Economy,” laid out corporate malfeasance and abuse. But our universities and mass media, entranced by power and naively believing that global capitalism was an unstoppable force of nature, rarely asked the right questions or gave a prominent voice to those who did. Our elites hid their incompetence and loss of control behind an arrogant facade of specialized jargon and obscure economic theories

The lies employed to camouflage the economic decline are legion. President Ronald Reagan included 1.5 million U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine service personnel with the civilian work force to magically reduce the nation’s unemployment rate by 2 percent. President Bill Clinton decided that those who had given up looking for work, or those who wanted full-time jobs but could only find part-time employment, were no longer to be counted as unemployed. This trick disappeared some 5 million unemployed from the official unemployment rolls.

If you work more than 21 hours a week—most low-wage workers at places like Wal-Mart average 28 hours a week—you are counted as employed, although your real wages put you below the poverty line. Our actual unemployment rate, when you include those who have stopped looking for work and those who can only find part-time jobs, is not 8.5 percent but 15 percent. A sixth of the country is now effectively unemployed. And we are shedding jobs at a faster rate than in the months after the 1929 crash.

The consumer price index, used by the government to measure inflation, is meaningless. To keep the official inflation figures low the government has been substituting basic products it once measured to check for inflation with ones that do not rise very much in price. This sleight of hand has kept the cost-of-living increases tied to the CPI artificially low. The New York Times’ consumer reporter, W.P. Dunleavy, wrote that her groceries now cost $587 a month, up from $400 a year earlier. This is a 40 percent increase. California economist John Williams, who runs an organization called Shadow Statistics, contends that if Washington still used the CPI measurements applied back in the 1970s, inflation would be 10 percent.

The corporate state, and the political and intellectual class that served the corporate state, constructed a financial and political system based on illusions. Corporations engaged in pyramid lending that created fictitious assets. These fictitious assets became collateral for more bank lending. The elite skimmed off hundreds of millions in bonuses, commissions and salaries from this fictitious wealth.

Politicians, who dutifully served corporate interests rather than those of citizens, were showered with campaign contributions and given lucrative jobs when they left office. Universities, knowing it was not good business to challenge corporatism, muted any voices of conscience while they went begging for corporate donations and grants. Deceptive loans and credit card debt fueled the binges of a consumer society and hid falling wages and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

The Obama administration, rather than chart a new course, is intent on re-inflating the bubble. The trillions of dollars of government funds being spent to sustain these corrupt corporations could have renovated our economy. We could have saved tens of millions of Americans from poverty. The government could have, as consumer activist Ralph Nader has pointed out, started 10 new banks with $35 billion each and a 10-to-1 leverage to open credit markets. Vast, unimaginable sums are being placed into these dirty corporate hands without oversight. And they will use this money as they always have—to enrich themselves at our expense.

“You are going to see the biggest waste, fraud and abuse in American history,” Nader warned when I asked about the bailouts. “Not only is it wrongly directed, not only does it deal with the perpetrators instead of the people who were victimized, but they don’t have a delivery system of any honesty and efficiency. The Justice Department is overwhelmed. It doesn’t have a tenth of the prosecutors, the investigators, the auditors, the attorneys needed to deal with the previous corporate crime wave before the bailout started last September. It is especially unable to deal with the rapacious ravaging of this new money by these corporate recipients. You can see it already.

The corporations haven’t lent it. They have used some of it for acquisitions or to preserve their bonuses or their dividends. As long as they know they are not going to jail, and they don’t see many newspaper reports about their colleagues going to jail, they don’t care. It is total impunity. If they quit, they quit with a golden parachute. Even [General Motors CEO Rick] Wagoner is taking away $21 million.”

There are a handful of former executives who have conceded that the bailouts are a waste. American International Group Inc.‘s former chairman, Maurice R. Greenberg, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday that the effort to prop up the firm with $170 billion has “failed.” He said the company should be restructured. AIG, he said, would have been better off filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection instead of seeking government help.

“These are signs of hyper decay,” Nader said from his office in Washington. “You spend this kind of money and do not know if it will work.”

“Bankrupt corporate capitalism is on its way to bankrupting the socialism that is trying to save it,” Nader added. “That is the end stage. If they no longer have socialism to save them then we are into feudalism. We are into private police, gated communities and serfs with a 21st century nomenclature.”

We will not be able to raise another 3 or 4 trillion dollars, especially with our commitments now totaling some $12 trillion, to fix the mess. It was only a couple of months ago that our expenditures totaled $9 trillion.

And it was not long ago that such profligate government spending was unthinkable. There was an $800 billion limit placed on the Federal Reserve a year ago. The economic stimulus and the bailouts will not bring back our casino capitalism. And as the meltdown shows no signs of abating, and the bailouts show no sign of working, the recklessness and desperation of our capitalist overlords have increased. The cost, to the working and middle class, is becoming unsustainable.

The Fed reported in March that households lost $5.1 trillion, or 9 percent, of their wealth in the last three months of 2008, the most ever in a single quarter in the 57-year history of record keeping by the central bank. For the full year, household wealth dropped $11.1 trillion, or about 18 percent. These figures did not record the decline of investments in the stock market, which has probably erased trillions more in the country’s collective net worth.

The bullet to our head, inevitable if we do not radically alter course, will be sudden. We have been borrowing at the rate of more than $2 billion a day over the last 10 years, and at some point it has to stop. The moment China, the oil-rich states and other international investors stop buying treasury bonds the dollar will become junk. Inflation will rocket upward.

We will become Weimar Germany. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to simpletons like Sarah Palin to loudmouth talk show hosts, who we naively dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal.

The elites, the ones with their Harvard Business School degrees and expensive vocabularies, will retreat into their sheltered enclaves of privilege and comfort. We will be left bereft and abandoned outside the gates.

Burning Bridges to XXI Century

SUBHEAD: Competent triage is needed for an orderly regression into the future.
By Dmitry Orlov on 06 April 2009 in ClubOrlov
Image above: Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridge ("Galloping Gertie") on 11/7/1940. From http://www.camerashoptacoma.com/product/01-1824
The future does not resemble the past – or does it? When the lights go out, people burn candles and oil lamps, just like they used to before the electric grid came into existence. No longer accustomed to working with open flame, they tend to set things on fire, and for a while, until they regain this experience or until natural selection whittles away the truly incompetent, the neighborhood is a constant blaze.
When we find out that the supermarket is out of food and that the cupboard is bare, we hunt, fish, forage, plant kitchen gardens, and start experimenting with raising poultry and rabbits. Those who are incapable of doing so, or who feel that such lowly pursuits are beneath their dignity, become dependent on the charity of those who are more adaptable, or starve.
As modernity runs out of resources (those photons sequestered eons ago in fossil form, now released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) patterns of life naturally retreat to their pre-modern forms. If there are no more sneakers from China, we sew moccasins or whittle clogs. If we are resource-poor but resourceful, we can still weave basket-like shoes out of birch bark, stuffed with straw for insulation, called lapti. If we are truly destitute and feckless to boot, then we go barefoot.
It seems commonsense to accept this reversion to norm as natural, and to strive to have enough of whatever we are going to need, be it tools for working leather, a stock of paraffin, seeds, fishing tackle, and a myriad of other similar items that comprised the pre-industrial survival kit. The last thing we should want to do is to throw these things away at first sign of economic distress and for trivial reasons. And yet that seems to be the prevailing pattern.
For instance, if the expectation is that foreigners will no longer want to trade their dwindling crude oil endowment in exchange for worthless US Dollars, and that the US will lose access to 2/3 of its liquid hydrocarbons, it would make sense to make some provisions for raising food and for moving freight. Since a John Deere won’t run on hay, that calls for some horses. Furthermore, now is a perfect time for farms to get “horsed up” because so many horse-owners can no longer afford the luxury of keeping a horse, and it is possible to buy a horse very, very cheaply. Many horse-owners would be perfectly happy to donate their horse and take a tax write-off rather than see their beloved pet turned into glue. Instead, horses are trucked to rending facilities across the border in Mexico, to endure incredible suffering while in transit, and then to be incompetently hacked up with machetes.
Before the advent of fossil fuels, freight that could not be moved by horse and wagon moved by sail. It would therefore make perfect sense that we keep all the sailboats we currently have, because they will surely be pressed into use once other transportation options are no longer available. Keeping a sailboat afloat is not particularly expensive; there are protected coves where a boat can be kept anchored free of charge, provided it is tended to once in a while. The smaller, trailerable boats are also useful, and can keep for years on the hard, under a tarp in someone’s back yard. And yet what is happening now is that sailboat owners, unable to pay the slip fees and the upkeep of their luxury toy, abandon it, simply letting it float away and eventually sink, with its mast protruding out of the water at low tide, or to wash up on a beach, where the surf pounds it into rubble. Even if the boat itself is unsuited for any practical purpose (and, thanks to the combined detrimental effects of sport and luxury on the sailboat market, there are far too many of these) then at the very least they could be stripped of Dacron sailcloth, stainless steel and bronze fittings, lead ballast, marine-grade stranded copper wiring, aluminum spars, and many other items which are both very useful and unlikely to be manufactured in the future in an economy that runs on wind, hay and firewood. The remaining hollow fiberglass husks could make interesting, long-lasting treehouses.
Not that, in general, there is a lack of effort to save things. We are making an effort to save financial institutions, which are the ultimate ephemera of industrial civilization, and are absolutely guaranteed to have no reason to continue into a future in which debt, denominated in future earnings that will be meager at best, and money, which will only hold its value for as long as it guarantees access to sources of pure, concentrated energy, all steadily dwindle to nothing. It is as if the doctors decided to only try to save persistent vegetative quadriplegics with terminal cancer, or if the environmentalists decided that the endangered species list only has room for one animal: the vampire bat. It would make much more sense to try to save small businesses, such as family businesses that serve local communities, because there is a good chance that they will find a use in the future, or at least facilitate the transition. Instead, we are squandering the remaining resources on the various dinosaurs of the industrial age.
I believe in providing a hopeful vision of the future as much as I believe in providing a sufficiently horrific vision of the present for it to be, in my opinion, a realistic one. However, I am beginning to feel somewhat thwarted in my efforts by this new compulsion sweeping the land to shoot oneself in the foot while simultaneously setting one's hair on fire. The only hope I can offer you today is that this current trend toward suicidal stupidity is temporary, and that it will run its course long before we completely ruin our chances for an orderly regression.

Colonel Ann Wright Lecture

SUBHEAD: Retired Colonel to speak on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Image above: Photo of Retired Colonel Ann Wright from www.voicesofconscience.com/articles.php WHEN: Friday, April 17, 7:00 pm WHERE: Lihue Community Center, 3 blocks west of Walmart on Eono St WHAT: Free Lecture by retired Colonel Ann Wright, just back from Gaza and coming to Kauai. Iraq and Afghanistan War Vets Welcome! After a distinguished military career, retired Colonel Ann Wright continued to serve her country for another 16 years as a foreign diplomat in Somalia, Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in December 2001. But on March 13, 2003, six days before the Iraq invasion, she resigned her post in protest of Bush administration policies and thereby gave herself freedom to speak out. Since then her patriotism is expressed as an anti-war activitst who travels and lectures on foreign policy issues. She worked with Cindy Sheehan to open Camp Casey in Crawford Texas. She has been arrested five times in the last year and cheerfully calls herself a "felon for peace". She has been temporarily banned from two military bases, the US Capitol area and the National Press Club for voicing her uncompromising opinions and exposing the unvarnished truth about US policies and their consequences. Lecture to be followed by Question and Answer session. Light pupus served. SPONSORED BY: Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice CONTACT: For information or directions call 822-7646, or e-mail may11nineteen71@gmailcom see also: Island Breath: Ann Wright - Higher Ground 8/22/04 Island Breath: Retired Colonel Oppose Iraq War 12/15/05

Polihale Clean Up

SUBHEAD: Come and help clean up Polihale State Park access road. image above: Volunteers work to attach a railing and get the bridge ready for Polihale State Park re-opening. From The Garden Island News WHEN: Saturday, April 11, 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm WHERE: Meet at Polihale State Park Gate WHAT: The community is invited to clean up Polihale State Park and access road to pick up litter so the Park will be in pristine condition when it re-opens in 2-3 weeks. The road to Polihale has been closed since the December 14 rain and it would've been closed up to 2 years if it hadn't been for volunteers lead by community activist Bruce Pleas. Read more in TGI 4/3 front page story "Community united to restore Polihale access" Most of the clean up will be fairly easy, but for energetic cleaners who want to pick up around kiawe you'll need to wear closed shoes, long pants, arm protection and a tool that will help reach into the kiawe. Please bring water but please do not bring surfboards, fishing stuff, etc as the beach is officially still closed. Entrance to this event will be at the Polihale State Park gate. A release form will be required to be filled out and signed before passing through the gate and a check out will also be required as you leave. The restrooms will be available for the volunteers. The restrictions for this event will be no beach access (clean up the road, along the rim of the beach and Park only). You may want to bring a camera or video equipment to document the work done by the volunteers and the wildlife living in the area. State Parks will supply the bags and pick up the bags of trash. Volunteer check in and check out people along with area monitors will be needed with these volunteers being able to access the Park early to view the work done and enjoy the solitude of being alone at Polihale. SPONSORED BY: Sierra Club and Surfrider CONTACT: For more information contact Gordon LaBedz at 337 9977 GLaBedzMD@aol.com or Judy Dalton at 246-9067 dalton@aloha.net

Strange Days

SUBHEAD: Bankers will be cringing in their wine-lockers when the tattooed minions come a'calling. By James Kunstler on 6 April 2009 in Clusterfuck Nation - http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/2009/04/strange-days.html image above: painting of "Dudk" by Leonard Koscianski. For more visit www.lkart.com Even while a wave of reflex nausea washed over America last week, and the unemployment rolls swelled by much more than another half million, the greatest stock market suckers' rally in seventy years pulled in the last of the credulous. These are strange days. The earth is heaving and the buds swelling again -- at least north of the equator, where most of the action is -- and the global economy, which was supposed to be a permanent new add-on to the human condition, is sloughing away in big horrid gobs. But no one in charge of anything can believe it. The banking fiasco has introduced so much noise into the system that world leadership can't think straight. What they're missing is real simple: peak oil means no more ability to service debt at all levels, personal, corporate, and government. End of story. All the other exertions being performed in opposition to this basic fact-of-life amount to a spastic soft-shoe performed before a smokescreen concealing a world of hurt. If the "quantitative easing" (money creation) and fiscal legerdemain (TARPs, TARFs, et cetera) happen to jack up the "velocity" of the new funny-money, and the world resumes its previous level of oil use, the price of oil would rise again -- this time astronomically because the previous crash of oil prices crushed the development of new oil projects to offset depletion -- and the global economy will crash again. Only the next phase of the disease is liable to move beyond the financial and into the social and political realms. Disorder of various kinds will rule -- toppled governments, civil unrest, international tension and conflict. The US is doing everything possible to avoid these awful realities, but probably the worst self-deception is the idea that everything would be okay if we could just "re-start lending." That's just not going to happen. There is no more capacity to service the debt we've already piled on. Americans borrowed too much, and the bankers who made obscene fortunes in fees and bonuses in fraudulent lending managed to leverage this unpayable debt into the greatest collective swindle the world has ever known. The swindle has sent poison into every cell of the macro socio-economic organism, and further swindles are unlikely to revive it. The rally in stocks, the financials in particular, could go on for another month or two. In the meantime, banks are striving desperately to avoid calling in more bad loans -- especially in commercial real estate, malls, strip malls, Big Box power centers -- because they don't want any more losses on their balance sheets. That can only go on for so long, too. Sooner or later the daisy chain of credibility in the fundamental transactions of business lose legitimacy and something's got to give. My guess is it will first take the form, sometime after Memorial Day (but maybe sooner) of wholesale liquidations of everything under the North American sun: companies, households, chattels, US Treasury paper of all kinds, and, of course, the S & P 500. We'll soon find out whether an organism the size of the United States can run an economy based on one family selling the contents of its garage to the family next door. My guess is that this type of economy won't support the standards of living previously enjoyed in places like Dallas and Minneapolis. The socio-political fallout from the inherent anger and disappointment in all this is liable to be severe. The public is already warming up for it, with cheerleaders such as Glen Beck on Fox TV News calling for the formation of militias, and gun sales moving out-of-sight. One mistake that the banking elite and their lawyer paladins made the past decade was their show of conspicuous acquisition -- of houses especially -- in easy-to-get-to places where anyone can see them, for instance an angry mob in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or Easthampton, New York. Unlike the beleaguered elites of South Africa (where I visited recently), who live behind layers of fortification, the executives of Citibank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and a long list of hedge funds, will be found cringing in their wine-lockers behind a measly layer of privet hedge when the tattooed minions of Glen Beck come a'calling. This could perhaps be avoided if someone in authority like US Attorney General Eric Holder took an aggressive interest in the multiple swindles of the decade past, and commenced some prosecutions. But the window of opportunity for this sort of meliorating action may close sooner than the government and the mainstream media believe. Social phase-change, as in the formations of mobs, is nothing to screw around with. Once the first window is broken, all bets are off for social stability. My guess is that the various bail-out gifts to the bankers are long past having gone too far in the eyes of this increasingly flammable public. We have no previous experience with this type of social unrest. The violence of the Vietnam era will look very limited and reasonable in comparison -- in the sense that it was an uprising on the grounds of principle, not survival. And the Civil War was a wholly regimented affair between two rival factions. This time, people with little interest in principle beyond some dim idea of economic fairness, will be hoisting the flaming brands out of sheer grievance and malice. By the time Lloyd Blankfein sees the torches flickering through his privet, it will be too late to defend the honor of his cappuccino machine. President Obama will have to starkly change his current game plan if this outcome is to be avoided. I think he's capable of turning off the mob -- of preventing the grasshoppers from turning into ravening locusts -- but it may take an extraordinary exercise in authority to do it, such as the true (not pretend) nationalization of the big banks, engineering the exit of Ben Bernanke from the Federal Reserve, sucking up the ignominy of having to replace failed regulator Tim Geithner in the Treasury Department, and calling out the dogs on the swindlers who had the gall to play their country for a sucker. As I've averred more than a few times in this space before, the standard of living in America has got to come way down. We mortgaged our future and the future has now begun. Tough noogies for us. But the broad public won't accept the reality of this as long as the grandees of finance and their myrmidons appear to still enjoy the high life. They've got to be brought down hard, perhaps even disgraced and humiliated in the courts, and certainly parted from some of their fortunes -- if only in lawyer's fees. Mr. Obama pretty much served notice to this effect last week, telling a delegation of bankers in the White House that he was the only thing standing between them and "the pitchforks." It's possible he understands the situation.

A more robust food system

SUBHEAD: We need to move to a less efficent, yet more robust way to feed ourselves.

[Editor’s Note: This is a version of an address delivered before the High Country Local Food Summit on March 26, in Boone, N.C., organized by Appalachian State University’s Sustainable Development Department. The High Country is a three-county region in the mountains of western North Carolina.]

By Tom Philpott on 3 April 2009 in Grist Magazine http://preview.beta.grist.org/article/2009-toward-a-less-efficient-and-more-robust

Image above: produce at a farmer’s market in North Carolina. Courtesy RICHIR on Flickr.

I’ve been asked to talk about how to create a robust, diversified food system here in the High Country.

Now the High Country is a largely rural area, constructed around a relatively small town called Boone. But I’m going to start by doing something odd. I’m going to quote someone who’s probably the most famous urban theorist of our time: Jane Jacobs, who died in 2006. Don’t worry, I will circle back to what an urban theorist’s work has to do with our situation here in rural north Carolina.

In her great book, The Economy of Cities, Jacobs praised what she called the “valuable inefficiencies and impracticalities of cities.” To illustrate her point, she invited readers to consider two examples from Victorian England: Manchester and Birmingham—or as she put it, “Efficient Manchester,” and “Inefficient Birmingham.”

A 19th century marvel and widely hailed as the “city of the future,” Manchester represented a break from the past. What Manchester did that was so new and different was simple—it specialized. The city threw its lot with one industry—textiles. Jacobs refers to the “stunning efficiency of its textile mills.” By the 1840s, the textile industry dominated the city entirely, Jacob tells us. The industry was brutally competitive; less efficient producers got swallowed up by larger, more streamlined players.

Contemporaries were impressed. For boosters, Manchester’s textile industry represented the triumph of the industrial revolution, the vindication of the power division of labor and specialization. As for detractors, a German writer named Karl Marx witnessed Manchester’s boom period and loathed the inequality he saw—a few wealthy mill owners and the thousands of impoverished mill workers. He also deplored the dehumanization of labor—the need to force humans to behave repetitive-motion machines. But like the boosters, Marx saw Manchester as a portent of the cities of the future—places that consolidate economic activity into a single industry, and then produce a single kind of product with terrible efficiency.

Now, a little ways to the south of Manchester lies a city called Birmingham. By the mid-19th century, Birmingham looked mired in the past. No one gaped at its “terrible efficiency.” Birmingham had a few relatively large industries, Jacob writes, but nothing to compare with Manchester’s textile behemoth. What really made Birmingham’s economy tick were its small operations. Jacobs tells us that “most of Birmingham’s manufacturing was carried out in small organizations employing no more than a dozen workman; many had fewer.”

There was a competitive spirit in Birmingham, but also plenty of cooperation. “A lot of these little organizations,” writes Jacob, “did bits and pieces of work for other little organizations.” In other words, they worked together; they formed networks, loose informal cooperatives.

And unlike in Manchester, there wasn’t a lot of big fish swallowing little fish. Birmingham’s little organizations “were not rationally or efficiently consolidated,” Jacobs writes. “There was a lot of waste of motion, duplication that could certainly have certainly been eliminated by consolidation.” In fact, organizations were more likely to spawn new organizations then to swallow old ones. “Able workman were forever breaking off from their employers … and setting up shop for themselves, compounding the fragmentation of work,” Jacobs adds.

She says few people took time to comment on Birmingham’s economy—and those who did were puzzled that it worked at all. Observers scratched their heads about why the people of Birmingham weren’t striving to imitate the emerging textile barons to the north.

Jacobs didn’t mention, but I will, a key difference between the two cities: Manchester geared its economy outward; it sought to maximize trade, to import what it didn’t produce, and export what it did produce, which was textiles. It strove to be the textile supplier to the British Empire and beyond. Meanwhile, humble Birmingham was mainly taking care of its own needs, turning to outside trade only at the margins.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, things turned out quite a bit differently than most 19th century observers predicted. Efficient Manchester turned out to be a bust. In short, people in other places—namely, in Britain’s colony on the Indian subcontinent—learned how to churn out textiles more cheaply. The city’s textile industry peaked quickly, and then entered a long and slow phase of decline. Manchester was built not for the future, but rather for obsolescence.

Meanwhile, inefficient Birmingham thrived. “Its fragmented and inefficient little industries kept adding new work, and splitting off new organizations, some of which are very large but still outweighed in total employment and production by the many small ones,” Jacobs writes. She adds that by the middle of the 20th century, “only two cities in England remain[ed] vigorous and prosperous. One is London. The other is Birmingham.”

Now, there are many lessons and analogies we can draw from this tale of two cities. One obvious analogy from our own time is Detroit. That one-time city of the future threw its lot with the automobile. Today, Detroit is hollowed out and economically depressed. Ironically, its greatest physical asset is not its rusted and shuttered car factories, but rather the prime prairie soil it stands on top of.

While Detroit’s car industry lurches to oblivion, its community gardens thrive. Citizens are claiming abandoned land and using it to grow food and a time when cash is short. Pondering the city’s budding urban farms, the writer Rebecca Solnit recently went so far as to declare Detroit a kind of city of the future. She writes: “Detroit may be the shining example we can look to-the post-industrial green city that was once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing.” [Harper’s]

What I really want to talk about, though, is our own economy here in the High Country. Since moving here five years ago, I’ve seen our economy specialize in three separate but related industries—construction, tourism, and real estate. We’ve allowed box-like condos to line our ridge tops so tourists can gaze at Grandfather Mountain. We’ve cleared productive forest stands from mountaintops to plunk down second-home McMansions with “360 degree views.”

As old tobacco farms shut down because of low prices, gated “communities” sprouted up in their place—swallowing farmland while often preserving the word “farm” in their names. Today, according to Watauga County economic development sources, about half of properties in the county are absentee homes; a third of new building permits relate to seasonal housing.

No doubt, this flurry of activity has brought thousands of jobs to our area. Construction has been a massive employer, as have the restaurants, hotels, and country clubs that cater to the second-homers and vacationers. Many of my friends—including excellent artists, musicians, and farmers who contribute mightily to our community—supplement their incomes by working in construction and tourism-related trades.

But just like Efficient Manchester, the High Country is learning that booms that rely on external forces can quickly lead to busts. It turns out that engine for growth in our area was fueled by a gusher of speculative cash, essentially funny money—a gusher that has now run dry.

The U.S. government is now preparing to use your tax dollars to coax hundreds of billions of real estate-related “toxic assets” off of bank balance sheets; that effort may or may not stabilize teetering megabanks like Citigroup and Bank of America, and it may or may not bail out the investors who took home billions in profit from those deals in the first place. But what the government’s program most certainly won’t do is restore the flow of easy money that has been clearing ridgelines and mountaintops for second homes—and employing a huge swath of our population.

Happily, I’ve also witnessed another economic trend since I moved here—the gradual, steady build out of alternative food networks. I’m thinking about institutions like the Watauga County Farmers market, which started decades ago but has experienced rapid growth in recent years; New River Organic Growers, a cooperative of small farmers that band together to market their produce to restaurants that care about quality and want to buy local.

And then there’s Maverick Farms, which I helped start, which started the High Country’s first CSA in 2005. This year, with a grant from the NC Rural Center, Maverick is rolling out High Country CSA, a multi-farm effort designed to open the CSA model to more consumers and more farmers. We’re partnering with New River Organic Growers for the effort; small-scale farmers learn the hard way that cooperation, both among farmers and with the broader community, are key to survival.

These efforts, while growing fast, remain micro-scale. The great bulk of the High Country’s food supply comes from the outside, dominated by a few supermarket chains and Wal-Mart. There’s not a slaughterhouse in our area that can legally process meat from local farms for sale, but we do have a McDonald’s, a Burger King, and a Wendy’s—all highly efficient operations. These large companies dominate our food supply. They create some low-skill, low-wage jobs, but they carry most of the food dollars we spend off the mountain, to distant shareholders.

But what if much more of our food dollars stayed within the community—and got cycled through organizations like New River Organic Growers and the Watauga and Ashe County Farmers markets? Here’s a rule of thumb: Communities spend about $1,000 per person on food. About 83,000 people live in our three-county area full time. That means we’re spending something like $83 million every year on food. And that doesn’t even count the money that tourists and second homers spend eating. The great bulk of that money drains out of the community and into the pockets of the people who own Wal-Mart and McDonald’s and Lowes Foods.

Now imagine we had a locally owned slaughterhouse that could process the pastured cows that so many people grow here—and now send off to feedlots in Kansas to fatten on corn. If you can access a nearby slaughterhouse, you make a lot more money selling grass-fed beef to your neighbors than selling cows to the meat industry; wouldn’t that draw more folks in?

And imagine a locally owned dairy processing plant, that could give a decent price to our few remaining dairy farmers. Given the popularity of real milk from grass-fed cows, wouldn’t that be a booming market—and draw more new dairy farmers in? And imagine a community-owned food co-op that could sell all of this stuff at a central place, and maybe a farmer-owned restaurant that could give community members the freshest food possible, while giving farmers a cut of the value that gets added to their produce?

Suddenly, we’d start looking less like Efficient Manchester, relying on outside forces for our economic well-being, and more like Inefficient Birmingham, with a set of thriving, interlocking, highly creative crafts based around food. And we’d eat a lot better, too.

And think how much more robust our economy would be. At a certain point, people stop thinking they need a second home. But they don’t typically decide to stop eating. Because of the natural beauty of our area, we’ll always draw tourists. A vibrant, accessible, delicious local food economy could be a new calling card—and a way to get tourist dollars flowing broadly through the economy, and not siphoned off to a few resorts and lodges.

The question becomes, how do we get there? I know from hard experience that profit margins on farming tend to be relatively low. There’s no way one farmer, or even a group of farmers, can make the investments we need to bolster our food economy. This is a community-scale opportunity that requires community-scale efforts. That means farmers, consumers, elected officials, and landowners working together to harness our assets and overcome our obstacles as a food community. And that is a process that can gain force today.

Plan to save the Superferry

SOURCE: Steve Benjamin (beenjammin63@yahoo.com) SUBHEAD: Former state attorney general has plan to save the Superferry By Leland Kim on 4 April 2009 for KHNL-TV http://www.khnl.com/global/story.asp?s=10131238 Image above: Modified illustration (by Juan Wilson) of the Alakai as the "Ghost Ship". From http://www.wallpapergate.com/wallpaper12601.html A move to clear the way to bring the Hawaii Superferry back to our shores is underway Friday. Former State Attorney General Michael Lilly says there's a simple legislative fix that can be done this session, but environmental groups says this raises a major red flag. The Alakai said bon voyage to Hawaii last month after losing a drawn out legal battle. Folks like Lilly were sad to see it go. "I've ridden it once and it was only local people, not tourists," said Lilly, who is now a partner with Ning, Lilly & Jones law firm in Downtown Honolulu. "It's our treasure that we lost." But he has a plan to bring it back to Hawaii. He says the Hawaii legislature could rewrite environmental laws to only consider primary, direct impacts, and disregard secondary impacts. "It's a very easy fix," said Lilly. "The legislature can change the law with one sentence, and with a stroke of a pen, the governor can sign it into law and the case is over." This scenario has environmental groups like the Sierra Club very concerned. "In fact, I think the action makes the problem worse because for 30 years now, we've had this environmental law process," said Robert Harris, director of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club. "The idea is to take a comprehensive view and look at everything and by essentially putting the blinders on and saying we're not going to look at everything, it really guts the purpose of the environmental law." The Sierra Club admits if this becomes law, they would have no legal recourse. "With environmental review, you really want to have a broad systematic review and unfortunately if you cut out secondary impacts, you don't have that," said Harris. It's now up to lawmakers to decide whether or not they will move forward with this idea. "If the legislature just says our law does not require consideration of secondary impacts, and as soon as the governor signs that bill into law, then that's it; it's over," said Lilly. "And what we should be doing is saying all businesses should be engaged with the community not moving in the opposite direction," said Harris. Some lawmakers are hopeful something can be done this session, but, once again, the Sierra Club says this would be bad for Hawaii's environment.

Collapse Psychosis

SUBHEAD: Navigating through the ongoing madness.
By Carolyn Baker on 05 April 2009 in Speaking Truth to Power http://carolynbaker.net/site/content/view/1056/1/ Image above: Detail of etching of "The Vandals in Rome". From http://www.heritage-history.com/www/heritage.php?R_menu=OFF&Dir=characters&FileName=genseric.php It's happening daily now, almost hourly-rampant eruptions of violence throughout the so-called developed world. As civilization unravels, the uncivilized behavior of humans is becoming viral, and the culture of empire is quite simply going mad as its values, assumptions, and reasons for existing are evaporating with dizzying speed. For those who are and have been collapse-aware for some time, it is important not only to make sense of the epidemic violence, but to incorporate skillful responses to it. First, I believe we need to deeply discern what is actually happening psychologically. The current outbreaks of violence are about more than unemployment and financial stressors. Yes, job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure, homelessness, and loss of health care are breaking people and communities in pieces. Yet something even more fundamental is seething beneath the surface--something of which these losses are symptomatic. Underlying the chaos is the reality of civilization's dissolution. But what does that actually mean? For one thing, it means that civilization has been inherently infantilizing. It teaches its members that their reason for existing on earth is to consume-that they have absolutely no other meaning or purpose but to produce money in order to spend it and thereby incessantly oil the machinery of maniacal, unrestrained growth. A world view of this kind can only result in a culture that has virtually no inner life-a culture in which one's reason for being lies entirely outside of oneself. We're not talking compassion or altruism here as in mindfulness of the well being of others. That results only from a highly developed inner life that understands that consuming is a miniscule aspect of life based on fundamental survival needs and that is willing to put even survival needs on the back burner in order to support other members of the earth community. Empire, which I use synonymously with civilization, is all about keeping the focus external to oneself for the purpose of enhancing the well being of a few dominant individuals in a strictly prescribed hierarchical system which encompasses all of the culture's institutions. From birth, citizens of empire are taught to serve that system by way of education, career choices, work, marriage, family, home ownership, political participation, and religion. When citizens reach a certain age, they are thrown away by the culture because they no longer have value in perpetuating the system but now require service from the system. Until that time, throughout adult life, one's primary identity is that of a producer who willingly focuses above all else on working, consuming, and paying taxes. Any other role the producer has-parent, spouse, volunteer-must be secondary to the role of worker/consumer/taxpayer. Naturally, to maintain the level of growth the ruling elite of the culture believe is necessary, a certain level of production/consumption is required. I hasten to add that as I use the word "producer", I'm not referring to producing anything sustainable, but rather the production of whatever is of value to the system which that system compensates in the form of money which then, by way of the system, becomes debt. Citizens of empire are taught that the total abdication of inner life on behalf of decades of servitude to the needs of the external hierarchical machine is not only normal and natural, but their fundamental duty as human beings. In other words, traversing any other path than this one is synonymous with "failure", "ingratitude", "slothfulness", even "treason." Nowhere is this more exquisitely depicted, in my opinion, than in the recent film "Revolutionary Road" by actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo De Caprio. Moreover, citizens are constantly rewarded for refusing to question these assumptions. To question would be to demonstrate disturbing symptoms of adulthood. Empire needs infantile servility in order to perpetuate itself indefinitely. The psyches, then, of empire's citizens are ill-equipped to deal with variation from the system's proscribed roles or functions. Empire, like a "good" parent, gives one everything one "needs" in return for production-until it doesn't, and when it doesn't, the citizen has no recourse emotionally because he/she has lived in psychological symbiosis with empire since birth. Does this sound like the relationship between an abuse victim and the abuser? "I've been used!", cries the abused, having believed that to keep quiet and play by the rules would be better than breaking silence. But we have only to ask the currently unemployed, homeless, foreclosed upon, and bankrupt how well credit scores and paying their bills on time served them. So now it becomes clearer to us what is happening in the psyches of millions of individuals who are losing their roles in the imperial system-and in the psyches of those who are not. The entire culture is under unprecedented stress, except perhaps for those old enough to have lived through the Great Depression. On some level, many of them "grew up" and stopped being infants during their ordeal. The 1930s in America was an enormous initiation which they moved through and became wiser and more authentically adult for having done so. This is not to say that every person now alive who lived through the Great Depression is a paragon of wizened maturity, but rather to notice that their survival of it has informed their behavior and attitudes since and actually equipped many of them to face the current crisis more skillfully than younger generations. As for those in the present moment who have jobs, homes, and healthcare, they realize on some level how precarious their position is. They have these things now, but it's only a matter of time until they may not. And consciously or unconsciously, this is creating gargantuan levels of stress among "more fortunate" Americans. But none of this is likely to be new information for those reading this article, and you may be wondering much more about the second half of the title than the first. Before addressing that, however, I believe that it's important to understand that the current epidemic of violence is likely to become far more severe and widespread. Understanding why it's happening is crucial, but if you have a beating heart, you have to be concerned about when and where it's going to erupt next. You also need to understand that as the violence exacerbates, more individuals and groups will be perceived as scapegoats. Currently, in France, CEO's are being taken hostage as they are experienced as the primary culprits of that nation's economic crisis. In the United States, we are likely to see as we did in Binghamton, New York this past week, the targeting of immigrant groups-even by other immigrants, or just intensifying family or random violence. Some collapse-aware individuals have chosen to purchase weapons for protection. In a culture gone mad, it's debatable how much protection firearms can actually offer, but if it feels right to do so, in my opinion, one should respect that and act accordingly. Dialog at this point is still an enormously important option, especially as we interact with folks who've been telling us for years that we are lunatics for preparing for collapse. In fact, the timing couldn't be better for these kinds of conversations, but we need to maintain an innocent, open attitude, not one of "I told you so", as much as some part of us might wish project it. Equally vital and life-supporting is our involvement in community efforts such as Transition Town and relocalization groups which offer us the opportunity to take local action, develop deep connections, and delight in the healing energy of validation and support from our peers. I believe that as cultural violence spreads in reaction to the trauma of collapse, these groups will be forced to strategize methods for looking out for each other's well being. Dmitry Orlov has a great deal to say about this in Re-Inventing Collapse which I highly recommend reading. Shamelessly, I must recommend my book Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse which is not primarily a book of information, but contains at the end of nearly every chapter, experiential exercises that both individuals and groups can engage in and which could be very useful in alleviating stress and promoting understanding. I wrote Sacred Demise specifically to offer the kind of introspection in the face of collapse that is going to be crucial for all of us in order to navigate it emotionally and spiritually. Empire has stolen so much of the inner world from us, and in order to make sense of the turbulent unraveling, we must reclaim our interiority. John Michael Greer brilliantly titled his recent review of my book, "Facing Decline, Facing Ourselves." In truth, we cannot face one without facing the other, for only both in tandem will allow us to navigate the madness.

White is the New Green

SUBHEAD: Painting or resurfacing roofs or pavement is shovel-ready.

 By Sam Kornell on 03 April 2009 in Miller-McCune
Image above: Application of elastomeric roof coating. From http://www.renovatemyspace.com/roofs/?p=13
In early January, Hashem Akbari sent federal officials a rather improbable sounding proposal. An Iranian-born nuclear engineer who, for the last three decades, has worked as a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Akbari would like to see $3 billion of the economic stimulus package directed toward painting white or a light color as many of the nation's roofs, and as much of its pavement, as possible — all with the goal of directing more solar radiation into space.
Akbari, along with Surabi Menon, another LBNL scientist, and Arthur Rosenfeld, a former LBNL scientist and now a California Energy Commission board member, claim that painting urban surfaces in warm parts of the world white or a light color could offset the carbon emissions of all 600 million of the world's cars for 18 to 20 years — at a savings equivalent to at least $1 trillion worth of CO2 reductions.
This is not a hoax: Akbari, Menon and Rosenfeld are three of the country's leading experts in their field, and their study published in the journal Climatic Change is backed by years of carefully calculated data.
It has long been known that white-roofed buildings stay cooler in hot weather. Blinding confirmation of this can be found in the streets of Andalusia in Spain, or the Greek Islands.
It turns out that they cool the air outside of their walls, too. On a typical summer day, Los Angeles is 5 degrees warmer than surrounding areas, and studies have consistently shown that by far the largest factor in this discrepancy is the absorption of solar heat by dark roofs and pavement — a phenomenon known as the "urban heat island" effect.
In 1985, Akbari and his colleagues began attempting to quantify how much "cool" roofs and pavement might improve urban air quality (hotter weather equals dirtier air), while cutting down on the need for air-conditioning. Then, five years ago, it occurred to them that cooling urban areas might also mitigate climate change.
As the greenhouse effect intensifies, one of the most dangerous consequences is a decrease in the earth's albedo — the degree to which it reflects solar radiation. Antarctic ice, for example, acts like a giant mirror, reflecting the heat of the sun back into space; as the ice melts, the earth absorbs more heat, leading to more global warming — a self-perpetuating process scientists call a feedback loop.
The idea of "geo-engineering" the world to make it bounce more of the sun's heat back into space has been around for years, but until Akbari and his colleagues decided to look into it, no one had attempted to quantify how much atmospheric cooling might be achieved by, as it were, painting the town white.
In 2004, they began running the numbers, and when they finished they were incredulous.
"When we did the calculations, initially we couldn't believe the results," Akbari said. "So we re-checked the numbers in different ways." Again, he said, the results were unambiguous: Every 100 square feet of roof area turned from a dark color to white is equivalent to offsetting the emission of one ton of heat-trapping, atmospheric CO2.
To get an idea of what this means, consider that in a single year, the average American is responsible for about 20 tons of CO2 emissions. Per capita, Americans have the largest carbon footprint of any nationality in the world, and all of the activities that make this so — driving our cars, using our electrical appliances, buying consumer products — adds up to the equivalent, atmospherically speaking, of 2,000 square feet of white roof.
In all, Akbari, Menon and Rosenfeld estimate that permanently retrofitting roofs and pavement in tropical and temperate regions of the world would offset 44 gigatons of CO2 emissions. It takes about a year and a half for the entire world to cook up 44 gigatons of CO2.
The scale of such mitigation, in proportion to its cost, is unrivaled among technology-based climate solutions. "This is not trivial a number," said Stephen Schneider, the co-director of Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and Policy, and the editor of Climatic Change.
Schneider emphasized that the plan would offset, not eliminate, the necessity of reducing carbon emissions, but he said that as singular greenhouse mitigation strategies come, the LBNL study is elegant, simple and profoundly cheap.
It's also well timed. Akbari pointed out that by his and his colleagues' calculations, the plan could save Americans $2 billion annually in unspent air conditioning, even after taking into account the increased need for heating in winter. Moreover, he argued, it dovetails with the president's economic and environmental goals.
The Obama administration has made it clear that it wants a substantial portion of the stimulus package to go toward creating a greener economy, but that desire has to be balanced against the imperative to immediately circulate cash and create jobs. Painting or resurfacing roofs or pavement, Akbari said, would nicely fulfill both objectives. The technology exists and is readily available, and since a substantial portion of the country's home and commercial real-estate owners are going to need to re-roof at some point in the near future anyway, it's about as shovel-ready as any proposal currently on the table.
Akbari has thus far not heard back from the government, but he's holding out hope that his funding proposal will be folded into the energy-efficiency provision of the stimulus package.
"I don't see why it shouldn't be," he said. "It will be lucrative for the government and for business owners, and it will create jobs and offset carbon emissions.
"However, he noted that the attraction of urban cooling is unlikely to fade anytime in the foreseeable future — indeed, with 70 percent of the world's population projected to live in cities by 2040, it should only increase. He makes a convincing case.
As Schneider said, "It's a clever idea that has no obvious side effects and gives us good bang for our buck."
See also:
 Island Breath: Black is the New Green 2/28/09
Island Breath: Yellow is the New Green 2/27/09

You Are Watching

SUBHEAD: Bill Moyers talks to Bill Black about the fraud that pervades the financial industry and the Obama government.
By Bill Moyers on 03 April 2009 in Bill Moyers Journal
Image above: Detail of poster for country music band "Asleep at the Wheel". From http://sleepzine.com/sleep-news/don%E2%80%99t-fall-asleep-driving-on-the-road/
The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how did they get away with it? With the nation wondering how to hold the bankers accountable, Bill Moyers sits down with William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Black offers his analysis of what went wrong and his critique of the bailou.
BILL MOYERS: Who's covering up?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Geithner is charging, is covering up. Just like Paulson did before him. Geithner is publicly saying that it's going to take $2 trillion — a trillion is a thousand billion — $2 trillion taxpayer dollars to deal with this problem. But they're allowing all the banks to report that they're not only solvent, but fully capitalized. Both statements can't be true. It can't be that they need $2 trillion, because they have masses losses, and that they're fine. These are all people who have failed. Paulson failed, Geithner failed. They were all promoted because they failed, not because...
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, Geithner has, was one of our nation's top regulators, during the entire subprime scandal, that I just described. He took absolutely no effective action. He gave no warning. He did nothing in response to the FBI warning that there was an epidemic of fraud. All this pig in the poke stuff happened under him. So, in his phrase about legacy assets. Well he's a failed legacy regulator.

White House garden tiff

SUBHEAD: Agricultural chemical industry shudders at organic White House garden. By Marc Montefusco on 29 March 2009 in the Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/x-5405-NY-Gardening-Examiner~y2009m3d29-Agricultural-chemical-industry-shudders-at-organic-White-House-garden Image above: Illustration for article on Obama organic garden. From http://winddanncer.today.com/2009/03/19/finallyanother-victory-garden-at-the-white-house/ Here's an interesting twist in what appeared to be a piece of all-around good news: when officials at the Mid America Croplife Association discovered that the new White House kitchen garden was to be managed organically, they sent a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama asking her to consider managing the garden "conventionally." At first glance, the letter itself (http://www.lavidalocavore.org/showDiary.do;jsessionid=B57C2D91A888D198DA4EE73A784C78D8?diaryId=1309) doesn't seem particularly insidious, just a call to appreciate the importance of American agriculture. But a more careful reading reveals the subtext: don't encourage Americans to grow their own food, because it's not practical, and don't encourage them to think that organic food is somehow superior to "conventional" agricultural products. This passage, for example, seems to militate against the idea that individual families can realistically raise even a portion of their own food: "If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?" And this sentence shifts the blame for poor nutritional values and tainted food to the retailers and home cooks: "Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown." There are legitimate arguments to be made in favor of some non-organic farming methods, especially programs based on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and on advanced ecologically sound soil management practices. It's also true that you would be hard-pressed, from a purely nutritional standpoint, to assert the inherent superiority of organically-grown food. But the authors of this letter are not conscientious farmers facing the reality of uncertain weather, evolving pests, rampant disease, and fluctuating markets. The authors of this letter make and distribute agricultural chemicals (it's a requirement for MACA membership) and they include representatives from companies with names like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta, BASF Corporation, and Bayer CropScience, some of the giants of modern pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops. The real smoking gun, however, is not to be found in the letter itself, but rather in an email sent round to MACA members. Someone passed this email, and the original letter, on to individuals who have embraced the cause of safe food and sustainable agriculture, and they published it. Here's the money quote: "Did you hear the news? The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama's [sic] and their guests. While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder." Shudder? The idea that our First Lady is modeling independence and environmental responsibility makes these people shudder? I'm inclined to give large portions of the green industry a break – it's a tough calling, no matter what side of it you're on, and we all depend on its products – but the industry needs to get on board with the new realities of life on earth. Sustainability, responsibility, and well being for all: these are the ideals of the Obama administration, and I think they need to be the ideals of the green industry as well. Postscript: Just to add insult to injury, by the way, the original letter is addressed to "Mrs. Barack Obama." Forget about that strong, independent role as First Lady, Michelle. To a reactionary industry, your real role is defined by your relationship to your husband. see also: Island Breath: White House victory garden 3/19/09

Monsanto GMO failure in Africa

SUBHEAD: Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa.
By Adriana Stuijt on 7 March 2009 in Digital Journal http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/270101 Image above: Graphic inspired by image found at http://madinhorrycounty.blogspot.com/2008/01/adfa.html South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation.
Monsanto blames the failure of the three varieties of corn planted on these farms, in three South African provinces,on alleged 'under-fertilization processes in the laboratory". Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems. Urgent investigation demanded However environmental activitist Marian Mayet, director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg, demands an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods, blaming the crop failure on Monsanto's genetically-manipulated technology. Willem Pelser, journalist of the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, writes from Nelspruit that Monsanto has immediately offered the farmers compensation in three provinces - North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The damage-estimates are being undertaken right now by the local farmers' cooperative, Grain-SA. Monsanto claims that 'less than 25%' of three different corn varieties were 'insufficiently fertilised in the laboratory'. 80% crop failure However Mayet says Monsanto was grossly understating the problem.According to her own information, some farms have suffered up to 80% crop failures. The centre is strongly opposed to GM-food and biologically-manipulated technology in general. "Monsanto says they just made a mistake in the laboratory, however we say that biotechnology is a failure.You cannot make a 'mistake' with three different varieties of corn.' Demands urgent government investigation: "We have been warning against GM-technology for years, we have been warning Monsanto that there will be problems,' said Mayet. She calls for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods in South Africa. Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto's GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport. Monsanto's local spokeswoman Magda du Toit said the 'company is engaged in establishing the exact extent of the damage on the farms'. She did not want to speculate on the extent of the financial losses suffered right now. Managing director of Monsanto in Africa, Kobus Lindeque, said however that 'less than 25% of the Monsanto-seeded farms are involved in the loss'. He says there will be 'a review of the seed-production methods of the three varieties involved in the failure, and we will made the necessary adjustments.' He denied that the problem was caused in any way by 'bio-technology'. Instead, there had been 'insufficient fertilisation during the seed-production process'. And Grain-SA's Nico Hawkins says they 'are still support GM-technology; 'We will support any technology which will improve production.' see He also they were 'satisfied with Monsanto's handling of the case,' and said Grain-SA was 'closely involved in the claims-adjustment methodology' between the farmers and Monsanto. Farmers told Rapport that Monsanto was 'bending over backwards to try and accommodate them in solving the problem. "It's a very good gesture to immediately offer to compensate the farmers for losses they suffered,' said Kobus van Coller, one of the Free State farmers who discovered that his maize cobs were practically seedless this week. "One can't see from the outside whether a plant is unseeded. One must open up the cob leaves to establish the problem,' he said. The seedless cobs show no sign of disease or any kind of fungus. They just have very few seeds, often none at all. The South African supermarket-chain Woolworths already banned GM-foods from its shelves in 2000. However South African farmers have been producing GM-corn for years: they were among the first countries other than the United States to start using the Monsanto products. The South African government does not require any labelling of GM-foods. Corn is the main staple food for South Africa's 48-million people. The three maize varieties which failed to produce seeds were designed with a built-in resistance to weed-killers, and manipulated to increase yields per hectare, Rapport writes.

Monsanto office for rent

SUBHEAD: Monsanto pulls managers out of Hanapepe Valley. Hurray! By Juan Wilson on 4 April 2009 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/04/mosanto-office-for-rent.html) Image above: The Seto Building at 4556 Awawa Road has recently been headquarters for Monsanto. Photo by Juan Wilson. The address is 4556 Awawa Road, in Hanapepe Valley. A "For Rent" sign hangs on the building where a sign for a Monsanto sponsored event once rippled in the breeze. There are no more big pickups parked near the front door. The restored Seto Building may now return to a retail business operation once again. The building in recent years has been the headquarters for Monsato's genetically modified organism (GMO) experiments in Hanapepe Valley. Monsanto subleased virtually all the usable Alexander & Baldwin lands in the valley for corn seed experiments. This included farmland once used for growing real food locally. Some Monsanto experimental corn fields were only a stone's throw from the largest taro production on the westside of the island. We're glad to see Monsanto go and hope that the corporation's employees can find work feeding the people of Kauai. The following is from a plaque on the building put up by the Kauai Historical Society. "The original building was the lean-to section at the rear of the property. The tiny kitchen there was said to dish up the best saimin noodles on Kauai. In 1919 the Seto family purchased the property and finished the two-story addition by 1921. Over the years it has been a coffee shop/bakery, general store, the Bridge Side Steak House during World War II, a market, and liquer store. The family lived upstairs and often enjoyed fishing and catching huge crabs from the windows and deck. At times folks came by in boats to purchase goods through the window with the aid of a bucket on a rope. Having survived the 1963 flood, and hurricane Iwa in 1982, the building was destroyed by hurricane Iniki in 19992. Now fully restored by the Seto family, it serves as retail and office space." Let's hope that last part is right and the building won't serve anymore as the Devil's Workshop. see also: Island Breath: Monsanto Aftermath 2/26/09 Island Breath: Monsanto to leave Kauai 2/20/09

Parx on Supreme Court Decision

SUBHEAD: Tempest in a teapot, much ado about nothing, not with a bang but a whimper. By Andy Parx on 31 March 2009 in The Parx Daily News - http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2009/03/not-so-fast-there-rover.html Image above: A Hawaiian sovereignty supporter demonstrates in Honolulu. From http://www.bigisland-bigisland.com/hawaiian-sovereginty-free-hawaii-is-my-take.html Not So Fast There Rover Pick you trite cliché but it’s gratifying to see the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) tell everyone from the respondents to the pundits- and especially to the Hawai`i Supreme Court (SCOHI) - to go home shut the hell up in today’s decision on the “ceded lands” case. Because despite what the mainstream media and the state is saying the decision did not establish any new federally-sanctioned state “ownership” in any way shape or form, it simply vacated it and remanded it back to the SCOHI. What they actually said - not what the Honolulu Advertiser or state attorney general wishes they said- was:
(W)e have no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Hawaii is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Seems like another typical case of American blind justice and the judges were going to look at the 27 8x10 color glossy photographs with the circles and arrows on the back that purportedly showed state ownership the lands stolen from kanaka maoli lands. The SCOTUS just sent the whole matter back to the SCOHI to re-write their opinion without mentioning the 1993 “Apology Law”. The decision wasn’t based on their stilted and selectively amnesic recitation of the Amerikan view of the thrift-based “ownership” of the “crown lands”. It was solely based on the use of federal law by the SCOHI. Most people expected this would happen after the oral arguments. Even most of us who asked what part of the apology’s “confession” made the illegal theft legal didn’t expect true justice from a court that has always endorsed the genocidal underpinnings of Amerika. Still it was nice to see a rap on the knuckles for both Governor Linda Lingle’s corrupt shyster mouthpiece Attorney General Mark Bennett and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) who thought they were going to get some kind of definitive ruling answering the question of who ‘owns’ the land. Even we momentarily expected the worst, especially after, as the SCOTUS said,
even respondent OHA has now abandoned its argument, made below, that "Congress . . . enacted the Apology Resolution and thus . . . change[d]" the Admission Act.
But as any SCOTUS watcher knows the prime directive of the Roberts Court is, to paraphrase him, to not make any decision it doesn’t have to make and push it all down the road as long as possible. What may be the best part of the decision is that it exposes OHA for what it is - nothing more than a cog in the genocidal state and federal machine. When push came to shove, during the hearing, OHA showed it’s true stripes, basically begging the justices to spare their life, saying they agreed with Bennett et al, on state ownership of the land... because without state ownership, as a creature of the state they would have and be nothing at all. Dropping all 30 years of pretense in claiming that they represented the kanaka maoli in any way shape or form, their duplicitous “please have pity on your humble servant oh wise, wonderful and benevolent court” plea was a disgusting show of bureaucratic self - preservation even if it meant the betrayal of their charges. There’s little doubt that the SCOTHI will go back and purge their opinion of the apology law references and replace them with state law. The process for doing that is contained in the OHA brief in opposition filed in the case. But then what? Is kicking the can further down the road a strategy that will do anything but allow the thieves to consolidate power behind the now official concept of Amerikan Justice that says that land can owned after being stolen... fair and square? Certainly this is nothing new in US jurisprudence. Ask any descendent of mainland natives who thought they had rights to their land rights, many with better paperwork than na kanaka have. Some may think that for now it is a bullet dodged none the less for those who have any hope of maintaining a land base for the reestablishment sovereignty over these islands. All we can say is don’t count on it being anything beyond, to cite another cliché, the calm before the storm. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the SCOTUS decision
When a state supreme court incorrectly bases a decision on federal law, the court’s decision improperly prevents the citizens of the State from addressing the issue in question through the processes provided by the State’s constitution. Here, the State Supreme Court incorrectly held that Congress, by adopting the Apology Resolution, took away from the citizens of Hawaii the authority to resolve an issue that is of great importance to the people of the State. Respondents defend that decision by arguing that they have both state-law property rights in the land in question and “broader moral and political claims for compensation for the wrongs of the past.” Brief for Respondents 18. But we have no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Hawaii is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.
See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Supreme Court decides Hawaii Case 3/31/09 .

The London Summit 2009

SUBHEAD: The richest 20 countries have 90% of its wealth. Should these people be allowed in the same room? By Juan Wilson on 2 April 2009 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/04/london-summit-2009.html) Look at the poster for this G20 conference, that brings together the leaders of the twenty largest economies in the world. It shows a picture of the Earth looking across the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe. In the distance is a flash of light. Is that the rising sun, or a nuclear device detonated somewhere over Russia? Then there, under the title "The London Summit 2009" is the motto of the event: STABILITY | GROWTH | JOBS That's laughable. Those are the least likely things we'll see anytime soon. The word is the U.S. lost three-quarters of a million jobs in March. I know... the motto is, in this case, just a prayer. It's what the G20 wish they could keep going in order for their party to keep going. It reminds me of the Ed Sullivan act where a plate spinner tries to keep twenty plates spinning and balanced on sticks. The spinner runs around frantically trying to keep everything going until the curtain comes down. Perhaps a more useful motto for the summiteers to consider would be RESILIENCE | SUSTAINABILITY | USEFUL WORK See also: Island Breath: Obama about face on Afghanistan 4/1/09

Facing Decline, Facing Ourselves

SUBHEAD: Walking the spiritual path of industrial civilization’s collapse.
By John Michael Greer on 01 April 2009 in The Archduruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2009/04/facing-decline-facing-ourselves.html) Image above: "The Artist's Hand" by Alex Gray from www.alexgrey.com
Of all the fallacies that surround the contemporary crisis of industrial civilization, and have done so much to bring that crisis down on us, the most seductive is the assumption that it’s a technical problem that can be solved by technical means. That’s an easy assumption to make, for a variety of reasons, but it puts us in the situation of the drunkard in the old joke who looks for his keys under the streetlight half a block from the dark sidewalk where he dropped them, since under the streetlight he can at least see what he’s doing.
The technical aspects of our predicament, though challenging, are the least of our worries; it’s the other aspects that have proven intractable. Consider the project of cutting US per capita energy consumption to a third of its present level. Given that the average European uses a third as much energy each year as the average American, and in many ways gets a better standard of living out of it, this is far from impossible; a great deal of the technology is sitting on the shelf only one continent away, in effect, and simply needs to be put to work.
Now of course such a project would require a great deal of investment in railways, mass transit, urban redevelopment, and the like, but what’s been spent on recent military adventures in the Middle East would cover much of it – and let’s not even talk about what could be done with the funds being wasted right now to prop up Wall Street banks looted by their own executives in the final blowoff of an epoch of corporate kleptocracy. The return on the investment needed to cut our energy use to European levels, in turn, would be immense. Since the US still produces more than a third of the oil it uses, to name only one result, we would no longer be sending billions of dollars a year to line the pockets of Middle Eastern despots; we’d be a net exporter of oil – even, quite conceivably, a member of OPEC.
So why isn’t so sensible a project being debated right now in the halls of Congress? Why, more broadly, has energy conservation through lifestyle change – arguably the single easiest and most cost effective option we have on hand in dealing with the end of the age of cheap oil – been entirely off the political and cultural radar screens since the end of the 1970s, so much so that most of those who have noticed that we’re running out of cheap abundant energy have framed the issue entirely in terms of finding some technical gimmick that will let us keep on living the way we live now?
This is where the technical dimension of our predicament gives way to a region where the forces that matter are not the cut-and-dried facts of physics and engineering, but murkier factors – political, cultural, psychological, and (let’s whisper the word) spiritual – and what’s theoretically possible matters a great deal less than what’s culturally and emotionally acceptable. Most writers on peak oil, though not all, have tended to shy away from this unsettled and unsettling territory. This is quite understandable; industrial culture privileges technical knowledge and rewards those who can (or say they can) make the machinery of our daily life purr more smoothly and profitably, and shuts its ears against those who ask questions about the purposes the machines serve and the emotional drives that make those purposes seem to make sense. Still, this leaves us scrabbling around with the drunkard under the streetlight, searching for keys that are lying in the dark half a block away.
It’s for this reason, among others, that I was pleased to get a copy of Carolyn Baker’s new book, "Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse". Those of my readers who are familiar with Baker’s blog and mine will probably be able to imagine, if they don’t happen to have followed, some of the lively disagreements we’ve had, and it will doubtless come as no surprise that some of the arguments made in Sacred Demise seem problematic to me. Still, those issues of detail are less important than what Baker has tried, with quite some success, to accomplish with this book. What Sacred Demise represents is the first really sustained effort to pull the debate over the future of industrial civilization out of the comfortable realm of technical questions, and force it to confront the deeper and fundamentally non-rational factors that have done so much to keep effective solutions out of reach.
The title of the book may need some explanation, because Sacred Demise deals at least as much with psychology as with religion. Admittedly the line between these two has become blurred in recent years; as the modern West has redefined religion wholly in terms of personal relationships with the transcendent, and made its collective aspects increasingly hard to sustain, psychology has come to play the role in modern religious movements that theology still plays in their more traditional sisters. While this shift has had its share of dubious results, it has allowed some crucial religious themes – the imminence of death, the quest for meaning in human existence, and the challenge both these level at individuals and societies alike, among others – to remain live issues in a passionately secular age.
These themes, in turn, frame Baker’s approach. She argues that we are long past the point at which the unraveling of the industrial age can be prevented, and our options at this point are limited to facing the difficult future ahead of us, on the one hand, or pretending it isn’t there until it overwhelms us, on the other. She dissects the logic of those who only want to hear about solutions, tracing it back into its deep roots in the fear of death and the attempt to cling to familiar patterns of meaning even when those no longer make sense of our experience, and she tackles the awkward but necessary issues all of us have to confront as decline and fall sets in: the need to mourn, to confront the reality of death, to find new narratives to make sense of a rapidly changing world.
For Baker, then, the core task of our time is not how to prevent collapse; decades of mishandled opportunities have put that hope out of reach. Nor does she embrace the futile strategy of trying to hide out in survivalist enclaves until the rubble stops bouncing. Instead, she calls us to face collapse squarely and personally, as a reality that is already shaping our lives, and will do so ever more forcefully in the years to come. Facing collapse, in turn, requires us to deal with the whole realm of personal baggage we each bring to the experience of decline and fall. That’s a crucial issue, for the unstated psychological and religious subtexts of the crisis of industrial civilization have played a huge role in confusing the already complex issues facing the world just now.
Thus it’s vital to realize, when somebody insists that technological progress will inevitably lead our species to immortality among the stars, or when somebody else insists that contemporary civilization has become the ultimate incarnation of everything evil and will shortly be destroyed so that the righteous remnant can inhabit a perfect world, that what they’re saying has very little to do with the facts on the ground. Rather, these are statements of religious belief that coat mythic themes millennia old in a single coat of secular spraypaint. If, dear reader, one or the other of these is your religion, that’s fine – you have as much right to your faith as I have to mine – but please, for the love of Darwin, could you at least admit that it’s a religious belief, an act of faith in a particular constellation of numinous experience, rather than a self-evident truth that any sane and moral person must automatically accept?
This last point, I have to admit, goes a little beyond what Baker has to say, and in fact my central criticism of Sacred Demise is precisely that it doesn’t quite manage to apply its sharpest insights to Baker’s own point of view. That view is perilously close to the latter of the religious viewpoints mentioned above; for Baker, the diverse and morally complex reality of the industrial world is flattened into a single vast and terrible abstraction labeled by turns Civilization and Empire, the exact equivalent of Babylon and the kingdom of Satan in her historical mythology. Psychologically, this might best be described in Jungian terms as a bad case of projecting the shadow; in religious terms, it represents a drastic confusion between the realms of being, mistakenly mapping one of the great themes of myth and religious vision onto the messy and prosaic realities of everyday existence.
For all that, Sacred Demise is a crucially important book. It is not the last word on the subject, nor do I think Baker would want it to be; rather, it’s the first word in a conversation that we desperately need to start, as the high notes of economic crisis mingle with the basso-profundo of declining energy reserves, pushing us further and further away from the world of business-as-usual fantasy we have tried to inhabit for the last quarter century. We need to start talking about how we can hold onto our humanity in bitter times; about how we can find reasons for hope and sources of necessary joy as so many of our former certainties crumble to dust; about what stories we can use to bring meaning to the world when so many of our familiar meanings no longer make sense of anything. In order to face the realities of decline, in other words, we have to face ourselves, and Baker’s book is a significant contribution to that vital task.