Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jason Webley in Asheville, 12/29, Flood Gallery

If you like the Avett Brothers and what they do for bluegrass,
you will also like Jason Webley and what he does for the accordian.

I experienced them both the same summer and saw many similarities.

Wait a minute! Stop presses! He IS appearing with the Avett Brothers.
And I was THE FIRST to note the similarity!

And do I get credit?
No. As usual.
I can't find the emails, but I noted to the Avetts that they were like Jason Webley,
and one of them replied something like "Thanks. Never heard of him-- I'll have to check that out."
Trust me. I thought I might have said the same thing to Jason.

Here's what one fan said of them together in Seattle:
QUOTE: (anne @ Nov 12 2008, 8:38 AM)
"I believe Jason Webley played before the Avetts at Pickathon in 2007. He was f-ing awesome!! He had the whole crowd pointing in the air and spinning in circles. My son and I had a blast during his set.
he did and it *was* awesome!"

he also opened for them the first night in Seattle this past April and i don't think that show would have been as good without his stellar, energetic performance. he brought something special to that evening.

Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New York times has an article on Ecotopia

Back in 1977, there were a few sci fi utopias and dystopias that had been recently published:
- Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
- Wanderground, by Sally Gearhart

but my favorite, which I read as part of a study group with the MOvement for a New Society, was ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach.

Today the NYT has an article on it. Perhaps there might be a market for a booklength study of MNS after all. I'm headed to the official archives of the group, the Swarthmore College Peace Collection next week. It's my second visit-- I went there in October 1979 to research the 1948 anti-draft movement, in which Bob Swann was quite influential.

No one else seems to writing on MNS yet, nor to have written on them. The three scholars I've contacted think it's high time for someone to do it.

The Novel That Predicted Portland
Published: December 12, 2008
SOMETIMES a book, or an idea, can be obscure and widely influential at the same time. That’s the case with “Ecotopia,” a 1970s cult novel, originally self-published by its author, Ernest Callenbach, that has seeped into the American groundwater without becoming well known.

The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy, a cross between Scandinavian socialism and Northern California back-to-the-landism, with the custom — years before the environmental writer Michael Pollan began his campaign — to eat local.

Click Here to Read More..

Bumpersticker Visions

I was driving (yes, a rented car) along Haywood Road, wondering how many of my fellow citizens got it about peak oil and the need for a new lifestyle.

I saw a new health club at Haywood and Patton, with a name like a corporate radio brand: "The Rush". Apparently the complex is 40,000 square feet. All well and good, but in a month where
• hunting licenses are on the rise because budgets are tight
• electricity use is down by 7% for the same reason
• gas purchases have been going down, and transit use up-- even though gas is half the price it was just a few months ago......

do these folks really think that folks will an unspecified amount of money
(never a good sign when the price is available only by talking to a push sales person)
to exercise when they could bike or walk up these plentiful hills?

I don't think they get it, and imagine they are going under.
In contrast....

a minute after that, I saw a woman with two bumperstickers--
one that has been around for quite a while on simple living, and the other apparently homemade, which said something like "This petroleum bonanza is a one time deal."

Click Here to Read More..

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Obama on the next Secretary of Agriculture

The following letter is signed by
Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Marion Nestle and Bill McKibben,
among others.

They suggest some people they think would be good for the next Secretary of Agriculture:

# Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
# Chuck Hassebrook, executive director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Neb.
# Sarah Vogel, former Commissioner of Agriculture for North Dakota, lawyer, Bismarck, N.D.
# Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, and president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
# Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy.
# Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Jim Barton


Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election
promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural
advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary
and general election because of the family farm-friendly p olicies that you advocated
during your campaign.

As our nation's future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under
advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial
role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation's
food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the
independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact
on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision
for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and
land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies
that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system
unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the
allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of
corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health
implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to
issues of fo od safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next
Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for:
• recreating regional food systems,
• supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and
• protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker's rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that
of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive
action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a
new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy
production that revitalizes our nation's soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities
for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation's growing health
problems by promoting a children's school lunch program that incorporates more healthy
food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from
local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices.
We recognize that our children's health is our nation's future and that currently schools
are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to inve st
in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on
childhood education as a child's health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and
policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more
conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the
next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting
sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy
future for all of America's citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment
to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider
them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.


1. David Murphy, Clear Lake, IA
2. Paul Willis, Thornton, IA
3. Michael Pollan, Berkeley, CA
4. Bill Niman, Bolinas, CA
5. Nicolette Hahn Niman, Bolinas, CA
6. Diane Halverson, Northfield, MN
7. Marlene Halverson, Northfield, MN
8. Aaron Woolf, Elizabethtown, NY
9. Judy Wicks, Philadelphia, PA
10. Wendy Wasserman, Iowa City, IA
11. Anna Lappé, Brooklyn, NY
12. Cornelia Butler Flora, Ames, IA
13. Eleanor Bertino, San Francisco, CA
14. Wes Jackson, Salina, KS
15. Wendell Berry, Port Royal, KY
16. Alice Waters, Berkeley, CA
17. Marion Nestle, New York, NY
18. Bill McKibben, Middlebury, VT
19. Rick Dove, New Bern, NC
20. Ann Cooper, Berkeley, CA
21. Michel Nischan, Fairfield, CT
22. Jerry DeWitt, Ames, IA
23. Michael Dimock, San Francisco, CA
24. Jim Harkness, Minneapolis, MN
25. Frank Reese, Lindsborg, KS
26. Jeff Odefey, Irvington, NY
27. Cathy Liss, Alexandria, VA
28. Eric Schlosser, Monterey, CA
29. Leigh Adcock, Ames, IA
30. Dan Barber, Pocantico Hills, NY
31. Francis Thicke, Fairfield, IA
32. Josh Viertel, Brooklyn, NY
33. Peter Hoffman, New York, NY
34. Tom Philpott, Valle Crucis, NC
35. Hillary Wilson, Valle Crucis, NC
36. Dan Imhoff, Healdsburg, CA
37. Michael Stumo, Sheffield, MA
38. Simran Sethi, Lawrence, KS
39. Lisa Stokke, Clear Lake, IA
40. Sarah Willis, Thornton, IA
41. Peter Kaminsky, Brooklyn, NY
42. Kurt Michael Friese, Iowa City, IA
43. Carl Safina, Stony Brook, NY
44. Anthony Garrett, Washington, DC
45. Eliza Maclean, Snow Camp, NC
46. Odessa Piper, Silver Spring, MD
47. Edward Behr, Barnet, VT
48. Phyllis Willis, Thornton, IA
49. Larry Cleverley, Mingo, IA
50. Jesse Ziff Cool, Menlo Park, CA
51. Curt Ellis, Austin, TX
52. Wenonah Hauter, Washington, D C
53. Patty Lovera, Washington, DC
54. John Ikerd, Columbia, MO
55. Lucia Watson, Minneapolis, MN
56. Deborah Madison, Galisteo, NM
57. George DeVault, Decorah, IA
58. Melanie DeVault, Decorah, IA
59. Andrea King Collier, Lansing, MI
60. Rosiland Creasy, Los Altos, CA
61. John Jeavons, Willits, CA
62. Samuel Fromartz, Washington DC
63. Frances Moore Lappe, Cambridge, MA
64. Denise O'Brien, Atlantic, IA
65. Arnell Hinkle, Berkeley, CA
66. Marjie Bender, Pittsboro, NC
67. Winona LaDuke, Ponsford, MN
68. Diane Hatz, New York, NY
69. Cory Schreiber, Portland, OR
70. Rick Bayless, Chicago, IL
71. Angie Tagtow, Elkhart, IA
72. Ralph Paige, East Point, GA
73. Clara Bingham, New York, NY
74. Arie McFarlen, Dell Rapids, SD
75. Bret Kortie, Dell Rapids, SD
76. Dwight Ault, Austin, MN
77. Amy P. Goldman, Rhinebeck, NY
78. Judith LaBelle, New York, NY
79. Patrick Martins, New York, NY
80. Mary Berry Smith, New Castle, KY
81. John Fisk, East Lansing, MI
82. Tim LaSalle, Kutztown, PA
83. Susan Stokes, St. Paul, MN
84. Jude Becker, Dyersville, IA

Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some Constructive Approaches to the Mumbai Massacres

This Joint Statement is being released to the press simultaneously in Pakistan and India today, 30th November 2008.

We are deeply shocked and horrified at the bloody mayhem in Mumbai, which has claimed more than a hundred and ninty lives and caused grievous injuries to several hundred people, besides sending a wave of panic and terror across South Asia and beyond. We convey our profound feelings of sorrow and sympathies to the grieving families of the unfortunate victims of this heinous crime and express our solidarity with them.

As usual, all sorts of speculations are circulating about the identity of the perpetrators of this act of barbarism. The truth about who are directly involved in this brutal incident and who could be the culprits behind the scene is yet to come out and we do not wish to indulge in any guesswork or blame game at this point. However, one is intrigued at its timing. Can it be termed a coincidence that it has happened on the day the Home Secretaries of the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as the opening of several land routes for trade ? Kargil, Wagah-Attari, Khokhropar etc ?, relaxation in the visa regime,? a soft and liberal policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to fight terrorism? Again, is it just a coincidence that on this fateful day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital holding very useful and productive talks with his Indian counterpart?? One thing looks crystal clear. The enemies of peace and friendship between the two countries, whatever be the label under which they operate, are un-nerved by these healthy developments and are hell bent on torpedoing them.

We are of the considered opinion that the continued absence of peace in South Asia - peace between and within states - particularly in relation to India and Pakistan , is one of the root causes of most of the miseries the people of the region are made to endure. It is the major reason why our abundantly resource-rich subcontinent is wallowing in poverty, unemployment, disease, and ignorance and why militarism, religious and sectarian violence and political, economic and social injustice are eating into the very vitals of our societies, even after more than six decades of independence from colonial rule.

At this moment of unmitigated tragedy, the first thing we call upon the Governments of India and Pakistan to do is to acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of India and Pakistan ardently desire peace and, therefore, the peace process must be pursued with redoubled speed and determination on both sides. The sooner the ruling establishments of India and Pakistan acknowledge this fact and push ahead with concrete steps towards lasting peace and harmony in the subcontinent, the better it will be not only for the people of our two countries but also for the whole of South Asia and the world. While the immediate responsibility for unmasking the culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-people terror.?

It is extremely important to remind the leaderships of Pakistan and India that?? issuing statements and signing agreements and declarations will have meaning only when they are translated into action and implemented honestly, in letter and spirit and without any further loss of time. It assumes added urgency in the prevailing conditions in South Asia , with the possibility that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. The bloodbath in Mumbai must open the eyes of our governments, if it has not already happened.???

We urge upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately take the following steps:

1. Cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other;
2. Joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both countries;?
3. Continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful resolution of all conflicts between the two countries;
4. Facilitation of trade and cooperation between the two countries and in all of South Asia . We welcome the fact that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot borders have been opened for trade and that the opening of the road between Kargil and Skardu is in the pipeline.
5. Immediate abolition of the current practice of issuing city-specific and police reporting visa and issue country-valid visa without restrictions at arrival point, simultaneously initiating necessary steps to introduce as early as possible a visa-free travel regime, to encourage friendship between the peoples of both countries;
6. Declaration by India and Pakistan of No First Use of atomic weapons;
7. Concrete measures towards making South Asia nuclear-free;
8. Radical reduction in military spending and end to militarisation.


1. Mr. Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairman, Human Rights Commission Pakistan and former federal Minister of Pakistan
2. Dr. Tipu Sultan, President, Pakistan Doctors for Peace & Development, Karachi
3. Dr. Tariq Sohail, Dean, Jinnah Medical & Dental University , Karachi
4. Dr. A. H.. Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Islamabad
5. Justice (Retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, President, Sindh High Court Bar Association
6. Mr. B.M.Kutty, Secretary General , Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi
7. Mr. Karamat Ali, Director, PILER, Karachi , Founding member, PIPFPD
8. Mr. Fareed Awan, General Secretary , Pakistan Workers Confederation, Sindh
9. Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman , Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi
10. Mr. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Secretary, Sindh Democratic Front, Hyderabad
11. Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Area Studies Centre ( Central Asia), Peshawar University
12. Syed Khadim Ali Shah, Former Member National Assembly, Mirpur Khas
13. Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Director, South Asia Partnership (PAK), Lahore
14. Mrs. Saleha Athar, Network for Women's Rights, Karachi
15. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan, Karachi
16. Ms. Saeeda Diep, President, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore
17. Dr. Aly Ercelan, Pakistan Labour Trust, Karachi
18. Mr. Suleiman G. Abro, Director, Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Organisation, Hyderabad
19. Mr. Sharafat Ali, PILER, Karachi
20. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PILER, Karachi
21. Mr. Ayub Qureshi, Information Secretary , Pakistan Trade Union Federation
22. Ms. Sheen Farrukh, Director, Interpress Communication Pakistan , Karachi
23. Mr. Zafar Malik, PIPFPD, Lahore
24. Mr. Adam Malik, Action-Aid Pakistan , Karachi
25. Mr. Qamarul Hasan, International Union of Food Workers (IUF), Karachi
26. Prof. Muhammad Nauman, NED University , Karachi
27. Mr. Mirza Maqsood, General Secretary, Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal
28. Ms. Shaista Bukhari, Women Rights Association, Multan


1. Kuldip Nayar, journalist, former Indian High Commissioner, UK., Delhi
2. S P Shukla, retired Finance Secretary, former Member, Planning Commission, Delhi
3. PEACE MUMBAI network of 15 organisations, Mumbai
4. Seema Mustafa, Journalist, Delhi
5. Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
6. ?Dr. Ramesh Awasthi, PUCL, Maharashtra
7. Jatin Desai, journalist, Mumbai
8. Prof. Ritu Dewan, University of Mumbai
9. Prabir Purkayashta, DSF, Delhi
10. Prof. Pushpa Bhave , Mumbai
11. Paromita Vohra, filmmaker, Mumbai
12. Achin Vanaik, CNDP, Delhi
13. Meena Menon, Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
14. Romar Correa Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
15. Anjum Rajabally, film writer, Mumbai
16. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
17. Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT, Delhi
18. Dr. Padmini Swaminathan, MIDS, Chennai
19. Sumit Bali, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited
20. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre , Assam ,
21. Rabia, Lahore Chitrkar
22. Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, Mumbai
23. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
24. Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
25. P K Das, architect, Mumbai
26. Neera Adarkar, architect, Mumbai
27. Datta Iswalkar, Secretary, Textile Workers Action Committee, Mumbai
28. Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker, Majlis, Mumbai
29. Amrita Chhachhi, Founding member, PIPFPD
30. Mazher Hussain, COVA, Hyderabad
31. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi
32. Prof. M C Arunan, Mumbai
Click Here to Read More..

Bená Burda on Sustainable & Ethical Entrepreneurship

What: Bená Burda on Sustainable & Ethical Entrepreneurship
When: Friday, December 5, 2008, at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Mountain BizWorks, 153 South Lexington Avenue, Asheville NC 28801
Why: Learning opportunity for entrepreneurs and sustainability activists.

Bená Burda, founder of Maggie’s Functional Organics will share her
experience in building a nationally prominent brand upon a model of
sustainable and ethical business at Mountain BizWorks. Burda will
describe the growth of the company a line of corn chips into one of the
country’s best-known makers of organic cotton clothing. Entrepreneurs
and others will learn of the challenges and surprises that Burda
encountered while developing fair trade imports, organic cotton fabrics,
and competing in the global textile market.

Burda hopes to foster a revival of textile manufacturing in North
Carolina through her involvement with Opportunity Threads, a startup
cut-and-sew operation in Morganton. The Maggie’s Organics product team
worked with this new employee-owned business to create a line of sock
monkeys and other whimsical animals using irregular socks that would
otherwise have gone to waste processes. Says Burda, “So far we are
selling every piece that they are able to produce. Our plan is to keep
'scaling up' this and other projects like it, while we design high
quality, unique products and offer them to a widening consumer base."

Burda’s presentation was organized for local entrepreneurs by
MountainBizWorks, the regional microenterprise development organization,
and FastTrac WNC, which offers entrepreneurial training for high-impact
enterprise. Burda is visiting Western North Carolina to attend a
community open house at the Opportunity Threads facility in Morganton on
Saturday, December 6.
Click Here to Read More..

Monday, December 1, 2008

A great American passed away today.

A great American passed away today.

Tanta, an anonymous blogger who wrote so insightfully
of the irresponsibility of the American economy, passed away today.
She was three years younger than I.
Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice Day

I remember sitting in a cafe on Nov. 11th, 1983 in the Town Hall Square (RatHausPlatz) in Bonn, Germany at 11:11 AM. I noticed that some oddly dressed fellows were performing a ceremony, and asked my friend what that was.

"It's the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. One of those fellows is the Mayor, performing a ritual for Karneval (Mardi Gras to those of us who know New Orleans). It's the official countdown to Karneval."

What I didn't know (and should have, as an history student),

was that it was also Armistice Day, and that there was a tradition after World War I to honor the dead.

According to Wikipedia,
An Act approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."

Like Mother's Day, founded as a peace holiday by Julia Ward Howe, writer of the
Mother's Day Proclamation,
and International Women's Day, founded by woman union activists;
the holiday has been re-purposed by those with more power.

But perhaps today, with the anti-nuclear movement on the rise, echoing the events of 32 years ago, we can take some hope.

11:11 AM on 11/11 is a good time to pray for the dead,
and resolve to fight like hell for the living.

A similar piece (and more informed) at
Click Here to Read More..

As world demand falls, prices for recyclables go down too

A sudden collapse in worldwide demand for re- cyclables, particularly from China, has scrap dealers from Sacramento to San Diego stockpiling curbside collections as never before and charging walk-in customers for their throwaways.

As world demand falls, prices for recyclables go in dumper
Published Monday, Nov. 10, 2008 Sacramento Bee

A sudden collapse in worldwide demand for re- cyclables, particularly from China, has scrap dealers from Sacramento to San Diego stockpiling curbside collections as never before and charging walk-in customers for their throwaways.

Stacks of baled paper, plastic and metal are mounting at the Sacramento Recycling & Transfer Station plant on Fruitridge Road because market prices are too low to turn a profit or, worse, no buyers can be found, its operators said.

Five miles to the west, Ming's Recycling Corp. recently posted a sign at its entrance on 47th Avenue: "Ask for prices before you unload."

"We got fed up reloading everybody's pickup," said Kevin Luong, the company's marketing director, now in his seventh consecutive week of meager sales. "People are so shocked by the low prices. They think they are being ripped off here, but that's not the case. It's not us. It's the market."

If the scrap market doesn't recover anytime soon, homeowners could see their garbage rates rise. Most recyclers pay for the materials cities and counties collect from residents' blue curbside bins and then sell it for a profit. The proceeds help offset the government's costs of collection.

"It helps keep our recycling rates low," said Jessica Hess, a Sacramento city spokeswoman.

Local officials also see the buildup of unsold rubbish as a potential public health hazard. State waste regulators anticipate that dealers will ask that limits on the volume of stockpiled bales be relaxed.

"We're wondering what can we do to provide some relief," said Jon Meyers, spokesman for the state Integrated Waste Management Board.

Devalued recyclables easily could end up in the dump, making it harder for municipalities to comply with a state mandate to divert at least half of their waste from landfills, Meyers said.

As far as Sacramento County officials know, recyclers "are not landfilling it as yet," said Paul Philleo, county director of waste management and recycling.

The scrap market took a nosedive in late September. At first, industry analysts thought they were seeing a short-term "Olympics effect" from the shutdown of Chinese paper mills and other big polluters during the Summer Games in Beijing. But as the weeks of rock-bottom prices wore on, the cause became clear.

China, a voracious consumer of West Coast scrap, has all but stopped buying used paper and plastic because international demand for Chinese products made from these recyclables has diminished. Much of the material goes to making cardboard and plastics for packaging everything from iPods to eyewear, computers and cars.

"A lot of the material was going to China to make boxes for all the things they were shipping back to the United States," said Bruce Savage, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, D.C. "When they aren't producing products, they don't need the packaging materials."

When the cavalcade of collapses in housing, credit, stocks and commodities hit the recycling industry, it plummeted.

On Oct. 1, for example, baled newspapers in Northern California were going for $140 to $150 a ton. By Nov. 1, the market price had dropped more than 60 percent to $55 to $60 a ton.

The scrap market is inherently volatile. Two years ago, demand from China and India was high enough for thieves to steal newspapers from street stands, rip off water meters and manhole covers and strip cemeteries of bronze plaques.

The depth and speed of the recent price fall has taken many by surprise.

"We've seen recyclables crash down in value in 1995, but we never have had a situation where we couldn't sell our materials at any price," said Steven Moore, president of Pacific Rim Recycling, which sells curbside scrap from several East Bay cities.

The cavernous Sacramento Recycling plant has 120 workers and a maze of electronic conveyors, chutes, sorters and balers processing 450 to 500 tons a day of papers, cardboard, plastic containers and metal cans collected at the curbs of Sacramento area homes.

Beginning last month, some of its regular scrap brokers and paper mills stopped buying no matter how low the price dropped, said Shawn Guttersen, the company's vice president, who entered the business during the 1995 slump.

"I've never seen suspended orders in the recycling industry during my career," Guttersen said.

Recyclers, being the experts they are at finding silver linings, have recovered a good piece of news from the tanked market.

"We haven't been seeing as many of the stolen materials coming in lately," said Luong of Ming's Recycling.

Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Unemployment Rates Vs. Citizen Mobilization 1950 to now

A corrleation?

Comments and reactions welcome.
Click Here to Read More..

Friday, November 7, 2008

Author Talk- Nov. 2oth- Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal

Speaking at Warren Wilson College

Date: November 20, 2008
Time: 7 PM
Warren Wilson College
Gladfelter Building
Canon Lounge

Type rest of the post here
Map: http://www.warren- campus_map.php Michael Brune is the executive director of Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and a founding board member of Oil Change International, an organization dedicated to dissolving the political barriers to a clean energy transition. At age 26, Brune joined RAN to direct its campaign to convince Home Depot to stop selling wood from endangered forests. After a year of creative protests, celebrity activism, and shareholder advocacy, Home Depot agreed. Time magazine called it the top environmental story of 1999, and the announcement led to the protection of 5 million acres in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Under Brune’s leadership, RAN has successfully campaigned to change the environmental policies and practices of some of America’s largest corporations, including Citi, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Kinko’s, Boise, Lowe’s and others. RAN has been referred to as “some of the savviest environmental agitators in the business” by the Wall St. Journal, “a lean, green, fighting machine” by the San Francisco Chronicle, and “rainmakers” by the Financial Times.
Click Here to Read More..

Obama's new official website is up

is the website for the for the incoming Obama-Biden administration.

No word yet on whether he will be putting in a farm, as Michael Pollan suggested.
He HAS read the article, however, and mentioned it to Joe Klein in a Time magazine interview.

Type rest of the post here

Environment Page
(mostly reccyled from campaign lit so far. There's also a "rural" page, but not a food or ag page)

Blog (acceptance speech video so far)

Email Signup
-- At top of page.

Here's the blurb from the "About" page:

About the Transition

Throughout the Presidential Transition Project, this website will be your source for the latest news, events, and announcements so that you can follow the setting up of the Obama Administration. And just as this historic campaign was, from the beginning, about you -- the transition process will offer you opportunities to participate in redefining our government.

Come back often as we define new programs and possibilities to engage and be part of this administration.

Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The New Organizers: What's really behind Obama's ground game

From a fellow named Zack Exley at Huffington Post
The New Organizers, Part 1: What's really behind Obama's ground game
Inside the Obama campaign, almost without anyone noticing, an insurgent generation of organizers has built the Progressive movement a brand new and potentially durable people's organization, in a dozen states, rooted at the neighborhood level.

The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

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Win or lose, "The New Organizers" have already transformed thousands of communities—and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation. Obama must continue to feed and lead the organization they have built—either as president or in opposition. If he doesn't, then the broader progressive movement needs to figure out how to pick this up, keep it going and spread it to all 50 states. For any of that to happen, the incredible organizing that has taken place this year inside Obama's campaign—and also here and there in Clinton's—needs to be thoroughly understood and celebrated. Toward that end, here are glimpses from several days of observations and interviews in Central and Southwest Ohio. This article focuses on the field program's innovative "neighborhood team" structure and the philosophy of volunteer management underlying it that is best summarized by the field campaign's ubiquitous motto: "Respect. Empower. Include."

In her job at a Middletown, Ohio, steel factory, Glenna Fisher managed the preparation and shipping of millions of pounds of steel per year until her retirement six years ago. But when she has volunteered for democratic campaigns in the past, no one ever asked her to do anything more complicated than calling voters with a script.

This year, the field organizer (FO) assigned to her town, Ryan Clay, had much bigger plans for her.

Ryan Clay, Glenna Fisher"He'd gotten my name from info I'd entered on the Obama website listing ways in which I'd be willing to volunteer," Glenna explained in the Hamilton office before a regular report-in with Ryan. "He called and we set up a time to meet at a local coffee shop."

One of the ways Ryan asked Glenna to help was recruiting other volunteers.

"And that Sunday, my church had a joint service with our sister church, a local African-American congregation. There I talked with a friend who gave me several names of people who also might be interested in volunteering with the campaign. I called Ryan and passed on those names and phone numbers," Glenna said.

Ryan was impressed, and continued to ask Glenna to try increasingly difficult tasks. She didn't know it, but she was being "tested" to see if she had what it took to be a neighborhood team leader (NTL).

Middletown Ohio Office

After Glenna had proven her reliability and effectiveness, Ryan asked her for another special one-on-one meeting where he invited her to formally agree to become an NTL. He spelled out all of an NTL's responsibilities before allowing her to accept it and even gave her a binder spelling it all out in writing: She would work with him to recruit other team members such as coordinators for canvassing, phone banking and data management. Her team would be responsible for connecting with all of the Democratic and undecided voters within their "turf." Other volunteers who stepped forward in her area would not be managed by campaign staff, but by Glenna's team. As team leader, Glenna would report results to Ryan a couple times per week and would be held accountable for meeting specific goals by certain deadlines.

2008-10-08-rootscampad.pngIn 2004, it was unusual for volunteers to have persistent roles and responsibilities—both at the Kerry campaign and the independent field operation Americans Coming Together. That is the norm for electoral organizing campaigns, and perhaps organizing in general these days. In contrast, the Obama neighborhood team members are organizers themselves, sometimes working more or less as staff alongside the young FOs.

Patrick Frank, 21, joined the campaign as a volunteer, won an unpaid "Organizer Fellowship" and finally was hired as an FO in July. Having served as a volunteer on more than 10 political campaigns, Patrick contrasts his experience at Obama with the traditional organizing model he was used to:

"It's about empowering. When I was 16 I worked on a big governor's campaign. And we were reliable volunteers and we were putting in serious hours. I felt like we should have been leaders, but that never happened. They said, 'Do your call lists, knock on doors—let us do the thinking.' Now, on the Obama campaign, when I see people like me and my friends used to be, we turn them around and say, 'Well hey, here's how to be a community organizer. Let me help you be a community organizer.' And then they go out and they get people to be their coordinators. And then we tell those new coordinators, 'Build yourself a team and be organizers too.' There's no end to it."

Oxford OfficeAnd that's exactly what Patrick did with long-time Democratic activist Don Daiker, who told me at the Oxford campaign office, "I've succeeded in recruiting 4 organizers: one in charge of canvassing, one in charge of phone banking, one in charge of volunteer recruitment, and one in charge of data transcription and recording. So that's my team. And we're responsible for roughly a quarter of Oxford, excluding the campus. And on top of that, I've taken charge of organizing house parties in the area."

While it was Patrick's job to make sure that all of those coordinators had been sufficiently tested for reliability before they got their official position, Don was the one making the ask. Describing how he made the ask to his canvass coordinator, Anne Bailey: "I said, if you're really interested in doing more, meet me at the coffee house and we'll talk about it. So I met her there and I said, 'How would you like to be canvass coordinator?' And she said, 'What does that mean?' I described it and I said, 'I'll print it out for you—because the Obama people have a little manual and there's a section in it about how you do canvasing.' "

Team leaders like Don have some latitude to shape roles around individual personalities. While not everyone has a volunteer coordinator, Don created that role for retired high school English teacher Marilyn Elsley, one of his recruits who wanted to lead but wasn't comfortable with the canvassing coordinator position.

"Up here there's a sign up sheet for phone banking," Don said, pointing to a giant chart on the wall of the office, "And it's filling up. Marilyn calls the people, and then we fill them in here, and then the phone bank coordinator, Cynthia Durgan, sets up the phone bank and trains the callers. We'll be phone banking just about every day between now and November 4."

IMG_1900morepostAfter visiting my fourth or fifth team, it was painfully clear that an enormous amount of power is unlocked by this incredibly simple act of distributing different roles to people who actually feel comfortable taking them on. And I say "painfully" because I couldn't stop thinking about all the union and electoral campaigns I've worked on where we did not do this.

I thought about Patrick's story from high school when I met Jacob Manser, a 16 year-old who is serving as the canvass coordinator for his neighborhood team in the heart of Columbus. The team's FO, Steph Lake, took me by the beginning of an afternoon phone bank that the team was coordinating. All the team members were playing their different roles: The team's volunteer coordinator, a semi-retired software developer named Robert Hughes had prepared the call lists in conjunction with the team's phone bank coordinator, Leslie Krivo-Kaufman, another high school student. Team leader Janeen Sands oversaw the whole event. And another volunteer, who was not even a team coordinator (yet) had donated her house for the event. Jacob helped out that day by collecting the data from the event. The team was still looking for a data coordinator and other members were sharing that role. Later that night, Steph and I stopped by his house to get the tallies (though volunteers organized by the team would do the actual data entry). They made the exchange in the street in front of Jacob's house, talking softly so as not to disturb any neighbors. It was about 10:00 PM—on a school night!

FO Steph Lake collecting results from Jacob Manser "Should I be worried about your grades?" I asked.

"I have a 4.2," he said.

"OK—I didn't even know that was possible," I admitted.

While the team structure dramatically increases volunteer productivity, it does so even more for the staff FOs.

Ryan, for example, has six teams covering a wide swath of rural and exurban Southwest Ohio. He said, "It's great—it's like having six offices around town."

He elaborated: "So many people lose elections because of the places you can't get to. This program allows Glenna's team, with just two or three weeks of VAN training to know how to cut turf, to know how to pull lists and put canvass packets together. So all that type of work that eats up so much time for organizers can be handled at the local level—at her place. That allows me to bounce around and find other team leaders. Since she's become a team leader and started taking care of her neighborhood, I've been able to go out and find four other team leaders—because I can rest assured that she's made the volunteer recruitment calls for her canvasses, and that she's made the confirmation calls. I might make a few calls at night—and if I find a new good volunteer I'll shoot Glenna an email saying, 'Call this person when you can.' But for the most part, it allows me to jump out of that neighborhood and spend time with another neighborhood that needs the help."

"So being able to play in every single street is really important and the teams are what let us do that," Ryan continued.

The Ohio campaign is attempting to build teams in 1,231 campaign-defined "neighborhoods," each covering eight to ten precincts. They are targeting virtually every inhabited square mile of the state. The campaign claimed to have teams in 65% of neighborhoods when I visited in early September. That's risen to 85% coverage at press time—and they are shooting for 100%. In contrast, the Kerry campaign effectively wrote off rural counties, and completely abandoned them in the final few weeks of the campaign in a last minute all-in shift to the cities.

It was a huge risk for the national field program to have paid staff take the time to methodically build volunteer teams instead of rushing directly to spend all their time running voter contact activities themselves. From the point of view of the conventional wisdom of much of the pre-Obama field organizing world, the campaign is actually taking two big risks: first they are risking everything on the effectiveness of masses of volunteers, then they are risking everything again by relying on volunteer teams to lead those masses. What if teams was just a bunch of hippy nonsense? What if it turned out there just weren't that many unpaid activists capable of running high-quality canvasses?

Jeremy Bird & Christen Linke YoungJeremy Bird, the Ohio general election director and one of the driving forces behind making teams a national strategy, said, "We decided in terms of timeline that [our organizers] would not be measured by the amount of voter contacts they made in the summer—but instead by the number of volunteers that they were recruiting, training and testing. It was much more an infrastructure focus. So there would be no calls from Chicago saying, 'Why haven't you made more calls?!' Instead there would be calls saying, 'Where are your neighborhood team volunteers?' Or, if the numbers seemed high, 'Are they real?' It was a whole shift in mentality that was really, really good."

IMG_1947It is impossible to overstate how counter intuitive this slow-build approach was for Democrats. Even Regional Field Director for Southwest Ohio, Christen Linke Young—who I witnessed in 2004 pushing independently for just this strategy as an Ohio FO in Franklin County—said it was scary to take this patient approach:

"We had a whole month where, on our nightly calls with headquarters, we did not report our voter contact numbers. We only reported our leadership building. I definitely stayed on top of what our voter contact numbers looked like. But headquarters wasn't paying attention to how many voters we registered or how many doors we knocked that day—they were paying attention to how many one-on-one meetings we had, house meetings, neighborhood team leaders recruited, how many people we had convinced to come to this wonderful training in Columbus that we had. Yes, it was definitely scary to see how big our persuasion universe was and know that our first priority was not to just be tearing through that."

But Christen said the meticulous building has paid off: "And then last weekend we [teams in Christen's area] had 100 volunteers on Saturday canvassing—which is not something I ever would have thought was possible. And they knocked on 2,500 doors. And so you go: 'OK, it paid off, it worked.' We spent a month focusing on getting the pieces in place and now we can knock on 2,500 doors on the first Saturday in September. I'd love to count up how many canvasses we actually staged that day but I think most organizers had at least two canvasses—they were able to be in two places at once because they had recruited and trained leaders who could run their own canvasses and who could train other volunteers in persuasion."

When this story was finally ready to go to press, I called to get an update on Christen's numbers. Last weekend (October 4-5), the teams in her region knocked on 10,300 doors—and another 1,906 in the weekdays leading up to that. She mentioned a team that is canvassing now three times per week. They have dinner together every Tuesday night and breakfast every Saturday morning.

Christen said, "I feel like people are committing more time this election because there's a community thing going on, and they're part of something that's local and social. But we're also more effective at harnessing volunteers because the teams do a lot of the training and debriefing themselves—it scales well. Everyone who goes out canvassing comes back with at least one story of someone they impacted. The team leaders are trained to give people time to tell those stories, and so everyone gets a sense of progress and they learn from each other how to be more effective next time."

That's a totally different picture than what I saw in scores of Kerry offices in 2004: crowds of canvassers receiving minimal instruction before being sent to an unfamiliar neighborhood and rarely getting the chance to debrief with others as a group.

IMG_1896morepostThe long term planning and relationships that emerged in the process were the keys: "These are tested and trained leaders—we knew we could trust them, and they knew they could trust us. They knew that if we said we'd give them everything they needed to run their event, that we'd have it for them. So that when we said, 'recruit 15 people to be at your house on Sunday, but I'm not going to be there'—that they knew we'd adequately prepare them for that day."

Compared to 2004, the productivity of the field is on a whole different level, said Christen, "There wasn't even a special push last weekend to get those volunteers there. I remember in 2004 there was a huge push to knock on this many doors one weekend in Franklin county as part of a nationwide thing. We dropped everything for that. But here, it was just a normal Saturday. And it's just going to keep getting bigger each weekend."

Training for organizers—and for volunteers—was critical to the success of this unorthodox model. In Ohio, Jeremy insisted on getting the whole staff together for an intensive full-weekend training early in the program.

"When I got here, yeah, I was nervous," said Jeremy, "because most of these organizers had never done this [team building] before. We did two days—we got everyone together, we went to Oberlin."

That training was expensive, but Jeremy said, "We spent more money than they ever wanted us to. But training is the most important thing. So [in our field budget] I'll cut whatever you want—but having all of our organizers together and training them for a full weekend. A lot of campaigns say they do training but it's often like a two hour orientation. We wanted to make sure that ours was a real, interactive, in-depth training."

A similar training was held for the first wave of team leaders that had been recruited by late August—and two different volunteers who I spoke to about it literally choked up as they tried to describe how powerful an experience it was. Training for staff and teams continues every week. Just the day before I first met Don and Patrick, they had spent an afternoon with the whole team gathered, going over the big-picture campaign strategy right up through Election Day. Of course they took some time to beef up on voter contact basics too. While I was in Ohio, the whole paid staff came together regionally for a full-day session of sharing successes and trouble shooting problems. The campaign is fanatical about constant quality checking and continuous feedback.

Both staff and volunteers are unusually reflective and analytical regarding the team model and the organizing philosophy of "Respect. Empower. Include." Those words were plastered in hugh letters around almost every office I visited, and organizers will get carried away talking about those principles and how they are supported by various details of the organizing model they're practicing.

I think this is partly because the model is working, and so people are excited about it, and excited to think about it. But it's also because the leadership—models this methodological introspection in all the trainings they do in in their daily management of organizers.

Jeremy and other national leaders actually produced a 280 page manual spelling out the model after conducting hundreds of interviews with primary and caucus organizers as well as ploughing through thousands of survey responses from volunteers.

The field director Jackie Bray was driving around the state doing spot checks on the quality of local team structures when I was in Ohio. So I asked her to describe the field model in an email. I'm struck by two things about her response: first, how detailed and self-analytical it is; second, that it represents exactly the model I saw actually being practiced in the field—because I'm sorry to say it, but I'm just used to anyone with the title "director" being hopelessly out of touch with the reality of the ground. (Including myself in more than a couple past jobs!)

Jackie wrote: "When we identify a volunteer or a potential volunteer we always hold a one on one meeting. Movements aren't built on individual people—they are built on relationships. Then we ask our volunteers to make deeper commitments. We coach new volunteers and facilitate the process for folks who are old hat at this stuff through an organizing activity. Usually the organizing activity is hosting a house meeting but it can be hosting a community meeting or a faith forum or recruiting seven plus new volunteers to take the first step and come to our office. Once someone has succeeded at an organizing activity we ask them to try their hand at leading a voter contact activity. Mostly we are interested in how well they train fellow volunteers to make phone calls or knock on doors. Training is a huge part of quality control and we need our leaders to be good trainers. If a potential leader is a successful trainer then we meet with them again to ask them to take that next step and become a Team Coordinator or Team Leader. If at any moment in this process a volunteer isn't successful our organizers are trained to spend time coaching them through getting better. We are an inclusive team here and our goal is always to make people better."

All the organizers and team leaders I met were similarly reflective and highly aware that they were enacting a special model of electoral organizing. They actually sound like they're in a continuous state of shock at their own results and the power being unleashed by teams. A chill went down my spine one night—the good kind—when I was listening in on a nightly report-in conference call with 20 FOs at the Hamilton, Ohio, office. It was about 10:00 PM, and a new organizer was reporting in her daily voter contact numbers to Jackie.

FOs reporting inJackie asked her why that week they had been so much higher than the previous week. The young woman on the other end of the line—who I imagined calling from a car pulled over on the side of some far flung rural route—spoke with genuine amazement when she said, "It's the teams! It's these awesome team leaders! It's working! It's actually working!"

This high level of self-awareness regarding the organizing method seems to allow organizers to better adapt it to their own unique turf and personalities.

For example, field organizer Patrick Morrell has created a three-ring bound instruction manual all on his own that he gives to every member of his team. One of his team members, who is Ryan's housing provider (most field organizers are living in supporters' spare rooms), left her binder on Ryan's bed one night with a note saying, "Maybe you should take some notes."

Ryan's mainly working-class turf—or his own more flexible style—has led to a looser structure for his teams than Patrick's. Patrick's turf is a relatively well-off set of suburbs. Maybe because of that—or maybe because of his own detail-oriented personal style—his teams work in a highly-structured manner. Both organizers' teams are achieving their benchmarks on time.

Organizers like Patrick and Ryan who had very little campaign experience before Obama are already talking like experts, with insights worthy of a long career. Somehow in just a handful of short months, they have already distilled practice into theory that in turn feeds and improves their practice.

Patrick said, "I start by finding the team leader and then I work with them to find the coordinator folks—people who from my experience in working with people in volunteer activities and also people who they know in the neighborhood who are custom fit for different roles. Once that team is established then we have a sit-down meeting where we get everyone a binder, we go through it step by step, and make sure everyone is on the same page. And then it's very much me passing the torch—and I'm here for questions but the team is running the campaign at that point."

Ryan had his own wisdom on team building to contribute: "Don't pass the baton to someone until you get someone else running at your speed. It's important for organizers and team leaders to find that point where a new leader is running at the same speed—mentally, physically, time-wise, interest level, desire to win—all those things. You find that point, and then all of a sudden it hits you: they're running neck and neck with you and that's the time that you pass it off and move on to building the next new team."

Patrick Frank was a junior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, when he started volunteering for the campaign. Now, as an FO, his turf now covers the university, and he has encouraged innovation. Sitting on the outskirts of a large campus rally that his teams had organized, he explained to me some of the modifications they were making to the teams model, "Rather than say we have X leadership roles to fill, we're creating leadership roles for as many leaders as we have. So we have people in charge of whatever they ARE. We are saying, 'What's your social network?' We say, 'OK, you're The Balcony Coordinator—your job is to go party at Balcony [a local bar] every weekend—like you do anyways—but now wear a Barack Obama button—and bring voter reg forms.' Or, 'Hey, you work at Brunos—when you go out on deliveries—as long as it's OK with your boss—ask people if they're registered. You're going to be our, um, pizza coordinator.' "

Dots!When Patrick was talking to me, a handful of team members were buzzing around the rally asking every student to sign in. The sign in sheet gave every person the option of indicating interest in becoming a leader. Free food would be served at the end of the rally, but you needed a little green sticker to get some. Of course, you got a sticker by signing in.

"There's no end to what you can do when you have the power to empower people as leaders on campus. It's beautiful. It's awe-inspiring," Patrick continued, pointing to the big event that was running itself without him having to worry about it or check on anything, "I mean look at this!"

We saw glimpses of the potential for this kind of organizing campaign in MoveOn's 2004 and 2006 volunteer operations, the Dean Campaign and even the Bush and Kerry campaigns. And there are great examples of this kind of organizing if you go back to the social movements of several decades ago. But the Obama campaign is the first in the Internet era to realize the dream of a disciplined, volunteer-driven, bottom-up-AND-top-down, distributed and massively scaleable organizing campaign. For anyone who knows how many times this has failed to happen, this is practically an apocryphal event. Marashal Ganz, who is an advisor to the national field campaign, and one of the main architects of the team model, said he's been waiting 40 years for it.

A well-run organizing campaign is the most beautiful thing in the world: people know what they're working for; they have little successes everyday; they prepare for problems ahead of time and have great fun attacking them when they happen. Everyone is in a state of constant euphoria. In the end, win or lose, you have built something that gives you hope for the future—hope that humanity can, as it turns out, work cooperatively towards a better future and succeed.

In the middle of a good organizing campaign, volunteers will stop and tell you that they are becoming better people. That's sounds cheesy, doesn't it? But I'll tell you, I wrote that line in a first draft of this article while waiting for my own neighborhood team meeting to start in Westport, Kansas City, Missouri. I looked at it and thought, "People won't buy that." I figured I'd delete it.

Then, at the end of our meeting, my neighborhood team leader, Jennifer Robinson, totally unprompted, told me: "I'm a different person than I was six weeks ago." I asked her to elaborate later. She said, "Now, I'm really asking: how can I be most effective in my community? I've realized that these things I've been doing as a volunteer organizer—well, I'm really good at them, I have a passion for this. I want to continue to find ways to actively make this place, my community, a better place. There's so much more than a regular job in this—and once you've had this, it's hard to go back to a regular job. I'm asking now: Can I look for permanent work as an organizer in service of my community? And that's a question I had not asked myself before the campaign. It never occurred to me that I could even ask that question."

Through the meeting, Jennifer had inspired and commanded the room of 50 new volunteers on top of her five team members who already had roles. Her seven year old daughter had been staring up at her with calm awe the whole time. Good organizing changes the world. In fact, it's what humanity is made out of. Every one of us is the product of centuries upon centuries of the struggle between good organizing and bad organizing. Barack Obama—through the most incredible, random, beautiful, twists of history—has brought good organizing back. God bless him and the army of volunteer and paid organizers who are making it real.

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Nonviolence works

Nonviolence works

A really fascinating post on the Buddhist Channel, via the Buddhist Blog on a new study showing that nonviolent campaigns are more successful than violent ones:

Nonviolent resistance is not only the morally superior choice. It is also twice as effective as the violent variety. That’s the startling and reassuring discovery by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who analyzed an astonishing 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006.

“Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns,” the authors note in the journal International Security.

(The study is available as a PDF file at

The result is not that surprising, once you listen to the researchers’ reasoning.

“First, a campaign’s commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target,” they state. “Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime.”
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Foreclosures and Obama Victory

From Obama win tied to states with 79% of U.S. foreclosures

PS- The acceptance speech brought tears to my eyes.
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Doing Democracy- Bill Moyer's Movement Action Plan

I did a workshop based on Bill Moyer's Movement Action Plan at the Youth Environmental Sustainability conference at the University of North Carolina, Asheville on Sunday, November 2nd.

You can find a wikipedia article on the late Bill Moyer (who is NOT the PBS guy, thought they share a lot in common) at

His book is called Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements
By Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley and Steve Soifer It is published by New Society Press

It costs $17 and you can buy used copies for $6, including shipping.

The one minute overview is at
but you are much better off reading the free 14 page summary at
Since giving ghe workshop, I have discovered a short compliation of excellent articles at

If you'd like to see a video of Bill talking (his last talk, in fact) visit

I think you'll get more out of the talk AFTER reading the book or overview--- it's more of an advanced talk than an intro.

In the course of the workshop, I mentioned two other works that talk about phases groups or individuals go through.

The first was Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grieving, detailed in her work
On Death and Dying

You can get a quick overview at

The second was the "innovation of diffusions" which was first developed by Everett M. Rodgers
but much better explained by Geoffrey Moore in

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A change is gonna come

You won't understand the title until you watch both videos.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's half hour commercial

I watched Obama's half hour commercial. The comment below reflects my thoughts:

What I found most interesting about the half hour was that Obama never mentioned McCain or Palin, and only once alluded to the current administration. He devoted the entire half hour to spotlighting the nation's most pressing problems by showing how they have affected real families, and then describing, point by point, what he planned to do about them. How different is this campaign than McCain's! I doubt that this will change many voters' minds, but it was a remarkably principled, high-minded, and conscientious presentation of Obama's political philosophy. I will vote for this man and his vision for America.

You can read this comment, others, and watch the half-our at
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sarah Palin Rallies the Troops in Asheville

I was reading How the Irish Saved Civilization tonight.
The book opens with a summary how the Roman Empire was growing hollow and empty-headed at the end of empire.

What a fitting book to be reading in the arena of the Thomas Wolfe Civic Center, a few minutes before Sarah Palin came on.

It started out OK. People were polite in line, though not talking much to each other, and not having too much of a spirit. No non-stop nastiness, vicious patriotism, etc.

After waiting in line forever, it seems (others had worse), I got in and the auditorium was almost full (I think I was one of the last 800 in).

One thing that struck was the lack of organizing. No one asked me to sign for anything, gave me info about early voting, asked me to help or buy a yard sign.
Did everyone give up, or do they not know how to organize?

But, whatever. I read about the fall of the empire and waited for the rally to begin.
Nathan Ramsey gave an oily speech. Someone, I think Mumpower gave one-- probably the best of the evening.

When Palin came out, she got out a sentence before a part of the crowd started shouting over her "USA! USA!" I wondered if they were trying to drown out a heckler. Sure enough, Sara said "Why don't we let security take care of that, and in the meantime, let's hear another song!". Sort of like the film Bob Roberts.

Her speech depressed me. Not so much because I disagreed with what she said (of course I would, given where I came from), but because she said so little. Her main agenda, after heading into the most severe recession in 70 years, with an unprecedented credit meltdown, and a global panic cuts.
(No wonder the British conservative paper Financial Times endorsed Obama today. Even they think she's clueless.)

What amazed me, was instead of applause lines, she had boo lines-- lines calculated to have the audience boo ("The media went after Joe the Plumber!" Crowd- angry boos and hisses). At first I was thinking there were a lot, then I thought it might be a 1:1 ration between boo and applause lines. In the end, it felt more like 1:2. 66% of what she had to say was anger about how she and her audience were victimized. This is after 20 out of the last 28 years being GOP presidents! You'd think they might look in the mirror.

I knew I'd disagree with her, but I expected better. There is no there there.
No wonder Alaska's largest newspaper endorsed Obama/Biden today.

For all of that, I think the crowd could be won by Obama after he takes office. They didn't seem all that truly enthusiastic for the GOP. They just need to have one last rally before they face up to reality. Not just of overwhelming electoral defeat, but economic collapse due to the policies they asked for and received.

A headline in the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Zombies pose no threat at Palin event
Um, you can read it for the explanation.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Convergence of Commodities

As a commodities trader, he said, he wasn't concerned with who was producing something, or why. He was interested in demand, and there are, in his world, only four demands:
  1. the creation of transportation,
  2. the generation of heating and power,
  3. the manufacture of materials and
  4. the provision of sustenance through food and water.

“Historically, these four demands never used to talk to one another – they were silent,” he said. That is, they lived in different worlds of pricing, depending on the amount of energy they could produce per dollar spent.

"[Now] ....We don't care what commodity you buy. We called it a bushels-to-barrels-to-BTUs convergence. Take corn:
• It can now create heating and transportation; it's actually very good for burning to generate electricity.
• It can create plastic or cardboard, so it's a source of materials.
• And finally, you can eat it if you want. It can meet any of these demands. And you can use petroleum to create plastics, or to create fertilizer to grow food – suddenly, we are indifferent to what commodity we are buying to meet our demands.”
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Friday, October 24, 2008

116 million people have heard of the MDG

Though I'm not sure how many of them live in Asheville.
The MDG are the Millenium Development Goals, a UN-coordinated set of goals and
targets to improve the life of the poorest on this planet. More info on MDG at

And to hear about the 116 million people campaigning for the MDG, read more below

Now Sit Up and Listen
Analysis by Sanjay Suri
Inter Press Service News Agency

LONDON, Oct 23 (IPS) - For every one in 50 people around the world to make a point of standing up somewhere on the planet to say the same kind of thing adds up to a lot of people. More than any mass mobilisation on any issue ever before.
And now that they have, it should follow for leaders, if only for their own sake, to sit up and listen.

The official figure for the campaign to 'Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals' Oct. 17-19 has been declared at 116,993,629. The call came from the Global Call for Action Against Poverty (GCAP), an alliance of about 100 social movements, non-government organisations and community and faith groups.

This was considerably more than the 43 million recorded last year.

But the actual number is almost certainly higher than this official figure, says Salil Shetty, director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign. The official total was announced while results, after due verification, were still coming in, he said, adding that the number that actually stood up would be about twice the 67 million estimated before the weekend event. Organisers say two percent of the world population physically stood up to make a point against poverty.

Actions ranged from standing up to deliver petitions to presidents or at local events where city mayors and other officials were invited to listen, to protest marches and meetings where everyone stood up to make a point. The protest gave quite vivid truth to the old cliché about local actions, carried out globally -- this time about similar matters, simultaneously.

The added support for the campaign against poverty might just have been provoked by the global financial crisis, that has seen thousands of billions of dollars go into financial institutions brought down by dubious dabblers, after the leaders who sanctioned this money denied a fraction of that to feed the world's hungry.

"If the rich countries kept their promise of 0.7 percent of their GNP for aid, that would generate more than 200 billion dollars, more than enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and is still much, much less than we've seen available for the banking bailout," Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights declared as the results came in Wednesday.

"The money is there. But it's the political will. Leaders must listen to more than 116 million people," she said. "We have shattered all previous records for mass mobilisation. People really want to stand up against poverty, and say we need change."

The highest number of people who stood up, 73 million, was recorded in Asia, with 13 million reported in Bangladesh alone. Africa recorded about 24.5 million, and less expectedly, what was declared the 'Arab region' recorded close to 18 million.

Europe recorded close to a million, but Latin America only about 211,000. North America seems not to have drawn a significant response at all -- though the movement was led and coordinated from New York.

The initiative is not just about numbers, but a way to make protest possible. "We've created an opportunity for ordinary people to have a voice and to participate and to feel that they are not just objects of change but really the drivers of change," said Kumi Naidoo, co-chair of GCAP and honorary president of CIVICUS, a leading global NGO campaigning for rights and development.

"We've created a global event which is fundamentally local in nature," he said at a press conference after the attendance count. "My sense of why there was such an overwhelming turnout is that there is deep concern that the global economic crisis must not detract from meeting the MDGs, and exceeding them."

The attention to the money market crisis rather than to the MDGs clearly spurred a good deal of the protest action.

For the food crisis the leaders struggled to pledge eight billion dollars, for the financial crisis they found 3,000 billion dollars, said Sylvia Borren, former head of Oxfam Novib and co-chair of Worldconnectors, an NGO building links among people. "There is an ethical question here. If we had used that money at the bottom of the pyramid we would have achieved the MDGs by now." In this protest, "the urgency is the message."

The participation in the protest, she said, is "a democratic challenge for local governments, for national governments, but particularly also for the global governance we have, that says we the people do not understand that this kind of money can be spent on the Wall Street problem when children are dying every three seconds and women are dying at childbirth unnecessarily every minute."

The message coming across, Borren said, was that money was being spent "on financial institutions, on wars, it's being spent on all sorts of things we don't want; we want it spent on education, on water, on health, on food."

But between the delivery of a message and its receipt there still lies a wide gap. World leaders are meeting soon, not to end poverty or to find ways of providing everyone affordable food, but to make sure that the rich continue to buy, and that their market continues to flourish. (END/2008)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Imelda Marcos Shoe Pile

From an article in the New York Times:
In “Schooled,” Anisha Lakhani’s acidic narrative about an Upper East Side private school, swarms of seventh graders at a party kick off their high heels before descending on the dance floor. The narrator, who is their English teacher, regards the pile of footwear with a mixture of censure and awe: “Hard to believe, but there they lay, Jimmy Choos, Manolo Blahniks, Giuseppe Zanottis and Christian Louboutins — the abandoned shoes of 12-year-old girls.”

This reminds me of a visit to Manhattan I had a few weeks ago.


I was at a diner at 96th and Columbus Ave. 2-4 thirteen year old girls were at the table next to me (5th grade? 7th? something like that) talking about maids, vacation homes, shopping. It was utterly surreal and obscene. I half expected them to share corrupt hedge fund tricks that they learned from their daddies.

Of course, I am rather out of touch.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new book about "human waste"

Excerpt from the new book
The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters,
by Rose George

I need the bathroom. I assume there is one, though I'm at a spartan restaurant in the Ivory Coast, in a small town filled with refugees from next-door Liberia, where water comes in buckets and you can buy towels second-hand. The waiter, a young Liberian man, only nods when I ask. He takes me off into the darkness to a one-room building, switches on the light, and leaves. There's a white tiled floor, white tiled walls, and that's it. No toilet, no hole, no clue. I go outside to find him again and ask whether he's sent me to the right place. He smiles with sarcasm. Refugees don't have much fun, but he's having some now. "Do it on the floor. What do you expect? This isn't America!" I feel foolish. I say I'm happy to use the bushes; it's not that I'm fussy. But he's already gone, laughing into the darkness.

I need the bathroom. I leave the reading room of the British Library in central London and find a "ladies" a few yards away. If I prefer, there's another one on the far side of the same floor, and more on the other six floors. By 6 p.m., after thousands of people have entered and exited the library and the toilets, the stalls are still clean. The doors still lock. There is warm water in the clean sinks. I do what I have to do, then flush the toilet and forget it immediately, because I can, and because all my life I have done no differently.

This is why the Liberian waiter laughed at me. He thought that I thought a toilet was my right, when he knew it was a privilege.

This is why the Liberian waiter laughed at me. He thought that I thought a toilet was my right, when he knew it was a privilege.

It must be, when 2.6 billion people don't have sanitation. I don't mean that they have no toilet in their house and must use a public one with queues and fees. Or that they have an outhouse or a rickety shack that empties into a filthy drain or pigsty. All that counts as sanitation, though not a safe variety. The people who have those are the fortunate ones. But four in ten people have no access to any latrine, toilet, bucket, or box. Nothing. Instead, they defecate by train tracks and in forests. They do it in plastic bags and fling them through the air in narrow slum alleyways. If they are women, they get up at 4 a.m. to be able to do their business under cover of darkness for reasons of modesty, risking rape and snakebites. Four in ten people live in situations in which they are surrounded by human excrement, because it is in the bushes outside the village or in their city yards, left by children outside the back door. It is tramped back in on their feet, carried on fingers onto clothes and into food and drinking water.

The disease toll of this is stunning. Eighty percent of the world's illness is caused by fecal matter. A gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts, and 100 worm eggs. Bacteria can be beneficial: the human body needs bacteria to function, and only 10 percent of cells in our body are actually human. Plenty are not. Small fecal particles can then contaminate water, food, cutlery, and shoes—and be ingested, drunk, or unwittingly eaten. One sanitation specialist has estimated that people who live in areas with inadequate sanitation ingest 10 grams of fecal matter every day.

Diarrhea—usually caused by feces-contaminated food or water—kills a child every fifteen seconds. That means more people dead of diarrhea than all the people killed in conflict since the Second World War. Diarrhea, says the UN children's agency UNICEF, is the largest hurdle a small child in a developing country has to overcome. Larger than AIDS, or TB, or malaria. 2.2 million people—mostly children—die from an affliction that to most westerners is the result of bad takeout. Public health professionals talk about water-related diseases, but that is a euphemism for the truth. These are shit-related diseases.

I'm often asked why I wrote The Big Necessity.

(No more at "Read More")

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Monday, October 20, 2008

In Search of the Fabled Permaculture Chicken/Greenhouse

By Rob Hopkins

For many years I have taught permaculture courses, and like many who do so, I start my courses with the Tale of Two Chickens. This is a very useful way of looking at inputs, outputs, and the science of maximising beneficial relationships, and it concludes with describing one of permaculture’s Holy Grails, The Chicken/Greenhouse. However, now, as I stand on the verge of actually trying to make a chicken greenhouse, I am finding it very difficult to find actual working examples of chicken/greenhouses. Might I have spent years unwittingly promoting a permaculture urban myth?

The idea is straightforward and works brilliantly on paper. Patrick Whitefield in ‘Permaculture in a Nutshell’ sets it out very clearly (you can read it here), and you can read the thinking behind the Chicken/Greenhouse here. The picture below is taken from ‘In a Nutshell’, and captures the essential idea, which is that by placing the 2 elements of chickenhouse and greenhouse together with the proper orientation, you enable, via. good design, interactions to take place that otherwise would not take place and would require energy inputs to make happen. For example, the warmth from the chickens keeps the greenhouse free of frost, the carbon dioxide from the hens benefits the plants, and so on.

Visit full article at
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Asheville Transit- 3 Steps to Enlightenment

Event: 'ADC Forum - 3 Steps To Transportation Enlightenment.'

Public Events
Public Asheville Design Center Events

Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 At 06:00:00 PM
Duration: 1 Hour

The City of Asheville’s Transit Division will make an introduction to how multi-modal approaches can help you become automobile-free. Join us and learn about how to be involved in our evolving transportation programs, such as the upcoming Transit Master Plan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and the TDM program.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Building a Food Pantry- the first steps

I hope you will never have an emergency, but even if you don’t, you will
always feel a more secure with (at least) one month’s food on hand. This is
definitely worth the little bit of work and expense it requires.

I cannot think of any food storage plan (than the one below) that would be cheaper, and yet have
the following features:

1. The food must all be nutritious.
2. It must all keep a long time without refrigeration.
3. You must be able to eat it uncooked if necessary.
4. It must all fit into a normal diet.

If you do this, I absolutely guarantee that you’ll be glad, and that it
will give you a very good feeling of security.

The ANYWAY, Very Cheap, System of Food Storage for
Emergencies and/or Inflation for People Who Think They Cannot Afford Food
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Friday, October 17, 2008

HomeGrown: a film about a 21st century family farm in the middle of the city

A Documentary About Modern Day Urban Homesteaders
For screening venue information visit

HOMEGROWN (2008) follows the Dervaes family who run a small organic farm in
the heart of urban Pasadena, California. While 'living off the grid’, they
harvest over 6,000 pounds of produce on less than a quarter of an acre, make
their own bio diesel, power their computers with the help of solar panels,
and maintain a website that gets 4,000 hits a day. The film is an intimate
human portrait of what it’s like to live like ‘Little House on the Prairie’
in the 21st Century.

Director's Statement

"Many people are becoming aware of the environment. We may have gone to see
‘An Inconvenient Truth’, changed our light bulbs, or started to recycle
more. But how many of us are really walking the walk’ I know I’m not.

When I heard about the Dervaes family, I sensed that there was a human story
behind the headlines about global warming or buying organic produce. I
wanted to find out what it takes to live the life of an environmental
pioneer. I don’t wish to simply glorify or romanticize their way of life,
however. I want to show that along with the positive benefits there are also
sacrifices. Truly living by your ideals can have costs. I believe that
recognizing the hardships the Dervaes have faced makes their work all the
more inspiring.

HOMEGROWN is ultimately a family story. It’s about what lead them to where
they are today, what changed them and what keeps them together. Perhaps by
learning of their journey to a sustainable life style, we might be inspired
to take our own first steps."

About Robert McFalls

Early in his career he was an associate editor on ‘American Dream’, the
Barbara Kopple documentary, which won the Academy Award in 1990. That
experience helped him to see what a broad reach a well-crafted documentary
could have. He recently edited a documentary feature on the Dalai Lama,
which is now screening at festivals around the world.


The beautiful music for this documentary was performed by our great American
homegrown musicians Jay Unger & Molly Mason.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason are best known for their haunting composition
Ashokan Farewell in Ken Burns’ hit PBS series ‘The Civil War’’. The
soundtrack won a Grammy and Ashokan Farewell was nominated for an Emmy.
They’ve garnered legions of fans through their appearances on ‘Great
Performances’, ‘A Prairie Home Companion’, their own public radio specials,
and work on film soundtracks such as ‘Brother’s Keeper’, ‘Legends of the
Fall’, and a host of Ken Burns documentaries.

About the Family

The Dervaes Family (Jules, Ana’s, Justin & Jordanne)

Since the mid 1980s, Jules Dervaes and his family have steadily worked at
transforming an ordinary residential lot in Pasadena, California into a
verdant oasis in the midst of the city. On their small fifth of an acre they
are striving to be a self-sustaining urban homestead complete with bio
diesel power, solar energy, and wastewater management. These eco-pioneers
grow much of their own food and raise a menagerie of chickens, ducks, goats,
and an occasional cat. They have been the subject of numerous articles in
newspapers around the country, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles
Times and were recently featured on ABC’s Nightline. You can learn more
about them at their website:

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