Monday, August 31, 2009

For your calendar

Almost hate to share this because we haven't got tickets yet, but fair's fair. This is affordable entertainment for the Great Recession, which is likely to be in even fuller swing in October. There's nothing like Celtic music for hard times.
The Nettles - Acoustic Celtic music that’s progressive, exciting & a little bit dangerous
7 p.m., Friday, October 2, Loucks Auditorium, Salem Public Library
Tickets: $5 in advance at Salem Public Library Circulation desks/$7 at door

This band ignites audiences with fiery music that blends traditional music with modern spices. The Nettles play progressive and exciting Celtic music at festivals, concerts, bars and dances in the Pacific Northwest and get radio airplay worldwide.

Laura Brophy’s powerful fiddling forms strong yet lyrical melodies punctuated by wild improvisati on. The Nettles are propelled by the mighty rhythm engine of Kevin Johnsrude on guitar, Michael Proctor on bass and drummers Brian Bucolo, Doug Narry or Ankush Vimawala. On fiddle, saxophone, pennywhistle, guitar, bass and percussion, they play acoustic improvisational music based on traditional tunes, a sort of acoustic Celtic jam band.

We Can't Afford to Wait Vigil

May_30_Health_Care_Rally_NP (593)Boy, if only we had a Democrat in teh White House and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress . . . Image by seiuhealthcare775nw via Flickr

VIGIL for Public Option NOW
Riverfront Park, Salem, OR 97303
Wednesday, 2 Sep 2009, 7:30 PM
To sign up for this event.
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Moyers on Health Care Reform

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medica...LBJ defeats Reagan, the GOP and the AMA, creates Medicare -- 100% Socialized Medicine for old people. Why do insurance companies love their profits and hate America? Image via Wikipedia

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Spend a few hours this weekend doing some good

photo of a pear, still-life by Keaton CooperImage via Wikipedia

And get rewarded with better health and happiness and some nice fruit to boot!
We are getting calls daily from people in our counties wanting people to come harvest produce from their yards and gardens. Our current list is posted below. If you would like to help bring in harvest from any of these sites, please call the person first and get the specific time and address. You will be entering their property at your own risk. You may keep some produce for yourself. We cannot distribute any fruit that has fallen on the ground. Please take the food you have picked for the Food Share to the closest food pantry or to Marion Polk Food Share at 1660 Salem Industrial Drive. We ask that you have it weighed there, if possible. You may find a list of Food Pantries at our website Thank you in advance for volunteering to help bring the harvest to the hungry!
  • 8/24 J. Shrum 503-743-2776 Verda Lane Overabundance of pears on one large tree. Have ladders, bring boxes.
  • 8/26 J. Abel 503-581-8371 Jelden St NE One pear tree, one large blueberry bush. Has boxes.
  • 8/24 T. Freety 503-507-0729 Laurel Ave NE One large pear tree. Has ladder, bring boxes. No spray.
  • 8/26 L. Engstrom 503-378-7055 Doaks Ferry Rd NW Large pear tree. No spray. Has ladder. Can get boxes.
  • 8/25 D. Gleason 503-986-5640 21st St. NE One plum tree. No ladder. Can get boxes.
  • 8/24 Melrose Farm 503-362-2398 72nd Ave, Aumsville. Blueberries. No boxes.
  • 8/24 D. Rundell 503-363-4305 Idylwood Dr. SE One pear tree. Bring boxes.
  • 8/24 B. Wright 503-581-3340 Brink Ave. SE One pear tree. Has ladder. Has 5 gal buckets.
  • 8/24 Sheryl 503-371-9061 Filbert tree.
  • 8/27 Eagan Gardens 503-393-2131 River Road NE. Pear orchard. No spray. Has ladders. No boxes.
  • 8/24 M Steiber 503-588-7048 Gravenstein apples.
  • 8/24 S. Diaz 503-269-0189. One pear tree.
Janet Spingath
Community Partnerships
2009 Chefs' Nite Out tickets on sale!
Phone: 503.581.3855 x311 Web:
Mail: 1660 Salem Industrial Drive NE, Salem OR 97301

Marion-Polk Food Share: Leading the fight to END hunger in Marion and Polk counties
...because no one should be hungry. Help END hunger. Donate now!

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Things everyone should know

Bike Storage Train Car - SFImage by mandiberg via Flickr

In a country where we are constantly bombarded with "news" about psuedo-celebrities, where the inability to use math to make informed decisions is treated as an endearing quirk, and the ability to look reality in the eye and deny it is treated as an electoral qualification, here's something that every person in America actually should know
The bicycle requires the equivalent energy of approximately 0.4 liters of gasoline to travel 100 kilometers, and the freight train requires the equivalent energy of approximately 0.6 liters of gasoline to travel 100 kilometers (per ton). That’s darned good gas mileage. As a comparison, a modern hybrid automobile requires approximately 5.0-5.5 liters of gasoline to travel 100 kilometers.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time to turn out some lights

Make Light Pollution a CrimeBeacons of waste. Image by makelessnoise via Flickr

Given that it's just about impossible to see any but the very brightest stars from much of Salem, I'd say we've got a lot of work to do in reducing excess lighting. Luckily, knocking off dumb stuff like this is even better than a free lunch -- there's so much savings available that it's like being invited to a tasty lunch you get paid to eat.
The old-fashioned streetlight is the recession's latest victim. To save money, some cities and towns are turning off lights, often lots of them.

The cost-cutting moves coincide with changing attitudes about streetlights. Once viewed as helpful safety measures, the lights are increasingly seen by some public officials and researchers as an environmental issue, creating light pollution and burning excess energy. . . .
In July, Santa Rosa, Calif., started a two-year effort to remove 6,000 of the city's 15,000 streetlights. An additional 3,000 will be placed on a timer that shuts lights off from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Savings: $400,000 a year.

The city boasts that it will cut its carbon footprint. What really matters, though, is money.

Public works director Rick Moshier says he'd already cut his department's budget by 25% when he turned to streetlights. "I can either fix potholes and storm drains or keep paying $800,000 a year for electricity," Moshier says. . . .
There's little evidence to support the belief that streetlights reduce crime, he says. However, lighting does reduce traffic accidents, especially at intersections.

The nation's streetlights consume electricity equivalent to 1.4 million homes. They generate greenhouse gases equal to 2 million cars a year.
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More gleaning!

Though the pears pictured do not have a textur...Image via Wikipedia

There is a pear orchard at Eagan Gardens ready for picking. The address is 9805 River Road NE. No spray has been used on the trees for 15 years. Ladders are available, but no boxes. Please go and pick what you want and bring some to the Food Share. We have about a dozen other locations around town. For information, please contact Janet at Marion Polk Food Share using the contact information below. Thanks for helping bring in the harvest!

Janet Spingath
Community Partnerships
2009 Chefs' Nite Out tickets on sale! Phone: 503.581.3855 x311
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Think health care costs a lot now?

The geographic distribution of surface warming...Image via Wikipedia

(h/t to Hank for forwarding this.)
Think health costs are hot now? Factor in global warming

A report by University College London and The Lancet, a leading public health journal, recently called global warming the greatest threat to public health this century. As I described in a June 21 column, the report said climate change will produce worsening patterns of vector and waterborne disease; heat and respiratory illnesses; malnutrition; and harm from extreme weather events, flooding and sea level rise. Billions of people in both developed and developing nations will be affected.

In Oregon, for instance, asthma is already a major problem, and it will expand as temperatures increase. Heat-related illnesses will grow as we experience more frequent periods of 100-degree days. West Nile Virus, which is caused by infected mosquitoes that migrate northward as temperatures warm, has appeared here and eventually could spread as it has in other states.

The costs of health care are certain to skyrocket under these conditions. A study produced in February by my program at the University of Oregon, for example, found that global warming would generate a minimum of $764 million in additional health-related costs for Oregonians by 2020.

These costs are likely to increase to at least $1.3 billion by 2040. Other states will experience even higher costs. Employers and the self-insured will find it exceedingly difficult to pay the additional costs of climate-induced health impacts. Further, unless every American is automatically covered, those most affected by the health impacts of climate change — including the infirm, children, elderly and low-income individuals — will be left to fend for themselves. . . .

The media has done a good job of documenting the disinformation and consequent hysteria generated by opponents to health care reform. Less well-documented are the remarkably similar strategies being used to stop climate policies. A good example is a two-inch-thick document I recently received from a journalist friend, published by a right-wing group. It claimed to refute the science of today's global warming.

If it weren't so frightening, it would be laughable. Millions of dollars undoubtedly were spent on the publication. It has a glossy cover, is made to look like a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and almost certainly was mailed to hundreds of reporters — and probably others — nationwide.

But rather than being filled with peer reviewed science, it is laced with anti- government and environmental rhetoric. Most of the claims it makes to refute the fact that the Earth is warming primarily due to human activity are irrelevant. It cherry picks data to make its case and omits other important data. Many of the key points are nonsensical. The credibility of the document, however, does not matter. The goal is to create doubt among the unsuspecting about the veracity of global warming and thus stifle support for climate protection policies.

There is too much at stake now to let this type of cynical behavior rule the day. . . .

Bob Doppelt is director of Resource Innovations and the Climate Leadership Initiative at the University of Oregon.

(And here's a link to another sobering piece very much worth reading.)
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A contender for "Worst Op-Ed Ever Committed"

OstrichHow's the view, Michael Lynch? Image by Spartacus007 via Flickr

Thank God that online newspapers are interactive -- the scores of comments to this execrable POS are far more well-informed and insightful than the subject op-ed.

The funny thing is, it's hard to know how to improve Lynch's piece. Trying to argue that oil is in practical terms infinite is so unhinged from reality that ad hominem attacks and misdirection ploys are just about all he's got. He reminds me of the guy with the pistol in the Russian Roulette game after five other players: "Well, there's been no explosion for those guys, so I'm going to be fine."

Nice open-source rebuttal being built here.

UPDATE: hysterically funny and on-target dismemberment of Lynch's "work" here.
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Desperately Seeking Gleaners for Marion-Polk Food Share

Food BankImage by Steve Rhode via Flickr

Janet at MPFS writes:
Please forward this to anyone who might be interested in helping us. I am getting calls for help daily!

Urban fruit trees are starting to drop their fruit. Homeowners who can’t use the fruit are calling Marion Polk Food Share to donate this fresh produce to the food banks serving the hungry. Please help us get this harvest to them. We need small teams of people willing to pick fruit and get it to us. Harvesters are welcome to keep some for their own personal use too.

We have 8 locations with immediate need and more coming in every week. Please contact Janet to get the addresses. Thanks in advance for volunteering your time!

Janet Spingath
Community Partnerships

2009 Chefs' Nite Out tickets on sale!

Phone: 503.581.3855 Extension 311

Marion-Polk Food Share: Leading the fight to END hunger in Marion and Polk counties ...because no one should be hungry. Help END hunger. Donate now!
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Blueberry Picking for Marion Polk Food Share

Vaccinium corymbosumPound for pound, one of the best foods in the world, and we live where they grow best. Image via Wikipedia

Bringing in the blueberries

WHEN: First thing in the morning (after 8 a.m. please), till dark, Wed Aug 26. Come when you can, pick what you can, and help get the harvest to the hungry.

WHERE: The homeowner has generously donated the produce from 1100 blueberry bushes. The bushes are located at 8098 Pudding Creek Dr. SE, Salem. To get there from Salem, head east on McClay Road until you get near McClay. Before the McClay Inn and before the railroad tracks, turn right on 82nd St. Go ¾ of a mile and turn right on Pudding Creek Dr. SE. The berries are next to a U-Pick farm. On the other side of the berries is a manufactured home. There will be a Marion Polk Food Share sign on the road.

WHAT: You will see cardboard boxes to assemble and pick into, for the Food Share. In the box marked "VOLUNTEERS," you will find tape to make the boxes (flats), and waivers of liability. Please sign in, leave the paperwork in the box, and start picking. Be sure to put tape over the holes in the boxes so berries won't fall out.

THEN WHAT: Pick into the boxes. You may keep a reasonable amount for your own home use. When a box is full, stack it with other boxes by the maple tree on the east side of the field. This tree is by the arborvitae hedge and is marked with something shiny. By stacking the boxes under the tree, where they can get air circulation out of the sun, they will remain relatively fresh till they can be picked up by Marion Polk Food Share the following morning. Thank you for your willingness to help!
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"Let Them Eat Natural Restoration Areas"

Five members of the Salem City Council tonight sold us out for cash money tonight, approving a move by the feds to put natural restoration "emergency flood control" easements on 200 acres of unique farmland within the Salem city limits, land that has been cropped for more than a century and that has never cost the federal government a single dollar in flood damage claims.

UPDATE: A reader asks a good question, now that self-styled environmentalists have blessed ignoring master plans and blowing off public involvement when it suits them: "Wonder how knee-jerk supporters of this easement would have felt about the need for public involvement and planning if the proposal had been for $800K in exchange for two separate motocross playgrounds in the middle of the park?" Of course they'll respond, "That's different," but actually the only difference is that one proposal they like and one would horrify them.

IRONY UPDATE: Here's text of a proclamation issued the same night the council voted to forever bar community gardens and all other forms of agriculture from 200 acres of prime land in Minto-Brown Park:
National Community Gardening Week 2009 Proclamation

WHEREAS, one of the most frequent and best-supported recommendations by health experts is that Americans need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables; and

WHEREAS, Salem is located in the very heart of one of the most fertile and productive river valleys anywhere on earth, and our soils and growing climate are among the most favorable in the world; and

WHEREAS, fruits and vegetables grown in the soils and climate of Salem provide unmatched flavor and superior nutrition; and

WHEREAS, community gardens help community members help themselves by providing both a fulfilling, enjoyable avocation and an affordable source of superior nutrition without the need for fossil fuels in transport; and

WHEREAS, gardening together in community helps foster stronger ties between diverse community groups, promotes healthy eating habits for a lifetime, and helps support efforts to eradicate hunger in Oregon; and

WHEREAS, the United States Secretary of Agriculture has recognized and encouraged all Americans to celebrate this week as National Community Gardening Week;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that I, Janet Taylor, Mayor of the City of Salem, proclaim National Community Gardening Week, August 23-29, 2009.

I encourage all residents to take advantage of Salem's community gardens and gardening resources and thank the many Master Gardener volunteers, neighborhood community garden coordinators, and the Marion Polk Food Share Community Gardening program making our community healthier, happier, and more beautiful.

“National Community Gardening Week”
DATED this 24th day of August, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

As Salem prepares to forever ban agriculture from 200 acres of rich farmland

I fought hunger todaySalem's commitment to ending hunger --- one sticker deep at most. Image by ginnerobot via Flickr

Before leaping into the fantasy solutions proposed below (skyscraper soilless gardens anyone?), shouldn't we try at least preserving some of the land we have been farming successfully for 150 years?

Funny how many people in Salem seem to think that hunger elsewhere won't mean problems here. Apparently for these people, Salem exists in a perfect bubble, untethered to a world where more than a billion people go hungry regularly -- with billions more expected soon, including millions of Americans and thousands of Oregonians.

Just as we're recognizing how difficult feeding a world of 7 billion is, Salem is proposing to knock out 200 acres of prime, well-situated close-in farmland. Because, to some of the well-fed, "natural re$toration" dollars count more than other peoples' hunger, even when those hungry people are right here in Salem.
If climate change and population growth progress at their current pace, in roughly 50 years farming as we know it will no longer exist. This means that the majority of people could soon be without enough food or water. . . .

The floods and droughts that have come with climate change are wreaking havoc on traditional farmland. Three recent floods (in 1993, 2007 and 2008) cost the United States billions of dollars in lost crops, with even more devastating losses in topsoil. Changes in rain patterns and temperature could diminish India's agricultural output by 30 percent by the end of the century.

What's more, population increases will soon cause our farmers to run out of land. The amount of arable land per person decreased from about an acre in 1970 to roughly half an acre in 2000 and is projected to decline to about a third of an acre by 2050, according to the United Nations. With billions more people on the way, before we know it the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.

Irrigation now claims some 70 percent of the fresh water that we use. After applying this water to crops, the excess agricultural runoff, contaminated with silt, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, is unfit for reuse. The developed world must find new agricultural approaches before the world's hungriest come knocking on its door for a glass of clean water and a plate of disease-free rice and beans. . . .

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Local Heroes: Urban Foraging

CherryImage via Wikipedia

Cool. Nice story on STIR member Jake Kosker and the other urban foragers in Salem.

. . . Kosker is part of a growing movement that touts the sweetness of fruit picked from street trees, local parks or neighbor's yards that would otherwise go to waste.

Urban foraging could be as simple as picking blackberries at a local park or as involved as Kosker's daily trek for plums, cherries, hazelnuts and walnuts through the alleys of his northeast Salem neighborhood.

Web sites such as, and Portland's have popped up throughout the country, providing maps and encouraging city dwellers to forage for urban fruit. From a local food standpoint, it's hard to get more local than your own neighborhood. . . .

Marion-Polk Food Share launched its own urban harvest team last year to pick neighborhood fruit trees.

The food bank often gets calls from homeowners who don't have the time or physical ability to keep up with the harvest, said Kat Daniel who runs the program as part of the Women Ending Hunger campaign.

"We have people calling saying, 'we have this plum tree. Can you pick this plum tree?' " she said.

Now they can. She hopes to expand the program to include more volunteer harvesting teams so they don't have to turn jobs away during peak times. . . .

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The future of eating: Hint, it requires land

We can get away from using fossil fuels in agriculture; what we can't do is get away from needing land where food can be grown. BBC has a nice piece that shows that cities can again become food secure --- but it means putting a priority on using land for food rather than parking or "nature" (as if agriculture wasn't as natural to humans as scratching is to dogs).

Climate change, drought, population growth - they could all threaten future food supplies. But global agriculture, with its dependence on fuel and fertilisers is also highly vulnerable to an oil shortage, as Cuba found out 20 years ago.

Around Cuba's capital Havana, it is quite remarkable how often you see a neatly tended plot of land right in the heart of the city.

Sometimes smack bang between tower block estates or next door to the crumbling colonial houses, fresh fruit and vegetables are growing in abundance.

Some of the plots are small - just a few rows of lettuces and radishes being grown in an old parking space.

Other plots are much larger - the size of several football pitches. Usually they have a stall next to them to sell the produce at relatively low prices to local people.

Twenty years ago, Cuban agriculture looked very different. Between 1960 and 1989, a national policy of intensive specialised agriculture radically transformed Cuban farming into high-input mono-culture in which tobacco, sugar, and other cash crops were grown on large state farms.

Cuba exchanged its abundant produce for cheap, imported subsidised oil from the old Eastern Bloc. In fact, oil was so cheap, Cuba pursued a highly industrialised fuel-thirsty form of agriculture - not so different from the kind of farming we see in much of the West today.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the oil supply rapidly dried up, and, almost overnight, Cuba faced a major food crisis. Already affected by a US trade embargo, Cuba by necessity had to go back to basics to survive - rediscovering low-input self-reliant farming.

City allotments

Oxen replaced tractors when Cuba became a low-fuel economy

With no petrol for tractors, oxen had to plough the land. With no oil-based fertilizers or pesticides, farmers had to turn to natural and organic replacements.

Today, about 300,000 oxen work on farms across the country and there are now more than 200 biological control centres which produce a whole host of biological agents in fungi, bacteria and beneficial insects.

Havana has almost 200 urban allotments - known as organiponicos - providing four million tons of vegetables every year - helping the country to become 90% self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables.

Alamo Organiponico is one of the larger co-operatives employing 170 people, which was built on a former rubbish-tip that produces 240 tons of vegetables a year.

There are a wide range of crops planted side by side and brightly coloured marigolds at the edges.

vegetable plot in Havana
Car parks and rubbish tips have become vegetable plots

"We produce all different kinds of vegetables," says farmer Emilio Andres who is proud of the fact that his allotment feeds the local community.

"We sell to the people, the school, the hospital, also to the restaurant and the hotel too.

"It's important because it's grown in the city, it's fresh food for the people, it's healthy food, and it provides jobs for the people here too.

"We don't spray any chemicals. We only spray biological means like bastilos - a bacteria and fungus to kill the pests. And we use repellent plants like marigolds to keep away the pests.

"When I see all of these healthy crops, without too many pests, grown without any chemicals, it's amazing for me - I am making a contribution for the people that get healthy crops, healthy products."

Healthy diet

The organiponico uses raised beds filled with about 50% high-quality organic material (such as manure), 25% composted waste such as rice husks and coffee bean shells, and 25% soil.

A Western diet includes about three times as much food energy from animal products like meat and dairy

As well as marigolds, basil and neem trees are planted around the containers to keep the aphids and beetles at bay. Sunflowers and corn are also planted around the beds to attract beneficial insects such as lady bugs and lace wings. Sticky paper or plastic funnel-shaped bottles are positioned throughout the beds to trap harmful pests that do get into the garden.

And the methods work. Lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach herbs and many other crops are grown in huge quantities and sold cheaply. . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday, 8/23 -- Garden of Imagination Party!

In light of International Kitchen Garden Day and National Community Garden Week, Marion Polk Food Share is celebrating the summer of garden bounty with a program that offers something for everyone.

  • 9 am-noon: The art of organic community food production (MPFS garden work/learn-party)

  • noon-1 pm: Ribbon cutting and “taste of the garden” ceremony.

  • 1 pm-4 pm: Building of the OSD cob garden bench (community building workshop)

  • 4 pm-6 pm: STIR community garden bike tour
Music, Food and Community Building activities will be going on all day.

2009 Chefs' Nite Out Tickets on sale now through October 1.
$65 prior to August 1st, $75 after August 1st.

Jordan Blake
Garden Project Manager
Phone: 503.581.3855
Direct: 503.373.9660

Marion-Polk Food Share leading the fight to END hunger in Marion and Polk counties
... because no one should be hungry.

(And there will be a proclamation for National Community Gardening Week given at the City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, August 24 at City Hall in Salem.)

A procurement and systems analyst perspective on single-payer

Photo showing the Nintendo Wii CPUOne of the key reasons US manufacturing declines is that it has to compete with manufacturing in countries who don't tie health insurance to employment, relieving their employers of a huge cost burden. Image via Wikipedia

A friend whose father was a highly successful systems analyst and procurement expert for top socialist organizations (IBM and the Pentagon) took a look at health care from a systems perspective and came up with single-payer as the answer.

Top Ten Reasons Why We Absolutely Need Single Payer Healthcare

  1. It will be much easier to get everyone covered without people being shuttled around seeking coverage and falling through the cracks, or suffering delayed approval and care when they become expensively sick. The dollar savings from eliminating this wasted time and effort will be significant in and of itself.

  2. It will allow doctors to concentrate on patients, not their billing and collection problems as currently driven by multiple insurance providers with different requirements and paperwork.

  3. It will make it possible, through compensation adjustments, to rebalance the number of medical practitioners by area of specialization to better meet the needs of the patient base. It also facilitates payment based on quality (outcomes), not just quantity of care.

  4. It will facilitate, through payment incentives, improvement in the availability of health care services in currently underserved areas.

  5. Because of the enhanced auditing capability inherent in a single payer system, it allows the day to day billing and collection process to be run on a presumption of integrity and honesty, thereby greatly simplifying procedures and paperwork for all involved.

  6. It will create an environment where the pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment suppliers will be forced to deal with a very competent customer, instead of a group of disorganized ones.

  7. It will create a situation where common accounting standards, utilizing direct costing principles and practices, can be implemented at hospitals, thereby linking costs and billing with services provided.

  8. Once the payment process is centralized, it will facilitate meaningful analysis to identify cost drivers in all areas so effort can be concentrated on fixing them.

  9. It will converts the twenty to twenty-five cents of every premium dollar currently expended by private insurers on excessive salaries, administration, advertising and profit into payment for healthcare services. This goes a long way toward paying for the fifty million people to be covered.

  10. All of the above subjects are or should be part of a real health care reform effort, in fact, they are vital components. However, none of them have been or realistically can be accomplished (have a snowballs chance in hell) utilizing a process with private insurers as its backbone.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hello, City of Salem! Walkable Neighborhoods Increases Home Values

Abandoned Gabled HouseYou can find old houses that were once beautiful throughout poorer sections of Salem, nearly always abutting high speed roads that have destroyed the homes along the streets that ferry the well-to-do to their neighborhoods across town. Image by McMorr via Flickr

And that increases property tax revenues. This isn't hard, people -- the value of homes are inversely proportional to the average speeds on the streets they front.

Most of what city officials do these days in the name of "planning" consists of figuring out ways to cater to the automobiles of people in well-off neighborhoods at the expense of people in less-well-off neighborhoods, imposing "mobility standards" that essentially offer up the neighborhoods of the poor and minority areas as high-speed sacrifice zones for the richer people to drive through (with monstrous "improvements" naturally slated for these areas, where the people are too poor to fight back).

Look at any decrepit section of a residential area where there are once-beautiful homes oddly close to the roads -- you will find that these were once grand homes but, when the road got wider, they became rentals and then meth dens and now sit as reproachful monuments to our "Auto Uber Alles" idea of city planning.

Shameful. And stupid.

UPDATE: Hat tip to RR for this:
"UGB expansions involve big stakes. Expansions can cost taxpayers hundreds of millions in new infrastructure and services, reduce quality of life, damage natural areas and increase global warming. But developers and land speculators can cash in on a sometimes 10-fold increase in land values." --- John Platt, Helvetia Winery

From Planning for Sprawl: Staff study betrays bias for unbridled development, by Alan Pittman Eugene Weekly.

Imagine Minto's Ag Acreage as the Super Farm-to-School Lunch Site

Fresh vegetables are common in a healthy diet.This is the kind of food kids need, and that kids love if they get to help grow it. Image via Wikipedia

There's widespread recognition that the school lunch program reflects the worst of our country's agricultural policies, which are firmly in control of Big Agribusiness and operate to the detriment of all eaters, especially the most vulnerable ones, children. Schools are used as a dumping ground for surplus goods more than as a place where children might learn healthy eating habits.

Lost in the rush to grab a tiny few stimulus dollars under an "emergency flood control" easement by locking away 200 acres of rich, prime farmland in Minto Brown Island Park is any effort to see the possibilities for addressing numerous social ills by keeping the land as agricultural land. Not least among these is the chance to convert that acreage into community gardens and even into a unique opportunity to promote better nutrition in schoolchildren by giving over as much acreage as needed to growing food for school breakfast/lunch programs year-round (especially in summer when many poor children suffer a huge drop in nutrition).

The ag land on Minto can become the centerpiece of a revitalized curriculum that teaches kids (and the adults who care for them) not only about the benefits of good food but also how to grow that food in a way that preserves and protects the environment, while building up kids' sense of themselves as people who have a purpose and who contribute to the wellbeing of their families. The loss of useful chores -- tending the kitchen gardens, caring for hens -- is one of the saddest things about childhood today, where children are trapped in an auto-dominated world that imprisons them in their cul-de-sacs with nothing useful to do. Sure, there's make work chores, but they don't build a sense of agency and responsibility the way meaningful contributions do.

UPDATE: A must-read book is available from the Salem Public Library and our local booksellers: "This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader" by Joan Dye Gussow. (Chelsea Green Press). This is outstanding, wily writing, with lots of tempting recipes, leading the reader gently, painlessly, but inexorably into thinking deeply about food and where it is grown and the costs of our obliviousness to those things. Blurb by Barbara Kingsolver, whom many consider a Goddess of Food Writing:
The most important book I've read in a long while. Full of hope, kindness, and arresting wisdom, it iwill serve as a valuable guide to anyone who wants to live more thoughtfully on the only planet that feeds us.
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Bad Precedent Rising: Still time to speak out

Copy of Survey that certifies the town of Beav...This is an old Oregon plat map. One of the very first and most important acts of government in North America has been platting land and defending those boundaries. Image by Beaverton Historical Society via Flickr

Sometimes it seems that there's simply no idea so bad that some body of elected officials won't embrace it heartily, despite its gross defects.

Take rewarding people who poach public park land, for instance. One of the first and oldest principles in law is that you cannot obtain title to government land by adverse possession. This reflects a deep and historically unbroken recognition that public land is a special form of public trust. That is, it's not just that the land is valuable, the way cash is valuable. It's more that public lands are irreplaceable, and public officials are simply trustees for that land for the rest of us, caretakers in other words; it is not theirs to give away to their friends, campaign contributors, or even sympathetic but careless homeowners who encroach on it.

The Marion County Commissioners appear determined to make the worst caricatures of politicians come to life as they, against all reason and advice, try to create a terrible precedent by giving away something that is not theirs to give, stealing it from the rest of us and violating their oaths of office to do so:
Problems arise when squatters claim public land. Squatting is like stealing because it is taking possession of something that doesn’t belong to you.

In spite of that basic truth, Marion County Commissioners are considering giving public land to property owners who have no claim to it.

The hearing on this case is called: PLA/FP/Greenway Case No. 09-017

And it is taking place Wednesday, August 19 (tomorrow), at 4PM, at the County Building; 555 Court Street, Main Floor.

Here’s the background:

Property owners bought property next to Spong’s Landing (a county park) and fenced off some of the park land.

In May 2008, Marion County Public Works wrote to the property owners ordering them to remove the sections of their fence that enclosed a part the park. The property owners appealed and asked the County to give them title to the enclosed park land.

This required a hearing where NO ONE testified in favor of yielding the park land. In spite of the public outcry, the commissioners voted to sell the land to the property owners for $5000.

Concerned citizens put up the money and filed an appeal with the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). LUBA agreed with the citizens and told the commissioners to find another solution.

Now the commissioners are simply redrawing the Spong’s Landing property line and giving the park land to the property owners.

Giving park land away like this is extremely unusual. There are no provisions for it in the Comprehensive Plan and the Marion County Parks Commission objects to it. It doesn’t serve the public interest, and it ignores the unanimous will of the people.

The Commissioners could have followed the rules and supported staff’s legal notice ordering the property owners to vacate the park land. Instead they have let the matter drag on for several months and consume thousands of dollars of public funds.

The Commissioners should stick to the rules.

Please attend or testify that the property line adjustment be DENIED.

Testifying is one way you can claim standing if there needs to be another appeal.

For more information contact: Aileen Kaye, 503-743-4567
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

While we were busy obsessing about the terror of urban hens . . .

Street side storm drain, Dryden Ontario.This is the type of portal by which tons of toxic-bacteria-loaded fecal wastes from dogs and cats enter our waterways. Image via Wikipedia

. . . dogs and cats -- whose waste is toxic, rather than an outstanding soil amendment -- run and do their business all everywhere, degrading our water, killing songbirds by the millions (cats), contract and spreading rabies, causing car accidents, and occasionally mauling or even killing people (dogs).

Public hearing at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. tonight (8/18) so the Planning Commission can decide whether to recommend taking pet hens out of the definition of prohibited "livestock" in Salem's land use ordinances. This would allow the City Council to devise a city ordinance on hens without having to treat everything having to do with hens as a land use issue (which requires involving the Planning Commission). So whether you're for or against urban hens, you should be for this proposal, so that the decision on hens goes to the right place (the electeds rather than an unelected land use board). If keeping hens is a land use issue, then keeping dogs and cats with all their attendant problems should be a land use issue too, and should require much more stringent controls and enforcement.

An average dog generates about one-half pound of waste per day, which translates into about 12 tons of untreated waste per day, according to Mary Middleton, a research biologist with the Pacific Shellfish Institutes in Olympia.

In addition, one gram of dog waste, which weighs the equivalent of a business card, contains 23 million fecal coliform, almost twice as much as human waste.

All it takes is a hard rain to wash pet waste off streets, sidewalks and lawns into storm drains that empty into lakes, streams and Puget Sound. Once in the water, the bacterial contamination can lead to swimming area and shellfish harvesting closures.

"Pet waste is a concern to shellfish growers," Middleton said. "It's even more of an issue when you have a lot of concrete and impervious surfaces."

In 2000-01, the Thurston County Department of Environmental Health studied sources of bacterial pollution in Henderson Inlet. Failing septic tanks and pet waste turned out to be the main culprits. . . . For years, the message to dog owners has been to either seal their dog's waste in plastic bags and put them in the trash, or flush the waste down the toilet, if you're on a sewer system.

But the . . . the region's sewer utility, recently recommended against customers adding dog and cat waste to the wastewater load.

Pet waste is dry, and hard to move through the sewer system, said LOTT spokeswoman Lisa Dennis-Perez. Also, it contains different bacteria and pathogens than human waste, which could make it harder and more expensive to treat.

"It's not that we've had a problem," Dennis-Perez said. "But that's a huge volume of waste, if everyone started flushing it down the toilet."

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Capitol Chess Club makes first move @ the Ike Box

Aunt Harriet letting me beat her at chess, 1955Image by betsythedevine via Flickr

Fifty years from now, a small handful of middle-aged guys and maybe even a few hale really oldsters will be able to say that they were there when a chess club started back up in downtown Salem, as the Capitol Chess Club got launched today with a smallish but pleasant turnout at the IKE BOX. The club will meet every Monday night at 6 p.m. and play until close (8 p.m. through Labor Day, 10 p.m. thereafter). Join us!

TIP FOR PARENTS: Introducing your child to chess is one of the best gifts you can give. Check out this amazing site, Chess Magnet School, where you can find a carefully constructed set of chess lessons that start with absolute beginners and take them gradually through progressively-harder chess lessons that are truly wondrous. In chess as in languages, young people are like thirsty sponges -- they soak it up effortlessly, quickly mastering skills that us old folks struggle to master. There's a 30-day free trial (with full features) there, and it's very inexpensive to continue after that. Many of us old codgers are jealous of tools like this, imagining how much better we'd be at chess if we had such good instruction available to us. Check it out!

P.S. Chess Magnet School is not just for kids -- adults who know how to play but were never very good at it can get much better quickly too!

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Join Friends of Salem Saturday Market and get great, behind the scenes access to delicious local food!

Why join Friends of Salem Saturday Market?

Well, in addition to being cool, and some neat trinkets for members at higher donation levels (BPA-free water bottles, cool little nylon stuffsack market bags, etc.), all members also get to meet the growers on their home turf. We've already enjoyed a wonderful tour of Oak Villa Farm with local fruit, vegetable and egg man Dan Rosado of Dallas, Oregon. Next up, a members-only tour that's even MORE local -- Salem's own Minto Island Growers!
For those of you who are members, SAVE THE DATE! Elizabeth Miller and Chris Jenkins of Minto Island Growers are graciously hosting a Farm Tour for Friends of Salem Saturday Market members on the last Saturday in September, Sept. 26th, at 5 p.m. Sounds like they will be overwhelmed with tomatoes, corn and squash — plus lots of other yummy things will be seen on the tour. We’re still in the planning stages about the food that will be served to members, but rest assured, it will be delicious (and directly from the ground!)

For those of you who aren’t members yet… sign up now! Only members of the Friends of Salem Saturday Market (those who paid $10, $25 or $50) are invited on the tour. Find a membership form on our Web site or stop by our booth on Saturdays.

This is your opportunity to meet local farmers, find out how they grow your food, and find out more about what’s in season at the end of September.

From the Capitol Fountain to Union Street please!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

From Planning Magazine: A new USDA

Vegetable GardenWe can grow an abundance of premium vegetables for health and flavor right here in Salem! Image by agelakis via Flickr

Great interview with a new USDA Deputy Secretary suggesting that Salem could have an ally in the US Department of Agriculture for efforts to expand community gardening (such as in Minto Brown Park) and to make Salem's unique and wonderful farmland a centerpiece of the local efforts to live more sustainably and to provide more food and food security to ourselves. Excerpts from the interview:
Kathleen Merrigan was deputy secretary of agriculture for only a month when she sat for an interview with Kimberley Hodgson, manager of APA's Planning and Community Health Research Center. Before signing on with the federal government, Merrigan taught at Tufts University and was director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at the university's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She holds a doctorate in environmental planning from MIT

Q In light of your background, what specific steps do you suggest that planners take to improve the US. food system?
A: Planners have a large role to play. [Here is the context.] I've just been given the challenge by the president and the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to lead USDA's local and regional food systems initiative, which we're calling Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. There's a lot of enthusiasm for this initiative. There are a lot people who are excited again about agriculture; food policy councils are starting up all over the country. That's great, but when I sit at my big desk here on the Mall, I am struck by the complexity of the challenge before me. Reinvigorating local food systems is a structural challenge of great magnitude.

So where do planners come in? The planning profession [encourages] people to grapple with those complexities, to see how the interconnected parts fit together. I hope that planners across the country embrace the public fervor for local food and help communities figure out what can be done. Given the unique needs and the various characteristics of a community, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. My job here in Washington is to figure out what barriers might be in place, some of them government-constructed barriers, and figure out how to tear them down.
Q In honor of Earth Day 2009, Vilsack declared the entire grounds at the USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building as the "People's Garden" and unveiled plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds. In what tangible ways will the USDA support urban agriculture for commercial and noncommercial purposes nationwide?
A The inauguration of the People's Garden was my first public appearance. . . . We thought it was a great opportunity to take the little bit of land we have left here at USDA headquarters and set up a demonstration garden for people to see fruits and vegetables being grown, to talk about healthy eating, to talk about organic agriculture. And we are going to expand what's there now to use the entire area for ecological landscaping. We are [also] challenging all USDA facilities both in the US. and at our various overseas operations to come up with their own versions of the People's Garden.

That's just one thing, though. We are trying to bring kids back into agriculture because there is evidence that children do better in science and have greater ecological sensibilities because of gardening experiences-and they consume greater quantities of fruits and vegetables.
Q Do you think there is a role for urban agriculture in our urban centers?
A: Absolutely. It's a great opportunity not only for healthy diets, but to strengthen communities. In some cases urban agriculture has helped fight crime, reconnect people through common activity, and bring families together.
Q How will the USDA support urban agriculture?
A: I don't think we received a complete road map during my first month on the job, but we can engage people in the conversation about seasonal variety and supply, and we should understand more about markets. If I'm an urban consumer, is it better to drive 20 miles to pick up my share of produce at a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] farm, or is it better to go to the Stop and Shop only two miles away? [Or is it even better to preserve precious farmland WITHIN the city limits? --- LOVESalem]

Sometimes these issues are reduced to very simplistic equations like food miles. Food miles have been a great way to bring people to the conversation, but if we really want to do something about [sustainable food systems],we have to embrace the complexity. Again, complexity is the key to all of this.
Q President Obama has emphasized the need to improve the health care system. What new farm or food initiatives (and funding) may emerge as part of that focus?
A: The president and Mrs. Obama are clearly very interested in healthy eating and very concerned about the childhood obesity epidemic. The first lady has her own garden on the lawn of the White House, which is prominently displayed for everyone to see. They even have a beehive. . . .

From where I sit as deputy secretary (and it's lovely to have this chair because I have the opportunity to think about reprogramming, reallocating, reprioritizing), I would be very uncomfortable going to Congress and asking for some big new money. I first have to convince myself that we've done everything we can with what we have. Just today, I sent out a memorandum to all USDA agencies to help me better understand the inventory of programs that are already facilitating local and regional food systems. And I'm establishing an interagency task force (that I'll chair) on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. What we want to do is think out of the box, be strategic, and think across all 26 of the USDA agencies.
Q: Assuming you agree that the U.S. food system should be fair, healthy, and sustainable, what is your vision for getting there?
A: I guess if had to pick one word, it would be diversity. Diversity in terms of the kinds of foods. (Our genetic stock is becoming too uniform, and that makes me nervous. And it means that we are missing out on lovely, traditional heirloom crops.) Diversity of farm types and farm sizes. I want farms in all regions. (I've long been a champion of organic farmers, but I don't see the world going 100 percent organic. It's not the right fit for everyone.)

Diversity in the voices at the table when key agricultural decisions are made. [Like the proposal to lock agriculture out of rich river bottom land that has been farmed for 150 years is being considered. -- LOVESalem] That's what's so exciting about this resurgence of interest in agriculture. That's what's always drawn me to agriculture-trying to get some of the important voices amplified.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Calendar: Great stuff, starting tomorrow, 8/15!

During a community garden tourTurn off the toys and get your kids out into the dirt! They'll thank you for it. Image by Toban Black via Flickr

Jordan Blake, the Gardens Project Manager for Marion Polk Food Share, sends this update full of items for your calendar:
Community Harvest Swap
Saturday, August 15th, 2009 – 1:00pm – 5:00pm
First Congregational United Church of Christ – 700 Marion St. NE

Join the Salem Creative Network and City Repair Project (CRP) of Portland for a free event in the parking lot of the United Church of Christ downtown. CRP’s Tea-Horse, a traveling art exhibit offering free tea and conversation will be a focal point of the gathering, and we will be creating a giant chalk drawing in the parking lot with a natural theme. Neighbors are encouraged to attend and participate in the drawing.

Please bring excess garden produce to swap with other gardeners and donate the leftovers to MPFS (Marion Polk Food Share).

Stop by and help build your community!

Summer in the City Music and Wine Festival

Downtown Salem – Saturday, August 15th noon to 10 pm. and Sunday, August 16th, noon to 6 pm. Come support Marion Polk Food Share and the core of downtown Salem, as we party in the streets! (One dollar of each adult ticket sold goes to Food Share and cans of food are being collected)

MPFS’s “Imagination Garden” Gathering at Oregon School for the Deaf
Sunday August 23rd, 2009 – 9:00am – 6pm
Oregon School for the Deaf – 999 Locust Street NE

In light of International Kitchen Garden Day and National Community Garden Week, Marion Polk Food Share is celebrating the summer of garden bounty with a program that offers something for everyone.
  • 9 am-noon: The art of organic community food production (MPFS garden work/learn-party)

  • noon-1pm: Ribbon cutting and “taste of the garden” ceremony.

  • 1pm-4pm: Building of the OSD cob garden bench (community building workshop)

  • 4pm-6pm: STIR community garden bike tour

  • Music, Food and Community Building activities will be going on all day.
Garden Program Preview: Sowing the Seeds of Inner Growth:
Boys & Girls Club 3rd Annual Back to School Family Heath Fair is coming up this Friday August 14th from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, at our Knudson Branch located at 1395 Summer St NE. This year we expect to serve over 1200 family members!

This event offers families in the community an opportunity to connect with resources to help stay safe and healthy. On a mission to engage youth with healthful learning activities, MPFS will be getting a head start on fall crops of cabbage, broccoli, carrots, turnips and garlic by planting these seeds with the kids and their families.
Feed the Soil: A Food Share & Future Farmers of America Partnership Project
This summer, thanks to a wonderful partnership between Marion County Soil and Water Conservation, McKay High School – Future Farmers of America and Marion Polk Food Share, a project is getting underway that will feed the soils of our food share gardens with a bounty of organic matter. Set up as a progressive element of an already existing “Manure Exchange Program” through MCSWC, the project has received funding to construct a “Manure Storage and Processing Facility” at McKay High School.

With a contingent of special projects volunteers, Marion Polk Food Share will coordinate a composting education and organic implementation project with FFA students. Concurrently, volunteer drivers will be traveling throughout the Willamette Valley to collect horse, steer, lama, alpaca and other types of manure in the new MPFS dump truck. This organic matter will be brought back to McKay to compost, with much of it also being made available to area community and home gardens for donation.
Head Start to Garden: “An intentional partnership to grow our future”
Beginning this fall, an MPFS garden team will begin working with Head Start staff to implement "Head Start to Garden," a project where classrooms grow vegetable starts for each child and then plant them in a community garden to support food, health, and gardening interests in our community. Although details are still being finalized here are a few tidbits:
  • Key partners are Marion Polk Food Share and Marion County Health Dept.

  • The project will be “phased in” over 3 years. Each year we will ask for about 7 classrooms to volunteer to participate.

  • Participating classrooms will receive an in-depth orientation on the “how-tos,” MPFS presentations at parent meetings, worm garden supplies, raised bed planter boxes for growing additional food and herb plants, seeds, and soil that is locally sourced.

  • The vegetable starts will be planted in area MPFS gardens.
2009 Chefs' Nite Out Tickets on sale now through October 1.
$65 prior to August 1st, $75 after August 1st.

Marion-Polk Food Share leading the fight to END hunger in Marion and Polk counties
... because no one should be hungry.

P.S. Speaking of improving local food security, don't forget the Planning Commission meets this Tuesday, August 18 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall -- come and speak out in support of permitting urban hens!
This hearing is before the Planning Commission and its purpose is to help the Commission decide if it should recommend changing Salem's city code definition of livestock to exclude chickens when raised as pets and not for commercial purposes. This is an important first step to getting backyard hens legalized. Please come to show you support this change. Thank you!
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Common Sense on Energy: Very uncommon indeed

Ring The BellThis game makes them money because people are terrible at estimating energy requirements. Image by Pete Ashton via Flickr

Nice little story and a link to a good calculator that helps show how difficult it is for humans -- beings evolved to use carbohydrates for brain and muscle power -- to even appreciate how much external energy we've come to depend on every moment of every day.
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