Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grate Phun Ahed in 2011

PPL 2010 Spelling BeeImage by pplflickr via Flickr
Sonja Somerville
Salem Public Library Community Relations Coordinator
Phone: (503) 588-6083
Fax: (503) 589-2011

Adult Spelling Bee offers chance for redemption at Salem Public Library

Area adults have the chance to relive – or get over – a little piece of their childhood in January at a special adult spelling bee hosted by Salem Public Library.

“Your Word is R-E-D-E-M-P-T-I-O-N: A Spelling Bee for Adults with Sometime to Prove” will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 22 in Loucks Auditorium at Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. SE. It is the perfect opportunity for any grown-up to prove they still have what it or remove the sting of a brutal loss in the second-grade spelling bee. This slightly non-traditional bee includes some twists and turns to keep things interesting and add to the fun. Prizes and bragging rights will be liberally awarded.

There are chairs on the spelling stage for just 20 adults. Registration is essential for spellers and is now open through Sonja Somerville at 503-588-6083 or

Supporters of the spellers are encouraged to attend this free event along with any interested members of the public.

The program is supported by the Friends of the Salem Public Library.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from LOVESalem HQ

Nice writeup on Energy Descent and the New Reality here. Excerpt:

Oil IS our economy. It is what makes global trade at this scale possible and why it makes “sense” to ship raw materials from Africa to SE Asia for processing and then to the US for final sale, grain from the Ukraine to be fed to cattle in Brazil to end up in $.89 cheeseburgers in the US, and the 1500 mile side salad. That fact – that Oil is Everything – means that watching the price of crude, or just the pump, is rather important for predicting when the next recession, or rather the deepening of the current one, will hit. Since we hit Peak Oil in 2006 the New Reality is that energy economics are now ruthlessly driven by supply and demand. Now that we are Post Peak, there is no significant means of mitigating price by upping supply to meet demand; when demand increases, price MUST follow suit soon after as supply is fixed and slowly diminishing.

Supply v. Demand: a graphical depiction...

What became painfully clear to us all, is that there is a price ceiling that our economy is able to support. In 2008 it was somewhere near $110/bbl or $4/gln of gasoline. Beyond that point oil/gas pushed the expense side of doing business too far (and had the psychological impact of drastically reducing consumer spending) and we smacked into a New Reality that energy was perhaps more expensive than we could afford; that we couldn’t afford to do *everything* we wanted as a global community.

And then we learned another reality about our current economy. GROWTH is IMPERATIVE. Chris Martenson in his Crash Course will explain this far better than I can, but in long and short the rate of our economic growth MUST EXCEED the interest that is due on everything we, as a global society, “own”. As soon as the economy fails to grow faster than the interest that is due on the all the zillions of loans –from credit cards to government bonds– there is literally NOT ENOUGH MONEY to pay the banks and massive foreclosures begin to happen. This is also why we continually here that 1-2% growth “isn’t enough”. Check your car/mortgage/credit card bill for your interest rate if you wonder why not.

So everyone alive has know nothing but the fact that Oil IS the Economy, and that the Economy MUST grow. But there is no more cheap oil, and the Economy CAN’T grow – at least not until it bottoms and the Peak is a lofty mountain indeed. The Old Reality is over. Welcome to the New One. The next century or so will be dominated by series after series of recessions, which will relax the demand pressure on the price of energy enough to allow a brief “recovery”. But as soon as the economy recovers enough it will inevitably hit the energy price ceiling (which is now lower than the last one due to all the bankruptcies that occurred in the last recession which lowered the overall size of the economy by destroying “wealth”) and we will enter a new recession. This is the economic reality of Energy Descent: series after series of recessions interspersed with brief “recoveries.” . . .

So, here comes a pitch: Because we just installed a nice solar-electric system here at LOVESalem HQ, we got a nice offer from the installing company, SunWize: If you tell 'em we sent you when call them out to do a survey for your home's solar potential, they'll give us $50 after they evaluate your solar potential. If you end up installing a system, they'll cut us a check for $200 per kW of capacity that you install.

So what's in it for you? Well, if you're unsure about doing a solar install, just post a note in the comments with your email; when I screen the comments I'll see it and contact you, and you can come over and look at what we got installed and you can see all the papers we got as part of the install, and what it cost, and how we addressed the costs, tax credits, etc. (And I won't post your contact info.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Most excellent: Marion-Polk Food Share's new Community Kitchen

Here's a program that will never have to kowtow and chant "We're Not Worthy:

Marion-Polk Food Share has a new facility for commercial cooking and culinary training.

The more than $500,000 community kitchen within the food share's northeast Salem warehouse was unveiled at a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon.

The food share, a part of the Oregon Food Bank statewide network, also will be able to prepare meals from the piles of fresh food donations, reducing waste, said Eileen DiCicco, food share development associate.

In the kitchen, volunteers will to learn how to prepare nutritious meals from scratch. They then can train the low-income and needy people served by the food share's more than 90 partner agencies, said food share president Ron Hays.

"I'm in the business of working myself out of a job, and part of that is building self-sufficiency in people," Hays said. . . .

There's also talk of connecting with Chemeketa Community College to create some type of post-prison skills training program, said Phil McCorkle, food share vice president of development . . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Too beautiful not to steal

If the Salem Daily Photo Diary blog isn't already on your reader, you risk missing gorgeous work like this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mainstream magazine gingerly mentions Peak Oil

Study of Peak Oil and GasImage via WikipediaOf course it dismisses it -- the last sentence basically parses to "There's no good substitute ready so we can't be at the peak" -- much like the joke about "I can't be overdrawn, I still have checks!"

But interesting that the magazine felt it had to address the question nonetheless:
Has ‘peak oil’ already passed?

The moment at which global oil production reaches its zenith before entering perpetual decline—“peak oil”—has long been the subject of contentious debate. But in November the International Energy Agency, which advises governments on energy policy, announced that peak oil had already occurred, in 2006. The agency, previously skeptical that peak oil was near, said fuel supplies would nevertheless remain abundant because of “unconventional” sources like tar sands. But it forecast rising oil and gas prices ahead. “The age of cheap oil is over,” said IEA economist Fatih Birol. More bullish analysts say the world still has decades of affordable oil and gas supplies, which will dampen the incentive to develop alternative energy sources. “The competitiveness of oil and gas and the scale at which they are produced,” said energy consultant James Burkhard, “mean that there are no readily available substitutes in either one year or 20 years.”
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For the autodidacts and those who try to keep up with them

Interesting service offered through the regional library system that Salem Public Library belongs to (Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service) -- a whole bunch of self-study courses.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brought to you by PGE

PGE = Please God, enough! According to PGE, we can't stop burning coal at Boardman -- the single biggest polluter in the entire state of Oregon -- because it would raise power rates a whole 5% . . . funny, they just jacked up the rates about the same amount, not long after giving their former chief Peggy MILLIONS of annual pension payments ABOVE AND BEYOND her guaranteed pension.

A Warming Climate Takes its Toll on the Polar Bears of Hudson Bay. from Daniel J. Cox on Vimeo.

THIS horrific, sickening result is what PGE fights for, what they spend all their might and muscle to continue and promote: the right to make even more profit by continuing to burn coal, even at the cost of immense suffering globally.

Warning: This video includes disturbing footage of a malnourished polar bear mother and her two cubs in western Hudson Bay, Canada. Some may choose not to watch, because it includes graphic scenes of a malnourished cub experiencing seizures.

Both cubs died within two days of the November 23, 2010, filming.

As difficult as the images are to watch, they show the real-life struggle polar bears face each day trying to survive on a warming planet. Malnourishment, starvation and even cannibalism have become facts of life for polar bears in western Hudson Bay and other areas.

Polar bears are completely dependent upon large expanses of sea ice to hunt, feed and survive. They use the sea ice as a platform to capture seals and other prey. Global warming is rapidly melting their ice and lengthening the ice-free season, forcing bears to spend ever-longer periods of time on land, where there is little for them to eat. The longer bears like the ones in this video are stranded on land, the more likely they are to starve.

Polar bears were listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2008 due to sea-ice declines and dwindling populations. The U.S. population is projected to go extinct by 2050 if climate change in not reined in soon; the entire species may disappear by the end of the century. The polar bears of western Hudson Bay are on the front line of global warming impacts: their population declined by 22 percent between 1987 and 2004 and may be the first driven extinct by climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity wrote the 2005 scientific petition to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. We later filed suit to ensure the listing occurred and to win 187,000 square miles of protected “critical habitat” in Alaska in December 2010. The Center is currently in court to upgrade the polar bear’s status from “threatened” to “endangered” and to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions in the lower 48 states, which are contributing to the melting of Arctic sea ice, are subject to Endangered Species Act regulation.

This video (© 2010 Daniel J. Cox/ was taken as part of The Arctic Documentary Project spearheaded by Daniel J. Cox under the umbrella of Polar Bears International. (The video may be freely embedded on others websites so long as it is credited with the hyperlink © 2010 Daniel J. Cox/

For their efforts, let us build a monument to the great leaders on the PGE Board, those paragons of virtue, so that the people of the future never forget them and what they did:

Board of Directors
PGE's Board of Directors includes executives in utilities, management, finance and accounting.

Corbin A. McNeill Jr.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Portland General Electric

John W. Ballantine
Retired executive vice president, First Chicago NBD Corp.

Rodney L. Brown Jr.
Managing Partner, Cascadia Law Group PLLC

David A. Dietzler
Retired Pacific Northwest partner-in-charge of audit practice, KPMG LLP

Kirby A. Dyess
Principal, Austin Capital Management LLC

Peggy Y. Fowler
Retired CEO and president, Portland General Electric

Mark B. Ganz
President and CEO, The Regence Group

Neil J. Nelson
President and CEO, Siltronic Corp.

M. Lee Pelton
President, Willamette University

Jim Piro
President and CEO, Portland General Electric

Robert T.F. Reid
Corporate Director

WORD: Why work doesn't happen at work

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Answers to Life's Persistent Questions Dept.

A chicken coop in a Seattle backyard.Image via WikipediaToday's answer: The Chicken.

And now a word from Barb Palermo, Chief Chicken Revolutionaria:
Chicken Classes

There's still room in this weekend's Chicken-Raising 101 Class!

If you would like to learn about choosing breeds, designing a coop, and everything about raising hens in a backyard setting, you can still enroll in this class – just let me know by Friday! There are two classes to choose from: (Sat, Dec. 18 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm) or (Sun, Dec. 19 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm). The cost is just $5 and kids are free.

We will also be hosting a Poultry Health Class on February 9 from 6:00-7:30 pm. This class will focus on chicken anatomy, common illnesses and prevention, chick vaccination, the truth about bird flu, and more! The instructor will be USDA Veterinarian, Dr. Brianna Wilson. Seating is limited so let me know soon if you are interested in signing up for this class.

Chicken Ordinance

Please read my blog about Salem's chicken ordinance and why it is indeed a victory.

The city has informed me that there's a problem with training outside vendors to conduct chicken coop inspections (estimated to cost $35), so the city will be offering this service FOR FREE temporarily, starting in January. There will still be a $50 permit fee, but at least you can save on the inspection if you are among the first to apply. If you cannot afford the fee, please let me know, as I may be able to help
with CITY funds. Financial assistance is available for situations where there is real financial need (not just because you don't believe you should have to pay).

Coop Tour

We need your coop! Please consider entering your coop in Salem's first backyard chicken coop tour. Every year Salem's chicken-loving residents travel to Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland to attend annual coop tours. This year, we would like to offer one of our own. Now that chickens are legal in Salem, stop hiding, and show it off in our first coop tour. Let's prove to everyone that we are perfectly capable of keeping nice backyard coops! Even if you haven't built your coop yet, but plan to before June, consider participating. For more information e-mail contact Shannon at

Habitat for Hens

As you know, we built a chicken coop for a family last November and it was a wonderful experience. We plan to construct another coop in May, possibly at the Oregon School for the Deaf, as part of its new Ag Education Program! If you would like to donate labor and/or building materials, please contact Kristi at

Chickens In Keizer

Several citizens in Keizer, Oregon have begun the process of trying to convince their city councilors to adopt a chicken-keeping ordinance. If you live in Keizer and are interested in helping, let me know and I will put you in touch with them.

Salem Buyer's Clubs for "Happy Meat"

If you're interested in purchasing "happy meat" from local, environmentally responsible farms where the animals are pasture-raised and well-treated, contact McK Ranch in Dallas, OR or Anton Field Farm in Corvallis, OR. Both farms sell beef, chicken, and lamb but Anton Field Farm also sells pork and honey. To join these buyer's clubs and have your meat delivered to Salem, send them an email and be sure to write "Salem Buyers Club" in the subject line. I visited the Anton Field Farm today and it is a wonderful place!

Local Resources

Don't forget to visit my website on a regular basis. I try my best to keep it updated with the most recent information, including local resources like where you can purchase ready-made coops or building plans to construct your own, urban farm stores and hatcheries in our area, and everything from local veterinarians who treat chickens to chicken babysitters! Upcoming chicken-related events are always posted
there as well, so it's a good place to find out what's coming up without having to wait for my emails.
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

LOVESalem HQ: "Underway on Solar Power"

OK, getting the last steps of the laborious installation process finished on the absolute rainiest day of the a pretty rainy season is not the world's best timing. But, on the other hand, if we can make 0.8 kWh today, imagine what we will do when there's some real sun!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2 + 2 = 4

I have a friend I've never met . . . hmmm, sounds like the invisible friend of my youth . . . anyway, he's got a blog where great stuff is shared. He doesn't post often, so the signal-to-noise ratio is stratospheric. Two great posts there lately -- the great song below and a thoughtful post on "The Electronic Plantation."

TONIGHT: Important movie -- "PAPERS" - Grand Theatre, 7 p.m.

Another gem brought to us by the good folks running the Salem Progressive Film Series. Double-click the image for a full-screen view. There are people like these poor kids all through the Valley.

UPDATE: Kurt Schrader shamed us and most of all himself in voting against the DREAM act that would provide two paths to citizenship for these poor kids. Reprehensible.

Got kids? Or visiting friends/relatives?

SalemORMissionMill2Image via WikipediaGroupon is offering very cheap tix to "Magic at the Mill," the holiday celebration at Mission Mill, part of the Willamette Heritage Center.

Gotta move quick, these things sell one day only.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The real estate meltdown gets uglier by the day.
"About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists of telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop." -- Elihu Root

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Act quickly: Help derail the ethanol gravy train of subsidies for fatcats

There is no policy in the United States with less support in science or that is based on more naked greed than the ethanol subsidies and blending mandates. Ethanol is nothing but a fancy shell-game of using coal and natural gas to create a liquid fuel while using tons and tons of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, destroying topsoil, and making our climate challenge even worse.

Tell Merkley and Wyden to stand firm against this colossal economic and environmental outrage

WORD: We need to tame the vampire squid

double click for full-screen view

Friday, December 3, 2010

Local Hero: Jeff Merkley

Oregon's Democratic Senator, Jeff Merkley, gets some well-deserved props from Kevin Drum (who mistakenly throws some undeserved love at NY's third senator, who married money and suddenly dislikes the estate tax):

The state of Oregon does a helluva job electing senators. We should all be so lucky to have the likes of Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley representing us.

Today I want to highlight Merkley and his proposal to end abuse of the filibuster. Unlike his retiring Connecticut colleague Chris Dodd, who inexplicably decided to use his farewell address this week to produce a defense of the filibuster that could only come from a DC lifer almost comically out of tune with the events of the past few years, Merkley has given the subject some real thought and recently produced some genuinely sharp thinking about it.

For starters, Merkley understands the reality of the modern Republican Party: they don't use the filibuster occasionally to obstruct legislation they feel especially strongly about, they use it "on nearly a daily basis, paralyzing the Senate." What's more, the filibuster isn't just a way of requiring 60 votes to pass legislation. Rather, "the filibuster can be thought of as the power of a single senator to object to the regular order of Senate deliberations, thereby invoking a special order that requires a supermajority and a week delay for a vote."

This is a key point to understand. The modern filibuster requires only one person to invoke it, doesn't require that person to do anything other than announce his intent, and automatically eats up a week or more of time on the Senate calendar even on legislation that's widely popular. Last year, for example, it took the Senate five weeks to approve an extension of unemployment benefits that eventually passed 98-0.

But what to do? There's some question about whether Senate rules can be changed in the middle of a session, but none about whether they can be changed at the beginning of a session. They can be. So in January, if Democrats can muster 51 votes and Vice President Biden is willing to support them by issuing friendly rulings as presiding officer, the filibuster rules can be changed. So what would it take to persuade 51 Democrats to go along?

Merkley's proposal revolves around a single principle: the Senate should always allow debate. So the filibuster should be banned entirely on motions to proceed and on amendments because both are things the promote debate and engagement. Filibusters would still be allowed on a bill's final vote, but it would take more than one senator to launch a filibuster (Merkley suggests a minimum of ten) and senators would have to actually hold the floor and talk. No longer would a single person be able to obstruct all business just by dropping a note to his party leader.

And in return? The minority party would have one of its major grievances addressed: the ability to offer amendments to legislation. Merkley proposes that unless a different agreement is reached prior to a bill coming to the floor, each side would be allowed to introduce five amendments of their own choosing. No longer could the majority leader "fill the amendment tree" or otherwise prohibit the minority party from trying to amend legislation. This fits with his broad principle that debate and engagement with legislation is a good thing. The minority party might choose to offer mischevious or blatantly political amendments, but that's their choice. They also have the choice of genuinely trying to improve legislation and getting a majority of their colleagues to pass it.

Merkley has a few other proposals as well, but this is the gist of it. It's a pretty good plan, and a pretty sensible one. It doesn't eliminate the filibuster, it just eliminates filibuster abuse. And in return, the minority party gets an expanded ability to engage in a positive way with any legislation on the floor. In January, the Democratic leadership, the rank-and-file of the party, and the White House ought to give serious thought to starting the 112th Congress with the long-overdue reforms that Merkley proposes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where the death panels really are

And a great comment below:

No, Betsy, we don't hate ourselves. We hate 'them.' The 'them' who isn't as healthy as we happen to be at this moment, and who have medical needs that we don't have right now that they can't pay for. The 'them' who have better insurance than we do. The 'them' who have less than we do, so they might run out of resources a little while before we do in a crisis in their lives, and need help. The 'them" who have a bit more than we do, and are therefore (presumably) less anxiety-ridden about their futures, as well as being able to buy 'more' stuff right now. The 'them' who have kids in school who need educating, and the 'them' who don't, so how can they possibly know what it's like to raise children today? The 'them' who can manage to have a stay-at-home parent, and the 'them' who are single parents struggling to put food on the table. The 'them' who have lost jobs and can't find work, so they deserve what they get because they're lazy, and the 'them' who had and have good jobs, and educations in fields that ensure they will continue to do so. The 'them' who lost their home to foreclosure, and the 'them' who can still buy houses, cars, and luxury items. We don't like any of 'them.'

For whatever reasons, we no longer seem to consider ourselves as communities. Not in neighborhoods, towns, states, or the nation. We no longer feel we should pay taxes for schools if we have no kids in school, or for health care for everyone, or for maintaining our crumbling infrastructure, or for apparently anything else that benefits 'us' as a whole society, and for which we or someone we love will use, need, or suffer from the lack of. Nope, don't need it right now, tough for those who do, move along folks, nothing to see here.

Ok then! Cherry City sounds great.

From the Salem Public Library newsletter, sponsored by the Friends of Salem Public Library:

Q. Salem is sometimes called the Cherry City. How did it get this nickname, and has Salem had other nicknames as well?

A. According the Salem History Database (, cherries have been grown in and around Salem ever since Henderson Lewelling introduced the trees to the area in the 1850s, and the first Cherry Fair, sponsored by the Salem Elks Lodge, took place in 1903.

Over the years, many other nicknames have been bestowed, but none have had the sticking power of The Cherry City. Joseph Nathan Kane’s Nicknames and Sobriquets of U.S. Cities, States and Counties (R 910.3 Kane) lists The City of Orderly Growth, The Charmed Land of Unequalled Beauty, and The Happy City Life as just a few of the nicknames Salem has held.
The City of Autosprawl Blight and Rapacious Developers just doesn't have that same ring . . .

Local Hero: Judge White

A true man-bites-dog story: Monsanto runs into a government official who can't be bought and sold the way the company does with politicians and USDA cronies spinning through the revolving door.

You need a Scorecard just to keep up

Water pollution from dairy operationImage by eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickrwith all the polluting going on. Scorecard lets you enter any zip code and get a glimpse at it.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happier notes: Friends of Salem Saturday Market Winter Doings

Greetings Friends,

Hope your holiday season is off to a safe and fun beginning. As we gear up for the winter, Friends of Salem Saturday Market is keeping busy. We hope you'll continue to enjoy our events, and remember that a membership in FSSM makes a great gift!


Holiday Market
FSSM will again have a booth at the Holiday Market, Dec. 11-12 at the Fairgrounds. Here’s what we’ve got planned:

1) FSSM Gift & Coat Valet Service! We will be providing valet service for both coats and gifts, completely complimentary. Shoppers can drop off their stuff while they enjoy the Market.

2) Discounted books: FSSM will be selling great sustainability books at a discount for FSSM members. New titles include "Keep Chickens!", "Naturally Clean Home," "Recipes from the Root Cellar," "Recycled Crafts" for kids, and much more!

3) Find a unique gift: A unique gift idea this year would be to purchase an FSSM membership for your friends and loved ones. We will also be offering "gift membership packs," where the membership is bundled with books and other FSSM goodies. Plus, this year we'll be providing a sheet of exclusive coupons to local retailers when you purchase an FSSM membership.

4) Volunteers needed! Could you help out with our booth? It’s fun and a great way to learn more about FSSM. If you can sign up for a 2-hour shift on Dec. 11 or 12, send an email to Thanks!

Check out for more info on the Holiday Market.


More FSSM News:

Neighborhood Harvest: It was a wonderful inaugural year for FSSM’s Neighborhood Harvest. Check out for a new blog and newsletter about the project.

Plus, here are some great numbers from our first season:

More than 53,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables were picked by 800 volunteers at 60 harvest parties. Of that, 28,000 was donated to Marion Polk Food Share. The rest was taken home by those eager and generous volunteers. Neighborhood Harvest is another great way to volunteer your time and earn some fresh, local produce! We hope you’ll join us for another great season in 2011.


Zero Waste Zone also had an incredible first season! We're excited to launch a full silverware program next year, thanks to a new grant from Marion County. We'll be looking for some college interns or other volunteers to help operate the program next season. Interested?

Check out the amazing results of our first season (from July 24 – October 31):
2,200 gallons of compost
1,280 gallons of recycling
650 gallons of garbage
More than 5,200 plastic utensils
10 bags of deposit cans/bottles

Without the Zero Waste Stations, more than 4,000 gallons of garbage would have been thrown away. Instead, only 650 gallons were. We look forward to reducing that number even more next year! We are grateful to the Salem Saturday Market food vendors who put forth such incredible effort to make this project a success! And you, the shoppers, were so eager and quick to learn this new system. Thank you!


Urban Farmer Certification

FSSM is very excited to partner with Pringle Creek Community and OSU Master Gardener Program to present this new educational course. The “Urban Farmer Certification” will allow you to learn valuable gardening skills while cultivating your own healthy, organic fruits and vegetables. With a monthly class taught primarily by OSU-Extension Service Master Gardeners and local farmers, course curriculum will include garden planning, seed starting, beneficial insects, composting, and chicken keeping, among others. Classes will include both a theoretical lesson and a hands-on component that takes place in our greenhouses and community garden.

Schedule: the last Saturday of the month, January-October 2011. Cost: $60, and FSSM members receive a 20% discount!

See for more information.

Cassandra's curse

Tributaries of the Willamette RiverImage via WikipediaI am often caused to think of Cassandra, who is popularly derided as someone who kept issuing warnings about things that others couldn't see -- a sort of "chicken little" type. The most important point, the one that is so often forgotten, is that Cassandra's curse was that she would be able to see the future calamities, but that none would believe her and, thus, none would respond in time.

Salem, Marion County, the entire Willamette Valley, and all of Oregon have a lot to lose from the climate chaos we're sowing. Try farming when the weather is unpredictable one year to the next, and when all your exquisitely bred strains are suddenly wrong for your climate.

And it appears that we've decided that we're simply going to roll the dice and see what happens. Oh well, so it goes.
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Truly bizarre

Courthouse squareImage via WikipediaThere's an unpleasant odor coming from the Marion County Commission, where the rule seems to be "settle your suits and sign away your claims first, investigate second:"
For immediate release: November 30, 2010

Contact: Peggy Mitchell, Contracts Compliance Analyst, (503) 588-5047
Jolene Kelley, Public Information Officer, (503) 566-3937

County and Transit District Officials Release RFP for Forensic Investigation on Courthouse Square

SALEM - The Marion County Board of Commissioners and Salem Area Mass Transit District Board of Directors have released a request for proposals for a forensic investigation of Courthouse Square. The building and adjacent transit center formerly housed several county departments, transit administration offices and bus mall, and retail businesses.

The building and transit mall have experienced significant structural deficiencies that required immediate closure of the bus mall in July, followed by a full building closure in September. A structural analysis is currently underway to determine the full extent of defects, as well as provide options for remediation.

The firm selected will conduct an independent forensic investigation of the integrity of the original construction process and determine what may have gone wrong during the design, planning, and construction of Courthouse Square. In addition, the county and transit district want to ensure that future public projects are managed to prevent similar situations from occurring. Board of Commissioners Chair Janet Carlson said, "As elected officials and residents of Marion County, we are all disappointed in the closure of Courthouse Square. In order to move ahead, it is important that we fully understand the circumstances that led to this unfortunate situation."

Firms with expertise in forensic investigation are invited to respond to the request for proposals. A mandatory pre-proposal walk through of the building will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, with final proposals due by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 23, 2010. Project details may be obtained by contacting Peggy Mitchell at (503) 588-5047 or For more information regarding Courthouse Square please visit
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Career Services Office is Open

The National Organic Program administers the O...Image via WikipediaI have many time repeated ["Everything!" my bride says quietly enough for all to hear loudly] that the best advice for young people today is to "Know how to grow your own food or to be useful to those who do."

Looks like I'm on to something. A scholarly LOVESalem correspondent/friend sends:

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the cover story in the Fall 2010 issues of OOQ is about "careers in organic food production."

[OOQ is "Occupational Outlook Quarterly."]
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Mother Earth News Garden Planner

A while ago I participated in a survey with Mother Earth News on garden planners and I was fantasizing about a system that would keep track not only of your climate but also your garden history so that it would warn you when you were thinking of planting things from the same families in the same places (which encourages diseases and reduces yields) . . .

Lo and behold, they must have listened, because they have come up with an awesome web-based garden planner application. I'm going to play with the free trial all through December and then join after January 1 ($25/yr). I can't wait! LOVESalem HQ really needs this.

More like this, please! Tax-foreclosed lots to urban garden space

Sauvie Island School near Riverview, Multnomah...Image via WikipediaHat tip to Portland Mercury and Sightline Institute for noticing this, a great idea that could easily be replicated in Marion County:
Gone to seed

Scattered around Multnomah County are 384 vacant lots that stick out like little scars of a lousy economy. For years, the county has been trying to figure out what to do with these lots - empty land seized through property tax foreclosure. But now the county has finally hit on a new idea to bring life to the abandoned lots: turning them into urban gardens. Portland Mercury 11/28/2010
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday shopping, done.

For locals, especially those enjoying the fabulous "Movie a Week" habit at Salem Cinema:
Cinebucks are back starting tomorrow, "Black Friday," and running to New Year's: Get $30 Cinebucks for great movies and tasty treats at Salem Cinema or High Street Cinema for only $25.
In their own words:
You can buy an entire year's worth of great movie entertainment for a lot less.

Our special annual holiday savings offer is back!

Beginning Friday and running through the end of December, you can purchase $30 worth of our CineBucks for only $25, $60 worth for only $50, $90 worth for only $75, $120 worth for only $100!

Pick some up for friends, co-workers, teachers and relatives . . . and even pocket a few for yourself! CineBucks come in $5 increments and work just like cash at our box office or concession stand.
Outstanding gifts for loved ones far away -- no shipping costs, no needless junk, always fits right.

Today also offers us a chance to be thankful for the many fine locally owned businesses that we enjoy.

I'm thankful for these places because their owners live and work here, care for our concerns, and plan to stay in the community. These are the people who, when they say, "business community," you don't feel like vomiting.

And it's not just the wonderful Salem Cinema, but it's also places like Bike Peddler and Santiam Bicycle, Cooke Stationery, Cascade Baking Company, Saffron Supply Company (so old school there's no website!), LifeSource Natural Foods, One Fair World, Clydes Lock and Key (also old school), Church Street Pizza, La Margarita Express, Willamette Noodle Company, Marco Polo . . .

(Note -- all mentions above unsolicited and unpaid.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In other news, water is wet

New York Stock ExchangeImage by Bert van Dijk via Flickr
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WORD: Chris Hedges

As Orwell noted, the hallmark of totalitarian power is the ability to call black white and have throngs of apparachiks dutifully nod and say "Yes, black is white."

So with "health care reform," a massive attempt to cement the corporate takeover of health care into place forever, especially with its absurd individual mandate, an order from the mob bosses to buy their "protection" or pay a penalty to their enforcer, the thug they hire to do their collections.

In true Orwellian fashion, Palintards and the Faux News crowd endlessly shriek about the "government takeover of health care" -- the point being to call black white and keep people from noticing that "Obamacare" is nothing more than a more expensive, more profitable, more totalitarian version of what we have now: health care rationing by wealth, with a collapsing public health system cheek-by-jowl with ultra-high-tech care for the apparachiks who please the mob bosses.

We have much to be thankful for this November, but much to be dismayed about. People like Chris Hedges are among the former. Some excerpts from his latest blast:
Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion
Monday 22 November 2010
by: Chris Hedges | Truthdig | Op-Ed

. . . Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland who volunteers for Physicians for a National Health Program, knows what it is like to challenge the corporate leviathan. She was blacklisted by the corporate media. She was locked out of the debate on health care reform by the Democratic Party and liberal organizations such as MoveOn. She was abandoned by those in Congress who had once backed calls for a rational health care policy. And when she and seven other activists demanded that the argument for universal health care be considered at the hearings held by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, they were forcibly removed from the hearing room.

"The reform process exposed how broken our system is," Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago. "The health reform debate was never an actual debate. Those in power were very reluctant to have single-payer advocates testify or come to the table. They would not seriously consider our proposal because it was based on evidence of what works. And they did not want this evidence placed before the public. They needed the reform to be based on what they thought was politically feasible and acceptable to the industries that fund their campaigns." . . .

“You can't effect change from the inside,” she has concluded. “We have a huge imbalance of power. Until we have a shift in power we won't get effective change in any area, whether financial, climate, you name it. With the wealth inequalities, with the road we are headed down, we face serious problems. Those who work and advocate for social and economic justice have to now join together. We have to be independent of political parties and the major funders. The revolution will not be funded. This is very true.”

“Those who are working for effective change are not going to get foundation dollars,” she stated. “Once a foundation or a wealthy individual agrees to give money they control how that money is used. You have to report to them how you spend that money. They control what you can and cannot do. Robert Wood Johnson [the foundation], for example, funds many public health departments. They fund groups that advocate for health care reform, but those groups are not allowed to pursue or talk about single-payer. Robert Wood Johnson only supports work that is done to create what they call public/private partnership. And we know this is totally ineffective. We tried this before. It is allowing private insurers to exist but developing programs to fill the gaps. Robert Wood Johnson actually works against a single-payer health care system. The Health Care for America Now coalition was another example. It only supported what the Democrats supported.

There are a lot of activist groups controlled by the Democratic Party, including Families USA and MoveOn. MoveOn is a very good example. If you look at polls of Democrats on single-payer, about 80 percent support it. But at MoveOn meetings, which is made up mostly of Democrats, when people raised the idea of working for single-payer they were told by MoveOn leaders that the organization was not doing that. And this took place while the Democrats were busy selling out women's rights, immigrant rights to health care and abandoning the public option. Yet all these groups continued to work for the bill. They argued, in the end, that the health care bill had to be supported because it was not really about health care. It was about the viability of President Obama and the Democratic Party. This is why, in the end, we had to pass it.”

“The Democrats and the Republicans give the illusion that there are differences between them,” said Dr. Flowers. “This keeps the public divided. It weakens opposition. We fight over whether a Democrat will get elected or a Republican will get elected. We vote for the lesser evil, but meanwhile the policies the two parties enact are not significantly different. There were no Democrats willing to hold the line on single-payer. Not one. I don't see this changing until we radically shift the balance of power by creating a larger and broader social movement.”

The corporate control of every aspect of American life is mirrored in the corporate control of health care. And there are no barriers to prevent corporate domination of every sector of our lives.

“We are at a crisis,” Flowers said. “Health care providers, particularly those in primary care, are finding it very difficult to sustain an independent practice. We are seeing greater and greater corporatization of our health care. Practices are being taken over by these large corporations. You have absolutely no voice when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. They tell you what your reimbursements will be. They make it incredibly difficult and complex to get reimbursed. The rules are arbitrary and change frequently.”

“This new legislation [passed earlier this year] does not change any of that,” she said. “It does not make it easier for doctors. It adds more administrative complexity. We are going to continue to have a shortage of doctors. As the new law rolls out they are giving waivers as the provisions kick in because corporations like McDonald's say they can't comply. Insurance companies such as WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna and Humana that were mandated to sell new policies to children with pre-existing conditions announced they were not going to do it. They said they were going to stop selling new policies to children. So they got waivers from the Obama administration allowing them to charge higher premiums. Health care costs are going to rise faster.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that after the legislation passed, our health care costs would rise more steeply than if we had done nothing. The Census Bureau reports that the number of uninsured in the U.S. jumped 10 percent to 51 million people in 2009. About 5.8 million were able to go on public programs, but a third of our population under the age of 65 was uninsured for some portion of 2009. The National Health Insurance Survey estimates that we now have 58 or 59 million uninsured. And the trend is toward underinsurance. These faulty insurance products leave people financially vulnerable if they have a serious accident or illness. They also have financial barriers to care. Co-pays and deductibles cause people to delay or avoid getting the care they need. And all these trends will worsen.” . . .

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Even when the buildings don't actually fall down, LEED is questionable

Turns out that, like so many other things in America since R. Reagan told Americans that the only thing they needed was a sunny optimism, LEED is a lot more about marketing than engineering.

As the proud owners of a $34 million "LEED-Certified" disaster, people in Salem and Marion County should probably be open to the message that it's time to rethink our certifications. Unless builders and architects are willing to offer performance guarantees for how the building will work in practice, any money spent on certifications might just as well be spent on building a corral for the Magic Unicorn that they promised you too.

(I think of this video every day when I see the "LEED" plaque on Courthouse Square -- no doubt the LEED salesmen are insisting that it's a chance in a million for gravity to pull down a building.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

As we contemplate our diminished circumstances

Professor Butts and the Self-Operating NapkinThis makes more sense than ethanol does. Image via WikipediaWe should never forget that Oregon and the US Government continue to shovel billions of dollars into a Rube-Goldberg scam called ethanol -- which is, at bottom, nothing but a way to launder fossil fuels into a so-called "renewable" fuel.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Littering: It's OK if you bully City Hall enough

The Gannett chain, owners of the Salem Statesman-Journal, are really throwing their weight around and doing their best to intimidate Salem's City Council by threatening legal action against the city if it takes any action against the weekly dumping of tons of unwanted waste paper and plastic bags on Salem's streets -- with costs of cleanup all billed to us, with all profits from the unwanted junk going to Gannett.

The photo shows just one of countless examples of Gannett's narcissistic, socially destructive behavior -- that's 15th St. NE, not too far from the Statesman-Journal presses. Four, count 'em four dumped advertising junk bags left foul the streets and block proper drainage.

The legal issues are interesting, because it shows bullying at its finest. Gannett has no legal leg to stand on if Salem passes a content-neutral ordinance that requires anyone who distributes unrequested commercial materials to collect any remaining outside a day or two after they are first dumped. That would simply be an ordinance for the public health and safety, what the legal types call an exercise of the city's police powers.

But after learning that Gannett has been threatening to throw its weight around over the issue, I realized that we can even do it better with an even more untouchable ordinance that Gannett would like even less: Require anyone distributing unrequested commercial flyers or other dropoff materials to register the dropoff with the city, provide a toll-free collection number, and to post a bond to ensure proper collection of unwanted copies -- say, a nickel for each copy to be distributed. There'd be no opportunity for censorship or government meddling: the city could not stop or hinder the dropoff. The only thing the registration would do is establish the dates where the dropoff was going to occur and the number of copies (to set the bond amount). Then, after each dropoff, anyone who didn't want the junk would call the toll-free number provided by the distributor, give their address, and the distributor would have to collect the material within 24 hours.

Any copies that remain on the street 48 hours after distribution are charged against the distributor's deposit at the rate of 50 cents each. City Neighborhood Enhancement Services staff collect the dumped-and-forgotten copies and keep the 50 cents to improve Neighborhood Services throughout the city.

Or, I suppose, Gannett could stop dumping garbage on Salem streets and making us pay for cleaning it up.

WORD: America just going through the motions on reforms

DIY Fake Ice CubesFake ice is just as real as our commitment to dealing with reality. Image by Kyle May via FlickrSad but true.
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Spotted: An extremely sane Republican . . . lost in a primary of course . . .

Amazing - a Republican from South Carolina no less.

Local Heroes: Salem's coolest new nonprofit's cool new newsletter

Local Harvest, which is about a year old right about now, having just gotten started last year, is still in the lead for Salem's coolest nonprofit for 2010. Now they've gone and got a newsletter even (pdf), so you can see some of what you missed if you didn't sign up to help out.
Thanks so much for your support of Neighborhood Harvest. Almost 800 community volunteers picked more than 50,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables this season, with half donated to the Marion-Polk Food Share. We wanted to send a link to our first newsletter, and invite you to join us again next year.

Best wishes!

Steering Committee Members
Neighborhood Harvest of Salem
And don't forget to thank these local heroes for supporting Local Harvest:
Thanks to our supporters!
$1,000 or above
Shannon Blake
Renato and Maria Labate
Lake Labish Farms
The Marble Center
Molly Pearmine McCargar
Norman and Kay McDonald of McDonald Family Farms
Karen and Steve Weiss
Dick Yates and Nadene LeCheminant
Mike and Lisa Zwart
Nathan and Alicia Bay
John Savage
Matthew and Kimberly Boles
Lisa Clark-Burnell and Kelly Burnell
Jeffrey Egan, in memory of Diana Egan
Roz Shirack
NEIGHBORHOOD HARVEST OF SALEM was established in January 2010. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is a project of Friends of Salem Saturday Market and supports Marion-Polk Food Share through donations of produce. Our mission is to build community, alleviate hunger, preserve our heritage and promote simple, sustainable lifestyles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Best Short YouTube of the Year, 2010 Winner

Double-click for full-screen version.

On the folly of hoping for A while rewarding B

Mayor Janet Taylor pens on op-ed piece calling for high-speed rail in the Willamette Valley. While she is also pushing to blow hundreds of millions on a new auto bridge to speed commuters up and down I-5 and blowing millions on an airport that will probably never have scheduled air service again.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Do not miss "INSIDE JOB" at Salem Cinema

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...Image via WikipediaWall Street, all Republicans and the vast majority of elected Democrats, caught in their permanent cringe, all hope that you will NOT go to Salem Cinema at Broadway & Market to see "INSIDE JOB." Reason enough for you to go.

But there's also that the movie does a good job explaining why Salem is hurting so badly now -- thanks to the bipartisan alliance of thugs who waltz between Wall St. and "regulatory" jobs in Washington, people throughout the mid-Valley are being laid off, laid bare, laid out, and laid six feet under, all for the greater glory and profit of those thugs -- not a single one of whom Obama has even spoken harshly to, much less jailed.

Do not miss it.

UPDATE: The movie does a great job unmasking the thugs, the same crowd that Krugman, the Nobelist who should also win a Pulitzer, skewers here.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A kind word for Obama: At least he's not insane

WWI amputee at Walter ReedImage by yksin via FlickrBarry O. has been a terrible disappointment, a man who never went into a negotiation without first giving his opponent all his bargaining chips.

UPDATE: Alas, it is true that he has a spine of overcooked pasta. He doesn't even know how to turn aggressive overreaching by his opponents to his advantage. Pitiful.
But then you read something like this and you realize how lucky we are that John McCain and Sarah Palin aren't in charge.

An Unknown Soldier

. . . Several U.S. senators had gathered at the Halifax International Security Forum, an annual gathering that is the brainchild of Peter MacKay, Canada's defense minister. One of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, immediately put President Obama on notice.

Resurgent Republicans would be looking for him to "be tough with Iran beyond sanctions." If it came to war, the United States should "sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime."

Sure, Graham conceded, "you can expect, for a period of time, all hell to break loose." Another war is the "last thing America wants." But a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable and containment "off the table."

This is dangerous talk from an influential Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee. The United States, in its current depleted state, cannot afford another war in a Muslim country. It cannot find itself fighting across a 2,000-mile front stretching through Arab, Persian and Central Asian worlds. You could forget about the tenuous progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Iran can flick switches. From Lebanon to Gaza, on Israel's borders, tensions would boil.

But Graham's words were instructive. The pressure on Obama from Congress is going to grow. David Broder of the Washington Post even suggested recently that a war in Iran might spur the U.S. economy, just as World War II did.

The United States does not need the stimulus package from hell. This is a moment of great American uncertainty, a volatile passage. Sunni Pakistan has nukes and Al Qaeda. Shiite Iran has neither. It would be tragic to ignore the lessons of Iraq, stumble onto a war train armed with flimsy evidence, and imagine Iran is close to a bomb when there's no conclusive evidence it's made the decision to build one. Remember, the mullahs love ambiguity. It's their element, along with maddening inertia. To risk "breakout" is to risk the Islamic Republic. Hence the waiting-for-Godot aspects of their nuclear zigzag.

When I heard those words — "neuter that regime" — what I saw was a shattered body in Tampa. A third U.S war is inconceivable.

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