Tuesday, March 29, 2011

US policy makes biofools of us all

UPDATE: No surprise, Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack wins it going away.

As food prices rise in America and around the world, Secretary Vilsack does not seem to think it matters that almost 40 percent of U.S. corn production goes to manufacture ethanol for guzzling cars.1 U.S. and EU biofuels policies contribute to food price volatility. By supporting these policies, Secretary Vilsack is helping industrial farmers make a few extra bucks per bushel.

Secretary Vilsack says his support for ethanol subsidies is justified by his concern that farmers are under-appreciated.3 However, ethanol subsidies go to refiners, not farmers, and less than 20 percent of America’s ethanol is produced in farmer-owned refineries.3 The other 80 percent is produced by conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Big Oil companies. Secretary Vilsack could advocate for changes to our agricultural policies that help small, sustainable family farms grow healthy and nutritious food, but instead he supports Band-Aid policies that ultimately serve the interests of corporations.

Tell Secretary Vilsack just how much the industrial biofuels manufacturers appreciate his support… and just how much his shilling hurts our climate and the push for truly clean energy.

And we won’t even get into the fact that biofuels do nothing to reduce America’s dependence on oil. Converting all American corn acreage to ethanol production would only produce enough fuel to displace 12 percent of gasoline consumption -- and by even less if production costs are included.4 We may never know why Secretary Vilsack loves the ethanol industry so much, but we do know that he is a Biofool!

1. Kripke, Gawain. Defiant ethanol support weakens US case on food. Financial Times. 3/25/2011. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2c7637d0-566d-11e0-84e9-00144feab49a.html#axzz1ICiDB9YL

2. Klein, Ezra. Vilsack: “I took it as a slam on rural America.” 3/8/2011. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/03/vilsack_i_took_it_as_a_slam_on.html

3. “ACE Commends Farmer-Owned Ethanol Plants for Contributions to U.S. Ethanol Industry.” 3/18/2010. http://www.ethanol.org/pdf/contentmgmt/ACE_commends_farmer_plants_Natl_Ag_Week_31810.pdf

4. Meyer, Patrick E. Biofuel Review Part 3: Land Availablity, Conversion and Deforestation. 1/2010. http://www.todaysengineer.org/2010/Jan/Biofuels-pt3.asp

Finally! A dawning recognition that the biofuels subsidy system is simply driving up hunger in America and around the world, while making climate destabilization worse.

The only thing we do by making hungry people compete with gas tanks for the energy content is to prop up the liquid-fueled vehicle paradigm a tiny bit longer, at an extraordinary cost.
Dear Friend,
Biofool of the year
Who wil be the 2011 Biofool of the Year? Cast your vote now!

It’s almost that time of year again: Biofools Day!

For the last two years, we have asked you to vote for the biggest Biofool to be announced on Biofools Day, April 1. A Biofool is a person who has bought the biofuel industry’s corny story, ignoring the growing evidence that biofuels are not-so-awesome after all.

Last year, thousands of you selected Representative Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) as 2010 Biofool of the Year. Rep. Peterson won for holding the Waxman-Markey climate bill hostage until he could get a provision inserted to repeal a law that directed the EPA to account for all greenhouse gas emissions related to the production of biofuels. In the contest's inaugural year, activists voted for Chairman Hugh Grant of Monsanto. He won because by supporting the biofuel boon, Monsanto stood to rake in billions from its genetically engineered products.

This year, we're calling out five major biofuel proponents, including government representatives and industry spokespeople, as this year's top Biofools.

Take a look and see who made the grade. Then vote to select this year’s biggest Biofool.

Contrary to what the industry says, the production of industrial biofuels releases significant amounts of carbon and greenhouse gases into the air. The majority of biofuel used in the United States today is corn ethanol, which produces more global warming pollution than gasoline. Like other industrial agricultural products, biofuel production is harmful to the land, water, and wildlife. To make matters worse, biofuel subsidies and handouts hinder food security and cost taxpayers billions.

Who will be this year's biofool? Vote now and have your say.

Despite huge environmental, social and economic concerns, biofuels still enjoy the fierce backing of industries -- like agribusiness, biotech, and oil -- that make billions by selling the myth that biofuels are clean, efficient, and reduce American dependence on foreign oil. Somehow, these powerful corporations are able hoodwink influential people to support their dirty industry – and these Biofools then use their different soap boxes to promote policies that in turn support dirty biofuels.

By voting today, you are sending the message that you are not fooled by the industry's propaganda.

Once the votes are in, we'll send you the results and announce this year’s winning Biofool to the public on April 1, Biofools Day.

But we won't stop there. We'll continue to put pressure on the biggest Biofools and we'll need your help to do this. We want you to be part of our work to end subsidies for Biofools -- ahem, biofuels --and ensure these subsidies expire like they should have done last year.

Click here to see the nominees and vote. Then get your friends to vote too.

Kate McMahon
Biofuels Campaign Coordinator, Friends of the Earth

Note: Our neighbor blog to the south, "Goal One Coalition," has a great post on this subject.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If "we're broke," then here's why

We're not so broke that we can't spend billions per week on three separate wars, so we're not really broke -- but we certainly have let corporations avoid taxes on massive profits:
You Pay More in Federal Taxes than G.E.

A New York Times article published today explains how General Electric has obtained a negative corporate income tax rate on its U.S. profits. Its public filings show that it had $26 billion in U.S. profits over the last five years. Instead of paying federal corporate income taxes, G.E. actually received a net benefit of $4.1 billion from the IRS over that period.

The article quotes CTJ's director, Bob McIntyre:

“'Cracking down on offshore profit-shifting by financial companies like G.E. was one of the important achievements of President Reagan’s 1986 Tax Reform Act,' said Robert S. McIntyre, director of the liberal group Citizens for Tax Justice, who played a key role in those changes. 'The fact that Congress was snookered into undermining that reform at the behest of companies like G.E. is an insult not just to Reagan, but to all the ordinary American taxpayers who have to foot the bill for G.E.’s rampant tax sheltering.'”

Here are some other highlights:

- President Obama has "designated G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, as his liaison to the business community and as the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and it is expected to discuss corporate taxes."

- G.E.'s tax department includes nearly 1,000 people who are instructed to "divide their time evenly between ensuring compliance with the law and 'looking to exploit opportunities to reduce tax.'”

- G.E.'s tax avoidance played a starring role in convincing Reagan to adopt tax reform in the 1980s. “'I didn’t realize things had gotten that far out of line,' Mr. Reagan told the Treasury secretary, Donald T. Regan, according to Mr. Regan’s 1988 memoir. The president supported a change that closed loopholes and required G.E. to pay a far higher effective rate, up to 32.5 percent."

- "That pendulum began to swing back in the late 1990s" when Congress enacted a tax break for "active financing."

- G.E.'s tax department's director, a former Treasury official, literally "dropped to his knee" when begging Ways and Means Committee staff, then under the leadership of Congressman Charles Rangel, to extend the tax break for "active financing."

- Rangel reversed his opposition to extending the "active financing" tax break that day, after G.E.'s lobbying and after Congressman Crowley of Queens argued that it would help banks in his district.

- Provisions of President George W. Bush's huge corporate tax cut bill in 2004 were "so tailored to G.E. and a handful of other companies — that staff members on the House Ways and Means Committee publicly complained..."

- "Since 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the United States while increasing overseas employment. In that time, G.E.’s accumulated offshore profits have risen to $92 billion from $15 billion."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Should Oregon do on taxes? An answer

President's Advisory Panel for Federal Tax ReformHere's my vote:

The most important thing to remember about taxes and tax policy is the one that is completely ignored in the US and especially Oregon: all tax policy decisions are social engineering, and that discussions that focus solely on the tax revenues and rates are like discussions about sex that focus solely on gametes and DNA mixing . . . a tiny bit of the truth on the topic, but an overwhelming blindness to the some crucial aspects of the subject!

Why is it important to keep the rule that all tax policy decisions are social engineering in mind? Because tax policy debates that ignore this turn into what passes for debates on taxation today: sterile and mindless rows that simply recycle talking points and themes that have been endlessly focused grouped to persuade without informing and to bias the listener towards the preferred outcome for the interest behind the focus group.

Once we recall that all tax policy is social engineering, it naturally invites the question “Ok, so what should we be trying to achieve with our social engineering as we raise money?” A few suggestions:

One, for any given amount of revenue to be raised, the best tax is the one that works in concert to reinforce our other social policies, rather than against them. So, for example, “sin taxes” score high on this criteria, because they discourage things like smoking and drinking, which impose huge costs throughout society. By taxing tobacco and alcohol, we both reinforce the discouragement and get more benefit from our anti-smoking and anti-alcohol abuse dollars.

The short summary of this rule is simple: “Tax bads, not goods.” In other words, as much as possible, we need to be taxing the things we want less of (pollution, activities that harm health, economically wasteful activities), not the things we want more of.

For best results, shift taxes from the desirable things (wages, earnings, productive investments, savings) and put those taxes onto things where we’re already having to pay a lot to counteract their negative effects (not just vices such as alcohol and tobacco but also inefficient processes that produce a lot of waste or consume a lot of nonrenewing resources).

Another useful point to keep in mind: the debate about how much alone is silly because there is no absolute right amount of taxes. In the US, we had great post-war prosperity with 95% top-end tax rates, and today we’re suffering economic collapse with rates about a third of that. Millions today complain that they are taxed too much, while people around the world pay far more than we do, on smaller incomes. So it’s clear that there is no perfect taxation reference level.

Because there is no perfect taxation level, the debate has to include three other critical factors: how much does a tax cost to compute and collect (an efficiency measure), how much does the tax discourage the underlying activity (whether it’s an unhealthy vice like smoking or a socially beneficial one like family-wage jobs), and how just is the tax (social acceptance).

To get the greatest efficiency, we need to tax things that are easily and objectively measured with no need for expert appraisal and no opportunity for concealment. One of the greatest failings of income taxes is that, in the end, a person or corporation’s net income is not so easy to compute, and is subject to myriad adjustments that create huge opportunities for game playing, otherwise known as tax planning and accounting.

Not only is all this planning and accounting an economic burden to society by itself – it’s nothing but fighting over how the pie is sliced, not how to make the pie bigger or tastier – but it creates a distorting force field over our politics. Millions of brilliant minds spend all their working hours figuring out how to minimize the apparent net income (and, thus, taxes) for A, which shoves the taxes onto millions of others, which provides a lot of incentives for both A and all the others to spend a lot of money influencing politicians to see it their way. That’s pretty much what our national level politics has become for the last thirty years: a flock of raucous crows fighting over which one gets more from the spoils.

Another factor to consider is how much a tax actually discourages the underlying activity. The best metaphor for this is the thoroughbred racehorse. A racehorse can easily carry a 120 pound jockey on her back at blazing speed around the track – but tie a 40 pound weight to her foreleg and she will barely move at all. It’s just the same with taxes: some taxes have almost no discouraging effect, while others will cripple an activity. Couple this with the earlier idea – that we ought to always be thinking carefully about the social outcomes our taxes encourage and discourage – and it becomes clear that, to the greatest extent possible, we should want to apply taxes to socially beneficial activities as lightly as possible or, at the least, as smartly as possible so as to discourage the underlying activity the least. (And, of course, conversely, we should want to get maximum discouragement per unit of tax when we’re taxing things like polluting activities or conversion of farmland to subdivisions).

Thus, the current mania in Oregon to cut the capital gains tax rate is revealed to be absurd. The whole argument for cutting capital gains taxes is that we have a high one compared to other states. Well, unless we force all states to have uniform tax systems and rates, some state or other will always have the highest rate of taxation from this method or that one. If being the highest capital gains tax state is bad, then isn’t it equally atrocious that we don’t have a sales tax? The fact is that capital gains taxes sit, like a good jockey, right where they are most easily borne, and they discourage nothing except letting the wealthy few who control the overwhelming majority of capital gains assets have an even greater share of our collective economic pie.

Finally, we need to renew our focus on the justness of a tax. These days, we hear a lot of full-throated claims that taxes need to be lowered on people with high incomes and fortunes because, otherwise, we “punish success.” It’s really a lightweight argument because it’s obvious, given the increasingly concentrated and skewed distribution of our national wealth into fewer and fewer hands, that none of the well-off are being punished enough to be discouraged from being well-off. The talk-radio nonsense about “going Galt” and withdrawing from society are simply a sign of how debased and empty our civic conversation has become. Yes, the wealthy pay more taxes than everyone else. But the bottom line is that the well-to-do capture also capture most of the benefit that the taxes provide. Their outsized control over our political process gives them an equally outsized share of the benefits, causing government to lavish spending in some areas and starve others.

A good example of a more just tax is called a “Tobin tax” after the Nobel prizewinner who proposed it. Tobin noted that a tiny tax, say a quarter of a percent, on stock trades would raise a huge amount of revenue while doing essentially nothing to discourage any economically valuable activity. Even more important, it would exert a slight, persistent pressure to discourage excessive trading that occurs only to take advantage of momentary price differences on different markets (arbitrage). Tobin dreamed up his tax well before the days of high-speed computers wired directly into the stock exchanges (in preferential positions, no less, so that the biggest firms get to trade a few milliseconds before the rest of us) causing billions of shares to change virtual hands in minutes. This entirely nonproductive activity helped cause our economic conflagration and can exist only because we have a stable civil society in which the laws of contract and property are respected. Thus, Tobin taxes are not just highly efficient and easily borne, they are also just.

It’s hard to know if its too late to change the quality of debate, to consider more than just “how much” when discussing taxes. I fear we have become so stupefied by fifty years of television pablum and talk-radio blather that we are incapable of accepting that the tax policy that works best for us personally might not be the best one for our society. What is clear is that unless we start getting a lot smarter about tax policy, we are going the way of all other empires through history, where the leadership quit working for the benefit of the whole and concentrated instead on pleasing the faction that backed them. That sounds disturbingly like our politics today.

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A quiet gem of a bill: making grassroots car-sharing possible

The best bill you've never heard of so far this session: HB 3159.

Get your two cents in now: What should Oregon do on taxes?

Maybe futile and just an invite to gasbag trolls, but you gotta try: pitch in your thoughts, what should Oregon do about taxes?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Defeating citizen involvement by overwhelming it

One of the things about the "smoke-filled back rooms" where things used to be decided: at least it was honest. If you weren't invited, it was because the local sachems and campaign donors didn't care what you thought and, so, in that more honest age, didn't ask you what you thought.

Government is very different today, at least in that the smoking is gone. Oh, and no politician or staffer would ever admit that the sachems, mainly corporate funded, are still back there, still calling the shots from the word Go. Thus, we've gone from a zero public involvement world to one in which, in theory, the public has every opportunity to participate. The way it's done now is that all local governments -- schools, sewer districts, cities and counties, transit districts, highway planning departments, and innumerable intergovernmental "task forces" (Courthouse Square, anyone?) spin off from themselves a plethora of groups soliciting your input, usually after carefully constraining the options you are allowed to consider so that, no matter what, you can be recorded as having "participated," which lets them check the box that says that they offered an "open and inclusive public process."

One of the tricks of the trade is for all the local governments and special districts to unleash their various task forces, committees and what not in complete and perfect isolation from each other, so that citizens are faced with an overwhelming demand for their time during some periods, and nothing to review at others.

Consider the stormwater, for example. Stormwater management is important. What's the principal problem with stormwater? Roads and parking lots -- "impervious surfaces," in other words. These are a major source of pollutants and cause a huge share of our problems with rain. What's interesting is that the stormwater management plan is being reviewed and updated AFTER the $100M road bond that was greased through a few years back, just as the Transit District's funding was imploding. So we get this request for input from the Transit District too (below).

SKT Memorandum

March 11, 2011

To: Community Transit Task Force (CTTF)

From: Kate Tarter, Co-Chair, CTTF

Dan Clem, Co-chair, CTTF

Subject: Request for Information

At our meeting on March 7th the group agreed to reach out to our respective constituents who we represent on the CTTF to gather information on potential new transit service. Specifically, what benefits or service do people need to see in order to support a potential ballot measure for new service?

We are requesting that you seek out information (as is identified on page 2) and send it back to Linda Galeazzi at galeazzil@cherriots.org no later than April 20th. Linda will compile the information in order for us to review it at our May 2nd meeting.

The purpose of gathering this information is to get a snapshot of the existing climate for additional transit service. The Board of Directors will use the information to determine if the District should pursue a local-option tax levy for new transit service, at what level of service, and when it should put it on the election ballot.

Please contact Allan Pollock at (503) 588-2424 or pollocka@cherriots.org if you have any questions on this request.


The CTTF agreed that the likely new transit service should include Saturday service, additional evening service, and additional frequency on existing routes where ridership warrants. They also felt that a potential local-option tax levy should not exceed 54 cents and be centered around not exceeding more than $100 per year on an average assessed value of a home within the Salem-Keizer Urban Growth Boundary.

Potential messages of a campaign may include:

  • Funding service for seniors and disabled
  • Someone you know rides (needs) a Cherriots bus
  • A focus on economic benefits – jobs
  • A focus on environmental benefits – reduced congestion, reduced carbon footprint

Information Requested:

  1. What benefits would you/your organization need to see in order to support a local-option tax levy?

  1. What messages are important to you or your organization?

  1. Would you/your organization be willing to support a local option tax levy at around 54 cents if it included Saturday service, additional evening service, and additional frequency on certain existing routes? If not, what level would you support a levy?

  1. Rank in order of importance (1-3):

_____ Saturday service

_____ Additional evening service

_____ Additional frequency on existing service

  1. Additional information important in your decision making process?


Now, I'm not criticizing the Transit District for seeking input on a bond, but I can say that this is just setting them up to be slaughtered again. The municipalities that were all-too-happy to shove the responsibility for transit onto a politically weak agency would much rather pour more pavement and entertain half-billion-dollar third-bridge fantasies than they would think about how low-income families and workers are supposed to get around in Salem . . . "What, the peasants cannot afford cars, insurance, and gasoline? Let them drive electric cars then!" say the Marie Antoinettes in Salem and Marion County's upper echelons (as they busily excite themselves with supercool wowie electric charging stations to give even more comfort to the very comfortable).

Meanwhile, S-K Schools, the second-largest district in Oregon, sees its budget rapidly proving unequal to the many tasks before it.

So, as we're pouring millions into encouraging more driving, and spending millions more on the Highway Department's dream of spending hundreds of millions more on a new boondoggle bridge, voters are seeing their jobs and hours cut. Funny, I don't think Salem, with a quarter of home sales being foreclosures, is going to be voting to pass many bonds anytime soon. But, no doubt, each special taxing district is going to continue to act in perfect isolation, each one trying to sell its bond as this or that many coffees per week and without any reference to the many other economic stressors that people face.

Ultimately, perhaps the many "public involvement" campaigns operating in simultaneously but in total isolation from one another, and with no regard for even the most politically active voters' limited ability to process so many issues at the same time, is actually a pretty good reflection of how distant people in power have become from the masses whom they supposedly toil to serve.

I have long had a pleasant daydream fantasy of how this could all be improved. I picture being given the power to make one simple change: everyone in any arm of local governments with the title of councilor, commissioner, manager, director, or administrator would no longer get their pay or per diem via direct deposit. Instead, a computer program would randomly assign the duty of informing those people about where their checks were to a different agency each week, and the public involvement staff for the assigned agency would have to spread the word using only the same methods that are routinely used within that agency to inform the general public about public comment requests and calls for participation and involvement opportunities. For example, consider how much better proposed land-use changes would be publicized if all the folks heading up various agencies had to rely on little signs posted in the rain next to weedy fields to know where their checks would be that week!

Monday night: Important civic topic

Jefferson-Mon-001Image via WikipediaMarch 28, 2011

Holey Wall: New Challenges to Church-State Separation

Rob Boston
Senior Policy Analyst Americans United
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Hatfield Room in the Hatfield Library, Willamette University
Free and Open to the public

For more information contact Reyna Meyers at rmeyers@willamette.edu or 503-370-6046.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

They walk (and, worse, drive) among us: sleep-starved teens

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...Image via WikipediaAmerica has a huge problem with sleep -- as in not enough of it.

We've got a weird puritanical bias against people who get enough sleep, calling them lazy. Worse, we begin bringing kids into the sleep-deprived cult just as soon as possible, ignoring the mounting evidence that all we're doing is wasting everyone's time.

One of the biggest indictments about the quality of public education today is that the schools seem impervious to any research that suggests that changes to the status quo are required. Read this book and be astounded and depressed at how carefully calculated the standard public school model seems to be in ignoring and breaking every single one of these Brain Rules.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zero tolerance for "Zero Tolerance" policies

Chinese Punishment, Whipping A Lawbreaker [c19...Image by ralphrepo via FlickrAny person of authority who announces and insists on a "zero tolerance" policy -- a policy that treats all infractions as having the same severity and deserving of the same punishment -- should either resign or have their pay reduced to minimum wage (on the theory that minimum wage is all that anyone who engages is mindless, unthinking work is worth).

The barrage of nightmare stories about the horrific effects of ZT increases daily, as more and more so-called adults attempt to maintain the power that comes with authority while doing everything possible to evade the responsibility for exercising that authority judiciously.

Here's a policy to try instead: if you can't stand the heat that comes with treating people as individuals, get the hell out of the kitchen.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" —G.W. Bush, Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...Image via WikipediaGood thing too, because, alas, the answer is "No, not much." The single most-serious sign pointing to a massive failure in public education is the dismal state of public understanding concerning climate destabilization:
A nationwide global warming quiz last fall from Yale University concluded that many Americans are failures when it comes to climate science. More than half of those who took the quiz got an F. Little wonder there's confusion: uncertainties remain about climate change even among scientists; there have been misleading arguments; and global warming has become hotly debated and politicized. . . .

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Monday, March 21, 2011

What Salem needs most

A large pot hole on Second Avenue in the East ...Image via WikipediaCitizen re-engagement. Stat! The toys for making it easy aren't essential, but they do take government's excuses away.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

To-Do: Stand up FOR real people and AGAINST Corporate Personhood


Representative Phil Barnhart, along with Reps. Jeff Barker and Michael Dembrow, has submitted House Joint Memorial 9 which calls for the Oregon Legislature to:
"...respectfully urge the Congress of the United States to pass and send to the several states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people." (full document is attached)

Please contact members of the Rules Committee (where it has been stuck since February 21st) and urge them to pass HJM9 through the Rules Committee.

If you are contacting a Democratic State Representative, you can let them know that HJM9 is supported by two Legislative Action Items adopted at the 2010 Democratic Party of Oregon Platform Convention. These can be found in the attached document (LAI 4-3 on page 9 and LAI 4-1 on page 11).

House Rules Committee

Dave Hunt (Dem), Co-Chair
Andy Olson (Rep), Co-Chair
Vicki Berger (Rep), Co-Vice Chair
Paul Holvey (Dem), Co-Vice Chair
Phil Barnhart (Dem)
Tim Freeman (Rep)
Chris Garrett (Dem)
Matt Wingard Rep)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More on Minto (of Minto-Brown fame)

John Minto (Oregon pioneer)Image via WikipediaEnrich and Beautify the Earth

From the book titled John Minto: Man of Courage 1822-1915:
John returned jubilant from the 1849 gold strike with enough 'yellow dirt' to make it possible to buy the finest in rare fruits and flowers to plant on his acreage. When a Methodist minister came upon him three years later as he was loosening the graft bands of a crabapple tree on which he had worked six varieties of popular apples and he was singing at his work, the minister remarked: "You seem happy, Brother John." Yes, Brother Roberts," he answered. "Just now I would not swap with Adam before his fall," the preacher made no reply.

"Perhaps he thought me irreverent," John remarked later, "but I had no such thought, and that had been the experience of my life when working to enrich and beautify the earth."
John Minto lived to 93 and he was a poet who wrote the following to fill a need for songs for the Salem Grange:

Come to the grange with me, Love
Come to the farm with me
Where the birds are singing and the flowers are springing
And life is happy and free.

To thee, Ceres her bounties shall bring, love
Promona and Flore shall give
Of their fruits and their flowers, to crown the hours
Of the life on the farm thou shalt live.

While the bread-grain is in the field, Love
And the fuel is cut from the grove,
Neither cold nor want shall thy night dreams haunt;
Only plenty and comfort and love.

We'll build our home by the hill, Love,
Whence the spring to the brooket flows;
On the gentle slope where the lambklins play
In the scent of the sweet wild rose.

In the labors, joys and cares of the grange, Love
In the shelter and shade of the grove,
Life's duties we'll meet in companionship sweet,
And there rest from our labours in love.
John Minto was an innovator in agriculture with some firsts in grafting fruit trees and sheep ranching, and served prominently in the Oregon Legislature.
Speaking of the Grange, don't forget tonight's dance to benefit the Grange!

Great new find: Cog-itate

A new blog I hadn't seen before -- excellent. With this VERY sad and sobering message.

Note that you are NO SAFER if you are driving while using a hands-free cellphone than with a handheld. IT'S NOT YOUR HANDS THAT ARE THE PROBLEM, it's your divided attention. Cellphone conversations are nearly as bad as texting, because the person you are talking to demands your attention without being able to see what you're seeing (road conditions etc.)

Here's the message for a lifetime: HANG UP AND DRIVE. Period.

Another look at getting around

From the wonderful folks at Straub Environmental Learning Center:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 6:30-8:00pm
Sustainability Workshop

Transportation: The Alternatives!

We’re kicking off this year’s workshop series with a lesson on alternative transportation. With the price of gas continually climbing, the need for other, more sustainable modes of transportation is becoming exceedingly important.

This workshop will highlight some available modes of transportation in Salem: biking, busing, walking and carpooling. Representatives from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), the City of Salem and Cherriots will be present to give some helpful tips on sustainable commuting. The Sustainability Workshop series is open to the public.

Classes are free, but registration is required due to limited space. RSVP to Alexandra at 503-391-4145 or email fselc@fselc.org.

All workshops will be held at Straub Environmental Learning Center, 6:30-8:00 pm, unless otherwise noted. For a schedule of the entire series, click here.

Late but in earnest! Help rid Minto-Brown of invasive Scotch Broom

Sorry for the late posting, but here's a great effort worthy of support.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A must-read as we head into School Board Election Season

One of the most important and little-mentioned facts in all of education: Most educational outcomes have nothing to do with the schools and are determined long before schooling starts.

For those who like Fantasy & Sciency-Sounding Fiction

Greater Salem-Keizer
Local Government Forum

March 15, 2011, 6:30 - 8:30pm
North Salem High School Auditorium
765 14th St NE • No RSVP necessary

The forum will allow local government entities to share their economic forecast with each other and discuss what measures seem likely to be taken as a response.

Featured speakers include:

  • City Manager Linda Norris, City of Salem;
  • City Manager Chris Eppley, City of Keizer;
  • Steve Dickey, Director of Transportation Development for Cherriots;
  • Marion County Administrator John Lattimer;
  • Chemeketa Community College President Cheryl Roberts; and
  • Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Sandy Husk

Moderator: Bill Church, Executive Editor of the Statesman Journal will eld written questions from the audience.

Event coordinated by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce
Questions? Contact Jason Brand
t 503-581-1466 ext. 304

Ok, so this is interesting. Not at all obvious why local governments need to appear under the aegis of the Chamber of Commerce or, given their huge PR budgets, have an employee of the corporate press ready to "field" (filter) questions from the taxpayers when the subject is economic forecasts, but it's a good step that they're doing it, to a point.

One of the more interesting questions is why the local transportation poobahs are not included, since the biggest deal in town is the proposal to blow $400-$650 million on a totally unnecessary, monstrously large, third auto-bridge over the Willamette, despite a persistent DECLINE in driving across the Northwest and the upcoming second round of recession caused by our unwise (suicidal, actually) dependence on fossil fuels. The SKATS (Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study) folks are the only ones with forecasts that matter, since their resolutely autistic forecasting model is built from the start to justify continual expansion and never-ending sprawl. The price of oil (and, thus, gas) doesn't even appear in the SKATS travel demand model, so the fact that we're getting hammered by $100+ per barrel oil right now means nothing -- just like a severe autistic person, once the model decides it wants a new bridge, no amount of reasoning with it can change its view.

The other interesting omissions from the forecasting party: Marion-Polk Food Share, the people with the best and most-current picture of the real economic situation in the area. Another one: Someone from the real-estate industry specializing in foreclosures (25% of Oregon home sales last year, and scheduled to spike even higher).

And if you want to have some big fun, come and ask this: Before telling us any more new economic projections, please review all your agency's past economic projections from, oh, 2004 onward. Tell us the date you made the projection and what it included, so that we may evaluate your past performance in this area as we hear your new projections.

The reason we must undo "Citizens United" [sic] v. FEC

double-click to watch full -sized

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Place to Be on March 11: Confluence Chorus at First Cong. Church

March 11, 7:30 p.m.
1st half music about food; second half PDQ Bach's "The Seasonings (S. ½ TSP.)"

Tickets just $15

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CALENDAR: Salem Progressive Film Series, "The Nature of Cities"

The Nature of Cities
Thursday, March 10, 2011
7 p.m.

The Nature of Cities is about the projects and people in cities across the world who believe that, even if we become more urbanized, we must reclaim an essential piece of our humanness-our connection to the world around us. The goal of this documentary is to raise the consciousness about and understanding of this movement as we explore the need of moving not only to sustainability but to a regenerative way of living.

The Nature of Cities explores both the nature in our own backyards and the possibilities in cities of the future.


Chris Jones, Professor and Program Manager, Sustainable Cities Initiative, University of Oregon

James Santana, Director of Sustainable Living, Pringle Creek Community

Courtney Knox, Project Manager, Urban Development Department, City of Salem