Sunday, June 26, 2011

A great Sunday experience: Thompson's Mills State Heritage Site

Thompson's Flouring MillsImage by Koocheekoo via FlickrI'm kinda partial to entertainments that you can walk or bike to from within Salem, but there are times I'll make an exception, such as the always amazing Oregon Garden. And this one. Here's what I wrote to a friend after our visit last Sunday to "Thompson's Mills," in what was (briefly) Boston, Oregon.
Went to above named state park yesterday just south of Tangent, Oregon (near the booming metropolis of Shedd, formerly Shedd's Station, named after the station built after the railroad bypassed Boston, causing most of the town to be moved about a mile west to straddle the tracks, leaving nothing but the Mills behind, necessarily unable to move while dependent on water power).

Fascinating tour of the world made by hand. Mill established in 1858, run to produce human food (flour from local wheat) until about 1940 or so (unclear date) then they shifted to making animal feed mixtures and pellets (which uses steam, I forgot to ask what they made steam with). They were processing soy at the end, when in 1986, they converted to making just electricity (100 kW) for 20 years under contract to Pacificorps. The state bought it in 2004 and has made it a park.

They employed 12 men at peak. They first electrified in 1906, when the owner put a generator on the mill so he could run power to his house. The land originally was bought for $50 and the water rights for $75, and those rights essentially made them kings of the valley and enemy of the neighbors during summer months of no rain. It had to have been a hellish place to work in some respects, pleasant at other times. I imagine they were all deaf as posts after a few years.

The millstones were from France, the machines from Chicago and Saginaw and such places. You get the idea that we will soon be looking at those machines the way the south sea natives looked at airplanes, wondering how they worked and what magic we could call on to get them to work again.

With some money, the mill could be rebuilt to work, but the state is selling the water rights to ensure more water for salmon in the Calapooia River, which I didn't even know salmon could reach, since it ties into the Willamette above Oregon City, and I didn't think salmon got above the falls there.

Anyway, next time you come down, you should come down to Salem and we can go see it. It's worth a trip.
Doubtless there is no amount of money you could pay to get the Amtrak Cascades to stop in Shedd -- too bad, it would make a great day trip if you could buy an Amtrak ticket, go up and down the valley and walk from Shedd to Thompson's Mills with your lunch.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday is chore day -- need a tool? Why not borrow one?

Tool Library Hours (Takoma Park, MD)Image by takomabibelot via FlickrSalem Public Library has taken the first step in this direction, offering the "Kill-a-Watt" home energy consumption devices for loan. Now it's time to ramp up the offerings.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Finite World -- another must-read post

EmptyImage by -Mandie- via Flickr"Gail the Actuary" writes some of the smartest, easiest-to-read, plain-English explanations of why we're in for a world of hurt in her blog, "Our Finite World," which is mainly about our collective failure to recognize that finite nature. Another must-read is here.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A momentary ray of sunshine or an aberration?

10% EthanolImage by sroemerm via FlickrFinally, some great news. We're going to stop subsidizing the insane process of turning 40% of America's corn crop into 3% of our motor fuel supply (while making the climate much worse off).

Not that we're going to stop doing the insanity, but at least we won't be both hanging ourselves AND paying a juicy subsidy to those selling us the rope.

Comment from Friends of the Earth, one of the few major enviro groups to beam onto the disaster that is ethanol early:
We scored a victory this afternoon! Senators voted by a margin of 73-27 to end a major giveaway for dirty corn ethanol.

This vote is major progress in our fight to end subsidies for environmentally harmful industries -- progress that the pundits, as well as the powerful biofuels and agribusiness lobbies, would have called impossible just two years ago. But Friends of the Earth has been working with a diverse coalition of environmental groups, fiscal conservatives, agricultural interests, food producers and anti-hunger advocates to amass congressional support for ending ethanol giveaways -- and today we won bipartisan support from every corner of the country except the Corn Belt.

You -- Friends of the Earth members and activists -- own a big piece of this victory. Over the past two years, nearly 30,000 Friends of the Earth activists have taken action to educate policymakers about the environmental costs of corn ethanol and to call on Congress to end these subsidies.

Today, our voices were heard -- and senators sent a decisive message that the days of the biofuels industry living high off the taxpayers' hog have come to a close.

There is still more work to do -- the House still needs to vote to end the ethanol giveaway -- but today, join me in celebrating this win for the public and the environment.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Join with "Move to Amend" to plan July 4 Teach-In on Corporate Personhood

US Capitol For Sale (Washington, DC)Image by takomabibelot via FlickrSalem's chapter of Move to Amend is meeting at Clockworks Cafe & Cultural Center tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 22) at 5:30 p.m. to help plan events for July 4, with the intent of helping educate people about the dire need to reclaim our democracy from the machines (corporations) that have taken over the exercise of most political power and who are marginalizing real people at a breathtaking speed.
In preparation for the meeting Wednesday at 5:30 at the Clockworks, I am sending along this link:

Its from the Move To Amend website - ideas for 4th of July action(s). I don't have the agenda ready just yet, but it will be dominated by discussion and perhaps break-out sessions to brainstorm about ways to educate the public about the current state of our 'democracy' on the anniversary of our nation's founding. The link above is filled with ideas.

See you Wednesday!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Another giveaway to oppose, quick!

Yikes! Hundreds of teachers and librarians laid off in Salem, many more across the state. Meanwhile, the Lege is seriously considering pumping money into a for-profit School-o'-Matic dealie that would profit one particular legislator greatly?!
URGENT ACTION: Stop Matt Wingard’s Bill From Coming Back From The Dead

Today, after much public outcry, legislators stood up for Oregon students and narrowly voted down Rep. Matt Wingard’s pet bill--House Bill 2301, which would divert tax dollars away from our public schools to for-profit virtual school vendors. The bill would have been a boon to Wingard and Connections Academy, the for-profit online charter school corporation that pays him.

Wingard’s self-dealing on this bill drew strong criticism from many Oregonians, who were angry that this bill was negotiated behind closed doors, all for the financial benefit of one legislator. This opposition kept the bill from passing today.

But now, some legislators are feeling pressure to change their votes. The Oregon House is likely to bring back the bill for another vote, as early as tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

Click here to take action and tell legislators to vote no--AGAIN.

In a legislative session when critical bills can’t even get one vote in the House (BPA Ban, Tuition Equity, Foreclosure Protection), we’re seriously going to give Wingard a second vote on his self-dealing bill that would do real harm to our public schools that are already suffering? A second chance to line his own pockets with taxpayer dollars?

We’ve asked a lot of you in the past few weeks, and it’s made a big difference. With this important bill on the line, we need you to join us once again in telling our legislators to stand up for Oregon students and say NO to Matt Wingard’s self-serving bill—again.

Go here or call 1-800-332-2313 to be connected by phone.

A Summer Solstice Warning: for every person with a child or grandchild who will inherit our planet

Commentary: Slam on the brakes!

Reading all these price predictions by peaksters, I'm reminded of the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard who said, "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."

We know that the media (government / business / religious leaders) are giving very little attention to Peak Oil, but I would like us to consider what we, the Peak Oil community, are not talking about:

We're not talking about slamming the brakes on fossil fuels.

Even as our contribution to creating Peak Oil awareness begins to see a little light (at least in some circles), I am concerned that we will be so worried about saving our own bacon or appearing to be rational that we will fail to take posterity into account. If we are to save just a little oil for our children, we need to just plain stop using oil (gas, coal).

"Conservation" doesn't capture the urgency of our existential moment in history. In fact, conservation is like a salve to assuage the conscience of well-meaning people who are stuck in “business as usual.” We can be conned into thinking that we are doing our part by swapping out incandescent light bulbs.

Why can't we just use less oil? If you are drowning, drowning slower isn't going to save your life.

If you are in the know (Peak Oil), it's not about telling others to slow down. We have to abandon the artifacts of the oil-based economy and retool.

It requires a fundamental shift. It's about transforming society from oil to ingenuity. We must slam on the brakes and turn about-face.

Nuclear power swirled down into the ocean in March and humanity's perceived energy options narrowed sharply. We are back to where our great-grandparents were their whole lives: figuring out from-one-day-to-the-next how to live within a solar budget. They did it (or we wouldn't be here having this conversation). We can do it too.

But we have to shift gears.

We are sliding down the back side of the peak, and just like with most mountains, the dark side is steeper than the sunny side. Will it be a soft or hard landing? Well... it depends:

If we have already used up too much of our natural resources, it will be a hard landing. (Time will tell.)

If we "conserve," I don't see how we can avoid a hard landing. Going slower sliding off the cliff is still sliding off the cliff.

We are aiming at the tail feathers of the goose that passed by here already a while ago. We need a word somewhere between conservation (voluntary) and deprivation (involuntary, Mother Nature's decision) - something to make it obvious that we aren't stuck promoting the same old baggage. The ship is going down. I repeat: we must jettison the artifacts of oil. If we hang onto them, they will sink us for good. (Some of Cortez' men loaded their pockets with gold as they were escaping the Aztecs. When a causeway collapsed, many of them sank like stones and drowned.)

What legacy are we leaving for our children? What robust assets will they have at their disposal to climb back out of the hole we put them into? Why are we postponing this radical change? By waiting even one day, we are willy nilly leaving the solution up to our children. But what advantage are we giving them by drilling for more oil, mining more coal, fracking more gas? We are handing them a polluted world, a mountain of debt, hobbled with depleted resource deposits, and blindfolding them - all the while talking seriously about the price of oil for the next year.

We aren't calling enough attention to carbon-based boondoggles ("shovel-ready" projects). Anyone who designs a system or artifact (highway, bridge, tunnel, airport, automobile, bus) that depends on imported oil is a traitor. After all, eight presidents in a row have proclaimed that imported oil is a threat to national security. Promoting a construction project to convey vehicles operating on mostly imported oil is now an act of treason.

I hear the question, "What percentage of our energy demand can be replaced by renewables?" There are two unchallenged assumptions that frame this question and illuminate our fossil-fuel mindset.

1. One good answer is none. "Replacement" suggests doing things the same way. We can't "replace" oil with sunshine any more than we were able to "replace" horses with high-speed 4-legged robots shaped like horses. We jettisoned horses and made devices with engines and wheels. Now we must jettison devices with engines and wheels that are 1% efficient, that weigh 2 tonnes to move 100 kg.

For example, what about biodiesel? Consider this thought exercise. Define inefficient = stupid. A car engine is 13% efficient (per RMI); the average car weighs about 4000 lbs (per DOE, DOT) and carries an average of less than 200 lbs; that's 5% efficient. So 13% (engine) * 5% (mass) = 0.65% < 1% efficient = stupid.

Now how do we get biodiesel? Photosynthesis can convert 3-6% of sunshine into soybean plants. Then we take the oily portion of the plant (you can't make oil out of the stems) so even assuming that it takes zero energy to harvest and process that plant material into oil, your net efficiency is <<1% = stupid. (Using 100 gal/acre/year, I estimated that 0.05% of the sun's energy is converted to soy biodiesel. I've heard of yields as high as 600 gal/acre/year for "next-generation" biofuels. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and we're at 0.3% efficient, still <<1%. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Now put that <<1% efficient biodiesel (stupid) into a car that is <1% efficient (stupid) and you get << 0.01% efficient. The result? Compound stupid."

2. Another answer is 100%. Built into the question (remember the question, "percentage of energy ... replaced by renewables") is the curious assumption that we have a choice. We don't.

Most of humanity lived within a solar budget until World War II.

As near as I can tell, we have no option but to return to 100% renewables, whatever that may look like. (I'm all ears if you think you have found something else.) With the incredible amount of knowledge and skills we have gained during the fossil fuel era, we are much more capable than our grandparents to take on the task. If we are to avoid becoming a dead branch on the evolutionary tree, we will switch to renewables now so we can leave something for our children to work with.

It's not "practical." We will face skepticism and ridicule. But those who embrace renewables now will be the sellers in the post-oil economy, and there will be plenty of buyers who postponed the inevitable shift.

Slam on the brakes! Save the oil!


Ron Swenson, ASPO-USA Board of Directors (Note: Commentaries do not necessarily represent the position of ASPO-USA.)

Editorial Note: Ron Swenson's call to reconsider the tenor of our debate in its entirety is the full version of his excerpt originally found here in the third edition of “ASPO-USA Asks: What are we missing?" from early June 2011. The first two parts of that series are available here and here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Watch for the Sausage Being Made in the Rush for the Exits

Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Wo...Image via WikipediaA real Oregon heroine, Jody Wiser, founder of Tax Fairness Oregon, sends this warning about an insanely stupid measure being jammed through at the last minute:
Another Bad Idea Gets Passed – Please Help to Stop It
Thursday was a deeply disappointing day in Salem.

The last two months have been good. I’ve watched as the Joint Tax Credit Committee, whose work this session has been so arduous, cut excessive tax code spending in place after place. They’ve done difficult and excellent work.

But as their final act of the year, they turned around and passed out of committee SB 817, creating the ironically titled “Oregon Low Income Jobs Initiative,” a bill that will actually give $78 million to an out-of-state money management firm and others like it, because they in turn agree to loan no more than $66 million to businesses in Oregon. Think what the Oregon State Bank might have done with that lost $78 million.

The travesty in this ill-considered bill is that if the state itself loaned the whole $78 million out, it could not only be more selective about what businesses it supported, it would get back the $78 million plus interest, and be able to loan that money out again and again. But with SB 817, Advantage Capital and a few other financial management companies will get the $78 million, loan out $66 million for six years or more, and after that, the whole $78 million plus all interest earnings are theirs.

The businesses that will receive the loans set up by SB 817 need not be anything special, need not hire any new employees, need not serve needy Oregonians. They do need to place themselves in lower income areas in Oregon--but the legal definition in the bill includes every acre of several counties and much of downtown Portland, Medford, Eugene, Beaverton and many other communities.

The Oregon New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) piggybacks on the unsuccessful Federal NMTC. According to a GAO report last year based on NMTC’s own data, it’s impossible to know whether its projects would have taken place even without the tax credit. Under the guise of helping needy communities, the Federal NMTC has funded projects like Portland’s Gerding and Schnitzer theaters and the Nines Hotel atop Macy’s.

In the hearing Thursday only one legislator, Rep. Phil Barnhart, asked a single substantive question that showed careful reading of the bill. He rightfully identified the full cost of the bill as $78 million. Reps Bailey and Brewer insisted he was wrong, that it was only $16 million. But Barnhart was right. When they later learned that the cost of the bill was nearly five times more than they thought, Bailey, Brewer, and every other committee member except Barnhart voted for the bill. It now moves to the Senate and House with a “do pass” recommendation.

There is still time to stop this travesty on the Senate and House floors. It may be taken up as soon as Monday. Please contact your State Legislators today and tell him or her that Oregon doesn’t need a tax giveaway that has already been discredited at the Federal level. Instead, let’s use our limited tax revenue for essential services.

Do it, just act:

If you need more guidance on what to ask, consider these points:

Questions for SB 817-1 proponents of the New Market Tax Credits:

· Why would you vote for legislation that passes out tax credits on a first come first serve basis? Don’t you believe the Oregon Business Development Department should choose amongst applicants, funding only those that will provide the best benefits to the low income communities? (Original bill, page 4 lines 33)

· Why would you pass out tax credits for $78 million but say that only 85% of it must be invested in Oregon? (Original bill, page one, line 29) What happens to the nearly $12 million that doesn’t need to be invested in Oregon?

· On page five, lines 28-32 there is another 15% that doesn’t need to be invested in an Oregon qualified low-income community investment. Is that an additional $12 million or the same $12 million as on page one? Can this money be taken as advisor fees for the money management businesses called “Community Development Entities”? The bill has no limits on fees.

· Ten states have had or currently have state side NMTC programs as in SB 817. If this mechanism is expected to bring more Federal NMTC dollars to Oregon, why has it not worked for 9 of the 10 states which have to date received fewer federal NMTC dollars per capita than Oregon receives without a state side program?

· Wouldn’t investing in a state bank be better?

· Without further amendment, it appears that as much as $4.8 million of each year’s $16 million doesn’t need to be invested in an Oregon qualified low-income community business, and that Oregon has no say in which businesses get up to $4 million each.

We note that the Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) is not advocating for SB 817. This could be because:

1) Oregon already has other loan programs wherein the interest and principal return to the state rather than being lost to “Community Development Entities” (CDEs)

2) Where the costs for managing the programs are far below those collected by CDEs; and

3) Where the OBDD is able to target the loans.

If the Legislature wants state investments targeted to actual job creation in low income communities (as differentiated from moving jobs from one building to another as is typical with NMTC projects) then they should write that legislation.
Enhanced by Zemanta

For the Record: Oregon per-student spending LAGS the nation

SchoolImage by Paradox 56 via FlickrThere's a bizarre current of debate in Oregon where the know-nothings allege that Oregon spends a bundle on schools, with lots of it going to "illegals" (the preferred term among the anti-public-schools crowd for the children of non-citizens, whether their parents are here with proper documents for entry or not).

For the record then, here's a link to a very important piece worth filing away for the next time you're trapped with some gasbag who tells you that we would be fine if we just "got back to basics" and stopped providing so much lavish education, especially to the "illegals." An unusually good article in the local paper, by Betsy Hammond:
Oregon School Spending Trails National Average

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has firmly established itself as a state that spends 7 percent less per student in public schools than the nation as a whole, according to federal data released last week.
Nationally, U.S. public schools spent $10,500 per student in 2008-09, the most recent year for which statistics have been nailed down for every school district. In Oregon, schools spent $9,800.

Oregon's pattern of spending 93 cents for every $1 spent nationally has become entrenched since 2002-03, when the Legislature slashed school funding as the economy tanked, prompting Hillsboro to lop 17 days off the school year. . . .

What is clear, Tapogna said, is that all trends suggest Oregon schools will continue to have to cut offerings, raise class sizes or shorten the school year in coming years.
"It is going to be, fiscally, a very challenging decade," he said.

Corrections and health care costs are growing faster than the economy, crowding out public schools and particularly higher education from their normal share of state spending, he said. The cost of employee benefits, particularly for the state pension system, is expected to surge in coming years, he said. . . .

A huge infusion of federal stimulus dollars blunted the impact on schools during the past few years, he said, but that money is gone. For next year, "the numbers are going to look really bad. We're not just talking about not climbing very much, we are talking about dropping. ... This will be the worst year that your school districts will have, even though the recession ended a while back."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What I said, only not as well

Great Depression: man dressed in worn coat lyi...Image via WikipediaSam Smith nails it again on the link between the economy and education. Hint: It's the opposite of what nearly every pundit says.
The Obama con of the week

Barack Obama has joined with the National Association of Manufacturers in a program to provide a half million community college students with training for manufacturing jobs. Said Obama, "If you're a company that's hiring, you'll know that anyone who has this degree has the skills you're looking for. If you're a student considering community college, you'll know that your diploma will give you a leg up in the job market." Obama also cited improving education quality as key to new jobs.

The problem with this is that – both historically and at present – such an argument is misleading.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gives this assessment of manufacturing jobs:”Overall employment in this sector will decline by 9 percent as productivity gains, automation, and international competition adversely affect employment in most manufacturing industries. Employment in household appliance manufacturing is expected to decline by 24 percent over the decade. Similarly, employment in machinery manufacturing, apparel manufacturing, and computer and electronic product manufacturing will decline as well. However, employment in a few manufacturing industries will increase. For example, employment in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing is expected to grow by 6 percent by 2018; however, this increase is expected to add only 17,600 new jobs.”

Further, since the recovery began, businesses have only spent two percent more for employees while 26% more for equipment and software to help to replace them.

The truth is that education doesn’t improve jobs; education improves if the jobs are there. The long term problem with urban public education has been the lack of jobs for its students. Everyone in the system – students, parents, teachers – understand this and reacts accordingly.

Sam Smith, The Great American Political Repair Manual, 1997:

Educational systems rise and fall in response to the economy they serve. A dramatic example occurred at the beginning of World War II. During the Depression years there was an assumption that many of the jobless were either too dumb or too lazy to find employment. After Pearl Harbor, however, such assumptions collapsed. America needed everyone and in schools, factories, and the military the allegedly uneducable suddenly were able to learn.

Today there is an assumption that many of the urban jobless are either too dumb or too lazy to find employment. But unlike during World War II, this assumption is not being tested because we simply don't need everyone any more. Instead we have let the social triage of race and class takes its course.

To be sure, there are plenty of over-bureaucratized, unimaginative, and just plain incompetent city school systems, but reforming them would be infinitely easier if students, administrators, teachers and parents knew there was going to be an economic pay-off at the end. When fifty percent of a city's welfare recipients have a high school diploma, there is a strong hint that something is very wrong other than the educational system.

Further, the word gets around. Politicians and the media may have abstract fantasies about the value of education; kids tend to be a bit more realistic.

So the most important first step towards a better urban school system is a better urban economy.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Problem in a Nutshell

Gates's threats below are like the raging meth addict telling the clean and sober crowd that, if they don't get with the program and start doing a lot of meth soon, they're going to die of boredom or something.

Boy, talk about "American Exceptionalism," as in "refusal to recognize the reality that every great society in history that became musclebound and impoverished itself to support military empire crashed not long after." A smarter nation would look at the graph above and think "hmmmmm, maybe the many know something that the one doesn't."
Gates threatens America's allies
Jason Ditz, Anti War - Speaking in his final policy speech, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates blasted NATO, predicting a “dim if not dismal” future if the other member nations didn’t become dramatically more hawkish and commit more money and troops to its assorted conflicts.

The comments come after a public lashing earlier this week by Gates for a number of specific member nations, including Poland and Germany, for their lack of involvement in the illegal war against Libya. He also demanded that Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands start launching strikes on ground targets in the nation.

Gates warned if the other nations didn’t follow America’s lead in contributing more weapons, money and personnel to the alliance’s assorted wars, which by and large are simply America’s assorted wars, they risked “irrelevance.” For many of the nations, this irrelevance will seem not just the preferable choice, but the only choice.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Earth Overshoot Day: A day we all need to start marking carefully

Earth - IllustrationImage by DonkeyHotey via FlickrProbably the most important day of all each year to note.

(Warning: Resources available to support life on planet shown are far more limited than they appear. Do not operate while drunk or under the influence of intoxicants that encourage ignorance of these limits, like economics.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Splitsville: Another cost of commuting

United States Commute Patterns for Major CitiesImage via WikipediaSalem suffers more from auto commuting than any place I've lived in a life filled with new addresses. There are two principal problems from the practice for Salem:

1) The people who live in Salem and work elsewhere drop out of participation in our community almost entirely. They don't serve on boards and committees or any of the other things we need from adults -- they wave off any suggestion of that by pointing to their grinding commutes up and down I-5.

2) Similarly, the many people --- like a certain Governor --- who take a Salem job but consider themselves too refined or hip to live here wind up sucking up resources and contributing nothing to our community. Basically, the only thing inbound commuters want from Salem is free parking. They don't shop here, join here, recreate here or do anything but take money out of the community and impose the costs of their auto-dominated view of the world, where the only thing that matters is how quickly they can get in and out with their gelt.

They also impose higher costs on the state as a whole, because children of divorce are unhealthier and cause a lot more problems:
Indicators: Costs of Commuting
Slate - This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce.

A survey conducted last year for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, for instance, found that 40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work "experienced worry for much of the previous day." That number falls to 28 percent for those with "negligible" commutes of 10 minutes or less. Workers with very long commutes feel less rested and experience less "enjoyment," as well.

Long commutes also make us feel lonely. Robert Putnam, the famed Harvard political scientist and author of Bowling Alone, names long commuting times as one of the most robust predictors of social isolation. He posits that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer "social connections." Those social connections tend to make us feel happy and fulfilled. . . .

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One of Salem's gems: A message from One Fair World (474 Court St.)

Another unsolicited plug for one of Salem's unique treasures:

The sun has arrived, and our garden pots and other outdoor items will help you make the most of it. We have kites, mats, windchimes, and more. Come visit us to find that perfect addition to your summer.

Pottery from Cameroon

Through our friends at Ten Thousand Villages we can offer this charming pot from Cameroon, with a pair of friendly, terra cotta chameleons pearched on its lip. These pots are made at the PRESCRAFT pottery center in Bamessing-Nsei, which provides a sustainable living for more than 70 artisans, while running a reforestation project with local farmers. You can learn more about this project at the PRESCRAFT and Ten Thousand Villages websites.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another great idea from Sam Smith

US Capitol Sold (Washington, DC)Image by takomabibelot via FlickrSmith, author of "The Great American Political Repair Manual" and other gems, provides this:
Now that a federal judge has ruled that corporations can make campaign contributions directly, how about a national organization for those who will refuse to vote for any candidate who accepts such contributions? - Sam
We should get on it!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coming soon to Oregon

Like Michigan, Oregon is bankrupting itself with "tuff on crime" sentencing policies that take discretion away from judges and give it all to prosecutors, who seek to shinny up the greasy pole by collecting as many scalps as possible, all the better to run for higher office with.

This is where this kind of thing leads -- a state gutting schools to pay for more prisons:
School superintendent asks governor to make school a prison

Dear Governor Snyder,

In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created.

One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan Bootz, Superintendent, Ithaca Public Schools

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The evil of the "Health Insurance" mafiosi

There are no words to fully capture the evil of the health insurance gangsters who have worked tirelessly to line their pockets at the expense of the rest of us, producing things like this: forcing people to hold bake sales and benefits to help pay for the medical costs of accident victims.

Two things to note:

1) Cars are deadly weapons. Inattention, fatigue, zoning out, cell phone conversations (hands free or not) -- all these things can make you a murderer or a person guilty of disfiguring and maiming someone else.

2) The suits in the insurance industry, every last one, should tremble at the thought that there might be a just God in Heaven. For, if so, they will all fry in Hell for eternity for conspiring feverishly to preserve our "free market" health care financing system, where the only "free market" is for those with the cash to pay their bills.

As on the Columbia, so too here in Salem on the Willamette

The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996 film)Image via WikipediaThe Highway Lobby just never met a huge boondoggle it didn't love. Everything described above in that story to the tune of around $4 billion (liar's budget before overruns start) is proposed for Salem's new third auto bridge too, liar's budget about $600 million.

They're sure hoping you won't mind paying tolls even as gas prices are peaking over $4 and will never drop again for any sustained period (unless the economy collapses even further due to high gas prices) -- and they also hope you won't notice that people are driving less, not more. And that fewer and fewer young people bother with cars in the first place.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why we must amend the Constitution to abolish Judicially Invented Corporate Personhood

Abolish Corporate PersonhoodImage by vj_pdx via FlickrThe Right in this country loves to whine about "judicial activism" whenever there's a decision that they don't like -- forgetting entirely that, in the whole history of the United States, nothing compares to the judicial activism of a former railroad president who was serving as chief clerk for the US Supreme Court and who, with the issue never briefed or argued, inserted a "headnote" (a shorthand synopsis of a point of law) into a case where the point of law in question --- whether corporations had the rights guaranteed to persons under the 14th Amendment --- was never even discussed, much less decided.

This cataclysmic and radically destabilizing notion wildly metastasized throughout the 20th Century, to the point where now, the US high court is best described as the "Supreme Court, Inc." -- happily willing to see even fully innocent people executed, but ever solicitous for the needs of corporations.

This is why we need a pro-human movement all over America, to amend the Constitution to reject the bizarre concept that a corporation . . . a fictitious legal being that consists, essentially, of nothing but a pile of money . . . has the rights of real persons.

Sam Smith nails it:
Judge puts another nail in constitutional coffin

Alternet - Reagan-appointed federal Judge James Cacheris just ruled that corporations have a constitutional right to contribute money directly to political candidates.

Today’s decision extends beyond the egregious Citizen United decision because Citizens United only permits corporations to run their own ads supporting a candidate or otherwise act independently of a candidate’s campaign. Cacheris’ opinion would also allow the Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries, for instance, to contribute directly to political campaigns.

If today’s decision is upheld on appeal, it could be the end of any meaningful restrictions on campaign finance ­ including limits on the amount of money wealthy individuals and corporations can give to a candidate. In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office. Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation. Thus, under Cacheris’ decision, a cap on overall contributions becomes meaningless, because corporate donors can simply create a series of shell corporations for the purpose of evading such caps.

Although the corporate media will deny this, assuming the Supreme Court backs this decision, it will be absolutely accurate to describe America now as a semi-fascist state.

Sam Smith, 1990 - The S&L solution has the hidden goal of moving America towards increasing financial oligopoly. The government is prepared to guide, assist, regulate and tax to accomplish this goal. This sort of economic policy has been seen before in fully developed form and it has a name: fascism, described by Mussolini biographer Adrian Lyttelton as "the product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly." As Italian fascist economic theorist Alfredo Rocco put it, such an economy "is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the state."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A must-read on "higher ed"

Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, USAImage via WikipediaWord is beginning to get out about the higher ed bubble ... first there's this great piece by a community college prof who laments the absurd idea that we need to give everyone a college degree to do the kind of jobs that make up most real work.

Then there's the welcome and long-overdue news that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is actually proposing to cut off the fuel to the five-alarm blaze of destruction by allowing student loan debts to be discharged in bankruptcy. In my practice, I don't go a week and often not a day without a call from students or even from people who should be doing everything possible to save for a soon-to-arrive retirement but who are being eaten alive by student loan debt, debt that they can never, ever earn enough to repay, because that's what the Ed bubble means, just like the real estate bubble before it -- you bought high and can only sell low, if at all
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meet Marion-Polk Food Share's New Community Garden Coordinator

Strathcona Heights Community Garden.Image via Wikipedia
Hi folks.

It’s my pleasure to introduce Ingrid Evjen-Elias, the new Gardens Resource Coordinator with the Marion-Polk Food Share Community Gardens Program. Ingrid comes to us with a depth of gardening and horticultural knowledge, as well as experience with community organizing and coordination. Aside from working with Food Share, she runs the Heartwheel Farm CSA in Sublimity, Oregon.


To reach Ingrid:

See below for an intro from Ingrid herself.
Greetings Fellow Gardeners!

My name is Ingrid Evjen-Elias and this is my first week here at the Marion-Polk Food Share. I’ll be joining Ian this summer as Garden Resources Coordinator, and I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself.

My principle job is to assist YOU, the community gardeners who make it all happen, in your endeavors. (Ian will continue to be available of course, but part of my role is to free him up to work on more big-picture aspects of our program such as food systems development and demonstration sites). Much of what I do will involve getting you the supplies, volunteers, starts and seeds you need for your garden. I also am available to help with garden consultation and troubleshooting. So if you need something, please email or give me a call! Together we just may come up with a solution…

Please know that I consider it an enormous privilege to be able to join you and MPFS in the local food-growing revolution here in Marion-Polk counties. This week I had a chance to tour quite a few of the community gardens blossoming in the Salem area, and WOW! Your dedication to cultivating these lovely oases of sustainability and food production is awe-inspiring.

Please feel free to contact me at 503-798-0457. In general I’m available to assist you Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do,” says the poet Rumi. “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Thank you so very much for your efforts to grow wholesome, life-infused food. I look forward to meeting you, and to a season of working and playing in the gardens!

Blessings and solidarity,

Ian Dixon-McDonald
Community Gardens Director
Marion-Polk Food Share

T: 503-581-3855 x329
C: 503-798-0339
F: 503-581-3862
1660 Salem Industrial Drive NE
Salem OR 97301-0374
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tell Council to Stop Junk Littervertising! Weak proposed ban that would only make it harder to stop Junk Littervertising

The Salem City Council is being seriously misled on the effort to stop junk littervertising, the means by which local businesses grab private advertising profits but shove higher costs onto city taxpayers by making us pay to pick up and dispose of their littervertising.

The city staff has refused to recommend that the city create an opt-out directory that would let you put your address on a "Don't Littervertise Here" list (or, even better, an opt-in list where they would only be allowed to littervertise to people who specifically request it). Rather, the lame-o ordinance currently being discussed would actually have the effect of legalizing the littervertising if it was placed on your front porch or tied to the doorknob.

In other words, what started as a reasonable effort to let residents stop a nuisance has been twisted into an overly bureaucratic and costly proposal (complete with complaint form that puts the burden on the littering victims instead of the junk littervertisers).

But there's still time to get your comments in:
April 25, 2011 City Council minutes read:

Ordinance Bill No. 15-11 Relating to Solid Waste; Creating New Provisions; Amending SRC 47.245 (Unsolicited Written Materials) (CD)

Persons Testifying: Support: Cherie Bennett, Ward 1 Leslie Polson, Ward 1 Richard Pine, 1630 Summer Street SE
Oppose: Neutral:

Organizations: Support: Alan Scott, Chair, NEN
Oppose: Rich Ottensmeyer, Controller of Operations, Statesman Journal Don Robinson, Delivery Manager, Statesman Journal

Evidence Received From: Support: Alan Scott, Chair, NEN Leslie Polson, Ward 1 Oppose: Neutral:

Questions or Comments by: Mayor Peterson, Councilors Clem, Dickey, Thomas, Cannon, Tesler, and Guest Councilor Nanke.

Motion: Move to close the hearing and keep the written record open for 90 days. Motion by: Councilor Bennett Seconded by: Councilor Cannon

So Email the whole council with one click here. Tell them that you are sick and tired of junk littervertising, tired of paying to recycle or haul away junk ads you didn't ask for and don't want, and that you are tired of seeing the damn things laying all over, unrequested, and letting criminals know which houses are unoccupied.

If San Francisco and Seattle can pass strong anti-littervertising ordinances, so can Salem!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

An encouraging sign

Great Seal of the State of OregonImage via WikipediaPeople recognizing that much of what is best in life is what we hold in common.

Oregon Commons is working to inspire appreciation, stewardship and advocacy of our Oregon commons—the gifts of nature and civilization we share across generations. We are a project of The Learning Commons, a tax-exempt 501-c-3 nonprofit organization.

Our Goals

  • Education: We facilitate learning about the commons
  • Networking: We strengthen the network of those who care about the commons
  • Visibility: We raise the visibility of the commons in the public mind
  • Right Action: We plant seeds for stewardship and advocacy of the commons

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First June Weekend Best Bet: A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village 16th Annual Garden Tour & Plant Sale

Andrew T. Gilbert House at AC Gilbert's Discov...Image via WikipediaThis gets better and better. We got some amazing raspberry plants at this one last year. Watch this gorgeous slide show preview.
16th Annual
benefitting A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village

June 3 & 4, 10 am - 4 pm

Now in its 16th year, the Garden Tour & Plant Sale is a fundraiser for A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, the nonprofit children's museum in downtown Salem's Riverfront Park. This year's event will feature a tour of private gardens in Keizer. We have eight fabulous stops on the tour, including the personal garden of Ray Schreiner of Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.

Tickets are now available for purchase at the museum and all Salem-Keizer Roth's Markets. Tickets: $15 / Ages 12 & under: $5

Get a sneak peek of this year's gardens!

  • Friday, June 3 67 H / 50 L
  • Saturday, June 4 69 H / 51 L
Partly cloudy. Partly sunny. Tomato. Tomahto. Whatever you call it, it’s a good day for a Garden Tour. Purchase your tickets at A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village or any of the Salem-Keizer Roth’s Markets.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Great Stuff: Solarize Salem is kicking off Round 2

Schematic symbol for a photovoltaic cell. The ...Image via WikipediaGreat photo essay here on a local solar install project by Solarize Salem.

Regular readers of LOVESalem (and you both know who you are) recall that we installed a 4,338 w solar-electric generating system here at LOVESalem HQ that we turned on at nearly the absolute nadir of solar opportunity last December. However, since that day, roughly 28 weeks ago, we've generated over 1,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity. More important, if spring or summer ever comes, we still stand to have the best months left (June, July, August) before the days shorten up faster and faster in September. I'm hoping for another 2000 kWhs by October 1, and then maybe another 800 between then and the one-year anniversary of system startup on December 11.

We got our first "negative" power bill last month, with our output to the grid exceeding our home's draw for the month by 165 kWh. We'll keep banking that great excess through the summer, and draw it down over the winter. Cool.

If you want to have an expert come out and look at your home or cabin or business to see whether solar electric makes sense for you, you can contact Solarize Salem, a local community venture.

SHAMELESS COMMERCIALISM PARAGRAPH: Alternatively, if you're not into joining a co-op, you can call SunWize, a local solar installer who is the outfit who did the system here at LOVESalem HQ. If you have them come out and assess your house and you tell 'em we sent you, they'll give us $50. If you actually buy and install a system with them, they'll give us $500. And if we get any such referral cash, we'll put it to good use for good causes here in Salem. You can reach Matt Henderson at SunWize at 541-230-5001; tell 'em LOVESalem sent you.
Enhanced by Zemanta