Saturday, April 26, 2008

Turn Off, Unplug, Drop Out

from freeacre

"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." Morpheous, from “The Matrix”

There is an unnerving article posted by Tom Engelhardt on Smirking He writes of how exponentially the military-industrial complex has grown since President Eisenhower delivered his farewell warning speech and how the Pentagon has woven itself into our lives at almost every turn. Engelhardt features the list compiled by Nick Turse in his book, “The Complex – How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives.” It is incredibly extensive. The premise is about a hypothetical Boomer and the products he uses that have Pentagon connections. I include about a third of it:

“…In go his (DoD supplier) Bausch and Lomb contact lenses and down goes a Zantac (from DoD contractor GlaxoSmithKline) for his ulcer. Heading back to the bedroom, he finds Donna finished with her workout and making the bed -- with the TV news on -- and lends her a hand. (Their headboard was purchased from Thomasville Furniture, the mattress from Sears, the pillows were made by Harris Pillow Supply, all Pentagon contractors.) They exchange grim glances as, on their Samsung set (another DoD contractor) the Today Show chronicles the latest in chaos in Iraq. "Thank god we never supported this war," Rick says, thinking of the antiwar rally Donna and he attended even before the invasion was launched. NBC, which produces the Today Show, is owned by General Electric, the 14th-largest defense contractor in the United States, to the tune of $2.3 billion from the DoD in 2006, and has worked on such weapons systems as the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornet multimission fighter/attack aircraft, both in use in Iraq.”

Continuing, “…Looking at the situation in 1970, almost 10 years after Eisenhower's farewell speech, Sidney Lens, a journalist and expert on U.S. militarism, noted that there were 22,000 prime contractors doing business with the U.S. Department of Defense. Today, the number of prime contractors tops 47,000 with subcontractors reaching well over the 100,000 mark, making for one massive conglomerate touching nearly every sector of society, from top computer manufacturer Dell (the 50th-largest DoD contractor in 2006) to oil giant ExxonMobil (the 30th) to package-shipping titan FedEx (the 26th).

In fact, the Pentagon payroll is a veritable who's who of the top companies in the world: IBM; Time-Warner; Ford and General Motors; Microsoft; NBC and its parent company, General Electric; Hilton and Marriott; Columbia TriStar Films and its parent company, Sony; Pfizer; Sara Lee; Procter & Gamble; M&M Mars and Hershey; Nestlé; ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney; Bank of America; and Johnson & Johnson among many other big-name firms. But the difference between now and then isn't only in scale. As this list suggests, Pentagon spending is reaching into previously neglected areas of American life: entertainment, popular consumer brands, sports. This penetration translates into a remarkable variety of forms of interaction with the public.

Rick and Donna's home is full of the fruits of this incursion. As they putter around in their kitchen, getting ready for the day ahead, they move from the wall cabinets (purchased at DoD contractor Lowe's Home Center) to the refrigerator (from defense contractor Maytag), choosing their breakfast from a cavalcade of products made by Pentagon contractors. These companies that, quite literally, feed the Pentagon's war machine, are the same firms that fill the shelves of America's kitchens.

Today, just about every supermarket staple -- from Ballpark Franks (Sara Lee) and Eggo waffles (Kelloggs) to Jell-O (Kraft) and Coffee Mate (Nestle) -- has ties to the Pentagon. The same holds for many household appliances. In Rick and Donna's dining room, a small Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner buzzes around the floor. Rick thought it would be cute to have the little mechanical device trolling around the house making their hectic lives just a tad easier. Little did he know that Roomba's manufacturer, iRobot, takes in U.S. tax dollars ($51 million of them from the DoD in 2006, more than a quarter of the company's revenue) and turns them into PackBots, tactical robots used by U.S. troops occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and Warrior X700s -- 250-pound semiautonomous robots armed with heavy weapons such as machine guns, that may be deployed in Iraq this year.

In addition to selling millions of Roombas to civilian consumers, the company uses government tax dollars to make money on the civilian side of its business. According to the company's December 2006 annual report (which listed as its "Research Support Agencies" the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA], the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, and the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center), government funding "allows iRobot to accelerate the development of multiple technologies." Yet iRobot retains "ownership of patents and know-how and [is] generally free to develop other commercial products, including consumer and industrial products, utilizing the technologies developed during these projects." It's a very sweet deal. And iRobot is hardly alone.

Entering the Digital World with Guns Blazing

Sitting on the dining room table is Rick's HP (Hewlett-Packard) notebook computer. HP is another company that has grown its civilian know-how with generous military contracts, like the multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal it signed in 2005 with DARPA to "develop technologies to improve the performance of mission-critical computer networks used during combat and other vital operations." A spokesman for the company noted, "Our work for DARPA is aimed at significantly improving the performance of the Internet.... If we can successfully create new approaches to the way Internet traffic is detected and routed, we may start seeing the Internet used as the de facto communications and information network in areas where it previously would've been thought too risky." Success would certainly translate into more lucrative civilian work, as well.

….Steven grabs his iPod MP3 player (from DoD contractor Apple Computer) and heads downstairs to leave with his father. On his way to the door, Rick goes to his bookshelf and scans a selection of progressive texts whose publishers just happen to be DoD contractors, including a reissue of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin), Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America by Lou Dubose and Molly Ivins (Random House), and Jon Stewart's America (The Book) (Warner Books), before choosing the Hugo Chavez-approved Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky (ahem, Metropolitan Books from Macmillan publishers). As the last one out, Donna sets the ADT alarm system. (ADT took in more than $16 million from the Pentagon in 2006, while its parent company, Tyco International, cleaned up to the tune of over $187 million.)

The Pentagon on Wheels

Rick and Steven hop into the Saturn parked in the driveway. Rick is proud of his car choice -- after all, Saturn has such a people-friendly (even anti–Detroit establishment) vibe. Admittedly, he is aware that General Motors owns not only the Saturn but the Hummer brand -- the civilian version of the U.S. military's Humvee -- but he believes that, in this world, you can't be squeaky-clean perfect. But Hummer isn't the half of it.

How could Rick have known that, in 1999, GM formally entered the Army's COMBATT (Commercially Based Tactical Truck) vehicle development program? Or that GM actually had its own military division, General Motors Defense, when his Saturn was made? Nor could Rick have known that GM Defense formed a joint venture with defense giant General Dynamics to create the GM-GDLS Defense Group (which was awarded in excess of $1.5 billion in DoD contract dollars in 2005). Or that GM took in $87 million from the Pentagon in 2006. Or that, in 2007, GM entered into a 50-year lease agreement to build a $100 million test track on the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds. Or that the maker of his Saturn's tires, Goodyear, was America's 69th-largest defense contractor in 2004, with DoD contracts worth nearly $357 million.

…"Do you have your cell phone?" Rick asks. Steven whips a Motorola from his pocket. (Motorola made almost $308 million from the Department of Defense in 2004, while the phone's service provider, Verizon, took home more than $128 million in DoD contracts, and $50 million more from the Department of Homeland Security, in 2006.)”

Well, you get the idea. We live in a horrific military-industrial stew of war machinery producing corporations. Their products are in our homes. Their facilities are in our neighborhoods. Much like the bombs hidden in mosques, our own military hides within our culture and uses us as protective shields.

But, it goes further than that. Every dollar that we spend on their products enriches and empowers them and tightens the noose around our necks. Becoming ensnared in their trap, we are complicit in their crimes against humanity and the planet. There will be a reckoning.

So, WAMFTD?? Be aware. Stop purchasing their shit. Turn Off the twisted media messages that barrage the airwaves, manipulating us to buy their crap. Unplug from the financial, pharmaceutical, electrical, and commercial matrix as much as you can.

Drop Out. Shun them. Go your own way, make friends, and cultivate peace in your life now. Don’t wait for the revolution to be declared by someone else. You would be waiting forever. It won’t be analyzed in the newspapers. It won’t come from contributing to the Democratic or the Republican parties. Katie Couric won’t be announcing it on T.V. It won’t be funded by the friendly corporations that back Public Broadcasting, either. It won’t be brought to you by or the good ladies at Code Pink. It will happen as individuals declare it for themselves and make it so in their own lives.

Take the red pill, and let the delusion that we need them fall away. Screw the corporations, the corporate class, and all their death-dealing bullshit. Write up a Declaration of Independence and sign it yourself. Post it on your door, like Martin Luther when he started the Protestant movement against the Church of Rome.

There is a better world that is ours to have when we decide we are ready. Remember the teachings of Stephen Gaskin, back in the day. He wrote, “What you put your attention into you get more of.” Let’s put our attention on Freedom. Let’s turn away from products that mask insecurity (trendy clothing, cosmetics, etc.), expensive automobiles… all the 10,000 things that the Buddha taught are only distractions. Let’s nurture some things instead. Grow food, raise animals, help out our neighbors, and commit random acts of kindness. Freedom and community and self-expression are our birthright. Compassion and right action and right livelihood are ours to cultivate. We were born into our lives to Be…not to Buy.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed and bummed out and fearful. But, then, I crawl back into the Here and Now and something good happens, and I start to get excited about how it can be. I hope it is the same for you as well.


Sunday, April 20, 2008


from Murph

I have found through the years that it is a sticky discussion when freedom, what it means, what it looks like and how to achieve it are brought up.

It seems obvious to me that varying degrees of restriction on individual freedoms have been practiced everywhere for all of recorded history. Arguments about the necessity of restricted freedom abound, particularly today. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me, but when I hear people say that it is necessary for our security and it is a small price to pay for security, I have a tendency to become really upset. I find that attitude appalling.

So lets start this by talking about what freedom is and what it looks like. Keep in mind this is Murph’s viewpoint.

It would seem obvious to me that a concept of total freedom of action when living in groups cannot work. Being by yourself in the wilderness is not how most of us live. More power to those that do so. The early mountain men were about as free as you can get. But, some enforceable means has to exist to impede those who do not respect others right to freedom within a social context. I sum it up this way; you cannot perform an action which takes away from or restricts another persons freedom, that is, you cannot harm another or their property, and I include the environment. That simple edict would automatically stop environmental degradation, exploitation and legal thievery. The problem comes up with how you deal with those that are willing to be exploited and have property taken from them for a perceived advantage in a trade off. In my view, this is exactly what has happened in this country. Through a variety of manipulations, people were convinced to give up part of what they had for some kind of perceived advantage. This has proceeded in fits and starts since the beginning of this country and has resulted into what we experience today, very few freedoms left with plenty of justifications promoted to enforce it.

I think we can agree that this is all manifested from bending the knees to authority, to those with wealth and power. Since this has been going on for 5000 years or so, I must conclude there is something inherent in the mental makeup of humans that will go along with it, except of course, some minority of individuals in any given society. In this 5000 years of recorded history, we have evidence that a hierarchy and patriarchy was not the only way societies governed themselves. There have been matriarchies also but perhaps less throughout history. Jeff Vail has an interesting concept concerning a non hierarchy social organization he calls “rhyizome economy”. Try this websites;

It further appears to me that a significant amount of any given population doesn’t really want freedom because it means responsibility and consequences, and as we see today, both of those words are swear words in our society.

So what would a really free society look like? Most people can imagine that for themselves, and there have been innumerable textbooks, novels and essays on the subject.

Personally, I find it fascinating to read novels where the author paints a word picture of what a truly free people would look like, and there are many. There have been societies that exhibited vastly more personal freedom than we have today. Interestingly, they were much smaller populations. Indian tribes scattered over the world have amply demonstrated this to be possible, and this is not an essay on the “noble savage” nor a declaration that these societies had total freedom. Obviously there are social norms and restrictions on behavior in every society, large or small. But, where is the line to be drawn, how much individuality and individual freedom can any society tolerate? In my reading of diaries and history of this country in its early days, it was in many ways far more tolerant of individual freedom. Our government was supposedly set up to maximize this freedom and to limit chaos and the Constitution was a pact with the population and those that ran the government. However, as our population grew and the complexity of the society increased, the government instituted more and more restrictions on personal behavior, unless you were the ones setting down the rules.

Those that are familiar with my essays know that I am an advocate of society being in small autonomous groups that decide for each group how they want to live by mutual, not majority, agreement. The term for such group organization is Anarchy. Our present government has not much toleration for small autonomous groups, and goes to great lengths to minimize them, to marginalize them and often to eliminate them and with a whole bunch of justifications. It sometimes amazes me that the small populations that live that way like the Mennonites and Amish, have been successful in preserving their autonomous position in the greater society. I speculate it is because they don’t have anything that the PTB want. Wonder what would happen if a vastly needed resource was found on an Amish settlement.

If we are to have a centralized government that oversees this kind of a conglomeration, it has to be severely limited in what it can demand from the population and the amount of regulation it can enforce. That again was the original intent of the Constitution. Oh yes, they were clever about it. The PTB instituted a very long and gradual erosion of those restrictions. one little piece at a time so you would hardly notice. Can you imagine what the original population would have done if they had advocated and tried to institute what we have today? A virtual return to the European concept of how to govern, exactly what the people didn’t want. Well, we got it now, absolute authority over the running of society and a whole lot of restriction on personal freedom.

One of the things that would disappear in a free society is consensual crime. As long as you were not forcing another into a relationship or action, and not taking or damaging their property, but was rather by mutual consent, it cannot be a crime. What I do as an individual that does not damage or hurt is no business of the state. In our present society, that would eliminate a sizable amount of the prisoners in jail and prison.

When we examine the criminal code in this country, and for that matter almost any large populations code, it is so extensive and full of contradictions that nobody can really understand it all. We have laws that deal with almost every aspect of human behavior, from the mundane to the radical. I see absolutely no benefit to society as a whole for this. It sure does benefit those in power though. What it comes down to is wanting control over society for privilege and gain. And poof, there go your freedoms. Our judicial system hires a vast army to perpetuate this system. At least they are employed and most of the time pay taxes, if we want to look at the cup as half full.

The old clique about freedom not coming cheap I think is true. It is a constant battle with those that would restrict us for their gain that we are dealing with. I think old Jefferson had it right when he said that we should have a revolution every 20 years and start over. That concept showed a lot of awareness of history I think. But again, we have to take into consideration the probable hard wiring of how people deal with their environment and relationships. It would indeed be an interesting society that followed that dictate.

Remember the old TV series “Northern Exposure”? I really liked the examination that the writers paid to a rather isolated society that had its revolution far more frequently and how they dealt with adversity and disagreements. A friend of mine told me once that the reason I liked that series is that it portrayed what it would be like living in a society where everyone had 130 IQ and up. Periodically the Internet has in circulation the “Darwin Awards” and “these people vote” pieces. I got to admit that I don’t have what I would consider a definitive answer how a free society would deal with these kinds of people. In the “Darwin Awards”, the participants often eliminate themselves from the gene pool.

I have an interest in how the readers of this blog would look at the concept of freedom.

Because I see social disaster coming at us, and the recognition that we cannot continue doing things the way we are and have been doing them, I can anticipate something better coming out of it. Hopefully, there will be enough people left that have some sense of history and what it means to live free that we can put something better together next time around.

Monday, April 14, 2008



In some previous posts I have made some generalized overviews of what appears to be happening in our world. I think it is easy for us to become immersed in details and focusing on single issues and not see how it all fits together or to become submerged in the enormity of what we consider the negative events swirling around us. So I attempt to step back once in a while and take a snapshot of all the information that I take in and put it together to make some sense.

Right at the top of the list is the oil problem. Unless one wants to have a heartfelt belief in the validity of anaerobic oil, we have to realize that oil is a finite resource. The probability of it ever becoming available in the huge amounts we had originally on this planet is zero. Even if the anaerobic oil concept proves true, it contains a whole list of problems that aren’t addressed, namely, rate of replenishment. So from my perspective, it makes no difference. We are going to/ are running out of oil. In simple fact, the rate of production is not keeping up with rate of increase in demand, and is thus going up in price. Obviously, prices will increase until there is that thing called demand destruction that takes hold. If you can’t afford to buy it, you aren’t going to use it. There are already some poor countries that are out of the bidding for oil, although I cannot again find that article to give specifics. (My main computer with all the bookmarks and articles stored were lost when the mother board went down and I haven’t had the time to try and rebuild the hard drive to extract the data) Regardless, if the price continues to rise, the poorer parts of the worlds population will be priced out of the market, including people in the United States. Despite the reassurances of the CERTA report and the economic gurus, we will run out of the stuff at our present and escalating usage worldwide. Currently the U.S is using 20+ million barrels of oil per day and usage is going up, not down, and no indication that will change in the near future. When it is realized how much modern life is dependent on oil, it becomes obvious that a really big social change is on the way.

The greening of the economy and reducing or eliminating fossil fuel usage is big in the news today. All sorts of ideas, inventions and public policy suggestions are sprouting up. Not only does all of this have impractical to impossible usage, but, some of it has outright damaging effects. Most of my research into these ideas shows there is little interest in computing the final costs for implementing such ideas.

  1. Ethanol has the most obvious of the detrimental effects. It is an impossible substitute for oil. It costs ultimately more in energy to produce than can be used, and is dependent on fossil fuels for its production. We were warned about this when it was suggested years ago, but the warnings were ignored and the government subsidies were put in place to implement large-scale production. It is proving to be a disaster. New ethanol plants have been shut down and cost of food has dramatically risen as a direct result of these policies.
  2. Electrical generation without direct fossil fuel usage is being heavily promoted. Wind energy is one of the biggies today. Few if any studies have been implemented concerning the trade offs in its wholesale use for producing electricity. If electrical usage were to be cut back drastically world wide, wind energy could conceivably have a value. At our present rate of electrical usage, trying to substitute wind for fossil fuel generation at just 25% is not possible due to the tremendous use of fossil fuels to create the production infrastructure. This does not even start to address the centralized power grids that are in decay and need updating for increased carrying capacity in that change over. And, as I have mentioned previously in posts, the ecological cost has not even been addressed, much less thoroughly investigated.

3. Wave energy is being looked at to a far lesser extent. Again, little is being addressed concerning maintenance, fossil fuel usage to implement it and its environmental impact.

4. Hydroelectric generation has reached its zenith. We have dammed up about as much as can be dammed for generation, and with tremendous ecological damage to boot.

5. Free energy concepts are prolific. None of them are addressing the cost in resources, fossil fuels and infrastructure needed to implement them if they prove to be workable.

6. The hydrogen economy has been shown to be not possible. In the first place, the
Infrastructure is not going to happen and its energy in ratio to energy out is unacceptable.
It isn’t going to happen.

7. None of this address how we are going to keep modern transportation going on electricity alone, nor produce plastics, nor electronics. Haven’t heard of a means to fly a plane on it yet. Face it, we have nothing and there is not on the near time horizon, any substitute for fossil fuels and we have built an empire and western civilization on having cheap plentiful fossil fuels. If we had started looking into these kinds of issues 30-50 years ago, we might just have been able to come up with some alternatives. We were warned back then and the warnings were ignored by all but a few of the tin foil hats among us.

Food production for the world is another biggie. The farming developments of last 100 years are very heavily dependent on fossil fuels. This has directly spurred huge population growths worldwide with the expanding food production. There is a limit of how many bushels of anything can be grown on an acre of land. With increasing costs of oil, we are going to experience from that alone increased food costs, worldwide. Throw in diverted food production to ethanol and bio fuel production and it will get worse. The squeeze is on as evidenced by food riots taking place in many areas now. As oil prices go up, there is going to be a lot more riots. Ever wonder when riots over food will begin in this country? Put into these observations the continuous degradation of crop land, the near disappearance of some critical elements in the food, (selenium is the first to come to mind), the ever expanding usage of farm land for housing and highways and we have some severe problems with food coming at us.

The world economics is currently a mess. There is a high probability of a big melt down of world wide economic systems and institutions. Over all, nations and most of their populations are poorer than they were 15 years ago. We can’t claim national or personal wealth when 80% of the worlds wealth is held by individuals that are only 20% of the worlds population.

Resource depletion is becoming very apparent now. Water has finally become forefront, right next to fossil fuel depletion.

The urban infrastructure is deteriorating fast. We have put so much capital into spreading out from urban centers that they are capital traps now, that is, their value is down and no way to recover the capital investment. Instead, inner city slums are now proving to be a good capital investment. Neat huh?

Governments around the world are becoming increasingly fascist, that is, under the control of corporations and big money interests. Corporations have become literally a government unto themselves with no restraints whatsoever.

That we are experiencing climate change is not a contention, but the raging debate over what is causing it goes on. Climate changes, no matter the source, are going to have huge implications on nations and societies.

This is a fairly good overview of what I see happening without going into a lot of specifics. You may be tired of seeing the down side of everything by now. I got to admit I do get tired of it also. This next section is by Freeacre and will have more of an optimistic outlook.

“Half Full” Perspective….by Freeacre

With certain notable exceptions, I am the designated “half full” person, while Murph takes the cake in the “half empty” category. So, it falls to me to present some positive news in this overview of the demise of “life as usual.” Here’s what I have come up with so far. Feel free to add to my list.

With the oil shortages and the resulting rise in the price of fuel, coupled with the devaluation of the dollar, imports of many goods will be curtailed. This will lead to the collapse of the Big Box Stores (yea!). To my mind, this is good in and of itself.

Once they are out of the picture, those people out of work due to recession/depression lay-offs, will be able to pick up the slack making useful things at home or close by to sell or trade to their neighbors. Everything from fence hardware, household supplies, clothing, toys, and on and on will be needed. Second hand stores will supply a lot of things for while, but innovative people will be busy filling in the gaps. Flea markets and farmer’s markets will thrive. This will lead to many more conversations among community members and add to a sense of neighborliness and connection, which will be emotionally satisfying.

The tax base for state and county governments will shrink, as the real estate is devalued and taxes fade from decreased incomes. There won’t be enough money to continue to incarcerate citizens for victimless or non-violent crimes, like smoking pot, or even selling it. This will be a good thing to reduce the suffering of a lot of people languishing in the prison cells now, and also lend itself to a wider distribution of herbal medicine available for people to relieve physical and/or emotional pains. From the sixties, after all, we hearken back to those words of wisdom, “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.”

Once people begin to grow gardens in their yards, and replace their lawns with switch grass to feed their animals, they will be eating organic by necessity. This will lend itself to increased vitality and health. Since fewer people will have medical insurance, reliance on medications like anti-depressants, and behavioral modification drugs for children, like Ritalin and anti-psychotics for childhood “bi-polar disorder” and the like will be severely curtailed. “Hyper-active” kids can be put to work in the garden, or cutting grass with a scythe. They can ride their bikes to the grocery store to pick up things for mom and the neighbors, like a kid should be doing anyway. Once they get away from the tube and the Gameboy, they may find that their ADHD goes away…

As people start taking a closer look at their surroundings and stop thinking of a “season” as a new batch of television programming, rather than what is growing around them from year to year, interest in Permaculture will thrive. I don’t know anything about permaculture yet, so I can’t be real specific. But I know it will be big. Trees will be planted that produce nuts and good, useable wood, like walnuts and pecans and hazelnut trees, etc. Edible plants will be identified and cultivated. Poplars to take up nitrogen in the ground can be relied on to help keep the water clean. Berries and fruits will be harvested and made into jams and jellies and pies. Maybe we’ll inspire a bunch of neo-Johnny Apple Seeds to go around and plant random fruit and nut trees all over the place for the common good.

Self-expression and creativity will be encouraged and supported, as people rely less on Target Stores and Bed, Bath and Beyond to furnish their homes. People will make their own folk art, ceramics, quilts, gifts, furniture, etc. People will stop buying corporate sponsored brand name and sports paraphernalia, and regional differences will once again add to the wealth of diversity in our country. It will get a lot more colorful and interesting.

The same goes for music and entertainment. Local musicians, and artists of all sorts will have a broader audience. Community theaters and choirs, and music and dance groups of all sorts will thrive again.

The newly laid back and medically marijuanaed folk might be amused by watching the former yuppie (scum) who used to ply the most traveled roads to that they could be observed by the most neighbors in their neon jogging outfits and carrying outsized plastic water bottles, pulling rick-shaws or carts on regular routes to the grocery stores or Farmer’s Market to make a little extra cash. I know this would amuse the heck out of me… Their McMansions will also make pretty good communes, as we dense up our suburbs to make them survivable.

The good news is that as the corporate influence is curtailed, people will matter more. As we drive less, neighborhoods and towns will no longer be something to stare at from the windows of our cars. Things will get more real. We won’t just be all for public transportation – we’ll actually get on a bus or a train. We will get to know our neighbors and communities because we will really need each other again in ways that we have forgotten.

I admit that I look forward to the end of the soulless corporate culture that sickens, exploits and controls us today. As this abomination dies, I have hope that more freedom, ingenuity, and health will prevail. It won’t be easy, and a lot of us will not make it through the transition. But, in the end, there is the possibility that things will be good.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bringing in the Sheaves

by freeacre

This is a “last call” announcement for those who may not have stocked up as much as they are able on grains. All grains.

We knew it was coming – the push for ethanol would create a shortage of corn, thereby driving up not only the cost of corn meal, but the costs of meat and poultry as well, since the animals eat corn, too. Well, here we are. The people of Mexico have been rioting in the streets due to the sharp increase in the cost of corn for tortillas. The prices of cornmeal, wheat flour, and rice in the supermarkets have risen alarmingly. And, there is no end in sight.

Regarding rice, this piece from David Ignacias, Washington Post, April 3, 2008:

“You may have missed the front-page article in the New York Times last Saturday, with the one-column headline written in clipped newspaperese: "High Rice Cost Creating Fears of Asia Unrest." But this little story could be an early warning of another big economic problem that's sneaking up on us.

The new danger is global inflation -- most worryingly in food prices, but also in prices for commodities, raw materials and products that require petroleum energy, which includes almost everything. Prices for these goods have been skyrocketing in international markets -- at the same time the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been hosing the world with new money in their efforts to avoid a financial crisis.

That's an explosive mixture. It risks a kind of inflation that would trigger panic buying, hoarding and fears of mass political protest. Actually, this is already happening in Asia, according to the Times.

The price of rice in global markets has nearly doubled in the last three months, reports the Times's Keith Bradsher. Fearing shortages, some major rice producers -- including Vietnam, India, Egypt and Cambodia -- have sharply limited their rice exports so they can be sure they can feed their own people.”

Did you get that? The main nations that have been exporting rice are going to stop doing so. They need to feed their own people first. Yikes!

Then, there is the wheat catastrophe….

Why food prices will go through the roof in coming months
By F. William Engdahl
Online Journal Guest Writer

“A deadly fungus, known as Ug99, which kills wheat, has likely spread to Pakistan from Africa, according to reports. If true, that threatens the vital Asian Bread Basket including the Punjab region.

The spread of the deadly virus, stem rust, against which an effective fungicide does not exist, comes as world grain stocks reach the lowest in four decades and government subsidized bio-ethanol production, especially in the USA, Brazil and EU are taking land out of food production at alarming rates. The deadly fungus is being used by Monsanto and the US Government to spread patented GMO seeds.

Stem rust is the worst of three rusts that afflict wheat plants. The fungus grows primarily in the stems, plugging the vascular system so carbohydrates can't get from the leaves to the grain, which shrivels. Ug99 is a race of stem rust that blocks the vascular tissues in cereal grains including wheat, oats and barley. Unlike other rusts that may reduce crop yields, Ug99-infected plants may suffer up to 100 percent loss.

The FAO warns that the explosive growth in acreage used to grow fuels and not food in the past three years is dramatically changing the outlook for food supply globally and forcing food prices sharply higher for all foods, from cereals to sugar to meat and dairy products. The use of cereals, sugar, oilseeds and vegetable oils to satisfy the needs of a rapidly increasing biofuel industry, is one of the main drivers, most especially the large volumes of maize in the US, wheat and rapeseed in the EU and sugar in Brazil for ethanol and bio-diesel production. This is already causing dramatically higher crop prices, higher feed costs and sharply higher prices for livestock products.

Ironically, the current bio-ethanol industry is being driven by US government subsidies and a scientifically false argument in the EU and USA that bio-ethanol is less harmful to the environment than petroleum fuels and can reduce C02 emissions. The arguments have been demonstrated in every respect to be false. The huge expansion of global acreage now planted to produce biofuels is creating ecological problems and demanding use of far heavier pesticide spraying while use of biofuels in autos releases even deadlier emissions than imagined. The political effect, however, has been a catastrophic shift down in world grain stocks at the same time the EU and USA have enacted policies which drastically cut traditional emergency grain reserves. In short, it is a scenario preprogrammed for catastrophe, one which has been clear to policymakers in the EU and USA for several years. That can only suggest that such a dramatic crisis in global food supply is intentional.”

So, demand is outstripping production for corn, rice, and wheat, which form the foundation for much of the food supply for humans as well as their livestock. This is no longer a prediction. This is right now. If there is a doubt in your mind, just go to your closest grocery store and check out the prices. They have practically doubled.

But, it’s going to get worse. If the ethanol and the wheat rust, and the increased demand weren’t enough, other factors are lending themselves to this dismal picture as well. Peak Oil is drastically raising the price of gasoline, which raises the production costs of growing the grains, as well as dramatically adding to the costs of transporting it to the stores.

Climate change is also having an increasing effect. Torrential rains, tornados, and drought are also taking a big toll on the production side. When is this going to lead to starvation and death? It already has. The United Nations has issued an alarming report that the prices of food for disaster relief in Africa and other desperate places is making relief efforts too expensive to feed the many who rely on their efforts.

And, if all that weren’t enough, the financial brain trust has manoeuvred the dollar into a rate of inflation that has devalued the dollar to the point where the dollar has approximately 40 percent of the purchasing power that it had when “The Decider” took office.

In terms of grain, we are toast.

So, get it now, before the third shift at Albertson’s sneaks in and raises the prices beyond what any working class person can afford.

Eventually, we just may have to do with much less bread, pasta, rice, and those animals that eat grain.

Of course, the overlords will be conspicuously consuming despite it all. Have you seen the slick stories lately about the yuppie scum going green? Yeah, taking a year or two off from Wall Street and purchasing ranches and building state-of-the-art solar and wind powered, cork-floored eco houses, etc. etc.

…. Well, aren’t they special? They’ll probably be eating buffalo from their own herds, and running their Hummers on olive oil. . . but I digress.

Back to real life: We can grow switch grass in our yards to feed our animals. Actually, chickens who eat less corn and more grasses produce eggs that are better for you anyway. And, if we switched to rabbit instead of beef as a main source of protein, we wouldn’t need to use any corn and the meat would be much leaner and lower in cholesterol than beef. Plus, rabbits can be raised locally and wouldn’t require as much gasoline to transport. You can feed them leftover greens from the garden, carrots, and things that you can grow in your backyard. They don’t produce all that nasty methane that pollutes the atmosphere, and their manure is the only one that can go directly into the garden for fertilizer without a waiting period.

Of course, we always have the option of going vegetarian. But, being a vegetarian without wheat or rice or cornmeal, leaves one eating beans and greens for the most part. Personally, my system can’t handle it.

Human beings are very adaptive to their environments, though, when necessary, fortunately. When studying the healthiest people in the world, according to Diane Schwarzbein, M.D. (my favourite nutritionist) you’ll find the Inuit’s, the French, the Tibetans, and the rural Chinese and Africans. These people have much less chronic and degenerative disease than we do. The funny thing is that they all eat a very dissimilar diet, upon first glance. The French drink wine. The Tibetans do not. They sip yak butter tea all day. The Inuit’s eat whale blubber and fish and hardly any vegetables. But, upon further examination, they do have a couple of things in common: they eat what they can pick, gather, hunt or fish. And, they have stuck to a traditional diet rich in good fats. No high carb, low fat diets for them.

So, maybe this shortage of grain will benefit us in the long run anyway. After all, it was when people began to grow grain in a big way and it was stockpiled by the pharaohs or priests to be doled out to the subservient populations that this whole hierarchical death trap began in the first place. But, the transition period is going to get rough.