Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recession is over huh?

We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet

(There are more people in poverty now — 43.6 million — than at any time since the government began keeping accurate records. Nearly 15 million Americans are out of work and home foreclosures are expected to surpass one million this year. The Times had a chilling front-page article this week about the increasing fear among jobless workers over 50 that they will never be employed again.

The politicians seem unable to grasp the immensity of the problem, which is why the policy solutions are so woefully inadequate. During my conversations with Ms. Bedore, she dismissed the very thought that the recession might be over. “Whoever said that was sadly mistaken,” she said. “We haven’t even bottomed-out yet.” )

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Promising Oil-spill Clean-up Product Made in West Michigan by Concept Industries

Concept Industries is a Grand Rapids, Michigan based company that has some interesting things going on. I plan to get in touch with them soon to learn more and maybe even work with them. Check out the video on their product Abso-Core.

With the recent 800,000 gallon spill in Kalamazoo County, Michigan and the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico we need to be examining multiple solutions that do not require toxic chemical dispersants.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Asian Migrant Workers See Exploitation in Sweden

Check out the article by Matthew Saltmarsh on the NYT website.

Swedish Lingonberries
photo credit: bwcabound on squidoo
 While I am definitely sympathetic to the plight of the workers mentioned in the article (apparently the exploitation of migrant agricultural laborers is a widespread problem), I just want to point out that Sweden has moved to provide a minimum wage of $2240USD per month for them now. This is in contrast to the US having minimum wage exemptions for certain categories of workers (like those made for small-scale agricultural and food service employees), exemptions that deny exempted workers the meager $1247USD per month, which is the monthly total for 40 hour weeks at the federal minimum wage. [I arrived at this number by multiplying 40 hours of full-time work (the US full-time standard) by 4.3 (the standard metric for converting weekly amounts to monthly amounts) and then multiplying that by $7.25USD (current federal minimum wage). The equation looks like this: (40x4.3)=172 then (172x$7.25)=$1247. Starting with Sweden's minimum monthly wage and running the same equation in reverse I arrived at just over $13USD per hour, nearly double the US minimum wage (which doesn't even cover everyone anyway...).

Minimum Wage Comparison: USA $1247month/ Sweden $2240month... Anybody interested in going to pick berries in Sweden next season?

Social Good Summit: Tackling Global Challenges with Social Media

I just found this article by Pete Cashmore on Yahoo News. Check out the article and maybe participate in the dialogue as well. Here's an excerpt:

On September 20, as global leaders head to New York for United Nations Week – including a historic summit on global issues known as the “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) and the annual General Assembly – Mashable, 92nd Street Y and UN Foundation will bring together leaders from the digital industry, policy and media worlds for a groundbreaking Social Good Summit focused on how technology and social networks can play a leading role in addressing the world’s most intractable problems.

The week’s conversations will be all tied to the Millennium Development Goals. These goals set by world leaders and adopted by the United Nations in 2000, focus on massive reductions in poverty and hunger; promotion of universal primary education; gender equality; reduction in child deaths and the deaths of women in childbirth; the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and environmental sustainability.

“Every American and every world citizen has a stake in advancing the MDGs,” said Kathy Calvin of the United Nations Foundation. “Yet many people are still looking for ways to have a positive impact. By coming together in partnership, we can make this happen. And when we do, the world will be a better place.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Republican Runs Street People on Green Ticket

As if the Bush/Cheney years weren't cynical enough; the following are excerpts from an article that Marc Lacey published in yesterday's edition of the New York Times. Click the article link for the full story with photos.

“Did I recruit candidates? Yes,” said Mr. May, who is himself a candidate for the State Legislature, on the Republican ticket. “Are they fake candidates? No way.”

Gathered around was a motley crew of people who were down on their luck, including a one-armed pregnant woman named Roxie whom Mr. May befriended sometime back and who introduced him to the rest.

Mr. Pearcy and other drifters and homeless people were recruited onto the Green Party ballot by a Republican political operative... and the Green Party has urged its supporters to steer clear of the rogue candidates.

The Democratic Party is fuming over Mr. May’s tactics and those of at least two other Republicans who helped recruit candidates to the Green Party, which does not have the resources to put candidates on ballots around the state and thus creates the opportunity for write-in contenders like the Mill Rats to easily win primaries and get their names on the ballot for November. Complaints about spurious candidates have cropped up often before, though never involving an entire roster of candidates drawn from a group of street people.

Mr. May, who served as a Republican legislator from 1998 to 2002, said, “Even if I wanted to control these guys, they’re uncontrollable.” 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Free to Bee: NYC lifts its ban on beekeeping.

I am linking to an article in Positive News by Sarah Wilkinson. It baffles me that we have governments making it illegal for us to live sustainably... Without these pollinators (bees) many plants don't reproduce, not to mention the food provided directly by bees. We should demand that our governments give tax incentives or even outright JOBS to people who are pushing society toward sustainability and self-reliance. What happened to our much anticipated green jobs revolution? Did the money go instead to support the endless wars on terror and drugs? Maybe if people were given better options for meeting their needs in meaningful ways we would see dramatic reductions in terrorism and demand for illicit drugs as a natural byproduct of this shift. Imagine the changes we could bring to the lives of the people trapped in inter-generational poverty in our inner-city neighborhoods if we enabled them to become urban farmers and gave them vacant lots in troubled neighborhoods for cultivation and/or to utilize as local farmer's markets. This would be a huge step forward from people being harassed by city governments for growing food within our urban food deserts.

Thankfully, this development (NYC's ban lift) may indicate that we are seeing the beginning of a larger understanding. I am hopeful that our global economic trouble will force governments to completely overhaul their economic policies and begin shifting toward cooperation and sustainability and away from military and economic conquest. A recent article in the NYT by Thomas Friedman indicated that he thinks we will soon see a serious decline in warmongering in the US.

I am very encouraged by international competitions like the US Dept. of Energy's Solar Decathlon, which challenges 20 teams of college students (mostly US students) to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. This event allows some of our best and brightest up and coming designers and architects a high-profile platform on which to display their cutting edge concepts in comfortable sustainable housing.

For all of the aspiring inventors out there (including me...)

This links to a cool little 5 minute audio slideshow "21st Century Inventors" by Paul Kerley. I found it at the BBC News site. It is anecdotes and advice from some of the UK's top innovators and is connected to a show, "Inventing the 21st Century", which is being curated by the British Library in London, England. The show begins today and will run free of charge through 28 November 2010.

Surprise prize inside!!! ( click here )

Time for fall harvests and some planting.

Garlic comparison: spring vs. autumn...
I am linking this to an article in Mother Earth News by Shelley Stonebrook. Each year the Earthwork Farm Harvest Gathering roughly coincides with the optimal time for planting garlic in Earthwork Farm's plant hardiness zone (zone 4). The basic rule for planting garlic in autumn is to plant approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes (amend soil as necessary locally).

Banksy Turns Kiddie Ride Into Anti-BP Statement

I found this piece by Michael Graham Richard on Treehugger this morning. Check out the link for a video of the ride in action. Treehugger is a large blog with over 40 writers covering a number of environmental and social topics and is really worth a look.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Harvest Gathering 2010

After my last few posts I feel the need to post something positive here now.

Me cutting veggies outside the kitchen and barn stage entrance at Harvest Gathering.
We are 2 weeks from the start of the 10th annual Earthwork Music Harvest Gathering. This is my favorite festival. I will be working the event and hanging out with some of my closest friends. Harvest Gathering is family friendly and I look forward to it eagerly each year. Check out the links and come out to see one of Michigan's hidden gems.

Who polices the police...?

The following is an excerpt from a Christian Science Monitor article by Mark Guarino.

Gangs vs. Chicago police: an open feud over blame for street violence

(“You don’t torture people for decades and get away with it and have the consent of silence within the police and not expect it to have an effect,” says Mr. Hagedorn. “This accountability thing should cut two ways.”

Burge's first trial in 1989 on police brutality charges resulted in a hung jury, and he was not retried before the statute of limitations expired. He was subsequently charged in 2008 with perjury and obstruction of justice related to the brutality case. That federal trial, prosecuted by the office led by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, described hundreds of cases of abuse in the 1970s and '80s that cost the city $19.8 million in settlement claims. It resulted in the state pardoning four men serving time on death row.

Burge’s perjury conviction continues to resonate in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where attitudes about it among people are “raw,” says University of Illinois's Hagedorn.

“It’s there at a conscious and a subconscious level within the community. You’ve got one guy convicted of perjury and that’s just one guy. What about all the other people who were there who knew it? This is not being talked about by anybody,” he says.) (excerpt)

Here's one (excerpted) by Marc Lacey from New York Times concerning Arizona and "America's Toughest Sheriff":

Justice Dept. Sues Sheriff Over Bias Investigation

(The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County for not cooperating with an investigation into whether his department was systematically violating the rights of Hispanics.

“It is ironic that the very sheriff who regularly demands that others turn over their papers has refused to turn over his papers,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which has been critical of Sheriff Arpaio.) (excerpt)

There is also the New Year's Day 2009 BART execution of a face-down handcuffed man named Oscar Grant in Oakland, California; which was caught on cellphone video cameras by several onlookers from multiple viewpoints and is easy to find on youtube.

PBS Frontline News has a site dedicated to police abuses and cover-ups in the US ( focusing on New Orleans Police Department ), which I found when looking into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Check out the video report, it is really powerful stuff. ( I spent time as a primary member on a S.W.A.T. unit and this stuff makes me nuts, these are supposed to be the best officers available...)

I won't even go into detail about the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq by US Army Military Police and various intelligence operators along with civilian contractors. [ I was a member of US Air Force Security Police ( later renamed Security Forces ) for my first military gig, but cannot imagine a situation in which this would make sense or seem justified to me or any of my friends at the time...] I cannot conceive of a quicker more effective way to undermine trust and legitimacy.

Reuters posted this article on Monday August 30th (4 days ago). 
Mexico fires thousands of police to combat corruption  

Mexico just fired 10% of their Federal Police in an effort to begin dealing with widespread corruption within the ranks of the government.


I want to clarify that I know some very good cops and these incidents do not represent the majority, but it does go a long way toward explaining many Americans' fear of the people sworn to serve and protect them. ( Not just America has this problem of course, it is nearly universal that some people will abuse any powers they obtain. )

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Costs of the War in Iraq

I am linking this to an article by the BBC. They cite the range of disputed figures for both human casualties and financial costs.

I am sitting here with my son wondering what could have been accomplished by the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who have died as a result of this invasion and subsequent occupation, as well as considering the impacts on the widows/widowers, orphans, parents, and all those who will simply never get the blood off their hands or the images from their minds.

In addition, there is the matter of the incomprehensible financial expense. At a time when our elected representatives tell us with straight faces that we lack the resources to provide universal healthcare, adequate jobs at "living wages"(additional NYT link), quality public schooling regardless of neighborhood, affordable university education, domestic disaster relief (think Katrina...), or a restructuring of our economy toward sustainability (both ecological and economic sustainability), we have been spending between $800,000,000,000 and $3,000,000,000,000 (that's $800billion-$3trillion) for the war in Iraq, depending on whose figures you use. We are presently saddled with a national debt of $13.4trillion (that's $174,000 debt per US citizen...) at the time of this post, and an increasing trade deficit (which had become a surplus before George W. Bush took office).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The real war on 'terror' must begin.

The real war on 'terror' must begin - Focus - Al Jazeera English

Check out this article from Al Jazeera. I felt that it warranted coming out of retirement to comment on and pass along. ;)

Just think for a moment about what we could do to truly begin eliminating the root causes of terrorism. How quickly could we see the results of diverting resources from the wars on terror and drugs, which drain untold dollars each year and serve primarily to increase hatred of the US government, both within and abroad. If we truly want to increase global stability, freedom, and justice, we should be deploying armies of construction workers, teachers, farmers, ecologists, and medical personnel. These should be supported by designers and by cultural anthropologists who are competent in the local culture and language. I have no problem with sending an accompaniment of soldiers to provide security for relief workers, supplies, etc., but they should not take center stage (with the exception of medics, Navy SEABEEs, civil affairs folks, etc.).

The US government has pledged $76million to aid the 20 million flood victims in Pakistan, while spending $12billion per month on the"War on Terror"; it seems to me like this might be counterproductive. Spending 0.5% of the amount dedicated to fight in their backyard on trying to help them just might hurt their feelings. In my opinion it is also unconscionable to spend our resources in this way. In case people have missed them there are also serious problems with Haiti (just off the US coast) and within our own economy. The point is that there are many ways we could be making better use of these resources (both capital and human).

What if we as a nation actually supported something like the Peace Corps in the same way we support the Marine Corps (and the rest of the DoD, not to mention our huge intelligence apparatus). It's just an idea...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hey Kids!

So, it's been a while eh?

You didn't think I'd walked off into the wilderness forever, did you?

I really needed a break after the craziness of the Bush Dark Age, but I'm back now. Since my last post I've done a project in Ohio and traveled a bit looking for another project and visiting friends/family. This has taken me (and my Crumbgobblers) to Eco-village at Ithaca again, NYC, and home. I have also been staying with friends in Ontario and Michigan during the past few months (it has been a bit...).

I have been speaking with a friend about joining an enviro start-up, which should be online this summer (promising...).

At this point I am mostly off-grid with everything from phone to finances handled online and no physical address (it's an interesting life kids, and I love it). Many thanks to Tim Ferris and the authors of "Your Money or Your Life".

My hope is to pick up another big project very soon and possibly negotiate a remote work assignment for the long term. Sometime after my next project I hope to visit Gaviotas, Colombia.

I have been very active with Facebook and am reactivating my Couchsurfing profile as well. Hopefully I will continue to hear from and meet more great people through this blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Official

I caught the live feed at Wealthy Street Theater today. I tried to drag the Crumbgobblers along, but when I got to their school I discovered that they were absent. I called to get them, but their mother refused to let me have them. (Something about not having had a shower, as if I am interested in her appearance.)

Anyway, it was a beautiful thing to see. Obama was incredibly gracious and Bush seemed very uncomfortable during the proceedings. The speech was solid, but not as inspiring as I had been hoping to see. Over 1 million people were present on the mall in DC.

I was ecstatic to see the transition go smoothly. Obama began governing almost immediately following the event.

This is a moment I have been waiting years to see. I hope he can meet my expectations, but acknowledge the difficulty inherent in the position he is now in.

The next 100 days will be very telling. Go Barack!

(title link to NYT)