December 31, 2008

Confessions of a Conformist

     I realized the other day I too was misled into thinking that Bush was the evil decider who has led this nation so far astray. Like most people, I too suffer from leader-itis, even if it's a mild infection. So like most of us, I underestimated Cheney's political skills, ruthless ambition, and commitment to sneakiness. But Prof. Shirley Warshaw of Gettysburg University is on to him.
     A panelist in a discussion about presidential transitions recently shown on C-SPAN, she summarized her upcoming book "The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney," from Stanford University Press ( 
     Bush only wanted to lead on moral and faith-based issues, leaving everything else, like business, energy, environment, health care, civil rights, foreign policy, etc., to Cheney, who wasted no time during Bush's transition putting in place the foundation of eight years of totalitarianism in democratic clothing.
     "Warshaw convincingly concludes that the legacy the Bush administration will leave is a testament to why two presidents equal one massive failure," says Stanford on the website.
     Transparency can prevent such corruption, but only if no one is above the law. And there is still the underlying problem that few want to hear that their leader is evil, bad for them, or even just a slacker. Government of, by and for the people only works well when everyone is vigilant and vocal. Which is of course far easier when government is relocalized.
     So I hope KJ figures out soon that people actually do expect more of political leaders than they do of NBA basketball stars, even though viewing audiences are smaller. I don't have to buy tickets, but I do have to pay taxes.
     I think I deserve a refund from Cheney.

December 28, 2008

Confessions of a Cootie

     Being a cootie means the other kids either bully you (the boys) or ignore you (the girls). I was lucky; somehow my spirit was never broken, although I became very defensive.
     But just punishing bullies, even gang members, especially via our adversarial criminal 'justice' system, just teaches them that might makes right, and that bullying is okay for adults and the government. This is really dumb, unless you like shooting yourself in the foot. 
     Suspension solves nothing either. I would rather sit that bully down with the victim/s, and facilitate the cooties' explanation to them of what they are doing until they are embarrassed enough that they will never forget to think about how others feel.
     As a matter of fact, I would like to do that to our way-overdue-for-indictment President. He deserves to be tied up and be forced to listen to the anguish of the millions of lives his idiocies and our country have irrevocably destroyed. And continue to destroy, in Palestine.
     It is equally important for victims to remember that bullies are people too, and bullying them back is really unclear on the concept. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind." We can refuse to tolerate scapegoating without being mean or violent ourselves.
     Justice is not vengeance, which latter I have been told belongs to the Lord, or to karma.

December 25, 2008

Charity & Sustainability 2

     In the Bee's Christmas newspaper, EJ Dionne wrote about liberation from the tyranny of material possessions, by sharing rather than accumulating. A few pages later, I found an AP story, "What happens to all that unsold stuff?" It admits some of it might end up in the dump.
     I wish we could liberate our economy from the tyranny of the GDP, from the idea that the volume of monetary transactions is an accurate measure of economic health and well-being. 
     Until we understand that real economic health is based on meeting everyone's actual needs, rather than just churning through more purchases of more stuff, we won't be smart enough to avoid another financial meltdown. Or more ecological disasters such as coal ash floods, decapitated mountains, and freeway construction.
     Awhile back (65 years to be exact) Maslow developed his "Hierarchy of Needs" which can help us put material possessions in their place. Our material needs are, as I may have mentioned, clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. 
     Additional material things are more or less essential for modern lifestyles, such as telephones, cars, and antibiotics. But they are not essentials for life. And they are less essential than more ordinary things like pots and pans, blankets, or shovels.
     Of course, a blanket will keep you just as warm if it new or used. But people who have mostly only ever had 'previously-owned' blankets feel more special when they get something that is new and just theirs, not someone else's adopted heirloom.
     I suspect our economy would be a lot healthier if every piece of stuff we have were as dear to us as our old velveteen rabbit.

December 21, 2008

Charity & Sustainability

     I'm sure some will find me Grinchy, but I have a problem with some of the requests in the Bee's Book of Dreams. WIND Youth Center wants more cooking utensils, but the picture shows unused equipment in the background, and hot dogs served on plastic plates in the foreground. Do they really need $$thousands to fill the gaps in their equipment? And no, I'm not interested in buying disposable diapers for someone who probably doesn't want cloth ones.
     Similarly, only new toys are acceptable donations for poor kids. But quality is more important than newness to any rational consumer. (Plus which, when I was a kid, one of our absolutely favorite toys was a packing barrel. We would take turns getting inside, rolling and being rolled.)
     Back in 1988 I helped start the local Greens because they were serious about integrating social AND ecological sustainability. (An example is my April post about "Soaring Food Costs.") So please don't settle for less. I certainly won't.

December 19, 2008

Inaugural Invocation & Hypocrisy

     The link (at right) to the video about President Moral Midget's International Medal of Peace (!!) awarded by Rick Warren adds another dimension to Obama's choice of Warren to give the invocation on January 20. 
     This discount version of Gore's Peace Prize comes from the P.E.A.C.E. coalition of over "400,000 churches in 162 countries." This stands for Promote reconciliation, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. According to Warren, Bush deserves this award for his "outstanding contribution in attacking the 5 global Goliaths of spiritual emptiness, corruption, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, and illiteracy."
     Listening to Bush talk about God, freedom, etc., I feel I am in looking-glass land. Whatever Bush may have actually done to help African AIDS victims is dwarfed by his criminal wars and all the death and destruction, past and future, that this unlawfully selected president bears responsibility for. What will he say to God? Will he get the karmic reflection of what he has inflicted?
     What does this choice say about Obama? I guess he wants to be a uniter, not a divider. But what is the moral way to unite with people who are apologists for terror? Choosing Warren is the next thing to pardoning Bush II for his international war crimes.
     As for us, we have another month to send a picture of the shoes we would like to throw at him to: President George 'Moral Midget' Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20006.

December 14, 2008

How To Train Great Teachers

According to Malcolm Gladwell in the Dec. 15 New Yorker, the "expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire" turn out not to make a difference in the classroom. As with pro quarterbacks and financial advisors, it turns out that the best way to get good teachers is to screen out those with known ineffective traits, put the rest to work and winnow them after a few years. 
     "Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree - and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before." The payoff is that really good teachers can cover the same material - and properly - in half the time a mediocre one will take. A really great teacher has "withitness," and can offer instant relevant feedback as needed.

Cutting Government Fat

     Steinberg and KJ both want to root out waste. Hiring a no-bid outside consultant isn't a good sign for KJ, but Steinberg's project is off to a better start. But the problem is the power of the people.
     How many people want to work themselves out of a job? How many people work just as conscientiously without a raise? Who wouldn't spin the truth for an extra $20? Answer: Somebody who knew that someone they know is watching.
     So the best way to root out waste is to relocalize, because it's always easier to notice mischief that's visible to the naked eye. Most authority and responsibility should be transferred from federal to state to county jurisdiction. The only question is what criteria to use to decide which few functions really require centralization.

December 9, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Economic Recovery

     Yes, you can do this at home!
     Reduce your expenses in the many ways that you hear about or read elsewhere. But don't stop there. Proceed to radically reconsider your true economic security, and review future plans for obtaining your real economic needs: clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. 
     You have the ability to act now. You can convert your lawn to food production. (If you don't want to garden, invite someone else to grow there and share.) 
     You can replace your flush toilet with a composting toilet. (But you probably can't get a rebate on wastewater fees, because the Sacramento building code doesn't yet recognize this advanced technology.)
     You can make your own job, by analyzing what you can make or do that people need or want. The economy is really nothing but people taking energy and resources from the planet, and using them to do things for each other.

December 4, 2008

How to Bail Out Detroit And Not Lose Your Lunch

     The only way to make this a good investment for the average U.S. consumer is to absolutely require the vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to radically retool and switch to products that are more useful and more diverse. 
     Vehicle manufacturing is simply the last really big manufacturing industry left in this country. The rest, like textiles and bicycles, are all pretty much already offshore. Reclaimingand relocalizing the traditional basic processes at the base of the industrial pyramid can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing freight transport, and increase economic security by making sure nothing is too big to fail.
     But back to the auto manufacturers. They need more discipline to get them in line with the mission of creating economic security for consumers. For instance, why can't the Detroit CEOs persuade the recently bailed-out financial institutions to lend them some of the hundreds of billions they have gotten from Congress and the Federal Reserve? Why is this a good deal for us taxpayers and not for Wall Street? Where are the vehicle finance companies? They seem to be financially healthy. What about the profitability of freight vehicles, not just passenger? 
     If, like Paulson, they can't answer questions like these in a responsive way that deserves our trust, we should administer more analytical discipline before loaning them any money. 

     The best way for U.S. taxpayers to not lose on this deal is to make sure we are investing in green enterprises that make things like food, lunches or shirts that *directly* provides for our needs. We don't *need* to drive.

November 26, 2008

Theme Song for Buy-Nothing Day

Amazing Earth how sweet the air
Her children breathe each day
Blest be Her blue inspiring care
May we be worthy we pray.

Amazing Earth with water clear
That washes every sin
Blest be Thy blood O Mother dear
Through Thee our lives we win.

Amazing Earth we greet Thy Son
Who shines on all each day
His fire can burn at highest noon
For forest shade we pray.

Amazing Earth how good Thy food
In garden, grove and field
So full of thanks for Thee we would
Bless each and every meal.

Amazing Earth whose every race
And bug and bird not least
Are called by Her Amazing Grace
In kinship with each beast.

Amazing Earth we count Thy Blessings
Many more than we deserve
A sin to think we own such things
Forgetting Whom we serve.

November 25, 2008

Wall Street Reality TV Disorder

    Paulson just said that solving people's mortgage crises and small business credit crises will really solve the financial crisis, and bring back consumer confidence. 
    But that won't solve the real economic problem. Almost all our actual production (except cars) has emigrated, so there is hardly anything left for local workers to make that thrifty consumers will buy. And even if corporations had jobs to offer here, they would only be making unsustainable products.
    The financial system is not the economy any more than TV is reality. So smart workers and consumers will confer, get real about their local situation, and organize basic production to meet local needs like clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from the elements. 
    The only way to rebuild an economy is from the grassroots, because if the grassroots can't run their own economies, the pyramid will collapse.

November 19, 2008

Can Paulson Even Make Coffee?

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's testimony yesterday before the House's Financial Services Committee was pathetic. How did he ever manage to get an MBA from Harvard, let alone become a big cheese at Goldman Sachs? If neither of these august bodies, nor the Congress who approved his appointment, noticed that he was incapable of answering even one simple question with a straight answer, what hope is there for the dream of meritocracy? (And aren't they worried about their reputations as institutions of higher learning or investment analysis?)

The automotive CEOs didn't get very far either, partly because they weren't willing to give up their company jets and drive like the rest of us.

None of them realize that true economic value is primarily about meeting people's actual needs--clean air and water, healthy food, etc. Cars can drive us to the store, and investment funds can offer annuities when the economy is in equilibrium. But moneymen and engineers know little about living off the land, which is the only dependable foundation for any of these pyramid schemes. The store has to have food before you can drive to it to spend your pension.

The holy grail of economic growth is nothing but a wild goose chase.
'It's not the money, stupid.' It's the clean air and water, healthy food, etc.

November 7, 2008

Religious and Civil Rights

    I can't help wondering about the motivation of the blacks who voted against homosexuals' civil rights. Was it religion or misogyny?
    (Of course, it can be hard to distinguish between misogyny and fundamentalist religions.)
    But the video url posted to the right makes it clear that not all abominations elicit the same gut revulsion that motivated these voters. Then what is so disturbing?
    I believe it is unconscious misogyny, which is a fancy way of saying those men hate or fear women. 
    To a fundamentalist man who thinks women should be subservient to men like the church is subservient to Christ, I am sure the mere idea of men as lovers means one of those men must be subservient. Patriarchal men (and women) are emotionally allergic to this idea.
    What evidence do I have that fundamentalist men think they should always be tops and never bottoms? The difference in their reaction to gay men and their reaction to lesbians. It's always ok for women to be bottoms. 
    (Of course, the main cause of any modern feminization of men is all the organic industrial chemicals that we have inserted into our environment since 1945.)
    Anyway, it is not totally surprising that black people, whose ancestors were enslaved, might be more allergic to the idea of their men being subservient. But I say to them that oppressing homosexuals tells me they are not yet completely free.
    Women, who are the mothers of all sons, cannot be oppressed and abused without also oppressing and abusing sons, whether those sons are gay or not.

November 1, 2008

Yes on 5, No on 6 & 9

Unlike DA Scully whose bullshit letter to the editor ran in today's Bee, I have no more financial conflict of interest related to these propositions than any other taxpayer.
Now "bullshit" may seem like strong language for addressing a law enforcement official, so let me clarify that I use it as did the philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his recent book.
He posits bullshit to mean words and actions designed to achieve a particular goal, without regard to truth or accuracy. Not that the truth is undesirable nor lying preferred, mind you, both are just irrelevant to the goal of the manipulation.
But, the ends never justify the means, because the means are the ends in the making. For example, if you regularly eat unhealthy food, you will end up becoming unhealthy even if you also eat some healthy food.
Similarly, Scully's demonization of drug users poisons her official and alleged desire for justice, which is after all not the same thing as security. Did the drug of power make her do it?

October 29, 2008

The Problem with Kevin

KJ's recent spin around the city council office suite highlights the main reason he should not be mayor. Both KJ and the security guard were acting emo. They were not using their heads, nor the principles that should be obvious to voters too but often aren't.

His cult of celebrity makes people stop thinking and start sentimentalizing, including, I fear, himself. If he were mayor, I believe the governance context would become even more polarized and less rational than at present. 

October 10, 2008

Relocalize The Economy!

Last week, I emailed local elected officials suggesting that they should meet ASAP with local banks, credit unions, and chambers of commerce to figure out ways to assemble enough local capital to provide commercial paper credit to local businesses. I'm not sure they were paying attention. 
This week, I emailed my representatives in the state legislature with the same suggestion. I'm not sure they are paying attention either, although I did read in the paper Bee this morning that the Governator is asking us to buy state bonds to finance some of the projects that voters already approved in previous elections.
Fortunately, California is the biggest state economy in the U.S., so I am sure there are plenty of people who could spare an extra $20 or $100 for 30 years or so (well maybe just a few years, actually, if the economy goes back up) to help build the capital infrastructure investments we will need to maintain our addictions to driving and prisons.
If you noticed that the scheme I just described, of us lending to ourselves, is just more of the same house of cards that has been falling down on Wall Street, a virtual 9/11, you may be wondering if this makes economic sense. 
If you feel confused about how ordinary shoppers like us can save the credit markets and the economy, perhaps the story of Sven and Ole, two ordinary brothers and innkeepers, will help put things in perspective.
One day, Sven realized that they had run out of beer for their guests. So they counted out the pence needed, hitched up the wagon, and were off. Returning with the keg full of beer, they had been gone for some time, and Sven was feeling thirsty. So after some thought, he said to Ole, "Ole, I'm very thirsty, and I would like a glass of beer. And I have a halfpenny in my pocket. I would like to buy just one glass of beer." 
After a moment of thought, Ole agreed, and the exchange was made. As they rode along, Sven quietly washing away his thirst, Ole began to realize that he, too, was thirsty, and would feel equally restored by a small cup. And he had in his pocket the halfpenny Sven had paid him for the glass of beer. So of course Ole proposed to Sven an equal transaction, just the reverse of the previous one. And of course Ole found his cup of beer very refreshing and sustaining.
But you know, it had really been a long day. And both brothers were really very thirsty, much more than a cup or two. And the more beer they had, the more refreshing each glass became. So, unhappily, when they finally returned to their inn, they had an empty keg and just a halfpenny.
So what is the moral of this story? Well, one moral is that beer is proof that God loves us. But the deeper meaning is that the economy really isn't about money, it's about real needs, such as clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from unfriendly weather. These things may also be proof that Mother Earth loves us. After all, she's God's Mother too.

What About Proposition 8 and Freedom of Speech?

The notion that the word marriage only refers to the sacred union between man and woman is contradicted by what I found in an online dictionary :

4. to unite intimately: Common economic interests marry the two countries.
5. to take as an intimate life partner by a formal exchange of promises in the matter of a traditional marriage ceremony.
6. to combine, connect, or join so as to make more efficient, attractive, or profitable: A recent merger marries two of the nation's largest corporations.
7. Nautical. To lay together [the unwound strands at the ends] of two ropes to be spliced
8. to cause (food, liquor, etc.) to blend with other ingredients: [To marry oil and water]

So I am wondering about what will happen to people who use any of these definitions of 'marry' if Proposition 8 were to be approved by voters. Would those who use the word "marriage" in any of these meanings be penalized? Would offending dictionaries have to be burned?

Also, I found another website: Fortunately for the authors of this website, they live in another country. However, would approval of Proposition 8 mean that the loving spirit I found at the website have to be electronically blocked from online access by Californians?

I am wondering if the proponents of Proposition 8 have really thought about the implications of this kind of law. We could even pass a proposition that pi should be equal to 3, but we would also be making a mockery of democracy.

July 23, 2008

Kevin or Heather? #2

Both candidates have boosted my ego by inviting me to endorse them. And since I have not really been acquainted with Kevin, I have been able to talk with him at some length about some of my questions. And my concerns have been largely alleviated.

Sacramentans are fortunate that two such smart, capable, caring, and motivated people are running for mayor. No matter who gets elected, life will go on generally the same way, with the same citizens, council, city staff, businesses, nonprofits, etc., as we all take turns in various roles. However, I fear that neither of the candidates really gets it about sustainability. Kevin thinks we need to tackle crime first, but too many unsustainable aspects of the American way of life are already feeding crime. While Heather supports Sacramento's Sustainability Plan, it is a long way from sufficient. And sometime she acts like all we have to do is fix K Street.

However, the fact that both Heather and Kevin got close to 50% suggests that there is a split, a polarization, in the political opinions of Sacramentans. So no matter who gets elected, we as a community would need some serious conversations in order to come to mutually agreeable decisions about certain key issues.

But I do have a candidate I would like to endorse. You can find this person in the mirror, according to Pat Paul of Fair Oaks, whose letter to the Bee was approximately as follows:

The Real Candidate for Change
So much time, energy and, unfortunately, money has been spent this election year to position the best candidate for November. I would like to make a bold appeal for my candidate - you!

The platform - the real candidate of change. The time - now!

Every one of us has the ability to make positive changes in Sacramento. Starting today, make a positive commitment to a community concern of your choice and begin making real change happen.

Not sure where? Tutor or mentor our young people, assist our elderly or needy, change your consumption habits, work for the environment, change your energy usage, bring integrity back to all your dealings, take care of animals, or any other area about which you care. The list is endless.

No time to give? Then make a donation to the nonprofit organization you most believe in; even the smallest can make a difference.

We can make positive change starting now. And - who knows? Maybe then November's outcome might not leave us wringing our hands and shaking our heads so much.

I am a candidate of change, and I approve this message.

Muriel Strand

June 17, 2008

A Similarity Between Economy & Ecology

It's a curious fact that getting rich in money markets and living off the land both involve taking a small cut of many many transactions. Successfully living within one's local ecology involves taking small portions of food and water from a larger whole that is flowing along around you. 

How small is small enough? That depends on how good you are at helping things keep flowing.

June 8, 2008

Kevin or Heather?

Last Tuesday night, a KCRA reporter asked me if I intended to recommend either Kevin or Heather as the choice in November for those who voted for me. Having had time to think it over, I recommend that those who would like a sustainable Sacramento ask each candidate whatever questions they need to ask to determine which of them is most likely to take effective steps toward this goal.

I fear that neither has a clear vision of sustainability, in part because they are both using the solutions of the past in an attempt to address the problems of the future. And I suspect that neither understands that it's not about the money.

So no matter who is elected, I urge Sacramentans to continue to focus on the issue of sustainability, and lobby their elected representatives to implement policies of sustainability. But I would also recommend that individuals and groups make their own arrangements for their own sustainable futures, rather than depending on any government to do it.

June 2, 2008

After Tomorrow

No matter who wins the vote, we will still face the same issues of achieving both ecological and social sustainability in the face of accelerating global climate change. Whatever we do, we must do it from the heart, if we are to have a prayer of success.

Amazing Earth, how sweet the air
Her children breathe each day
Blest be Her blue inspiring care
May we be worthy we pray

Amazing Earth with water clear
That washes every sin
Blest be Thy blood O Mother dear
Through Thee our lives we win

Amazing Earth we greet Thy Son
Who shines on all each day
His fire can burn at highest noon 
For forest shade we pray

Amazing Earth how good Thy food
In garden, grove and field
So full of thanks for Thee we would
Bless each and every meal

Amazing Earth whose every race
And bug and bird not least
Are called by Her Amazing Grace
In kinship with each beast

Amazing Earth we count Thy blessings
Many more than we deserve
A sin to think we own such things
Forgetting Whom we serve

(Now go to and pretend you are hearing Leann sing the poem above.)

The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper

The Bee has been shrinking ever since I moved to Sacramento 20 years ago, but lately the trend has been accelerating. The Real Estate section long ago converted to advertising, and more recently the Car section. Awhile back the ratio of text to white space was reduced. Yesterday I read that the width will be reduced again, and another merger of sections is coming, Metro & Business this time. Only the Sports section seems to be immune. (I think the Bee should just put news about Iraq and the primaries in the Sports section, so there would be more room for actual news, in the sense of something you couldn't have predicted.)

But my biggest concern is about local news. State, national, and world news can be found elsewhere. Yes, we do have other local sources such as the News & Review, and neighborhood association newsletters, but nothing as frequent or complete as the Bee has been. And TV news isn't really news, it's just breathless.

How can Sacramento be a community unless Sacramentans know what's going on in their city? I think the city council should consider using eminent domain to take over the Bee. We could have a nonprofit community-owned newspaper, and make our own news.

May 25, 2008

Dear Community Leader,

I am running for Mayor to put the issue of sustainability at the top of the public agenda.

Most of us realize Mother Earth is running a fever that will get worse before it gets better. Once we inject a particular puff of CO2 up in that beautiful spacious sky, its effect on the planet's energy balance and on global weather doesn't even begin to decline for a century or so, while much of it lasts for a millennia.

And respected scientists keep shortening their best estimates of the time left to us for making the fundamental changes needed now to avoid climate changes which will threaten not just civilization but our children and grandchildren.

Yet even though many people would like to slash their contribution to the problem, our addiction to fossil fuels is harder to quit than even cigarettes. Almost everyone is locked in to existing technologies and infrastructure, and there's not much room to make major changes in the short term. So efforts to date tend to focus on "Phase 1 sustainability," relatively superficial changes such as hydrogen cars, plasma combustion of garbage, and other high-tech opportunities for consultants to make money. But while small, short-term changes like fluorescent lights or minimizing HVAC use are good steps, they're just the first step.

And the danger is that the money, energy, and other resources already in the pipeline for relatively cosmetic changes won't be available later on when more people realize that truly fundamental changes will be necessary, such as we ought to basically stop driving. Why are we building more roads instead of converting existing ones to gardens?

But enough bad news. The good news is that, if we do it right, "Phase 2 sustainability" offers us healthier and happier lives than many now experience. And to do it right, we need a much bigger concept of physical efficiency, where the goal is clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from the elements, not just a trivial or intermediate goal like better mileage. And it's not like everyone needs to jump to Phase 2 right away or completely, but those who do want to should have our support, encouragement, and investment.

Consider the advantages and benefits of Eco-Villages. With small farms close to small towns and a revival of traditional crafts and trades, we can deflate fossil fuel consumption enough to just drown it in the bathtub. (And we won't need nuclear power either.) By living in harmony with nature - including human nature - we can enjoy life with a balance of physical and mental activity, plenty of fresh nutritious food, and a friendly community that is economically secure because it is relocalized and self-sufficient.

The myth of technology says that without modern gadgets we will face discomfort, deprivation, and disease. But modern technology is never going to change biology or human selfishness. There is also the myth of the boring mean small town, where youth drink and fight because there's nothing else to do. But modern technology can't solve cultural problems. Only people can choose to exercise our cooperative instincts more often than our competitive ones.

I hope you will join me, before and after the election, in advocating and building a truly sustainable Sacramento, designed and constructed by empowered Sacramentans. If you would like to discuss any of these ideas in more detail, you can contact me at

Table of Contents

As June 3 approaches, here is a road map to my website, to help visitors both new and old find the information that interests them.

May Postings
Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones
Greyhound Riders Sent to the Back of the Bus
Going Negative & Mudwrestling
Talking Trash 2
Talking Trash
Who Lacks Vision?
Natural Gas from Trash!
Green Investment Opportunity

April Postings
Victim Contests: racism vs. sexism 
Taxes & Investments: money & sustainability
Boomer Retirement & Youth Education: ditto
Leader-itis: why wait? be your own leader
Extinction: Salmon or Fishing?: when work doesn't work
"It's the Economy, Stupid"??: it's NOT the money
Education: GPA or skills?
Soaring Food Costs: kitchen tips
How To Ge Tough On Crime: Do unto others...
Do We Have a Right to Health Care?: a right to food and water, etc.
Separation of Church & State: Do Unto Others As You Would Like Them To Do Unto You

March Postings
Sustainability, like God, is many things to many people
Are You Free Yet?

May 23, 2008

Sustainable Specifics for Sacramento

Develop and support (more) classes in traditional crafts & skills such as spinning, weaving, smithing, woodworking, etc.
Recalibrate city utility billing to effectively reward and motivate conservation and waste reduction.
Ban nonrecyclable plastic take-out food containers.
Match people wishing to trade houses and reduce their commutes.
Develop a low-cost community garden design option.
Actively support planting & use of tree crops such as pecans.
Tax lawns & plastic bags.
Develop a permitting process for composting toilets.
Develop a few standard designs & streamlined permitting process for passive solar construction & renovation.
Tax parking spaces.
Convert parking lots to urban farms.
Require traffic calming devices to be bicycle-friendly too.
Revise the vehicle code to give the right of way to bicycles
Require pedestrian walkways to be adjacent to buildings or residential gardens rather than adjacent to parking or streets.
Truly visible street addresses to reduce confusion & needless driving.
Ban leafblowers and other uncivilized machines.
Revise zoning codes to include inoffensive ways to keep chickens, rabbits & goats in residential neighborhoods.
Loans for graywater systems in residential & commercial buildings.
Redesign water treatment processes to compete with bottled water.
Convert parking pavement to water-permeable surfaces.
Invest in children - nursing, nutrition, skills - for elders' pensions.
Design & build a prototype manually-operated clothes washer.
Protect clotheslines, natural landscapes, and affordable housing from the "blight" label.
Recognize that when mothers are caring for their kids they ARE working.
Light-rail to the airport won't be needed when we can't afford to fly.
Delete oil subsidies.
Reduce the workweek to 24 hours so the same amount of work will yield more jobs.

May 21, 2008

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...

It's not news that the N-word has a lot of baggage. It reminds black folks of huge amounts of pain and cruelty. It reminds white folks that they caused it, and that it continues in milder ways. Bonnie Pannell may also be upset because I was implying that as a councilperson she would be voting to treat poor people in a way akin to the way her people were abused.

KCRA also scolded me, saying the N-word should not be used in everyday conversation, let alone politics. But I can't help noticing that controversy is apparently what it takes to get semi-equal candidate media coverage these days. And I can't help noticing that the people who got upset about me were failing to talk about the plentiful evidence that racism and other hypocrisies are thriving.

The facts I referred to on KCRA footage, that they cut out, are as follows:
1. We are all Africans, since that's where the human race began. Some left and some stayed. Those who stayed retained the highest degree of genetic diversity, giving them the best chances of adapting to evolutionary challenges.
2. When some Africans were kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic stacked like logs, many died. The ones who arrived were on the average stronger and smarter.
3. After they arrived they were subjected to more challenges to survival over many generations. Guess what? Those who survived were on the average stronger and smarter.

But the time KCRA had to talk to me wasn't long enough to mention some of the implications of these facts. If blacks are failing to succeed as well as white folks, on the average, there must be something else going on. Bonnie accused me of being racist. I am certain our culture is substantially more racist than I may be. Racist people rarely stick up for Greyhound passengers.

Moreover, the litany of wrongs and abuses that our government and our soldiers have inflicted is a very long one. Just ask the Native Americans. The Haitians. The Iraqis. The poor residents of New Orleans. The Nicaraguans. Waco. And there are plenty more. Do I have to say we don't need any of them to be our new niggers for citizens to get upset enough about all these abuses to actually stop doing it? Then so be it.

But I think few even on the left appreciate the tragedy of the Civil War, where the freeing of the slaves was sabotaged by evil means, namely the same violence which imprisoned them. And the loss of state's rights has led us toward extreme and unsustainable centralization, a sort of governmental slavery. I believe sustainability requires true local control. What if Sacramento County were a state itself, since it is as big as some states back east? What if most of our taxes went to the county instead of to Washington DC?

Anyway, I also couldn't help noticing that actual Greyhound passengers were not consulted about the new location for the terminal, but instead treated like mushrooms. So I went down there to talk to some. Most of the dozen or so who were Sacramento residents thought the terminal is just fine where it is. There were 2 security guards there. The older one said he thought the city council had **** for brains. He said that the Greyhound location is completely irrelevant to crime, because society causes crime. He expects Greyhound's departure won't make the slightest difference in the crime rate downtown.

Lastly, as a Sacramento taxpayer, I can't help feeling abused. Why is the city paying to get Greyhound and Benvenuti out of their own contract that they both already want to get out of? Do we or do we not have a budget deficit? Does the city need financial counseling?

May 17, 2008

Greyhound Riders Sent to the Back of the Bus

The Business Journal reported yesterday that the city has cut a deal with Benvenuti to 'temporarily' exile the Greyhound station to Richards Blvd. about half a mile east of I5. Next Tuesday, the city council is expected to approve this boondoggle, which includes $2 million in city money for infrastructure improvements around the proposed location, plus a guaranteed 12% return to Benvenuti for his development of the new terminal.

Why? "Officials said the downtown location causes traffic congestion and the terminal's presence hampered investment in the area." But I can't help remembering that the city evicted a handful of viable tenants on K Street not long ago, and the consequences have not helped investment there one bit. It's also "rumored" that the city's dispute with Mohanna is near a settlement. How much more will that add to the city's deficit?

Moreover, the teens who come on lightrail to hang out downtown don't come there because of Greyhound, they come there in part, I hear, because Florin Mall where they used to hang out has been under reconstruction since about the time the Meadowview line opened. And I can't help noticing that money spent on moving the Greyhound terminal can't be invested in our youth.

I don't think Greyhound buses cause more traffic congestion downtown than does light-rail. Downtown happens to be Sacramento's existing intermodal location. And I can't help noticing that this will double the challenge of taking RT to connect with intercity bus service, inducing Greyhound riders to choose friends' cars or taxis, and slightly weakening RT's farebox revenues. 

I have heard about an intermodal plan for the railyards, but it will take a lot longer than "several" years to appear, especially when it means getting $300 million from a federal government with a sinkhole in its own budget. The previous railyards plan that was blessed back in about 1990 never happened, so why should I think this one will? Where is the EIR on the negative environmental impact?

I keep hearing other rumors, that the city is experiencing an unprecedented, $58 million semi-structural deficit. Then why are we spending so much money creating market distortions? So Benvenuti can build a luxury hotel & condo for rich people? Where is the city's cut from this deal?

It's said that "the love of money is the root of all evil." (1Tim6) I think the reason this is true is because all desires for money in and of itself are misleading. Those desires lead us away from the reality that money can only reflect. Seeking a reflection leaves you at the mercy of smoke-and-mirrors. Like thinking the wine is better just because the bottle is more expensive.

People keep complaining about crime going up. But they rarely complain when other people, like poor people who ride Greyhound, get screwed. Well guess what - what goes around comes around. A wise friend once told me that the most dangerous people are those with nothing to lose. So if you want to reduce crime, stop taking things away from those who already have the least.

So if you are an ordinary middle-class person who wants to fight crime, tell the city council and the mayor that this is not the way to fix the sinkhole in the city budget. We don't need to make poor people our new niggers.

May 13, 2008

Going Negative & Mudwrestling

Does criticizing someone's character or track record during a political campaign equal "going negative?" Heck, that's almost as bad as gossip. It's kind of like the classic complaint that the media always focuses on bad news so much more than good news. Why to people like to read, hear, and watch disturbing, spiteful, or fearful things anyway?

But I think there may actually be a good reason for this. Often removing/improving some bad or painful reality can do more to improve your overall comfort than adding another comfortable thing. And you can't remove the bad thing unless you notice it.

For example, when you are trying to learn to do something new, you make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are negative, because there is the pain of failure and frustration. But they also point to precisely where attention and analysis should be most intently focused in order to succeed.

Another example would be the crucial negativity of hunger and thirst, which make comforts seem pale and useless. Unfortunately, like other aspects of homelessness, they can also derail the attention and analysis that success may require.

But you are probably wondering about the mudwrestling. Does going negative always mean mud, such as an unfair criticism? No, I am sure constructive criticism is possible. But one might have to wrestle with figuring out what is constructive vs. what is trivial, mean, or expedient.

And the recipient's response to any criticism also determines how constructive it can become.

May 10, 2008

Talking Trash 2

Why is everyone whining at Mayor Fargo rather than asking the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 447 to apologize for their own trash? Where is the Labor Council? Can't they provide the kind of leadership that would keep things clean?

It's also possible this is just a scheme to help voters feel sorry for poor persecuted KJ. The Bee is cooperating by failing to discuss the issues which are more relevant to the city as a whole, such as Sac High, Oak Park re/development or lack thereof, and their financial relationships with KJ's corporate edifices. While the Bee did cover the federal investigation into Hood Corps operations, they have not been doing any basic research recently. 

The News & Review, on the other hand, has scored a slam dunk on p.11 of this week's issue, doing the math and sharing their results of a financial-managerial comparison between KJ & Heather: "St. Hope's [2006] budget was more than twice as whacked-out as the city's" proposed 2008-2009 budget. 

Now we know that the city will combine cuts, new revenue, and reserves to stay in the black. But who paid for St. Hope's shortfall? Students? Teachers? Deferred building maintenance? Local donors? What about this year?

Why is it easier to talk about sex than money? Don't let the red flag of a hyperventilated sex mini-scandal distract you from boring and flaky accounting which is actually more hazardous to your health. Insist on straight answers about everything.

May 9, 2008

Talking Trash

I still miss Sacramento's tradition of Annual Junk Day, when my whole neighborhood would become a free flea market for a few days. Residents and travelers could both be found wandering around picking over discarded stuff, and a lot of piles got smaller as many things which still had some use to them were reclaimed by economical Sacramentans.

I couldn't help noticing last week that a few households in my neighborhood had scheduled their new individual annual pick-up day, and that various things awaited a trip to that cemetery of stuff called the dump. One house in particular had 2 armchairs and a sofa that all looked practically new, but because there wasn't much time and only a few places for prospecting, I'm sure they ended up being unnecessarily trashed. What if city staff gave first dibs to the Salvation Army and Goodwill?

I've also noticed that only neighborhoods thought to be in danger of blight have been deprived of their annual garages sale. But this is not the only designated symptom of blight that is ecologically insane. The idea that perfect green lawns keep crime at bay by showing that residents care is trumped by the fact that such lawns require massive amounts of water, mowing and blowing by fossil-fuel machines, and usually various industrial fertilizers and biocides as well, and all of it just so yards don't look like true natural California. No wonder the bees are dying.

If we can't get over our hang-up about appearances, and find some commitment to underlying truth and reality, no amount of government services--police staffing, economic re/development, tax increases, tax cuts, whatever--will help us find a sustainable path to the future.

May 6, 2008

Who Lacks Vision?

Local news media exhibit clinical signs of severe astigmatism in their distorted reporting about the field of mayoral candidates. The really bad part is that Sacramentans have little or no leverage for getting good unbiased coverage.

Here are some websites with information that could help local residents do the job that newspaper and TV reporters are skimping: 
and and 

I wonder why someone who is worth between $3.5 million and $20 million needs to borrow money to finance development in Oak Park? I wonder why there is a $5 million discrepancy between the value of real estate owned by KJ and/or his corporations as listed in his FPPC financial disclosure Form 700 (about $2.2M) versus the information listed in the Bee last fall (about $7.7M)? It is certainly true that his business affairs are numerous and complex, and data entry errors certainly happen. But why is it the St. Hope Academy and St. Hope Development Corp. properties which are mostly not listed in the FPPC Form 700 which shows mostly Kynship Development Corp. properties? Why does the St. Hope Development website list only a minority of the Oak Park real estate listed on the FPPC Form 700? And why is Sac High's enrollment so much lower than it was right after KJ took it over?

Does someone whose records provoke these kinds of questions really have what it would take to achieve the goals listed on and

May 5, 2008

Natural Gas from Trash!

I guess we are sending some of Sacramento's energy resources to Nevada. The sustainable solution would be to use that energy here. But combustion is probably not the best approach. The "organic waste" decomposing at landfills is probably a combination of food waste, pet poop, paper, and plastic. 

The fact that landfills generate CO2 as well as methane means that we can reduce greenhouse gases by throwing less stuff away. This is easier than capturing the landfill gas, separating and sequestering the CO2, and liquefying the methane. And it's a lot cheaper, because you save twice - once by not paying for the stuff you used to throw away, and again by not paying for all the landfill gas infrastructure.

Of course, you do still have to process biological wastes the old-fashioned way. But processing plastic is the real challenge.

Will Waste Management Inc. be able to reduce tipping fees by using recycled natural gas in their trucks? No, they just won't have to increase them as soon.

May 2, 2008

Green Investment Opportunity

I read in the paper today about Greensburg Kansas, which was almost wiped off the map by a tornado last year. But the town they rebuilt is substantially more green than the old one.  What if CalPERS and the CA Energy Commission got together and upgraded the energy efficiency and self-sufficiency of all those foreclosed forlorn houses while they are empty? What if the city of Sacramento organized a community revolving loan fund to do this here for ourselves?

The measures described in the article are probably all mentioned in the city's Sustainability Plan. Each year, the council approves an implementation plan for that year. This year's, the first, prescribes changes in city operations and infrastructure. Let's extend the changes to private citizens making private decisions. There is nothing stopping us from empowering ourselves as individuals to make positive change at any time.

April 30, 2008

Victim Contests

The KJ-Heather race is looking less and less like the Obama-Hillary race. Bob Herbert of the NY Times sees Rev. Wright as narcissistic and vengeful. I see him more as a pressure-relief valve. (But I also disagree with most conspiracy theories.) On the other hand, KJ's backers have the good sense to stay in the shadows and let him take the heat for the possessive and domineering attitude towards women that poisons the world of men.

Next to Herbert today I also read Marie Cocco of the Washington Post explain how the Supreme Men have made the glass ceiling bulletproof. What kind of men are these? who don't understand that woman are more important to men than men are to women, particularly in these times of cheap gasoline when woman can substitute machines if necessary.

Being an uppity woman myself, I look to variations on the Lysistrategy. The caring instincts of mend and tend, as well as the survival instincts of fight or flight, exist in all humans and in different proportions in all humans. But what good is survival if mending and tending are sacrificed, disrespected, and disempowered? Why are you men willing to pay more for fighting or fleeing than for mending or tending?

I bet it's because too many women have been too brainwashed by internalized disrespect, just like too many blacks. (The real tragedy of the Civil War was the loss of states' rights by evil means - the same military and vigilante violence that enslaved so many Africans - a strategy that deeply sabotaged the victory of the North and centralization.)

Is Heather like Hillary? Somewhat. But I don't think Heather would pander like that, such as Hillary's support for a gas tax vacation instead of talking about the outmoded oil subsidies Republicans are protecting.

April 29, 2008

Taxes & Investments

The first thing to understand about your money is that's not really just your money. If no one accepts your money as valuable, it's not money. Your money, like mine, can be money only because we all use it that way. Money is just the poker chips we have all agreed to use to play the game of life as we know it, even though it's pretty tough to make any other choice.

Anyway, most of us will get some kind of tax rebate to be saved or spent on gas and food. Is the government giving us our money back? Not exactly, because the government gets to print money, and control certain limits on money. To create more money, the government buys assets and makes loans based on collateral. So then the money is backed by the quality of the assets and collateral.

So to keep the economy going, the government (that's us) has to invest in assets and loans (ours). So, we can save on transaction costs by doing this locally, investing some of our tax rebates or retirement funds directly in local projects. For example, we could invest in better food markets in unhealthy neighborhoods with too many junk food stores. Or we could invest in passive solar construction and renovations.

Some say that Fresh & Easy will be a good healthy market for Oak Park, so I went online to check them out. I think they are aiming at the Trader Joe's market niche, plus perhaps more produce from local farms. But I saw way too many packaged products with their recipe suggestions. I also saw that they offer $1000 to every community where they open a store, but they didn't say exactly who gets the money.

The affordable way to eat healthy food is to buy basic ingredients and make it yourself. It can be super-simple. If you're stumped, ask friends who do make good food for just a few tips. The truth about eating your vegetables is it takes a bit more time to prepare them than simple stuff like eggs or cheese toasties. But think of it as health insurance. And they can taste great. Oils, maybe butter, are an important part of a balanced diet. If you want to lose weight, just don't eat white flour/rice/pasta/sugar/etc., and do get more exercise. 

If I lived in Oak Park and wanted to buy healthy food, I would go to the Co-op and to the farmers markets, and occasionally to Trader Joe's. I like to play the field. But transportation can be a problem for moms or bus riders. When the city was looking high and low to find a grocery store at Stockton & Broadway, I suggested the neighborhood consider organizing a consumers' cooperative store. And there is nothing stopping them from doing this now, investing their rebates in themselves.

April 25, 2008

Boomer Retirement & Youth Education

Proposals to expand CalPERS' scope is opposed by stock market brokers, no surprise there. But is it a good idea to make a big player even bigger? Will that ensure elder security?

I think my economic security as a state pensioner will be enhanced if CalPERS invests some money in education. Reportedly, graduating seniors are facing a scarcity of tuition lenders. Perhaps there is an opportunity for farsighted investment in motivated students who propose to pursue useful studies such as ecology, entomology, machining, or biodynamic permaculture, the sort of knowledge that will ensure a healthy economy for my old age. (And no I don't mean psych or political science majors.)

At the same time, there is no reason for grads to panic. A year or 2 in the labor market is a great apprenticeship in the school of life, and existing schools are not going to die on the vine in the meantime. Everyone could benefit from a bit of cost-benefit analysis.

A little research reveals that Los Rios fees are $20/unit, Sac State's are $1200-$2100 for CA residents, and UC rates are around $4000, all for a semester. But the word on the street is that textbook totals are in the triple digits, and affordable student housing means living with mom and/or dad. 

There is an opportunity here for adults to contribute some 'sweat equity' by offering room & board to termed-out foster kids, and by reminding colleges of all kinds that almost all the information presented in expensive new texts with fancy graphics is also available in the old ones, some of which can be found for free at the Sacramento Surplus Bookroom ( Old editions are also available online for pennies on the dollar. So what if professors have to work up new problem sets or solutions?

April 22, 2008


Yesterday I attended Kevin's pep rally at Sac City College. Today I read in the paper that KJ has scored with biz & (again) labor. What I don't understand is why they are hot to be his cheerleaders.

Metro Chamber of Commerce's CEO Mahood complains Heather doesn't call him back right away. Gee, since when did straightout guys start playing that phone game? It's usually a girl game. But KJ says he will listen, and to labor too, via a hired communication liaison. Right.

Hmm. I don't understand why the Metro Chamber and the Labor Council don't just talk to each other directly. I can't help thinking about the other phone game, that kids play by whispering in each other's ears. I can't help wondering if the Labor Council has stopped returning calls from the teachers' union, and if it's because they endorsed Heather. And I can't help wondering if a candidate who regularly stands up dates he has made to appear at forums with other candidates is someone you're gonna call when the chips are down.

Anyway, "leaderitis" is my word for our tendencies to want someone to take care of us and tell us what to do, particularly when we're busy or befuddled. I say grow up and get over it. Democracy won't work otherwise. Mayor Fargo suggests "There are a lot of people who, despite their call for leadership, want someone who will really follow them and their ideas. I'm a little too independent for that. I always do what's best for the city of Sacramento. That independence scares some people."

We all need to be independent thinkers, and the kind of leader described in this letter which recently appeared on the Bee's op-ed page:

"The Real Candidate For Change-
So much time, energy and, unfortunately, money has been spent this election year to position the best candidate for November. I would like to make a bold appeal for my candidate - you!

The platform - the real candidate of change. The time - now!

Every one of us has the ability to make positive changes in this country. Starting today, make a positive commitment to a nonpolitical area of your choice and begin making real change happen.

Not sure where? Tutor or mentor our young people, assist our elderly or needy, change your consumption habits, work for the environment, change your energy usage, bring integrity  back to all your dealings, take care of animals, or any other area about which you care. The list is endless.

No time to give? Then make a donation to the nonpolitical organization you most believe in; even the smallest can make a difference.

We can make positive change starting now. And - who knows? - maybe then November's outcome might not leave us wringing our hands and shaking our heads so much.

I am a candidate of change, and I approve this message.

Pat Paul, Fair Oaks"

April 20, 2008

Extinction: Salmon or Fishing?

Every time I read in the news lamentations about hardworkingmen who are being victimized by environmental restrictions that will beggar them, I can't help thinking back to the early 1980s when I kept reading about the callous, social-Darwinist, attitude of then-President Reagan and his corporate buddies toward the hordes of blue-collar union workers in the Rust Belt who were being dumped like yesterday's trash.

I still don't understand the difference in these situations. Do you?

At the end of the article a fisherman says "I don't want a handout, I just want to go back to work." Just like a lot of union guys have been saying. Unfortunately, I fear that boycotting farmed salmon won't suffice. The real question is why the kind of work that is healthy and nourishing for people and communities isn't available or doesn't pay enough. What kind of work? How about farming, weaving, sewing, cooking, childcare, teaching apprentices, building eco-villages or manufacturing bicycles?

April 19, 2008

"It's The Economy, Stupid"??

At the end of his column in today's Bee, Paul Krugman wrote "the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember."

It's absolutely true that the U.S. annual deficit was turned into an annual surplus for a few brief years at the end of 1990s, and the U.S. accumulated debt began a slight decline. (However, it's not news that since then the Republicans have tripled or quadrupled the total debt, which will be funded by future borrowing at oil-fueled interest rates.) 

More unfortunate even than that perhaps was the Clinton administration's failure to understand that "It's Not The Money, Stupid." The infatuation of both parties with trade and globalization was based on a widespread and mistaken idea that money is essential and inherently positive, and that it is reliably related to economic benefit. In effect, economists typically recast the standard definition of efficiency used by physicists into a calculation about the amount of money attracted by a given input of energy and other resources.

The annual Earthday season is a good time to review what the economy is about. An earth-friendly economy would look at overall human efficiency, the amount of human welfare available from a given input of physical energy and resources. The physical part of human welfare is: clean air and water, healthy food, and protection from extremes of heat, cold, and rain. If the rules of money suggest that funding my retirement through investing in the stocks of corporations that are raping Mother Earth and selling us junk food is a good idea, then the rules of money are wrong.

In times of stability, money can provide an efficient shortcut to evaluate what's economically good and bad. But in times of turbulence such as we confront, the true relationships between moneys and realities are equally turbulent, and a return to fundamental principles is the only way to keep one's bearings. Maslow's hierarchy builds on the foundation of physical needs listed above. Other things like sleep, affectionate touch, meaningful work, community are all important for a happy natural human life, and his schematic offers a perspective outside of the box of business as usual.

A balanced economy would integrate all these human needs into a culture of life that would support sustainable and relocalized societies, as well as all the other species without which life in this ecosystem would be boring (like my cat) or impossible (like insects).

April 17, 2008


It's not about test scores. It's not about grades. It's not about diplomas.

It's about what you learn. It's about what you can do. It's about learning how to provide for yourself, both directly, and indirectly by taking care of others.

It's about being economically productive. But it's not about the money. It's about knowing how to get clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from hot, cold or rainy weather. It's about meeting the hierarchy of needs described by Maslow.

It's about knowing how to think. (Hint: Don't believe everything you think.)

If you are a parent who is concerned about their child's education, I recommend "The Teenage Liberation Handbook," by Grace Llewellyn, available at your local library. It can liberate parents as well as youth.

April 16, 2008

Soaring Food Costs

Yesterday's Bee described price increases for basics like eggs that are squeezing even middle-class budgets. So I share below some key ways I keep my costs low and still buy healthy food.

The first key is scratch cooking at home. It's really not that hard if you know a few basics, so I wrote an inexpensive cookbooklet called "How To Play With Your Food" that empowers readers to avoid marked-up, less-nutritious, packaged processed products.

Here are some other principles:
Buy fruits and vegetables in season, at farmers markets. Eat eggs, cheese, or rice-and-beans rather than meat. Drink tap water (if you let it stand the chlorine evaporates after a half hour or so) and don't buy soda or bottled water. Eat fruit not fruit juice. Don't eat white flour/pasta/bread/rice or sugar. Dandelion greens are one of the most nutritious greens and they're free for the taking (but make sure they haven't been sprayed).

I've also developed some techniques for keeping foods longer and recycling them:
*store cheese in a dry and cold environment
*raw eggs keep a LOT longer than hardboiled
*food stored in airtight glass keeps longer than in plastic
*mix a spoonful of active yogurt into cottage cheese and cream cheese
*aged salad can go in the soup
*stale bread makes great bread pudding
*vinegar, wine, and salt are other traditional preservatives

And of course we can always share with those who are hungry.

April 8, 2008

How To Be Tough On Crime

Crime is behavior, so one must be tough on the behavior. But being mean to criminals and temporarily banishing them to haphazard cruelty in prison is just that same kind of anti-social behavior. Discipline - relentlessly kind, firm and consistent correction of behavior - is instead in order.

Most people's dominant feeling about crime is natural fear of violent crime. Unfortunately, many lack a rational understanding of the differences between violent crime and property crime, both legal and statistical. For example, few realize that both perpetrators and victims tend to share the demographics of poverty, youth, and masculinity. Nor that most criminals who have guns get them to protect themselves.

And it can be hard for youth to find good role models. Our country was the violent, pre-emptive aggressor in the war with Iraq, but national leaders don't know how to back down and be respectful and peaceful. Moreover, economic insecurity and rampant unfairness suggest that the comfortable people don't care about anyone else either so what goes around comes around. It's also worth noting that malnutrition can make people act out and commit crimes.

April 6, 2008

Do We Have A Right To Health Care?

I think we have a right to the basic foundations of good health--clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. And plenty of sleep and affectionate touch. Providence had arranged a world where obtaining these needs led to exercise and cooperation. But then coal, oil, wage-slavery, and adolescence were discovered, not necessarily in that order.

I don't think we have the right to live forever, nor does it sound like much more fun than never sleeping. (And the real solution to the social-security/medicare 'crisis' is to invest in truly sustainable development, like early childhood education, apprenticeships, and eco-villages, not Bechtel and Blackwater.)

I do think we have the right to expect the legislature to approve sensible bills such as SB840 which can improve basic and preventive care while cutting the costs of red tape and the number of emergency room visits. Is the Republican policy of cutting government investment in societal health in order to increase private monetary profits our real health care problem?

As my golden birthday recedes behind me, I feel my body begin to soften and slow down. Eating right and exercising regularly are really great health care investments, and I continue to reap the dividends. But accidents happen, such as broken bones and mutations. That's what affordable health insurance should be there for. And also for key, simple modern preventives such as vaccinations. But no health care system will ever be able to do everything for everyone.

My prescription for myself is to get as much as I can of the foundations listed above. And also to try to get them in ways that minimize exploitation, and maximize the exercise and cooperation in one's life. And of course I try to inform others of these benefits, but they are often too busy watching TV which peddles a lot of junk. Germs are not the real problem.

April 4, 2008

Separation of Church and State

The separation of any church from state sponsorship was intended by our Founding Fathers to prevent one church in any colony from trying to lord it over the other brands. 

It is not well known what the Founding Mothers thought, but if I were one of them I would think that this should not mean the separation of the state from the time-tested wisdom of the higher spiritual truths which are found in all faiths, albeit in different measures.

One measure's commonality is striking - the Golden Rule.

Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. I have a hard time believing any Founders disagreed with this. But politicians often seem to. In fact, cynics like to repeat the corrupt version, that them who has the gold makes the rules. Voters can change this by making sure their decisions aren't influenced by gold, but rather by friendly and proactive kindness.

Can prayer assist the voting process?  Maybe. What's prayer?

March 12, 2008

Are You Free Yet?

Shortly before the 230th anniversary of Independence Day, the Sacramento News & Review printed a letter describing my reaction to a famous physicist from Caltech, sponsored by the UCD Oil Forum at a symposium where he said "Civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime in this century, when the fuel runs out." (

Dear Editor,

Does ancient Greece suffice to disprove this prejudice? How about the Amish? Or have we only become civilized, if that's what we are, by acquiring the appropriate set of labor-saving, energy-consuming appliances? I can see how much labor we have saved by the amount of leisure we enjoy.

Professor Famous Physicist thinks that nuclear power can help us "bridge" the gap between oil and the holy grail of the perfect fuel. I say why wait? Since we will have to depend on the perfect fuel eventually, we might as well start using it now.

You are undoubtedly surprised to hear that it already exists. But you have probably already seen it in action without recognizing it. It's called No-Fuel.

The potential of No-Fuel may seem insignificant, but that is actually the source of its promise and power. The benefits of not using fuel are virtually unlimited, and include not driving to work, not buying packaged preserved foods that are highly processed and trucked long distances, not needing to go to the gym because you do garden-yoga most days, not worrying about whether someone is breaking into your house or abusing your kid while you're all at the office, not enduring airport security, not needing to make so much money, and not using leafblowers.

Of course, everybody's different, so the best ways to use No-Fuel will vary among individuals.

As addictive fuel use is reduced in one's personal life, space appears for other more wholesome activities, such as breathing fresh air, biking or riding a pony-cart to the store, cooking locally-grown healthy food for friends and family, relearning traditional crafts and trades, raising your own children, and minimizing the taxes owed to a government that is using most of them to buy weapons to protect our oil addiction.

Some say Chevron fuels your freedom. I say only No-Fuel can make us truly free. So on Independence Day, try not using any fossil energy. Increase your freedom from fossil fuel addiction one day at a time. And don't let the inevitable relapses derail your commitment to traditional ways and an economy based on community well-being rather than corporate tissue-paper profits.

(Note: The version above differs slightly from the printed version at 

March 7, 2008

Sustainability, like God, is many things to many people.

The Leafblower is a phenomenon that involves many aspects of sustainability, as I described several years ago:

Oh No, It's Leafblower Season Again!!

In the good old days, fall meant holiday festivities. Nowadays it's open season on us as we are assaulted by leafblowers, more accurately called dirtblasters, since chasing pavement debris is most common. Particularly nerve-wracking is the questionable sanity of anyone trying to blow anything during high winds or heavy rains.

We're all victims of this urban terrorist device--not just the billowing clouds of smoky exhaust and gutter dust containing everything from dog poop to pesticide runoff, but also NOISE (the orphan form of air pollution) from poorly throttled and muffled 2-stroke engines, as well as from high-pressure fans and powerful airflows.

Clearly, the persistence of such nuisances implies powerful political-economic forces. Locally, bans were proposed, considered, and derailed in 1991 when I was an Environmental Commissioner and in 1997 when I was active in Citizens for a Quieter Sacramento. Thus I encountered many interesting facts and observations surrounding an issue which has so far provoked far too much more heat than light.

Dirtblaster profits go to corporate manufacturers and gasoline retailers, and to landscapers,many with spiffy diesel trucks full of underpaid workers and trailers full of gas-guzzling equipment. But all the external and unaccounted costs--piercing dissonant whines, eye-stinging dustclouds, oily exhaust, depletion of nonrenewable resources, not to mention the average American's flab--are inflicted on innocent bystanders. And people with brooms can't compete with cheap gasoline nor with the pleasingly powerful machines preferred by manly men.

Coincidentally, almost all government protections against noise pollution were disappeared by manly Republicans. Reagan wasted no time deep-sixing USEPA's noise pollution budget and Wilson axed California's program during the recession of the early 1990s. Nowadays, citizens are protected only by marginally enforceable city or county noise ordinances based on the outdated research of vanished state and federal scientific staff. Officials also mistakenly fear increased costs for maintenance and for liability insurance for slip-and-falls if dirtblasters are banned.

Business owners cry the blues claiming dirtblasters are the most cost-effective device for tidying pavements and attracting (deaf?) customers. But there are no meaningful engineering comparisons between dirtblasters and any of a wide range of available alternatives, because no one in charge is insisting on any. So on-the-job training keeps teaching newbies that 'gardening' means using herds of engines to make tidy parking lots and astroturf lawns.

Another inconvenient truth is that gardens don't like dirtblasters chasing away all their nutritious and water-conserving leaf-mulch (mostly just in time for the rainy season) and coating their leaf-lungs with choking dust. Besides, if we just quit over-watering, over-fertilizing, and over-landscaping, our yards and towns could be as beautiful as any scenic wilderness.

Sensible public debate and policy have also been derailed by the jobs/class/color political hot potato. No elected official wants to be seen as taking away the jobs of people who are poor and brown and often indigenous farmers driven from their formerly sustainable homelands  by our foreign policies such as NAFTA. But the dire unemployment predicted by owners of large landscaping companies on behalf of many of the poorest mow-and-blowers with the noisiest dirtblasters, oldest trucks, and darkest skins is flatly contradicted by the market failure experienced by homeowners seeking nonexistent quiet gardeners.

So while chemical air pollution has been kept at bay, noise pollution has been steadily increasing for years, causing stress, increased medical costs, lower student test scores, etc. To an engineer, noise is wasted energy. From Harleys to helicopters,  it's everywhere, and it can really hurt, or even kill, just as a straw can break the camel's back.

When the market fails, it's high time for the government (that's us, folks!) to step in. So let's get together for quiet peaceful towns, mellow neighbors, and happy gardens!