Archive for August, 2006

Corruption and Ineptitude, Down on the Farm

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

For Immediate Release
August 22, 2006

Mad Sheep
The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm
by Linda Faillace

Contact: Jessica Saturley, (802)295-6300, ext. 106

“Mad Sheep will enrage you.”
John Stauber, co-author, Mad Cow U.S.A.

In March 2001, after months of harassment and surveillance—including USDA agents spying on the family farm from nearby mountaintops—armed federal agents seized what they had identified as an iminent danger to the American people: a flock of 140 organicallyraised dairy sheep.

This absurdity was the last chapter in a harrowing and heartbreaking story, one in which the USDA and the American beef industry conspired against a small Vermont family farm. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)—better known as “mad cow” disease—had just devastated the British beef industry and, though it had not yet come to America, the USDA needed to take action to allay fears of the disease, without actually tarnishing the image of the American beef industry.

The answer: Linda Detweiler—then head of the USDA and now employed by McDonald’s and Wendy’s—claimed the imported sheep had been exposed to BSE, and began the process of seizing the animals. But the owners of the flock, Linda and Larry Faillace, weren’t going to let the animals go without a fight. Scientists both, and experts on mad cow disease, the Faillaces were able demonstrate that not only were their sheep not exposed to BSE, it was impossible for them to have the disease in the first place. And then the battle truly began.

Mad Sheep is the unforgettable story of one family’s struggle against a bullying and corrupt government agency that long ago abandoned the family farmer to serve the needs of corporate agriculture and and the industrialization of our food supply. It is an unforgettable chapter in the latter day history of the family farm.

Linda Faillace is a writer, shepherdess, scientist and owner of a country store dedicated to supporting local farmers and locally grown food. She has studied mad cow disease since the early 1990s. A champion of organic and sustainable farming, farmers’ rights and strong local communities, Linda lives with her husband, Larry, and their three children in East Warren, Vermont.

AVAILABLE October 2006 | HARDCOVER | $22.50 | 1-933392-09-6 | 6 X 9, 352 PAGES


USDA: Convicted, again

Friday, August 18th, 2006

This is hardly a surprise, but the USDA has again been convicted of endangering the public instead of protecting us. This time is the the bio-pharma industry that got a free pass. The Washington Post reports:

Environmental groups yesterday called for a moratorium on open-air tests of crops genetically engineered to produce medicines and vaccines, citing a federal court’s conclusion last week that the Agriculture Department repeatedly broke the law by allowing companies to plant such crops on hundred of acres in Hawaii.

In a toughly worded 52-page decision released without fanfare late last week, a U.S. District judge in Hawaii concluded that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which grants permits for the planting of genetically engineered crops, should have first investigated whether the plants posed a threat to any of that state’s hundreds of endangered species.

Read the rest of the article

The March on Global Warming

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

This is cool. Are you in Vermont or upper-easter-New York? Maybe I’ll see you there.

Invitation from John Elder and Bill McKibben

Dear Friends,

Consider this an invitation to join us for some part of a Labor Day weekend walk—a fairly long, probably sweaty, and intermittently scenic march in daily stages across the Champlain Valley to Burlington. Sound inviting? What it offers in return for aching feet is the chance to express our deep desire for real action to finally start addressing global warming.

Even commies get the blues

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Well, I don’t know about the blues, but apparently they like Diane’s book. Hooray for commies with good taste in summer reading!

“An Unreasonable Woman” by Diane Wilson (published by Chelsea Green). A true autobiographical story that is as engaging as a good novel. Written by a fourth-generation commercial fisherwoman in Texas who gradually got drawn into leading a fight against a multinational polluter and regulators who turned a blind eye. The writing style is stunningly original, full of humor and irony, authentic dialogue, and rich images and similes.

PS: no offense intended towards socialists of whatever stripe. Honestly. I’ve got beautiful hardcover editions of Capital, volumes 1, 2, and 3 on my shelf at home. I’ve got a hunch that at the asymptote, a neoclassical model of the purely competitive economy converges with a Marxist model using the labor theory of value, though my math skills are way too sucky to ever be able to prove it. So please forgive my use of the term “commies”–it’s a blog. Blogs are snippy. Right?

Jerome on Lamont and assorted related whatnot

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Then You Win

by Jerome Armstrong, Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 03:22:15 PM EST

I was up in New Hampshire yesterday with college age Sierra Club activists, doing a back and forth debate/discussion with the Sierra Club President, Lisa Renstrom, over the issue of their embracing partisan politics, and advancing the progressive movement ahead of their own single-issue advocacy. I laid out the argument that single-issue advocacy was something that seemed to work in a previous time, but not in today’s partisan atmosphere, and that if a substantive, transformative change in environmental policy was to happen, it would occur because the millions of environmentalists decided to join the netroots/grassroots activists now taking over the Democratic Party. I quoted Krugman’s channel of CTG tough love. Lisa countered that social movements do not make up political parties, but impact them, and she effectively made the case that environmentalists can drive the public debate at the state level in a non-partisan manner. I totally agreed, but believe that that impact can be overtly partisan, and that a distinction must be made between the state, more local level, and the federal races.


Article by Greg Pahl in the Rutlant Herald on Wind Power in VT

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Greg Pahl, you are one cool dude. I love this. I love CSAs, and the idea of CSEs is just about oo cool for words.

Energy choices for communities

August 9, 2006

Rejection of a wind project in East Haven and a preliminary negative finding about a 20-turbine wind farm in Sheffield have put the brakes on most large-scale wind proposals in the state. So this might be a good time for the renewable energy community — the wind power sector in particular — to step back and consider another option.

This other option falls between the large-scale commercial wind farm and the small-scale backyard wind turbine, and it has been described as “the third way.” This middle strategy, also referred to as community-supported wind, relies on somewhat smaller-scale projects that are developed, sited, and owned by members of the local community rather than out-of-state corporate entities.

Community-supported wind could fill a huge gap in Vermont’s present wind power sector. And this approach is not limited to wind power, but can be applied to virtually any type of local renewable energy project, such as solar panels, biogas digesters, a variety of biofuels, and small-scale hydro.

Sore Loserman

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

I just can’t help but wonder, if Lieberman wouldn’t fight for the elected office he was actually elected to, why is he now going to fight for the office that he’s been voted out of?

Senator Lamont, congratulations on a gangbusters job. I hope you will represent Connecticut, and us all, very well.

Health Care on a Wing and a Prayer

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Here’s my latest missive written for the Center for Popular Economics’ “Econ-Atrocity” series. (By the way, did I mention that I co-wrote a book? Okay, so it wasn’t with Chelsea Green, but that wasn’t really up to me. The book already existed with The New Press, so whatcha gonna do — not that I’m complaining. I dig TNP.)

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Econ-Atrocity: Health Care on a Wing and a Prayer
By Jonathan Teller-Elsberg
August 9, 2006

Millions of employed Americans who are offered health insurance through their jobs are turning down the benefit because of high costs. This has been a tragic fact for many years, but the situation is only getting worse.

According to a recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the number of workers who declined to accept health insurance when it was offered by their employer increased by three million between 1998 and 2003. All told, some 12 million workers eligible for work-based health insurance turned it down in 2003.

Over the years of the study, the average annual cost to the worker to accept employer-supplied insurance went up by over $1,000, a 42% jump. It hardly needs mentioning that average wages have not kept pace.

Rising costs are not necessarily the reason that all of those 12 million workers declined the offered coverage—some workers turn down the health insurance from their own job because they are better off being covered as part of a family member’s work-based insurance.

Still, cost is the reason that most uninsured people lack coverage. Insurance costs have been rising for workers and employers alike. In both 1998 and 2003, employers who offered health insurance to their workers covered an average of 82% of the premiums. This means that employers also faced a 42% increase in their costs of providing health benefits. A predictable result is that more and more employers decide not to offer health insurance even as an option.

Altogether, 34% of full-time workers in private industry were not covered by employer-provided health insurance in 2004. Even those lucky enough to have insurance as an option, and lucky enough to be able to afford their share of the premium, have faced rising healthcare costs that take a toll. Rising deductibles, capped coverage, and other aspects of miserly insurance plans leave working people facing terrible financial risks. In 2001, half of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy cited medical expenses as helping to push them over the line. Of those, three quarters had health insurance when their illness or injury struck.

Clearly, the health care system in America is out of whack. When millions of workers can’t afford coverage, and many who have coverage are still driven to bankruptcy because their insurance is so stingy, we need real alternatives.

The simplest solution is a national health plan that provides universal coverage. From Canada to New Zealand, all the other economically advanced countries of the world offer examples of health care systems that care for peoples’ health instead of insurance and pharmaceutical corporation profits.

Until citizen pressure drags such a solution out of a resistant government, people can band together to create insurance alternatives. A leader in this type of grassroots movement is the Ithaca Health Alliance health care co-op, which provides a wide range of services for only $100 per year.

Sources and resources:

* Washington Post, “FINDINGS: More Are Opting Out of Employers’ Insurance,”
5/5/06, p. A9,
* Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Report Shows Decline in Employees Accepting Health Insurance, Rising Insurance Premiums Across Nation,” 5/4/06,
* Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Nancy Folbre, and James Heintz, Field Guide to the U.S. Economy (Revised and Expanded), pp. 27 and 122, New York: The New Press, 2006.
* Ithaca Health Alliance,
* Physicians for a National Health Plan,

© 2006 Center for Popular Economics

Econ-Atrocities are the work of their authors and reflect their author’s opinions and analyses. CPE does not necessarily endorse any particular idea expressed in these articles.

The Center for Popular Economics is a collective of political economists based in Amherst, Massachusetts. CPE works to demystify economics by providing workshops and educational materials to activists throughout the United States and around the world. If you would like more information about CPE please visit our website at

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Ethanol followup

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Here’s that article that I mentioned last week: Local firm to revolutionize motor fuel industry.

Mileage-a-holics anonymous

Monday, August 7th, 2006

My brother in law tipped me off on an article in the Washington Post on “hypermiling” — driving in ways to vastly improve your mpg. I never heard the term, but I’m definitely a mileage nerd like the folks in the article.

Increase Your Gas Mileage

By Joshua Zumbrun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 6, 2006; M05

There was good news and bad news, I learned. The good news: I got a promotion. The bad news: I landed in The Post’s Howard County news bureau — a wonderful spot, but about 35 miles from my front door.

This was last summer. I didn’t own a car, the job started in two weeks, gas prices were climbing, and a 70-mile commute (instead of 10 friendly minutes on the Circulator bus) was looking expensive.

The Insight, Honda’s two-seater hybrid with amazing gas mileage, sounded almost too good to be true. A lot of reports said it was — real drivers don’t get the numbers Honda touts. (The Department of Energy has a useful site explaining why this is at ) The cars were scarce, so I flew to Wisconsin to become the proud owner of a 2001 Honda Insight, with an estimated 57 mpg in the city, 56 on the highway.

That’s where I randomly met Bradlee Fons, an enthusiast of the cars who starts spouting hybrid statistics the moment he introduces himself. He and his son Justin are part of a rare fraternity: hypermilers, people who modify their driving to improve mileage and reduce emissions.

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