Archive for October, 2010


David Swanson reviews Disaster on the Horizon

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Author David Swanson published the following review of Bob Cavnar’s brand new book, Disaster on the Horizon, yesterday on OpEdNews. Take a look.

An Ocean Full of Oil
By David Swanson

Earlier this year, we put millions of barrels of oil, billions of cubic feet of gas, and 1.5 million gallons of chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico. Of those dispersants, designed for use on the surface, 800,000 gallons were sprayed directly into the oil gusher on the dark ocean floor, potentially multiplying the damage while keeping it out of sight. Already people are dying.

Frontline on PBS is now airing The Spill, which looks at the long record of environmental abuse by the primary corporation responsible, BP. Alliance for Justice is screening Crude Justice which looks at the damage already done to people’s lives. And for those who like to learn about topics the old fashioned way, through careful and thoughtful analysis in the written word, Bob Cavnar has just published “Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.”

Cavnar calls this “the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States,” and argues quite convincingly that it “simply did not have to happen. It was caused by bad design, bad judgment, hurried operations, and a convoluted management structure. Add in silenced alarms and disabled safety systems, and the result was inevitable.”

Oil gushed from the sea floor for 87 days at a rate the government, after lying while the news was hot, now admits reached 80,000 barrels per day, not counting the natural gas. Giant subsurface plumes, also lied about and now admitted to, may be reaching the currents that will carry oil beyond the Gulf of Mexico. And with virtually none of the problems meticulously documented in Cavnar’s book solved, President Obama has lifted the short-lived moratorium. We’re back drilling in deep water, and cries of “drill, baby, drill” ooze out of the Tea Party just as they did prior to the spreading but nearly forgotten catastrophe.

A 2009 study commissioned by Transocean found 11 cases of blowouts in deepwater wells in which a blowout preventer (a valve to cut off the flow, known as a BOP) had to be activated. In five of the 11 cases, the BOP failed to stop the oil from “spilling” into the water. A 2004 study commissioned by the Minerals Management Service found that only seven of 14 newly built deepwater rigs even tested their BOP’s ability to shear drill pipe. Of the seven tested, four failed. That same year, Transocean modified the Horizon to allow faster tests but higher risk, and BP agreed to pay for additional downtime if the BOP had to later be pulled for repairs. In June of this year a technician told CNN he’d detected a hydraulic leak months before the blowout, something BP has now admitted to under oath. In fact, BP and Transocean knew about the faults in the BOP as early as April 21 and 22.

Once a perfectly predictable disaster had struck, the response was equally shameful. Cavnar describes a “co-dependent” joint operation between BP and the federal government that “went beyond traditional industry-government coziness.” In Cavnar’s analysis, “poor communication and coordination between Transocean and its contractors, as well as the Coast Guard’s hands-off approach, certainly accelerated the loss of the rig,” but BP “was nonexistent on the scene, as it was scrambling to coordinate its own response and trying to distance itself from the blowout and Transocean.” Then the lies began to flow as fast as the oil, with BP and the government claiming a rate of 1,000 barrels of oil per day, even though “strong deepwater wells often come in, under controlled conditions, well over 20,000 barrels per day. Uncontrolled, this well would be flowing more than that . . . a lot more.” In fact, Congressman Ed Markey got ahold of letters from BP’s Doug Suttles to Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson, dated July 6 and July 11, in which Suttles based his calculations on a flow rate of 53,000 barrels per day. BP knew all along.

When BP agreed to pay $20 billion in damages, it gave the U.S. government reason to keep BP in existence. “What was not publicly disclosed,” Cavnar writes, “was that President Obama and the federal government also agreed to get off BP’s ass, which now seems obvious. The rhetoric immediately cooled, BP faded into the background, and Admiral [Thad] Allen became the spokesman for everybody involved.” The Obama government’s treatment of human health concerns in this disaster resembles Bush’s approach to the toxic dangers of “ground zero” in New York and the impact of Hurricane Katrina. But, as Cavnar, makes clear, the BP Blowout is not strictly “Obama’s Katrina.” This was the result of decades of corruption, accelerated tremendously under the administration of Bush-Cheney.

An executive order from Bush on May 18, 2001, accelerated approval of offshore drilling plans. Bureaucrats who let the facts get in the way derailed their careers as surely as those who could find no weapons in Iraq and NASA scientists who recognized global warming. The Interior Department’s representative to Cheney’s Energy Task Force, Steven Griles, simultaneously received a government salary and $1 million from his employer as an industry lobbyist.

But needed changes are not being made. Obama’s commission to study the blowout includes only one person whom Cavnar believes knows anything at all about the technology that failed, and he’s on the board of ConocoPhillips.

Marring this excellent book is the line at the end in which Cavnar proposes nuclear energy as part of a solution, “if we can make it safer.” But the people who know nuclear energy the way Cavnar knows oil will tell you we can’t. However, nuclear shares with oil something that Cavnar describes in the preface to his book but fails to point to as a central cause of these sorts of disasters: machismo.

“Very early on in my career,” Cavnar writes, “I learned that the industry I had chosen, though I loved it, was dominated by the macho myth of big iron, big rigs, wild wells, and wild men.” Just as people support war because, rather than despite, its horrors, people also support destructive energy sources because of the risks. The use of force, the easy sexual jokes, the shouts of “drill baby drill” — these all come back to the machismo involved in doing incredibly stupid life-threatening things. Solar and wind and geothermal and tides lack that important advantage in our culture. It’s a shame, because with them we could continue to have a culture.

Read the original article at OpEdNews.com.

Check out Disaster on the Horizon by Bob Cavnar now!

Carlo Petrini in The Atlantic

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Yale University senior Isabel Polon wrote the following article for The Atlantic after Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini, author of Terra Madre, visited Yale on a recent lecture tour.

In 1986, protesters commandeered the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. They brandished bowls of penne as signs of their discontent; a McDonald’s shall not pollute this Italian cultural stronghold! Out of this good-natured frustration at the possible arrival of a fast-food giant grew Slow Food, which has amassed over 100,000 members in 153 countries. This movement has the will of one man to thank: Slow Food president and founder Carlo Petrini.

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to hear one of Petrini’s famed sermons when he came to Yale for a day as part of his college speaking tour. He arrived mid-morning, and spent an hour with an Italian class, and headed up to the Yale Farm to enjoy some unorthodox New Haven pizza, topped with freshly harvested veggies and cooked in our wood-burning oven. From the moment Petrini arrived, he took to the bustle of the Farm. He walked through the garden and straight to the oven, where I stood about to load in a pizza. I speak no Italian, but luckily Petrini has developed a talent for evocative gesturing. Moving his hands exuberantly, he communicated to me that he would like to try! Politely taking the pizza peel from my hand, Petrini slid the pizza into the oven.

After several plates of pizza and some much appreciated praise from the man himself about our thin crust, Petrini headed off to tour the garden. He discussed composting methods with our farm managers and tasted the last of our Sungold tomatoes, stalwarts hanging on in early fall. (A couple of days later, we would clear their remains to make way for winter crops.) He was excited to see we were growing collards, a leafy green he’d developed a taste for on a recent trip to Georgia. As the afternoon began to fade away, Petrini was ushered down the hill to prepare for his impending lecture.

Read the full article and view a photo slideshow at The Atlantic.

Carlo Petrini is the author of Terra Madre: Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities, available now.

Listen: Future Primitive interview with Greg Marley

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Joanna Harcourt-Smith of FuturePrimitive.org sat down with Greg Marley at the Connecting for Change conference this past weekend to discuss mushrooms and Greg’s book, Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares. Check out the podcast below!

Wild mushrooms bring color, beauty and mystery into the forest and offer a way to connect with nature. They provide fresh, seasonal, gourmet-quality meals for foragers – and the occasional illness for those who mistakenly select a toxic variety. Medicinal mushrooms, meanwhile, offer a path to sustaining optimal health and hold the promise of immune-boosting healing for many illnesses. For the more adventurous, hallucinogenic mushrooms open and expand the mind, offering a gateway to mystical experience.

Mushrooms play a vital role in the health of our forests and are an indispensable link in the chain of forest ecology. The seasonal sale of wild mushrooms supports families in many rural developing or Third-World regions, and mushrooms are increasingly cultivated in tropical lands as a source of protein. Come celebrate the great mushrooms in our world with mycologist and author Greg A. Marley. He will share with you his passion for wild mushrooms, and offer advice for inviting mushrooms into your own lives and gardens.

Listen to the interview here.

About Future Primitive: The FuturePrimitive.org podcasts are dedicated to assisting people in participating in the shift that is occurring at this moment in our way of life. We as human beings are experiencing a renaissance of awareness that is taking place as we dream it together. We invite dreamers and activists to articulate their vision of the future rooted in a respectful understanding of the past.

To learn more, visit FuturePrimitive.org.

Greg Marley is the author of Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms, available now.

Jamie Court: President Should Stop BP Administrator Feinberg From Helping The Chamber Of Commerce

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

You’re the President of the United States on the verge of a historic election. So you’re going to let one of your most important appointees give credibility to your biggest opponent and the BP spill victims’ greatest enemy, the Chamber of Commerce?

BP Fund Administrator Kenneth Feinberg is scheduled for the keynote address at the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform Wednesday. This is the oil-backed arm of the Chamber that wants to take away the legal rights of spill victims, and the rest of us too. So why is the President going to let Feinberg go?

Obama should force Feinberg to withdraw or fire him. My letter to Obama today on behalf of Consumer Watchdog lays out the case for why this is just wrong.

Given the Chamber’s controversial role in the 2010 election, the organization’s commitment to deny individual citizens their right to hold large corporations accountable and Mr. Feinberg’s own troubled record when it comes to administering the BP Victims Fund, it is highly inappropriate and probably unethical for Feinberg to go.

Let’s start with the election. There is no greater threat to voters getting all the information they need to make an informed choice in the election next Tuesday than the Chamber of Commerce. Days before an election, Mr. Feinberg should not be credentialing one of its most anti-American causes — stripping citizens of their legal rights.

The Chamber is engaging in one of the largest corporate campaign contribution laundering schemes in U.S. history. The President rightfully made public his concerns that the Chamber’s efforts to funnel millions of corporate dollars from undisclosed donors is compromising our democratic processes. Last Friday’s New York Times investigative report confirmed the fact that concealed donations to the Chamber’s efforts come from big oil, Wall Street tycoons and insurance industry trying to roll back financial protections, thwart the implementation of health care reform and shred environmental protections.

The fact that the Chamber is largely hiding such activities from the American public is particularly troubling for our democracy.

In California, for example, we at Consumer Watchdog have seen a Chamber-backed political action committee, JobsPAC, receive $3.8 million from the insurance industry for television commercials to elect the industry’s candidate for insurance commissioner. Television commercials for the industry’s candidate don’t disclose that the source of the contributions is from the insurance industry, only the Chamber’s committee. So the commercials can say the candidate for insurance commissioner is fighting the very insurance industry that is surreptitiously funding the advertisements.

Now take a look at the Chamber’s Legal Institute.

The Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform has led deceptive efforts to change the composition of state supreme courts in order to make them pro-business and anti-consumer.

Feinberg himself has been slow to pay compensation to victims of BP’s Gulf spill, largely small businesses and individuals. While he forces claimants to jump through bureaucratic hoops and provide endless paperwork, he accepts multimillion-dollar compensation from BP under a contract that has not been fully made public.

The Chamber’s activities aimed at thwarting consumer rights and oil industry environmental safety in the Gulf may create an outright conflict of interest for Feinberg:

• The Chamber has lobbied against the Death on the High Seas Act (as well as the whole SPILL Act that passed the House).

• The Institute’s 990 Internal Revenue Service tax filing show that several oil companies sit on the board of their Institute for Legal Reform. Charles James is EVP at Chevron and Charles Matthews is General Counsel at Exxon. Mark Holden is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Koch Industries.

• The Chamber filed amicus briefs supporting Exxon as it fought punitive damages post-Valdez. That is here: http://secure.uschamber.com/NR/rdonlyres/ew3o3lcvdfcby5nnnpqkstiww3sdjucpeg5np5asvytg72zv2donrmfd5jo2xbfjlzqi75sz2drtlgnuufov53pn5sg/exxonshippingcovbakersc.pdf

• The Chamber has been especially involved in Louisiana. The Institute for Legal Reform owns an outlet called Louisiana Record that is a propaganda outlet and has consistently ranked Louisiana at the bottom of their legal rankings list. http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/lawsuit-climate.html

The President shouldn’t allow his appointees to be helping the enemy of his Administration and the spill victims in the Gulf. All he needs to do is pick up the phone this time. Will he?

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell, available now.

SAVE 25% ON SELECTED NEW RELEASES

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

A New Book on the BP Oil Spill, And More!

Just in time for the six-month anniversary of the BP Oil Spill, here’s Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout. Written by a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, the book takes an in-depth look at just what happened on the night of April 20th, 2010 to cause the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

Read an excerpt from Disaster on the Horizon, and don’t miss this video of Cavnar on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

   

But wait! There’s more…

Ring in November with these featured titles – receive 25% off your purchase of any of the books below, now through November 8th!

Disaster on the Horizon

By Bob Cavnar

Disaster on the Horizon is a behind-the-scenes investigative look at the worst oil well accident in US history, which led to the current environmental and economic catastrophe on the Gulf Coast. Cavnar uses his 30 years in the business to take readers inside the disaster, exposing the decisions leading up to the blowout and the immediate aftermath. It will also provide a layman’s look at the industry, its technology, people, and risks. It will deconstruct events and decisions made by BP, Transocean, and the US Government before and after the disaster, and the effects of those decisions, both good and bad.

The Resilient Gardener

By Carol Deppe

Scientist/gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields — resilience science, climatology, climate change, ecology, anthropology, paleontology, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health, and medicine. In the last half of The Resilient Gardener, Deppe extends and illustrates these principles with detailed information about growing and using five key crops: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.

A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Office

By Stephen and Rebekah Hren

A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Office explains the available solar energy options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers—the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.

The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell

By Jamie Court

Change is no simple matter in American politics—a fact that Americans have recently learned well. Elections rarely produce the change they promise. After the vote, power vacuums fill with familiar values, if not faces. Promises give way to fiscal realities, hope succumbs to pragmatism, and ambition concedes to inertia. The old tricks of interest groups—confuse, diffuse, scare—prevail over the better angels of American nature.

But populist energy can get change-making and change-makers back on the right track. Jamie Court explains how.

Terra Madre

By Carlo Petrini

More than twenty years ago, when Italian Carlo Petrini learned that McDonald’s wanted to erect its golden arches next to the Spanish Steps in Rome, he developed an impassioned response: he helped found the Slow Food movement. Since then, Slow Food has become a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring the likes of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan. Now, it’s time to take the work of changing the way people grow, distribute, and consume food to a new level.

On a global scale, as Petrini tells us in Terra Madre, we aren’t eating food. Food is eating us.

Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares

By Greg Marley

Throughout history, people have had a complex and confusing relationship with mushrooms. Are fungi food or medicine, beneficial decomposers or deadly “toadstools” ready to kill anyone foolhardy enough to eat them? In fact, there is truth in all these statements. In Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares, author Greg Marley reveals some of the wonders and mysteries of mushrooms, and our conflicting human reactions to them.

Commonweeder reviews Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Gardener and Greenfield Recorder newspaper columnist Pat Leuchtman published this wonderful review of Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, on her blog, Commonweeder, this weekend. Read on!

When I was a child being driven from New York City to my uncle’s dairy farm in Charlotte, Vermont, I was sure I knew the minute we crossed the state line because I could smell the scent of manure in the air. For me, Vermont meant a perfumed cow barn and manured fields; I could think of no lovelier fragrance. I still feel that way. Gene Logsdon, farmer, anthropologist, cultural critic and author of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind (Chelsea Green Publishing, $17.50), would understand my pleasure in the smell of manure.

While my childhood knowledge of manure was essentially aesthetic, as a gardener I have come to appreciate the benefits of manure as a fertilizer. Over the thirty years we have lived in Heath we have always had a flock of chickens, for eggs and meat, and for a few years we raised pigs for meat. Their manure was a good by-product for our garden soil. I can’t say that Logsdon would approve our management of manure. He doesn’t think it should be mixed into a compost pile.

On the other hand he would appreciate our deep litter chicken house.  I do not clean out our chicken house every year, letting the chicken manure mixed with wood shavings bedding essentially compost in place.  This deep litter does help keep the chickens warm in winter, and scientific studies have shown that chickens housed on deep litter are healthier. Although most modern Americans wrinkle their nose at even the idea of manure and all the germs in it, the reality is that the deep litter has even more good bacteria .

I sometimes felt mildly guilty that I wasn’t cleaning out my hen house thoroughly, but Logsdon assures me that leaving  some manure on the floor is full of the microbial life that will encourage the composting process of fresh manure and bedding.

Logsdon taught me a new phrase and farming techniques that helped me understand the new type of cow barn I have seen built locally. I remember my uncle’s traditional closed cow barn with its stanchions and the manure gutter that I helped clean out,  dumping the manure outside into a huge manure pile where it would ultimately be gathered and spread on the fields.

Nowadays, if a farmer is smart, and the cows lucky they will have a loafing shed. I have seen new barns locally that are not closed in. The winter temperatures are not kept at bay. Neither are there stanchions. The cows go to a milking parlor twice a day, otherwise they can loaf in their shed, unless they are out in the pasture.

The loafing shed makes it possible to leave the cows’ manure in place, with bedding added regularly to make a manure pack. The bedding adds its own nutrition. When it is time to clean out the loafing shed, once or twice a year using a front loader, it can be done when the manure could be put on the fields, with no loss of nutrients to rain runoff before then.

The value in Holy Shit comes not only from explaining new and better ways of handling manure, animal and human, but from explaining some of the environmentally unsound ways of handling manure on large farms.  I remember back in 1991 when I read Jane Smiley’s popular book A Thousand Acres. It was in that book that I first learned about slurry lagoons that were created to handle the manure from enormous hog farms.

I did not know that it also took hundreds of gallons of water to wash the manure from the hog and cow barns to get it out of the barn and into the lagoon where it was loosing its value as fertilizer and becoming an environmental and health problem. I found this shocking as it is another way that one of our most valuable resources is being wasted.

Holy Shit is fascinating in its depiction of the history of manure and how it has been handled, of the economic value as fertilizer that farmers are appreciating more and more, of the value to our farmland, and in his reporting of scientific studies that are changing the ways we think about manure. Crop farmers may come to realize the benefit of raising some livestock – because of the value of their manure.

Logsdon is not only talking about animal manures. He is talking about human manure as well. Composting toilets are now legal in Massachusetts. Systems for handling gray water available. I have two friends who have composting toilets in their house and I have used them without ever noticing any odor or unpleasantness.

Human manure on a large scale has been turned into sludge which can be applied to cropland. This is somewhat controversial, but Logsdon says the main problem is not so much the danger of the manure, but rather the dangerous things like prescription drugs that people are prone to flushing down the toilet. Those chemicals end up in the sludge. This was a reminder to me to throw all outdated prescriptions in the garbage which will be incinerated down in Springfield, and not into my septic system.

When we are not being disgusted about manure, we are often making jokes about it. Logsdon doesn’t make jokes but his book is humorous and filled with the foolishness of human foibles all while teaching us “how to get over the fear of feces.”

Read the original review at Commonweeder.com.

Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, is available now.

Q&A with Bill Kauffman on Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Chelsea Green Publishing sat down for a Q&A session recently with author Bill Kauffman, whose latest book is Bye Bye, Miss American Empire. Here’s the result.

Q: In Bye Bye, Miss American Empire, you write that secession is the next radical idea poised to enter mainstream political discourse in the United States. What makes you think the time is ripe for breakaway movements?

A: What began as a decentralized, peaceful American republic has become a centralized American Empire, deeply in debt and forever at war. We are subjects, not citizens. People feel utterly, abjectly powerless when it comes to our national government. They—we—have no say whatsoever over matters of war and peace, liberty and justice. So all across the American political and geographic map, people are trying to reorder their lives on a human scale. They want to regain a measure of control over their lives and the lives of their communities. Politically, the means of doing this is decentralizing—that is, removing power from remote authorities and bringing it closer to persons, families, neighborhoods, small communities. Secession is one emphatic way of decentralizing power.

Q: Some U.S. secessionists want to form new nations; others simply want to divide up states. What are some of the more viable movements out there?

A: In a just world—keep dreaming, right?!—California would have divided into two or three states many decades ago. As we are seeing today, even Sacramento’s Kindergarten Cop cannot rule a state of 35 million people stretching from Yreka to San Diego. In New York State, rascals and visionaries from William Randolph Hearst to Norman Mailer and Bella Abzug have agitated for a separate State of New York City—and believe me, those of us in Upstate New York have cheered them on. California and New York are the most promising candidates for birthing new states—new stars on Old Glory. As far as breaking away from the union, the loudest independence movements are in Alaska and Hawaii—noncontiguous states that were added to the U.S. for military purposes during the Cold War. The Hawaiian movement is largely made up of native people whose country was stolen from them in the 1890s and they rather resent that theft; the Alaskans for independence, whose ranks have included Todd Palin, have a libertarian tinge. There is also an improbable and magnificent independence movement in Vermont, of all places, and there are independence movements of varying size and character in Texas, the South, and the Pacific Northwest.

Q: The motives for all these movements are surprisingly varied. Is there a common thread among the nation’s secessionist movements?

A: The best have in common a love of place, of a distinct and individuated culture, a history and lore and humor all their own. They honor the sanctity of small places—which can be city neighborhoods as well as country hamlets. They believe in local democratic self-government, and they see all too clearly that the American Empire, a centralized bureaucratic behemoth mired in perpetual war, is the enemy of their places. You can’t care about Baghdad and your own backyard—and the American Empire insists that you prize the former over the latter. (It’s no coincidence that our rulers—men like Barack Obama, John McCain, and the generals in charge of our unwinnable wars—are completely placeless men, without the roots that keep us anchored to local communities.)

Q: Your own politics are hard to pin down: you’re not stereotypically right, and you’re not stereotypically left. So, where are you, personally, coming from on the secession issue? Do you support any of the movements you write about?

A: I’m a localist and a decentralist with a strong libertarian streak. I once wrote, tongue not entirely in cheek, that I was the love child of Dorothy Day and Henry David Thoreau, conceived amidst the asters and goldenrod of an Upstate New York autumn. My wife and I moved from D.C. back to my hometown in rural New York State more than 20 years ago and I never lost a minute of sleep worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been, as the song goes. As a patriot son of rural New York, I am wholeheartedly in support of statehood for New York City.
I’m also a sentimental patriot of the old 48-state America. I’ve always thought statehood for Alaska and Hawaii smacked of imperialist overstretch so I’d gladly bid them adieu. The Vermont independence partisans have just the right blend of wit, outrage, localist patriotism, and whimsicality, so I wish them well. As for incipient movements or those waiting to be born…if they are based in love of a place and its people—all its people, of all creeds and colors, and its poetry and accent and flora and fauna and punk rock clubs, too—then I’m a sympathizer.

Q: Secession debates have been front and center during much of U.S. history, and some believe states have a constitutional right to secede. What’s your take on that?

A: The Constitution makes provision for new states to be formed out of existing states, so a state of Baja California or New York City, for instance, would be perfectly constitutional. Unfortunately, the Constitution does not provide a way for states to say farewell to the union. Once in, never out—but there is a loophole, of sorts. In the post-Civil War Supreme Court decision Texas v. White, Chief Justice Salmon Chase said that while the union is “indissoluble,” states could secede if they gain “the consent of the [other] States.” It would have to be done peacefully, amicably, fraternally—just the opposite of the Civil War.

Q: In your book you purposely don’t give a lot of ink to really fringe secession movements—like those grounded in racism and hatred. Why not?

A: Life is too short to waste time on the haters. They aren’t part of real communities anyway—they exist primarily in the fetid and disconnected precincts of the Internet. Any worthy political or social cause is grounded in love. It has to be or it wilts, it rots. The drunken scamp and great Upstate New York writer Frederick Exley once said of his hometown, “Watertown is not in my marrow; it is my marrow.” That’s the spirit behind true patriot love.

Q: With Tea Party movements on the rise and states talking about pulling out of nationally mandated healthcare reforms, do you see secession debates picking up steam?

A: Yes—though gradually. People are sick and fearful of imperial military misadventures abroad and “too big to fail” corporate welfarism at home. So some states are cautiously reasserting their rights under the 10th Amendment. Yet what happens if—when—Washington contemptuously rejects those claims? For instance, Wisconsin may try to keep its state guard from being deployed to Iraq, or Montana may want to opt out of Obamacare, but the feds will grant no such option. It’s submit—or else. I await with interest the day a state refuses to submit. To quote Walt Whitman’s poem “To the States”: “Resist much, obey little.”

Q: You make the point the Soviet Union broke apart in secession—and that the same sort of disruption could occur here in the U.S. given the right impetus. If the secessionist spirit escalates, do you think massive and possibly violent disunion is possible in the U.S.?

A: I’m not exactly Nostradamus. My heart foils my predictive powers, so I always end up betting that Ron Paul or Ralph Nader will win the presidency and the Buffalo Bills will win the Super Bowl. But I think any redrawing of the American political map will be piecemeal rather than wholesale. And any act of secession—say, of Vermont—would be peaceful. As debased as our rulers sometimes seem, and as militarized as we have become, I just can’t see bombs falling on Burlington if Vermont chooses self-rule. Whether in or out of the union, Vermont and New Hampshire would still be neighbors, rivals, trading partners; all that would change is that Vermonters would make the laws under which they live rather than cede that responsibility to strangers in Washington. What’s so scary about that?

Bill Kauffman is the author of Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America’s Political Map, available now.

“We Are Running Out Of Time”: Riki Ott on the Crisis on the Gulf Coast

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Marine toxicologist Riki Ott, author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, has spent the past five months traveling along the Gulf Coast working to address the crisis left behind by the BP oil spill.

Riki spoke with Rose Aguilar of KALW 91.7 FM radio in the San Francisco Bay Area last week, on the six-month anniversary of the disaster, and the following videos capture some of her alarming discoveries about just what is happening in this devastated region.

“These people have oil in their bodies,” said Riki. There are numerous cases of people suffering from decreased lung capacity, enlarged hearts, even dissolving esophaguses.

Take a look at the video interview below for more.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Riki Ott is the author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, available now.

Watch: Bob Cavnar on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Bob Cavnar appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Friday night, October 22nd, to discuss his book, Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.

Bob describes how the lifting of the moratorium on deepwater drilling early last week was entirely premature, and will only signal further damage. He discusses with Keith how little progress has been made since the blowout in terms of safety precautions within the oil industry. New regulations that have come into effect since the blowout, Bob explains, have made a difference only in increasing the amount of paperwork being pushed around.

Six months after the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, Olbermann asks, “What have we learned?”. The answer: “Not much”.

Take a look at the video interview below to learn more.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bob Cavnar is the author of Disaster on the Horizon, available now.

Atlanta’s Sunday Paper interviews Greg Marley

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Atlanta, Georgia’s Sunday Paper interviewed Greg Marley, author of Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares, on Sunday. Find out which is Greg’s favorite mushroom, why he became interested in fungi in the first place, and more in the interview below.

Foraging for food: Learning about wild, edible mushrooms
By Hope S. Philbrick

Forget what your mama said: You can eat what you find on the ground. At least when it’s an edible wild mushroom. With his new book, “Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares,” mushroom expert Greg Marley hopes to convert people from mycophobes (mushroom fearing) to mychophiles (mushroom loving). In addition to authoring two books, Marley works as a mushroom identification consultant for the Northern New England Poison Control Center and owns Mushrooms for Health, a company that provides education and products made with Maine medicinal mushrooms. His new book explores the historical, cultural and ecological role of mushrooms, offers practical advice for mushroom foraging and shares recipes.

When did you get interested in mushrooms?
The year I turned 16, we moved to upstate New York from New Mexico, so I went from the desert to a beautiful, lush Eastern forest. It was the first time I’d been east of El Paso. Among other things, I was fascinated by the colors and beautiful varieties of mushrooms. Two years later, I bought my first mushroom book and never looked back.

Initially, I was just interested in mushrooms for foraging, but not from a gourmet standpoint. I worked some as a cook in my younger years and became interested in more complex gourmet food, and mushrooms went hand-in-hand.

What edible wild mushrooms can be found in Georgia?
Common mushrooms available in fall in Georgia include the meadow mushroom—also called pink bottoms, which are typically found in grass lawns and fields—also oyster and puff balls, which are totally globular, roundish and white: If you cut them open and they’re pure white, they’re edible. They’re the first wild mushroom that many people eat, including myself in 1975. In Georgia forests, you can find chanterelles, one of the world-class edibles, and porcini. In the spring, you can find morels in Georgia’s mountainous areas.

How do you recommend getting started as a mushroom forager?
The best thing you can do is find someone you know who already collects mushrooms and convince them to take you out—buy them lunch or some other gentle, friendly bribe. You might also take a class at a continuing education center or nature preserve. At the back of my book, there’s a list with recommended guides and Internet sites including the Mushroom Club of Georgia. [www.gamushroomclub.org]

Is there an advantage to foraging versus buying mushrooms at a store?
Wild mushrooms are much fresher, with deeper flavor and more variety. It’s like the difference between a supermarket tomato and one that’s fresh out of your garden.

What’s your favorite mushroom?
One of my favorites is hen of the woods, which grow beside oak trees. I love it very simply chopped into bite-sized pieces and sautéed with butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Secondarily, nothing compares to a fresh morel omelet.

Read the full, original article at The Sunday Paper.

Greg Marley is the author of Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms, available now.


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