Gardening a Crime in Oak Park MI

These raised beds for vegetables may put a Michigan mother of six in the slammer for 93 days.

Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan figured her lawn was gone anyway — it had been torn up for a sewer repair — so instead of going back to the water-hogging, fertilizer-leaching, pesticide-soaked obscenity that graces everybody’s front yard, she would do a far, far better thing. She put in five raised beds and started growing fresh, organic vegetables for her family. Smart, sustainable, nutritious, and illegal. The city code says if the ground is not paved, it has to be  covered with grass, shrubbery or “suitable” plants. Vegetables, says the city, are not “suitable.” The city prosecutor plans to take “all the way” prosecution of the mother of six children for crimes that could get her 93 days in jail. Seriously.

Something Fishy in Your Fish

There is nothing pretty about the fish being imported into the US -- and that's 80 per cent of the fish we eat. (Photo by Beatrice Murch/Flickr)

Globalized industrial fish factories are flooding the markets of the world with dangerously tainted fish laced with toxins and carcinogens banned by law from US food. They are doing this to replace the fish once supplied by industrial fishing fleets that have virtually destroyed the world’s stocks of wild fish; 80 per cent of the fish consumed in the United States is imported, and half the imported fish comes from fish factories. The tainted fish continues to come in despite ineffective efforts by state and national governments to stop the flow — efforts that, weak as they always were, are now being eviscerated by state and federal budget cuts. The fish factories, meanwhile, are making lots of money. Continue reading

Oil in the Yellowstone: Deja Vu All Over Again

An oiled bird struggles to stay alive. Like many of the statements made by Exxon this week in Montana, this picture has nothing to do with reality on the Yellowstone River, it’s generic. (Photo by Igor Golubenkov/fotopedia)

Like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, we keep moving through the same sequence of events, disaster after disaster, until it really gets kind of annoying. This is the industry’s Standard Operating Procedure. First announcement: “We have a minor problem with ___________.” Fill in the blank: oil in the water, radiation in the water, methane in the water, water in New Orleans, whatever. Second Announcement: “The problem would now appear to be x orders of magnitude worse than we thought, but we have it completely under control.” Three: “It apparently will take us x (units of time, from days to millennia) to get the problem under control, but we will not rest until everything is like it was before.” Four: “No one could have predicted this.” Said over a distant, rising chorus of “I did!” “We did!” “Over here! We did too.” Today it’s the Yellowstone River. Continue reading

Capital Punishment for Corporations: Time to Start

We used to do this to horse thieves. How about executing a few corporations? (Photo by Joe Hall/Flickr)

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that corporations are citizens, their money is speech, and their right to buy politicians with their money is protected by the Constitution. If they are persons, in this respect, then why should their lives not be forfeit when they commit horrific crimes? We kill people, don’t we? And if we’re going to start meting out capital punishment to corporations, I have a nomination for who goes first: Massey Energy.

 

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New York Times Explodes Natural-Gas Bubble

The thing about a gas bubble is, it's flammable. (Photo by Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr)

Once in a great while a newspaper (“The few. The frail. The fading.”) reminds us why we need newspapers, and why we are going to miss them. There are no other institutions left whose purpose (speaking here of the practitioners, not the investors) is to seek the facts and tell the truth. On Friday, the New York Times published the results of an exhaustive review of America’s natural-gas industry, which has been energized by the discovery of a new way to unlock gas from shale, and has pronounced it to be — to paraphrase — a fraud. Continue reading

Reflection: Government by Witch Doctor

When the going gets tough, the tough call on witch doctors to run the country. (Photo by RobertandAmanda/Flickr)

People who find themselves in impossible situations often resort to magical thinking. Examples are all around us: the overweight person who becomes convinced that a pill or a supplement or a surgical procedure will melt the excess weight without effort; the flabby couch potato who believes he can tone his abs by wearing an electric belt — while reclining, of course; the serial adopter of any and every get-rich-quick scheme that comes along. When an impossible situation is heading for an outcome that is unacceptable, such as illness, death or poverty, and the remedies — such as discipline, self-denial or hard work — are also unacceptable, then magical thinking often ensues. And that is one reason the United States is descending rapidly to the status of failed state: its political leaders, in attempting to do the impossible, while refusing to face the inevitable, have resorted to magical thinking. Continue reading

What it Takes to Get Cheap Tomatoes: Slavery

Too good to be good: perfect tomatoes cost more than any civilized nation should be prepared to pay. (Photo by Andy Wright/Flickr)

Like any compulsive gambler or addict faced with the accumulating consequences of destructive behavior, industrial agriculture responds by doubling down on the destruction; it responds, in other words, out of its illness and error, and will not change in any positive way until it hits bottom (although the behavior becomes much worse as the bottom nears). A new book illustrates this principle beautifully by focussing on a near-perfect embodiment of all that industrial agriculture has become — the tomato. In its losing struggle to provide perfect-looking, cheap tomatoes to every possible consumer, Big Ag has sunk to new lows of criminal behavior — slavery and genocide.

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OPEC Insists Oil’s Well, Despite Evidence

Mohammed "Don't-worry-be-happy" Aliabadi, Iran's acting oil minister and former Olympics Committee chair, says there is plenty of cheap oil for everybody, forever.

To hear its members tell it, the issue before the meeting of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries beginning today in Vienna is whether or not it will choose to increase oil supplies for an increasingly needy world. What concerns the 12 member countries, they say, is merely fine-tuning a system that is working wonderfully, to make sure everyone remains as content as they are now. The current price of oil, around $100 a barrel, is about right, they say, and in the words of the current OPEC president, Iran’s caretaker oil minister Mohammad Aliabadi, “very much due to OPEC’s efforts, the world remains well supplied with oil, with ample spare capacity and adequate stock levels.” Wow. How much better could things get? Continue reading

Mississippi Falling: Now What?

The Mississippi River lapped briefly at the edge of Interstate 20 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then receded. This time. (US Forest Service photo)

The historic Mississippi River flood of 2011 (or at least, of this far in 2011) is slowly receding now, and the catastrophic failure of the Old River Control Structures, that could have brought the US economy to its knees did not happen. What are we to make of this? But let us ask a different question first: instead of analyzing what did not happen, what are we to make of what did happen? Continue reading

Wall Street Bulls Trampling Farmland

”]The idiots savant who lead Wall Street stampedes off cliffs have a new sure thing: by which they mean a sure-fire, get-rich-quick scheme; and from which we should infer, take cover. First, the savant part; more and more of them are coming to believe that when you apply arithmetic and logic to the rate at which the industrial world is destroying natural resources, you are led to the conclusion that the edifice is going to crash. (Also see “Hedge Fund Guy Says Brace for Impact: Believe it Now?”) The idiot part is, they want to get rich from the crash, as they cling to the pathetic belief that, after the crash, having lots of money is going to be useful. So they are pumping up a new investment bubble — farmland. Continue reading