Thursday, November 17, 2011

Further to Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men"

UPDATE: I've read more of the book now, and would like to re-phrase the below. Ezra Klein is in fact *far* too kind to Obama. The "vice" he speaks of is largely of Obama's own making, through his cowardly inaction and unwillingness to lead. More on this later...

Nevermind, Dan Froomkin does it for us, and much better:

Meanwhile, in a more rigorous critique, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, writing in the New York Review of Books, accused the book of "incoherence" largely based on what he called a contradiction between Suskind's description of Summers as all-powerful -- and Suskind's own reporting about the several times Summers' more progressive ideas were rejected as too radical.

But in the book, Suskind never suggested that Summers or Geithner won all their battles; what he described was an environment in which Summers or Geithner -- or Emanuel -- all won some and lost some; an environment in which any one of the old Clinton hands could shoot down a bold idea as untested, too radical, unsellable, or too likely to spook the markets.

The only consistent theme, especially when it came to dealing with Wall Street or job creation, was that whoever was most cautious tended to emerge the victor, either outright, by winning over the president, or because they could block the execution.

Klein also argued that, while Obama clearly underestimated the severity of the financial crisis, the insufficient response was largely the fault of Congress. "The president is but one actor in the drama of American politics, and he is quite constrained in his capacity to make -- or remake -- American policy," Klein wrote.

But Suskind documents case after case in which the White House didn't even try -- and certainly never came even close to twisting arms the way, say, Lyndon Johnson might have.

Words And Deeds

Politically, Obama's economic policy has been a disaster. There was enormous political will to make the banks pay for their mistakes back in 2009 -- and judging by the Occupy movement, it's still there. It remains unsatisfied.





Ezra Klein cuts Obama some slack, and probably has a point:

The problem is political. Having very publicly passed a very big policy that you promised would revive the economy, the country blames you when the economy does not, in fact, revive. Your policies are discredited and your opponents are emboldened. You lose seats in the next election and your leverage over lawmakers. So you can’t, with any prospect of success, go back to the well and ask for a bigger stimulus or more money to buy up bad mortgages. And then, when the economy gets worse, you’re simultaneously in charge and out of options. You came to Washington promising change and now you’re begging for patience. It’s a crummy situation, and there’s no combination of policy proposals or speeches that can get you out of it. But this is the vise that has tightened around Barack Obama’s presidency.


Read the whole thing.

So now we appear stuck in precisely the sort of "lost decade" Japan experienced after merely bailing out its elites. The same "lost decade" Obama wished–and failed–to avoid. The stimulus was too small, as many predicted, and now there's no political capital to go back for the necessary larger one. Why did Obama fail? Because he didn't even try to break up the banks Because his stimulus was too small. Geithner, more than Summers, deserves large credit for this failure. On that score, I think Ron Suskind's verdict is actually pretty fair.

Of course, the bully-pulpit and other tools of both public and private persuasion and pressure are still very much available to any President, should he or she ever choose to use them, for instance in laying down a genuinely motivational, actually truthful narrative. But professionals hate scenarios of real bravery for which there is no preexisting data.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thugs in Oakland, Honorable Police in Albany

The movement enters a new stage...

Police in Albany know what "good policing" means (not the mayor or the governor). You can thank them, right here.

• Not so much in Oakland. A marine among the peaceful protestors is currently in the hospital with a skull fracture. Despite widespread videos from every conceivable angle, Oakland police officially deny using flashbang grenades and rubber bullets.


From the Occupiers Journal series:

Wednesday, October 26th
Oakland, CA

Chants of "Whose streets? Our Streets!" ring out from nearly a thousand protesters outside City Hall in Downtown Oakland. Standing on the street corner, I see a peaceful but angry crowd. Tensions were already high after police executed early morning raids; firing beanbag rounds and tear gas at sleeping #OccupyWallStreet activists before finally arresting nearly a hundred people.

My morning started by witnessing a man attempt to retrieve his tent from the remains of the campground. Four police officers picked him up and slammed him face first into the concrete right in front of my office building. Busted and bleeding, he was cuffed and tossed into the back of a van.

Now, the crowd marches back to the plaza. Fueled by stories of injured family and friends, the objective is clear. We cannot be intimidated, by police brutality or any other means.

"I hereby declare this an unlawful assembly," one police officer with a bullhorn says. "In the name of the people of California, I order you to disperse. If you do not do so, you will be arrested, subjected to force, chemical agents and possible serious injury."

But we are the people of California? Isn't it our duty to protest insane campaign finance laws? To demand concrete financial reform? To refuse to allow our taxpayer dollars to prop up an unethical system of corporate welfare? While all of these ideas are certainly present, in this moment, the shouting from the crowd is more reflective of a pure, basic emotion. The furious frustration that not only is no one listening but now they are trying to forcibly shut us up too.

And then, flash-bang grenades. Tear gas. Confusion and panic. What was a peaceful protest one second earlier now resembles a warzone. People trip, fall, help one another up, and duct flying flash-bang grenades and tear gas canisters that seem to be fired directly at them.

After three hours, the police finally clear most of the square with this type of force. What they can't seem to understand is that this was never about the square. It was never about this one night. It is about a collective effort the change the narrative to something more reflective of what people are actually experiencing in their daily lives. It is about cultivating the space to allow an expression to gradually and organically develop into a movement. We aren't there yet. But we are going back tonight.

With resolved hope,

Jackson Raders
Downtown Oakland


• "Prepared for winter. We're going to be here for a while:"

Where Do We Go From Here? Occupy Wall St. from Ed David on Vimeo.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#OWS Friday

• All the live streams are collected here: http://www.iamliverightnow.com/

(Austin, TX is especially good right now.)

• Denver (and Seattle) were shut down by police this morning (some arrested). Huge crowds and victory in NYC this morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#OWS

http://www.occupystream.com/

• Matt Taibbi "My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters"

• Keith Gessen, "On Wall Street"

• From n+1, "The Police and the 99%"

• Elizabeth Warren has announced that she has raised $3.15 million in just six weeks, with 19 out of every 20 donations under $100. Show your grassroots support and chip in $3!

• From The Guardian:
If we believe democracy is the best way to govern our residential communities, then it likewise deserves to govern our workplaces. Democracy at work is a goal that can help build this movement.

We all know that moving in this direction will elicit the screams of "socialism" from the usual predictable corners. The tired rhetoric lives on long after the cold war that orchestrated it fades out of memory. The audience for that rhetoric is fast fading, too. It is long overdue in the US for us to have a genuine conversation and struggle over our current economic system. Capitalism has gotten a free pass for far too long.

• From Bernie Sanders: Six Reform Proposals

• Occupy Boston could use some timely support.

boilerplate Rethuglican lies, rebutted

David Koch: Cancer Survivor, Spreading Cancer

Literally:



David Koch is a cancer survivor. He also knows that one of his factories is giving cancer to an entire town, and the EPA (thanks in no small part to his own lavish campaign of lies) is too weak to stop it. What kind of person does this? Someone for whom there is a special place in hell, if only such a place existed. David Koch can re-join Ayn Rand there.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Today is a big day for Occupy Wall Street

Update: Live video here.

Meanwhile, in the news this morning:

Some of the nation’s largest banks are being accused of defrauding military veterans and taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars. In a new lawsuit, companies including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, CitiMortgage, Countrywide Home Loans, Washington Mutual Bank and GMAC Mortgage are accused of illegally raking in hundreds of millions of dollars through hidden fees in the refinancing of veterans’ homes. The loans have been available under a government provision for retired or active-duty veterans. The case was brought by two whistleblowers who work as mortgage brokers in Georgia. They allege over one million veterans may have been subjected to fraud, and that the fees may have pushed tens of thousands of loans into default or foreclosure, at massive cost to taxpayers.


Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail.



Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.



#OccupyWallStreet

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Very Much Alive and Growing: Day 14 of Occupy Wall Street

• The testimonials on http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/ keep coming, and they are downright heart-breaking.

• There is a new central hub for all the protests springing up in each state, here: http://www.occupytogether.org/

• From a great article in The Guardian:
But the ultimate failure here is of imagination. What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world's financial architecture, when anything seemed possible.

Everything we'd been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid – in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. Even the Economist was running headlines like "Capitalism: Was it a Good Idea?"

It seemed the time had come to rethink everything: the very nature of markets, money, debt; to ask what an "economy" is actually for. This lasted perhaps two weeks. Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they'd been before.

Perhaps, it's not surprising. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. As a result, we're all sitting around dumbfounded as the whole apparatus falls apart.

What we've learned now is that the economic crisis of the 1970s never really went away. It was fobbed off by cheap credit at home and massive plunder abroad – the latter, in the name of the "third world debt crisis". But the global south fought back. The "alter-globalisation movement", was in the end, successful: the IMF has been driven out of East Asia and Latin America, just as it is now being driven from the Middle East. As a result, the debt crisis has come home to Europe and North America, replete with the exact same approach: declare a financial crisis, appoint supposedly neutral technocrats to manage it, and then engage in an orgy of plunder in the name of "austerity".

The form of resistance that has emerged looks remarkably similar to the old global justice movement, too: we see the rejection of old-fashioned party politics, the same embrace of radical diversity, the same emphasis on inventing new forms of democracy from below. What's different is largely the target: where in 2000, it was directed at the power of unprecedented new planetary bureaucracies (the WTO, IMF, World Bank, Nafta), institutions with no democratic accountability, which existed only to serve the interests of transnational capital; now, it is at the entire political classes of countries like Greece, Spain and, now, the US – for exactly the same reason. This is why protesters are often hesitant even to issue formal demands, since that might imply recognising the legitimacy of the politicians against whom they are ranged....


• Last but not least, check out the dedicated You-Tube channel

Solidarity.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Not dead yet!

http://occupywallstreet.tumblr.com/

http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/

Lost Opportunity and Insubordinate Slow-Walkers: New Book Details How Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel Screwed Obama, and America

• The Ron Suskind book itself is an important read.

Here's why, according to two people who have actually read it: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/09/obamas_economic_quagmire_frank.html

(via DailyKos, where there is more)

A lifelong Democrat writes an important book, based on extensive taped interviews with the Obama administration, who are given the chance and do not deny the account.

A brave work of highly-credible journalism which basically validates what Progressives have been screaming ever since Obama, against his own better judgement, fell back on Clinton's old Rubinite big-bank-coddling cronies Geithner, Summers and Emanuel in a moment of unprecedented fragility, and sidelined the progressive wisdom of Paul Volcker, Stiglitz, Christina Romer, Elizabeth Warrene, Sheila Bair, Brooksley Born, Maria Cantwell and Alan Krueger, et al.

Why should it be any surprise that Geithner, et al. SLOW WALKED Obama's justifiable desire to follow Sweden's model of breaking up the banks, not Japan's proven longer-term financial disaster of merely protecting/bailing out the financial elite?

Asking themselves this question, the mainstream media temporarily (for a good week at least) adopts as their own the Progressive mantra that as a result Obama is now widely seen to have done too little too late. And hardly anyone stands up to say WTF, no fucking shit, we've been saying this all along.



A more critical review by self-appointed blog celebrity/sometimes megalomaniacal previous insider here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-delong/ron-suskind-confidence-men-review-_b_979418.html

Not dead yet!

http://socialistworker.org/2011/09/28/sparks-of-labor-resistance

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/world/as-scorn-for-vote-grows-protests-surge-around-globe.html?_r=2

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-massive-union-just-voted-to-side-with-the-wall-street-protesters-2011-9

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Three charts of basic facts, not rhetoric, about Obama

...to share with the unfortunate conservative opinionator in your family (or if not your family, every village has one).

via Cecil Bothwell.

Keystone XL Must Not Happen

The corporate media have finally begun to think about covering the largest ongoing civil disobedience the environmental movement has produced in a generation. Over 700 people have been arrested so far at the White House. If you haven't heard about the Keystone XL pipeline fantasy, you need to watch these two videos immediately and get yourself to DC, or make a phone call to the White House poll-takers right now at the very least. Tell them you support/demand a Presidential veto: 202-456-1111):



Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.



Again, all Obama has to do here is say "no" and this project does not happen.

Meanwhile a new report has now thoroughly exposed the oil industry's outright lies for what they are. (One of the corporations set to buy the Alberta oil is even co-owned by the Saudi government (hat tip Naomi Klein).

A new report from Oil Change International lays out the case, based on data and documents from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Canadian National Energy Board, corporate disclosures to regulators and investors, and analysis of the rapidly shifting oil market.

The facts:

Keystone XL is an export pipeline. The Port Arthur, Texas, refiners at the end of its route are focused on expanding exports to Europe, and Latin America. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.

Valero, the key customer for crude oil from Keystone XL, has explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors. Because Valero’s Port Arthur refinery is in a Foreign Trade Zone, the company can carry out its strategy tax-free.

In a shrinking U.S. market, Keystone XL is not needed. Since the project was announced, the oil industry acknowledges that higher fuel economy standards and slow economic growth mean declining U.S. oil demand, even as domestic production is booming. Oil from Keystone XL will therefore displace American crude from new, “unconventional” domestic fields in Texas or North Dakota.“Oil is a fundamentally global market – the idea that the pipeline enhances our energy security is a scam.” said Kretzmann. “Let’s hope the Obama Administration doesn’t fall for it. In fact, the only way to truly reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to reduce our dependence on all oil. Let’s not fool ourselves that we will achieve ‘energy independence’ by serving as a middleman for access to overseas markets.” [download the full report here]


Once again, that number to call is: 202-456-1111

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last post on the BP/Halliburton/TransOcean Macondo well blowout....is Keystone XL next?

Courtesy of Dibgy's thoughtful post here:

"singularly insignificant"

I remember a time when the blogosphere gave a shit about this sort of thing.

Jesse Lava sort of sums up my feelings, exactly:

As one of those pro-Obama progressives, I figured he would vacillate between his two personas -- pursuing conciliation on some issues so he could go big on others. Maybe he'd fail to prosecute Bush's torture regime but then take on Wall Street with gusto. Perhaps he'd neglect climate change but insist on a robust public option in the health care bill. Maybe he'd undertake a massive escalation in Afghanistan but only after restoring the rule of law to our national security apparatus. No president can take on the whole world, and progressives did not expect Obama to be Dennis Kucinich.

Progressives did, however, expect Obama to push strategic, selective transformation. Obama was supposed to seize the moment of our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and pursue reforms that would lay the economic foundation for the next generation. He was supposed to try -- try, at least -- to change Washington.

But that is not what he did. If progressives had known that he would immediately hire Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and other insiders who had helped push the country off the financial cliff; that he would give a pass both to Bush-era torturers and to Wall Street fraudsters; that his "Keynesian" stimulus would fall far short of what Keynesian economists said was needed; that he'd not only escalate far more than he pledged in Afghanistan but also get us ensnared in Libya and Yemen without the congressional approval required by law; that his civil liberties record would lead ACLU president Anthony Romero to be "disgusted with this president"; that the U.S. would be even more hated in the Middle East than it was under Bush; that Obama's biggest progressive win would be a health care bill that lacked a public option (honoring a backroom deal he made with the insurance industry) and was eerily similar to what the conservative Heritage Foundation proposed two decades ago; that he would make virtually no effort at all on climate change and immigration; that he'd propose (propose!) cutting Social Security and sign a debt ceiling deal agreeing to slash spending at levels that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush could only dream of -- in short, if we'd known that Obama the Conciliator would make it to the White House and Obama the Transformer would be left in Chicago's Grant Park on election night -- many of us would have gambled on someone else. I certainly would have. [read the whole thing, with links here]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Most Disappointing Presidency Ever

A rare unfettered glimpse into how banks own our modern politics: Obama just effectively secured his second term (in the vile and despicable form of pardoning Wall Street crime).

Here's what seems, for all intents and purposes, to have happened:

Wall Street donors waking up to the impending depths of global recession demand Obama do something to reassure markets. Obama calls up Warren Buffett from the Vineyard, somehow reassuring him that propping up our too-big-to-fail-banks is still his number one priority, and that Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Ally Financial and especially Bank of America will be granted effective immunity from future embarrassing and potentially quite costly litigation, after paying their purely symbolic petty one-time fine, so that everyone can move on.

Everyone, that is, unless you happen to be one of the victims of the largest criminal mortgage and pension frauds in history. Your rights, along with any records of the unprecedented criminal activity of the professional gamblers who swindled you into financial ruin, will be swept under the carpet.

True to Obama's word, Eric Schneiderman, the only man alive with any integrity, has been plucked out of the multi-state mortgage-settlement talks.

Buffett suddenly, brazenly invests $5 Billion in Bank of America, whose self-inflicted problems with the crooks at Countrywide are about to go away, and has already earned some of it back based on the extremely positive market reaction.

NPR does its typical kid glove job almost covering the story here, without offending anyone.

Jonathan Turley puts NPR to shame, and gets more intelligent comments as well.


Update: New evidence reveals the failure of the bailout to do anything for Main Street.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cecil Bothwell will be getting lots of volunteer work from me

My fellow North Carolinians will almost certainly vote Cecil Bothwell in to replace the flailing Heath Shuler, if they know what is good for their own families. Heath Shuler has proven time and again that no matter what he says or how many footballs he can fumble, he always answers first and foremost to the criminally rich, gambling big-city bankers. Heath Shuler's only plan is to extend the recession further, by raising taxes on the middle class and working people, while protecting offshore tax havens for the same folks who ruined this economy. Can't afford your healthcare, or want to keep your hard-earned rights to Medicare and Social Security? Don't have a job? Heath Shuler voted against both the President's pathetic little stimulus AND health care reform because he cares more about protecting international corporate profits. Beware the slick advertising campaign concocted by Heath Shuler's elitist and unpatriotic, tax-dodging pals; his actions in betraying working class people time and again speak louder than words.

The truth is that Cecil Bothwell is the real thing, a proven candidate who listens to the people more than big money in Washington. I'm not being paid to say this. Cecil Bothwell is worth fighting for. In his own words:
We have been in an economic recession since 2008. Most economists agree that it was triggered by the Bush tax cuts for the rich, American involvement in foreign wars and the housing bubble that burst when it was discovered that highly rated, bundled subprime mortgages promoted by investment bankers were actually worthless. Interestingly, no one was ever brought to trial or held accountable for this widespread scam. The government bailed out the banks and provided a relatively small stimulus for economic growth.

But people who lost their life savings and/or homes received almost no help or consideration. As job loss continues, more and more people are suffering. The big banks and mega-corporations however are making as much money as before the 2008 crash. And obviously, they are not using these profits to create jobs; they are simply giving big bonuses to executives and sitting on their cash, most of which is held offshore to avoid taxation. Needless to say, if this corporate profit were repatriated, the money would generate tax revenue which could be used by the government to create jobs and/or reduce the deficit.

To date, the Republicans have insisted on debt reduction at the expense of job creation. The net result is that they call for draconian cuts in spending that can only shrink the economy. If the “super congress” committee composed of six Republican and six Democrats from the House and Senate cannot agree on severe cuts in government spending, measures to further shrink and eliminate government spending will automatically kick in. Programs at greatest risk include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the Pentagon budget.

It is time for the living, breathing people of this nation to reexamine our priorities and reclaim management of our country. The United States was created to grant real people an opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What we need now includes medical care for all, education for all, retirement with dignity for all and opportunities for workers to improve life circumstances for themselves and their families. Banks and corporations are, after all, only artificial entities created by and intended to serve real, living humans.
(via)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obama's last chance to earn any volunteer work from me



It's bad enough Barack Obama is actively working to help cover up and grant immunity to financial industry crimes, [UPDATE: more about which here], but if he fails to heed the largest environmental protests of recent times and block the Keystone XL pipeline, then he's clearly just a one-term anti-environmental putz.

• Jim Hansen's now-famous "game over" letter is here.

• The facts about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline are available here, and include:
1. For every barrel of tar sand oil produced, six barrels of freshwater from the Athabasca River are polluted and stored in 30 square mile toxic ponds that sit adjacent to the river.
2. These ponds are already leaking over 3 million gallons of toxic water into the Athabasca River every day.

3. The pipeline is set to cross over the Ogalalla Aquifer which irrigates one-third of all crops in the Midwest and provides eight states with drinking water.

4. Producing a barrel of Tar Sand oil emits three times more greenhouse gases than producing a barrel of conventional oil.

5. Extraction of the Tar Sands requires permanently disturbing one of the largest, intact old-growth forests left on Earth. The destruction of this forest will destroy habitat and prevent the boreal forest from providing ecosystem services that at present moment are catching and storing carbon from our climate.

6. If this pipeline and current development of the tar sands continues as planned, it will release twice as many greenhouse gases as are currently produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada.

7. Scientific research predicts that more than 166 million birds will die from habitat loss and drowning in the toxic pools over the next 30-50 years if development continues as planned.

8. Large game species are exhibiting tumors and mutations as a result of consuming toxic water. Nearby moose have been found to have over 33 times the safe amount of arsenic in their meat, a staple for indigenous populations.

9. Communities downstream from the tar sands are already exhibiting respiratory problems, rare forms of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

10. The Koch Brothers, the same corporation dedicated to spreading lies about climate change and funding the tea party, is set to be the primary profiteer from building this pipeline.

Monday, August 08, 2011

"But there was no story–and there has been none since"

Drew Westen in the Sunday Review NYTimes (I agree with every word):
Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling.


Response from Kevin Drum, here, and Digby, here...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A word or two on spalted woods in cutting boards



Enough people have asked that it's time I had a public link to my own views on the subject of spalt in cutting boards and chopping blocks.

"Spalting" is actually a stable form of highly-desirable, natural discoloration (if harvested correctly, before the wood turns punky) caused by the presence of various fungi, sometimes intruduced by a parasite (such as the ambrosia beetle), or by moisture, etc.

Different kinds of spalting have different names, such as "dead man's fingers" "ambrosia" etc. Perhaps understandably, when people hear the fine woodworking term "noble rot" or just the pejorative "fungus" they tend to get paranoid about bacteria or poisoning. I've heard this from certain purist corners, especially Japanese knife forums where some board-makers with cult-like followings insist it is improper to use spalted woods for any food preparation whatsoever. Similarly, some people insist on avoiding exotic woods that if themselves consumed in large quantities would probably make you sick. But the amount of potential ingestion is so minimal as to nearly beg comparisons with the non-molecular "effects" of homeopathy. In the absence of any convincing proof to the contrary of common sense, such purist superstitions seem a poor reason to limit oneself to boring old maple, cherry and walnut (especially when there are so many woods worth appreciating, and so many fine scraps being thrown away).

The truth, at least in my own experience of 17-odd years woodworking, is that unless you are perhaps eating your cutting board itself whole (and with end grain you really are not even cutting the wood itself, but rather slicing *between* the fibers, which then "heal" back together) the concern is completely baseless. I have never once heard of anybody being made sick by cutting food on a certain specialty hardwood. Hardwood countertops, including those meant to be chopped upon, are routinely made from spalted maple. More importantly, recent studies have demonstrated again and again that hardwood has natural anti-bacterial qualities, and is in fact more sanitary with proper care than either plastic or glass (neither of which are any fun to cut on)

In fact there should be a law against ruining your knives on glass or bamboo (grass) cutting boards falsely advertised as environmentally "green", in any just society.

Plastic quickly develops rough edges and becomes nearly impossibly to clean, even in a dishwasher, the harsh cleaning products of which are probably much worse for you than any spalting. Wood meanwhile cleans itself, and as long as you are keeping the board cleaned, and the pores of the end grain filled with mineral (never organic) oil, and/or the top coated with beeswax or melted paraffin, I think the concern over spalting is entirely ill-founded. I've had customers with decidedly delicate stomachs use spalted blocks daily for over a decade with no problem whatsoever. And, it is the most beautiful demonstration of the character of the grain, particularly in end grain (almost resembling marble) so why not use it?

Of course, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that someone might have an allergic vulnerability to something I don't know about. Frankly I'm more concerned about the link between complex plastics and pesticides (organochlorines), the cancer industry, and cancer, than any minute amounts of spalting.

People pay through the nose for high-end mushrooms and stinky cheese, companies sell yogurt with live bacteria at a premium, but a little fungus in a beautiful piece of wood is unsafe...probably not. Sometimes a little bit of spalting makes the difference between a board you can get at Wal-mart (with untested and a genuine piece of art.

That being said, I don't reckon any of my "plain" maple boards can be found at Wal-Mart or some factory in China.

Mine are all personally-designed and handmade in Asheville, North Carolina with 90% salvaged wood, and almost always with the needs of specific customers in mind.

Please don't hesitate to ask me about my sliding scale for educators, middle class survivors, workers and non-hedgefunders.









Pictures are of custom 12/4 spalted maple block with rare earth magnets, listed here and slab shelving, here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Liking" is for cowards

Jonathan Franzen in the NYTimes: very well stated.

• A City by City series from n+1, whose current issue also features a rather convincing, devastating review of C by Tom McCarthy (subscribers only).

THREE MELTDOWNS confirmed at Fukushima

One of them actually began within 5 hours of the earthquake, readers of TEPCO propaganda might be surprised to hear. The Washington Post reports. And more.

Germany, like Italy, knows what's what.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Cancer Industry is Collecting Donations

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For those still unaware, here is how the scam functions:

These people
make money polluting with impunity, saturating our world with organochlorines such as pesticides (DDT was the first) which have been directly linked to causing the cancer pandemic (now affecting 1 in 2 men, 1 in 3 women). These cynical bastards then shamelessly raise money from a traumatized population for research on expensive "treatments" that don't work (and often even cause other forms of cancer) and financially destroy entire families while making these same industries even more obscenely rich, all the while censoring any hint of a discussion about CAUSES or PREVENTION.

Guess who originally founded and still holds veto power over all Breast Cancer Awareness Month material? Look it up. The sad truth is that this collection of powerful and interrelated corporate interests is not even remotely interested in a "cure," less it can be spun into yet another problem that will make them even more money. They have it far too damn good. And don't expect any of your child's fundraising to be used for any research that might hurt their bottom line. When it comes to the mounting body of evidence about CANCER CAUSES and REAL PREVENTION (not just "early detection" so they can start selling you drugs sooner) these same people are criminally neglectful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fred, David and Charles Koch, Inc.







Update:
And then there's this...

Seriously, what a bunch of weirdos, signifying everything that is most wrong with America.

Shamelessly dishonest, self-important extremist mediocrities with their deluded self-serving Ayn Rand sound-bot psuedo-philosophy and more blood money than is healthy for any democracy to let fester in private hands.

I mean, it sure seems to me anyway, that once a corporation is allowed by law to intimidate its employees into voting for whoever the bosses say, especially when it is for some batshit crazy, fundamentalist politician who will turn around and cut their wages even more and hurt their families, then this is not a country worth living in anymore. Certainly it is antithetical to any "freedom-loving democracy."

In light of which barbaric mediocrity, may the Koch brothers' losing continue.

“Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

[...]

Further into the company newsletter is an article headlined “What’s a Business to Do?” It portrays corporate titans like the Kochs [net worth over $44 Billion] as freedom-fighting underdogs, modern-day Sakharovs and Mandelas targeted for repression by Big Government statists: “Citizens who are openly critical of the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels or the out-of-control government of the United States are being shouted down by politicians, government officials and their media and other allies.”

In this scenario, Big Government wants to muzzle the Kochs before they can spread their message to the people. That message comes down to preaching the benefits of lower wages.

[...]

Travis McKinney, an employee at a Portland Georgia-Pacific distribution center, says, “They drill into your head things like ‘The 10 Guiding Principles of Koch Industries.’ They even stamp the ten principles on your time card.”

McKinney, a fourth-generation employee of Georgia-Pacific, says relations have sharply deteriorated since Koch Industries bought the company in late 2005. He and fellow employees at three Georgia-Pacific distribution centers are locked in a yearlong contract battle with the new Koch Industries management. Workers there, members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (an affiliate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) recently voted unanimously to reject management’s contract and voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if management continues to try to impose cuts in benefits and job security in the new contracts. (read the whole thing)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recent Work...


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Spalted maple end grain island top built to custom order, measures 48" x 28" x 3"

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