Apr 28, 2011

Lopa Brunjes - Biochar: An Ancient Solution to a Modern Problem

Lopa Brunjes is a biochar pioneer, passionate sustainability advocate, and visionary businesswoman. Lopa currently serves as Executive VP of Biochar Engineering Corp, a small Colorado company defining the leading edge of the burgeoning biochar industry.

Why Is Damning New Evidence About Monsanto's Most Widely Used Herbicide Being Silenced?

It turns out that Monsanto's Roundup herbicide might not be nearly as safe as people have thought, but the media is staying mum on the revelation.

April 27, 2011

Huber was unavailable to respond to media inquiries in the weeks following the leak, and thus unable to defend himself when several colleagues from Purdue publicly claiming to refute his accusations about Monsanto's widely used herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and Roundup Ready crops. When his letter was finally acknowledged by the mainstream media, it was with titles like "Scientists Question Claims in Biotech Letter," noting that the letter's popularity on the internet "has raised concern among scientists that the public will believe his unsupported claim is true."Dr. Don Huber did not seek fame when he quietly penned a confidential letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in January of this year, warning Vilsack of preliminary evidence of a microscopic organism that appears in high concentrations in genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans and "appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings." Huber, a retired Purdue University professor of plant pathology and U.S. Army colonel, requested the USDA's help in researching the matter and suggested Vilsack wait until the research was concluded before deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. But about a month after it was sent, the letter was leaked, soon becoming an internet phenomenon.

Now, Huber has finally spoken out, both in a second letter, sent to "a wide number of individuals worldwide" to explain and back up his claims from his first letter, and in interviews. While his first letter described research that was not yet complete or published, his second letter cited much more evidence about glyphosate and genetically engineered crops based on studies that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals.

The basis of both letters and much of the research is the herbicide glyphosate. First commercialized in 1974, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and has been for some time. Glyphosate has long been considered a relatively benign product, because it was thought to break down quickly in the environment and harm little other than the weeds it was supposed to kill.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate prevents plants from making a certain enzyme. Without the enzyme, they are unable to make three essential amino acids, and thus, unable to survive. Once applied, glyphosate either binds to soil particles (and is thus immobilized so it can no longer harm plants) or microorganisms break it down into ammonium and carbon dioxide. Very little glyphosate runs off into waterways. For these reasons, glyphosate has been thought of as more or less harmless: you spray the weeds, they die, the glyphosate goes away, and nothing else in the environment is harmed.

But Huber says this is not true. First of all, he points out, evidence began to emerge in the 1980s that "what glyphosate does is, essentially, give a plant AIDS." Just like AIDS, which cripples a human's immune system, glyphosate makes plants unable to mount a defense against pathogens in the soil. Without its defense mechanisms functioning, the plants succumb to pathogens in the soil and die. Furthermore, glyphosate has an impact on microorganisms in the soil, helping some and hurting others. This is potentially problematic for farmers, as the last thing one would want is a buildup of pathogens in the soil where they grow crops.

The fate of glyphosate in the environment is also not as benign as once thought. It's true that glyphosate either binds to soil or is broken down quickly by microbes. Glyphosate binds to any positively charged ion in the soil, with the consequence of making many nutrients (such as iron and manganese) less available to plants. Also, glyphosate stays in the soil bound to particles for a long time and can be released later by normal agricultural practices like phosphorus fertilization. "It's not uncommon to find one to three pounds of glyphosate per acre in agricultural soils in the Midwest," says Huber, noting that this represents one to three times the typical amount of glyphosate applied to a field in a year.

Huber says these facts about glyphosate are very well known scientifically but rarely cited. When asked why, he replied that it would be harder for a company to get glyphosate approved for widespread use if it were known that the product could increase the severity of diseases on normal crop plants as well as the weeds it was intended to kill. Here in the U.S., many academic journals are not even interested in publishing studies that suggest this about glyphosate; a large number of the studies Huber cites were published in the European Journal of Agronomy.

If Huber's claims are true, then it follows that there must be problems with disease in crops where glyphosate is used. Huber's second letter verifies this, saying, "we are experiencing a large number of problems in production agriculture in the U.S. that appear to be intensified and sometimes directly related to genetically engineered (GMO) crops, and/or the products they were engineered to tolerate -- especially those related to glyphosate (the active chemical in Roundup® herbicide and generic versions of this herbicide)."

He continues, saying, "We have witnessed a deterioration in the plant health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops recently with unexplained epidemics of sudden death syndrome of soybean (SDS), Goss' wilt of corn, and take-all of small grain crops the last two years. At the same time, there has been an increasing frequency of previously unexplained animal (cattle, pig, horse, poultry) infertility and [miscarriages]. These situations are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers."

Some of the crops Huber named, corn and soy, are genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with glyphosate. Others, like wheat and barley, are not. In those cases, a farmer would apply glyphosate to kill weeds about a week before planting his or her crop, but would not spray the crop itself. In the case of corn, as Huber points out, most corn varieties in the U.S. are bred using conventional breeding techniques to resist the disease Goss' wilt. However, recent preliminary research showed that when GE corn is sprayed with glyphosate, the corn becomes susceptible to Goss' wilt. Huber says in his letter that "This disease was commonly observed in many Midwestern U.S. fields planted to [Roundup Ready] corn in 2009 and 2010, while adjacent non-GMO corn had very light to no infections." In 2010, Goss' wilt was a "major contributor" to an estimated one billion bushels of corn lost in the U.S. "in spite of generally good harvest conditions," says Huber.

The subject of Huber's initial letter is a newly identified organism that appears to be the cause of infertility and miscarriages in animals. Scientists have a process to verify whether an organism is the cause of a disease: they isolate the organism, culture it, and reintroduce it to the animal to verify that it reproduces the symptoms of the disease, and then re-isolate the organism from the animal's tissue. This has already been completed for the organism in question. The organism appears in high concentrations in Roundup Ready crops. However, more research is needed to understand what this organism is and what its relationship is to glyphosate and/or Roundup Ready crops.

In order to secure the additional research needed, Huber wrote to Secretary Vilsack. Huber says he wrote his initial letter to Secretary Vilsack with the expectation that it would be forwarded to the appropriate agency within the USDA for follow-up, which it was. When the USDA contacted Huber for more information, he provided it, but he does not know how they have followed up on that information. The letter was "a private letter appealing for [the USDA's] personnel and funding," says Huber. Given recent problems with plant disease and livestock infertility and miscarriages, he says that "many producers can't wait an additional three to 10 years for someone to find the funds and neutral environment" to complete the research on this organism.

If the link between the newly discovered organism and livestock infertility and miscarriages proves true, it will be a major story. But there is already a major story here: the lack of independent research on GMOs, the reluctance of U.S. journals to publish studies critical of glyphosate and GMOs, and the near total silence from the media on Huber's leaked letter.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization | Video on TED.com

Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).

About Marcin Jakubowski
Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing a set of blueprints for 50 farming tools that can be built cheaply from scratch. Call it a "civilization starter kit." Full bio and more links

Ideas worth spreading... love the new paradigm... go Marcin Jakubowski ...! Monte

What Is Biochar?

This video explains what biochar is, and its effects when using it as a soil amendment.

Simple/Good explanation of biochar! Monte

Apr 27, 2011

Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? - Official Trailer [HD]

QUEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is a profound, alternative look at the global bee crisis from Taggart Siegel, director of THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN. Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva. Together they reveal both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature. Official Film Website: http://www.queenofthesun.com

Apr 25, 2011

Bartlett Tree Experts: News Release - Bartlett to Conduct Research to Determine the Effectiveness of Biochar in Protecting Urban Trees

Ancient Amazonia Meets Chicago Street Trees

Researchers to see if biochar, a charcoal first used centuries ago, can help protect the urban forest – saving cities money
What: Application of biochar, a type of charcoal first produced and used in the Amazon basin centuries ago to make agricultural land more fertile, to the soil of Chicago street trees. The first time it is being studied in urban soils for the potential benefit of trees, though there has been extensive research worldwide into its benefits for agriculture
Why: A large portion of street trees planted do not survive; of those that do, the average lifespan is 10 years - considerably less than a tree growing in its natural conditions. Street trees growing in soil pits surrounded by pavement suffer from limited root space, soil compaction, limited water and drainage, poor soil structure and nutrients, and pavement de-icing salts.
If biochar were to improve the growing conditions of urban trees, enabling them to live longer, its use could save municipalities and property owners in tree-replacement costs and help preserve valuable urban tree canopy.
Where: About 60 trees on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park/Bucktown community.
This research is part of a larger urban-soils study that includes applications of biochar in greenhouse and field plot settings at The Morton Arboretum. The Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories have also been testing adding biochar to the soil mix when planting trees.
Who: Scientists from Bartlett Tree Experts and The Morton Arboretum, with earlier assistance from the Chicago Bureau of Forestry and Department of Environment, and funding support from The TREE Fund.
When: The Chicago street-tree applications begin in April 2011. The study will continue for two to three years.
Background: Biochar, a result of heating of plant waste at high temperatures, has been used for centuries to restore infertile soils. It also has tremendous potential for urban tree care. Urban soils often lack carbon, available nutrients and important microorganisms. Biochar is rich in carbon, which when added to the soil, can increase the number of microorganisms, increase nutrients and rebuild soil structure. It’s been called a “coral reef” for soil.
Biochar may also help address urgent environmental issues, such as water pollution, food insecurity, soil degradation and climate change. It puts carbon back into the earth, puts it to positive use in the soil and increases the amount of time it stays there, rather than allowing the carbon to be released into the atmosphere. Research suggests it is an ideal candidate for reducing climate change by indefinitely storing carbon and carbon dioxide.
For more information, contact:
Christine Esposito cesposito@terracompr.com 773.637.3939

DIY Worm Tower Creates Self-Spreading Compost (Video) : TreeHugger

how to build a worm tower image Image credit: Permaculture Science
From building your own worm bin to how to build a compost tumbler, we've covered plenty of simple, DIY solutions for home composting here on TreeHugger. But what about a worm bin that literally spreads its own contents in your garden? That's the idea behind a worm tower, which—it is claimed—uses free-ranging compost worms to break down organic waste and then move those nutrients out into your garden.
I like to think of myself as a relatively enthusiastic compost geek, but I must confess I have neither heard of, nor experienced, the concept of a worm tower. Nevertheless, the idea of actively encouraging compost worms not just to do their work at composting, but to then spread out into your garden and poop liberally strikes me—in theory at least—as being an elegant, low maintenance way of keeping nutrients cycling in your garden. Looks like lazivore gardening at its finest!
Just one question—anyone got any experience of whether this actually works?
More on Worm Compost and Composting Worm Compost Suppresses Plant Diseases Vermicondo: Worm Composter By Levitt Goodman More on Compost Tumblers, Compost and Composting Build Your Own Compost Tumbler (Video) Building a Hot Compost Heap How to Heat Your Shower with Compost Composting as Animal Husbandry: Moving Way Beyond Recycling

Things to Do with Leftover Easter Eggs | Serious Eats

20100924_curriedeggsalad.jpgSo the eggs were boiled, decorated, hidden, found, then just sat around in baskets atop faux grass. Now what to do with all of those freaking eggs? From the obvious egg salad and deviled eggs to salad nicoise, here is your inspiration for post-Easter egg re-purposing.

New biochar kiln design - "hornito" - BIOCHAR VIDEO

This video illustrates a new biochar kiln design which we call "hornito", meaning small oven in Spanish. This kiln is a clean, efficient and inexpensive design for producing high quality biochar using recycled 55 gallon drums. The kiln is in operation in the south of Costa Rica, and was constructed by Biochar Costa Rica located in Puerto Jimenez.


Great Guitar for Biochar

Love the sound track,
Let Me Stand next to Biochar Costa Rica's Fire!
Move over and let Jimmy "hornito", take over!

I like the simplicity of the sawdust tar filter.

Alright, now dig this, baby
You don't care for me, I don't a-care about that
Got a new fool, ha, I'd like to laugh at
I have only one burning desire,
let me stand next to y0ur fire

Just a-play with me and you won't get burned, I have only one itchin' desire,
let me stand next to your fire

Ow!, Ahh, move over, Rover
and let Jimi "hornito" take over,
Yeah, you know what I'm talk(in') about
Yeah, get on with it, baby, Ow, Yeah
Thats what I'm talkin' about, Now dig this
Ha!, Now listen, baby
You try to give me your money,
you better save it, babe
Save it for your rainy day
I have only one burnin' desire,
let me stand next to Costa Rica's Biochar fire, ha

Oh, let me stand, baby
I ain't gonna do you no harm

Ow, Yeah, You better move over, baby
I ain't gonna hurt ya, baby
Ah, I ain't talk(in') with your ol' lady
Ow, Ah, yes, this is Jimi "hornito" talkin' to you
Yeah, baby, Doooo

Erich Knight comments


Nice explanation of an efficient design... nice musical / lyrical introduction... Monte

Apr 24, 2011

Ronnie Dunn - Bleed Red - ACM Awards 2011

Ronnie Dunn World Premiere - Bleed Red - ACM Awards 2011 Spectacular HD

Ronnie Dunn "Bleed Red" Lyrics

Let’s say were sorry ‘fore it’s too late 
Give forgiveness a chance 
Turn the anger into water 
Let it slip through our hands

We all bleed red we all taste rain 
All fall down loose our way 
We all say words we regret 
We all cry tears we all bleed red

If we’re fighting we’re both loosing 
We’re just wasting our time 
Because my scars they are your scars 
And your world is mine

You and I We all bleed red 
We all taste rain 
All fall down loose our way 
We all say words we regret 
We all cry tears all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong 
Sometimes we’re weak 
Sometimes we’re hurt and it cuts deep 
We live this life breath to breath 
We’re all the same we all bleed red

Let’s say were sorry ‘fore it’s too late
We all bleed red we all taste rain 
All fall down loose our way 
We all say words we regret 
We all cry tears we all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong 
Sometimes we’re weak 
Sometimes we’re hurt and it cuts deep 
We live this life breath to breath

Great song and lyrics with much meaning... ! Monte & Eileen

CDKN Action Lab prototype - Biochar for climate compatible development

Leaders: Dr Simon Shackley, Jason Aramburu, Abbie Clare Short Summary: To develop a robust methodology for submission to the Gold Standard (a voluntary carbon market standard) to measure the carbon sequestration potential and social, economic and environmental impacts of biochar. Biochar is similar to charcoal and is synthesised through the pyrolisis of biomass. The technology represents a method for atmospheric carbon capture and storage but currently projects in this area are small-scale. Without receipt of income from the carbon market, scale-up of biochar projects will be slow. The social and economic benefits of biochar to soilhealth and agronomy, particularly amongst subsistence farmers, will only be realised by scale-up of the key biochar technologies and practices. Attaining Gold Standard validation is essential to accessing the carbon market and subsequently achieving increased scale of carbon sequestration and agricultural adaptation in developing countries. http://www.2degreesnetwork.com/working-groups/cdkn-action-lab-online/resource...

How the Koch Brothers Indoctrinate Their Employees with Right-Wing Anti-Worker Propaganda

Before the landmark Citizens' United ruling, the kind of corporate propaganda Koch Industries is using wouldn't have been legal.

April 23, 2011 |

The following article first appeared on the Nation.com.

On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens UnitedSupreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “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.”

The Kochs were major supporters of the Citizens United case; they were also chief sponsors of the Tea Party and major backers of the anti-“Obamacare” campaign. Through their network of libertarian think tanks and policy institutes, they have been major drivers of unionbusting campaigns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

“This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

The election packet starts with a letter from Robertson dated October 4, 2010. It read: “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee” [emphasis added].

For most Koch employees, the “helpful items” included a list of Koch-approved candidates, which was presented on a separate page labeled “Elect to Prosper.” A brief introduction to the list reads: “The following candidates in your state are supported by Koch companies and KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch companies. We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom.”

What the Kochs mean by “economic freedom” is explained on the next page. As the mailer makes clear, Koch Industries tailored its election propaganda to the state level, rather than focusing on national elections. Of the 19 candidates that Koch Industries recommended in its Washington State list, 16 were Republicans. The three Democratic candidates approved by the Kochs included two members of the “Roadkill Caucus,” Washington’s version of the conservative Blue Dogs.

Only two of the 19 races on the list were for national office, and in both cases Koch Industries backed Tea Party-friendly Republicans: Dino Rossi, an antilabor candidate, who lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray; and Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who ran in the Republican primary as a moderate, but who came out recently as a Tea Party radical, much to her constituency’s surprise.

After guiding employees on how they should vote, the mailer devoted the rest of the material to the sort of indoctrination one would expect from an old John Birch Society pamphlet (the Koch brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS). It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists.

The newsletter begins with an unsigned editorial preaching familiar Tea Party themes, repackaged as Koch Industry corporate philosophy:

For more than 40 years, Koch Industries has openly and consistently supported the principles of economic freedom and market-based policies. Unfortunately, these values and principled point of view are now being strongly opposed by many politicians (and their media allies) who favor ever-increasing government…. Even worse, recent government actions are threatening to bankrupt the country…. And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

Further into the company newsletter is an article headlined “What’s a Business to Do?” It portrays corporate titans like the Kochs 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:

If the government insists that someone should be paid $50 per hour in wages and benefits, but that person only creates $30 worth of value, no one will prosper for long…. Anything that undermines the mobility of labor, such as policies that make it more expensive and difficult to change where people are employed, also increases unemployment…. Similar policies that distort the labor market—such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits—contribute to unemployment.

Easily the strangest and most disturbing article of all comes from the head of Koch Industries himself, Charles Koch, who offers an election-season history lesson to his employees. Koch’s essay sets out to rank the best and worst US presidents in terms of their economic policies. Charles—who with his brother David is worth $44 billion, putting them fifth on the 2010 Forbes 400 list—warns his readers that his history lesson may surprise them. And to his credit, Koch doesn’t disappoint.

Koch glorifies Warren G. Harding and his successor Calvin Coolidge for producing “one of the most prosperous [eras] in U.S. history.” Koch explains that what made Harding great was his insistence on “cutting taxes, reducing the national debt and cutting the federal budget,” all policies that Congressional Republicans are proposing in today’s budget negotiations. What made Harding so great, in other words, is what made radical Republican candidates so great in November 2010.

Koch’s pick for worst president is Herbert Hoover, whom he accuses of undermining “economic freedom” and thus precipitating the Great Depression. “Under Hoover,” he writes, “federal spending roughly doubled and personal income tax rates jumped from 25 percent to 63 percent. He raised corporate taxes, too, and doubled the estate tax. Hoover also pressured business leaders to keep wages artificially high, contributing to massive unemployment.”

According to most historians, the Harding and Coolidge administrations’ free-market romp was one of the key factors that led to the Great Depression. Their time in office was marked by obscene corruption, racial violence, unionbusting, feudal wealth inequalities and, shortly thereafter, the total collapse of the American economy.

* * *

Legal experts say that this kind of corporate-sponsored propagandizing has been almost unheard-of in America since the passage of New Deal–era laws like the National Labor Relations Act, which codified restrictions on political activism and pressure in the workplace. NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher, director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law, toldThe Nation in an e-mail interview that such overt politicking to employees is still rare. “I am not aware of it happening with many employers,” he wrote.

According to UCLA’s Stone, although Citizens United frees Koch Industries and other corporations to propagandize their employees with their political preferences, the same doesn’t hold true for unions—at least not in the workplace. “If a union wanted to hand out political materials in the workplace not directly relevant to the workers’ interests—such as providing a list of candidates to support in the elections—the employer has the right to ban that material,” says Stone. “They could even prohibit its distribution on lunch breaks or after shifts, because by law it’s the company’s private property.”

Stone points to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1915, Coppage v. Kansas, which protected employers’ right to draw up contracts forbidding employees from joining unions. Justice William Day’s dissent in that case pointed out that if the state was ready to enforce the employers’ contractual bans on union activity, then it was opening the way for the state to enforce employers’ legal right to control their employees’ political and ideological activities:

Would it be beyond a legitimate exercise of the police power to provide that an employee should not be required to agree, as a condition of employment, to forgo affiliation with a particular political party, or the support of a particular candidate for office? It seems to me that these questions answer themselves.

With Citizens United, it seems, the country is heading back to the days of court-enforced corporatocracy. Already, workers at a Koch subsidiary in Portland, Oregon, are complaining about being subjected to political and ideological propaganda. Employees at Georgia-Pacific warehouses in Portland say the company encourages them to read Charles Koch’s The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company and to attend ideological seminars in which Koch management preaches their bosses’ “market-based management” philosophy.

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.

Political propagandizing is a heated issue in Oregon, which passed SB-519 in the summer of 2009, a bill placing restrictions on corporations’ ability to coerce employees to attend political meetings and vote the way the corporation tells them to vote. In late December 2009—just before SB-519 was to go into effect—the US Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries to block the bill from becoming law. A similar bill in Wisconsin was struck down in November in a federal court. However, the Chamber’s lawsuit in Oregon was thrown out in May 2010 by US District Court Judge Michael Mosman on procedural grounds, leaving open the possibility that it could still be struck down.

In the meantime, workers across the country should start preparing for a future workplace environment in which political proselytizing is the new normal.

Read more of Mark Ames at eXiledonline.com. He is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond.

Great article! Citizens' United ruling, if left standing, will destroy this country's soul... Monte

Best Way to Raise Campaign Money? Investigate Banks | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog | Matt Taibbi on Politics and the Economy

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

A hilarious report has come out courtesy of the National Institute of Money in State Politics, showing that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller – who is coordinating the investigation into the banks’ improper mortgage dealings – increased his campaign contributions from the finance sector this year by a factor of 88! He has raised $261,445 from finance, insurance and real estate contributors since he announced that he was going to be coordinating the investigation into improper foreclosure practices. That is 88 times as much as they gave him not over last year, but over the previous decade.

This is about as perfect an example of how American politics works as you’ll ever see. This foreclosure issue is a monstrous story that is somehow escaping national headlines; essentially, all of the largest banks in the country have been engaged in an ongoing fraud and tax evasion scheme that among other things has resulted in many hundreds of billions in investor losses, and hundreds of thousands of improper foreclosures. Last week, the 14 largest mortgage lenders a group that includes bailout all-stars like Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, managed to negotiate a settlement with the federal government that will mandate some financial relief to homeowners who have been victims of improper foreclosure practices. It’s unclear yet exactly what damages and fines will be involved in the federal settlement, or how many homeowners will be affected. But certainly there are some who believe the federal settlement was a political end-run around the states’ efforts to extract their own deal from the banks.

Put it this way. If the banks had to pay what they actually owed – from the registration taxes/fees they avoided by using the electronic registry system MERS to the money taken from investors in toxic mortgage-backed securities to the fees and payments stolen from homeowners via predatory loan practices and illegal foreclosures – they would probably all go out of business. That’s how much money is at stake here: the very future of financial giants like Bank of America and Citi and JP Morgan Chase is hanging to a very significant degree on the decisions of politicians like Miller.

Hence the sudden avalanche of money sent Miller’s way. The numbers are laughable. In 2006, out -of-state donors gave Miller’s campaign $10,508. For the 2010 cycle, that number was $497,357. Three lawyers by themselves – Al Gore’s attorney David Boies, plus Donald Flexner and Robert Silver, all partners in the firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner – gave Miller a total of $60,000.

Guess who Boies’ firm defended last year, in a suit brought by an Australian hedge fund that claims it was ripped off in a deal involving toxic mortgage-backed CDOs? That’s right: Goldman, Sachs. Goldman hired Boies to represent it in a fight against the now-defunct Basis Yield Alpha Fund, which bought into Goldman’s notorious “Timberwolf” deal – one of the “shitty deals” Senator Carl Levin, in hearings last year, was haranguing Goldman for selling to unsuspecting clients.

So now we see that Boies and a string of other banker lawyers (including firms that represented Citi, Chase, Wachovia, and others) are throwing tens of thousands of dollars at Miller. Maybe it won’t do much to influence Miller, but who knows? Maybe he won’t plunge the knife in quite so deep now.

Just something to keep an eye on. It would be interesting to see a similar analysis on the money these same characters have thrown at the Obama administration in the last year.

Matt telling it like it is, no matter who is doing it... wish mainstream media would do half as good...  Monte