Aug 26, 2011

Freezing Cabbage


Before I started freezing cabbage, I always planted too many plants. In my zeal to get a spring garden put out, I always seemed to plant more cabbage than we could possibly use fresh. I kept telling myself, "we'll use it ALL this year....". So we ate lots of raw cabbage, fried cabbage, baked cabbage, and coleslaw. We gave heads away, made sauerkraut, and still wound up chucking some of it onto the compost pile. Then ultimately we'd find ourselves BUYING cabbage during the rest of the year.

Then a friend told me how to freeze cabbage. They were freezing their excess and using it all year. After a little research, here's the method we came up with. It feels good to be able to grow something and not have it go to waste.

Freezing Cabbage - Blanching  Start with freshly harvested and cleaned cabbage heads. Most gardens have some cabbage worms (which are caterpillars of the white cabbage looper butterfly). This means that if you grow cabbage of your own or buy it from a farmer's market, you'll probably have to remove the outer leaves of the cabbage head to wash away the caterpillars and their "residue".

I'll usually float cabbage heads in a sink or bucket full of water for a couple of hours to drive out most cabbage worms.

Once heads are cleaned, cut them into quarters if they are small, or more pieces if needed for very large heads. DO NOT remove the core or heart of the cabbage, or the quarters will fall apart when blanching (this from personal experience...)


Blanch cabbage in boiling water for 3 minutes.

Transfer to a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. Blanching is not meant to cook food, but simply to kill bacteria, mold and fungi that can cause food to spoil over time, and also to destroy enzymes that cause most fruits and vegetables to continue to ripen, and change it's flavor (generally for the worse).

Once the cabbage is cooled, place it in a colander or strainer to allow as much water to drain off as possible. Freezing Cabbage - Packaging Pack blanched and drained cabbage into family serving size portions in freezer boxes, bags, or vacuum packing bags.

We prefer to use our Food Saver vacuum packager for packing our cabbage. Removing as much air as possible will help cut down on freezer burn over time.

Make sure to label and date packaged foods so you will know what it is, and when you put it up. It's always a good idea to use the oldest packages first to help maintain freshness.
Freezing Cabbage - Storage and UseFrozen cabbage will keep in your freezer for a couple of years, before the flavor starts to seriously deteriorate. Even after that it can still be used safely. As far as I have found, there's no better way of preserving cabbage for long term use.

Frozen cabbage when thawed out will not be like fresh - remember it has been blanched, and frozen - both of which changes it's consistency. You can't eat it like fresh cabbage, but it can most definitely be used for any cooking recipe that calls for cabbage. Some of our favorites are sauteed golden brown cabbage and onions, and cabbage baked in foil. It can also be used in soups and stews, or just simple stewed cabbage.

David Sirota: Race and the Church of Denialism

By David Sirota

Republican guru Karl Rove recently appeared on Fox News to dispute the idea that America is a “Christian nation.” And he was right to do so, but not because our country lacks an overarching canon. We certainly do have a national religion—it’s just not Christianity. It’s Denialism.

Some branches of this religion deny the science documenting humans’ role in climate change. Others deny tax cuts’ connection to deficits and deregulation’s role in the recession. But regardless of the issue, Denialists all share a basic hostility to facts.

As this know-nothing theology expands, none of its denominations claims a bigger membership than the one obsessed with race. Today, many reject the fact that black people typically face bigger obstacles to economic and political success than whites. Instead, they insist that whites are oppressed.

If you’ve followed politics, you’re familiar with this catechism. In the 1980s, lawmakers often implied that welfare programs persecuted whites. In the 1990s, the same lawmakers demonized affirmative-action initiatives that tried to counter college admission preferences for white “legacy” families. These days, demagogues cite Barack Obama’s political ascendance as supposed proof that black people are unfairly privileged.But the meme nonetheless persists. In May, Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said Obama’s election “comes back to who he was: he was black.” Now, it’s Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who last week declared that “as an African American male,” Obama received a “tremendous advantage from a lot of (government) programs.”

The late Democrat Geraldine Ferraro first floated this specific fable in 2008, when she said that Obama was “very lucky” to be black and that “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in (his) position.” Obama rightly noted that “anybody who knows the history of this country ... would not take too seriously the notion that (being black) has been a huge advantage.”

Though Coburn’s dog-whistle racism is (sadly) mundane, his statement is news because of its timing.

In the same week the Oklahoman insinuated that government gives African Americans a “tremendous advantage,” The New York Times reported on data showing black scientists are “markedly less likely” to win government grants than white scientists. A few weeks earlier, the Pew Research Center had reported that “the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households.”

These representative snapshots remind us that despite Denialist rhetoric, institutional racism and white privilege dominate American society.

This truth is everywhere. You can see it in black unemployment rates, which are twice as high as white unemployment rates—a disparity that persists even when controlling for education levels. You can see it in a 2004 MIT study showing that job-seekers with “white names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews” than job seekers with comparable resumes and “African American-sounding names.” And you can see it in a news media that looks like an all-white country club and a U.S. Senate that includes no black legislators.

Denialists imply that this is all negated by Obama’s success. But while his rise to the Oval Office certainly was an achievement, Obama was correct when, upon becoming Harvard Law Review’s first black president in 1990, he said, “It’s crucial that people don’t see my election as somehow a symbol of progress in the broader sense, that we don’t sort of point to a Barack Obama any more than you point to a Bill Cosby or a Michael Jordan and say ‘Well, things are hunky dory.’”

Of course, things aren’t “hunky dory” for most people in this recession—but they are particularly awful for black Americans. Unfortunately, if you refuse to acknowledge that truth, there’s a whole Church of Denialism ready to embrace you.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at

Right on David... Monte

3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

August 25, 2011

Transforming the United States into something closer to a democracy requires: 1) knowledge of how we are getting screwed; 2) pragmatic tactics, strategies, and solutions; and 3) the “energy to do battle.”

The majority of Americans oppose the corporatocracy (rule by giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials); however, many of us have given up hope that this tyranny can be defeated. Among those of us who continue to be politically engaged, many focus on only one of the requirements—knowledge of how we are getting screwed. And this singular focus can result in helplessness. It is the two other requirements that can empower, energize, and activate Team Democracy— a team that is currently at the bottom of the standings in the American Political League.

1. Knowledge of How We are Getting Screwed

Harriet Tubman conducted multiple missions as an Underground Railroad conductor, and she also participated in the Union Army’s Combahee River raid that freed more than 700 slaves. Looking back on her career as a freedom fighter, Tubman noted, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” While awareness of the truth of corporatocracy oppression is by itself not sufficient to win freedom and justice, it is absolutely necessary.

We are ruled by so many “industrial complexes”—military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, and so on—that it is almost impossible to stay on top of every way we are getting screwed. The good news is that—either through independent media or our basic common sense—polls show that the majority of Americans know enough about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts, and other corporate welfare to oppose these corporatocracy policies. In the case of the military-industrial complex, most Iraq War polls andAfghanistan War polls show that the majority of Americans know enough to oppose these wars. And when Americans were asked in a CBS New /New York Times survey in January 2011 which of three programs—the military, Medicare or Social Security—to cut so as to deal with the deficit, fully 55 percent chose the military, while only 21 percent chose Medicare and 13 percent chose Social Security.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows that the deal is rotten.” Well, maybe not everybody, but damn near everybody.

But what doesn’t everybody know?

2. Pragmatic Tactics, Strategies and Solutions

In addition to awareness of economic and social injustices created by corporatocracy rule, it is also necessary to have knowledge of strategies and tactics that oppressed people have historically used to overcome tyranny and to gain their fair share of power.

Even before the Democratic-Republican bipartisan educational policies (such as “no child left behind” and “race to the top”) that cut back on civics being taught in schools, few Americans were exposed in their schooling to “street-smart civics”—tactics and strategies that oppressed peoples have historically utilized to gain power.

For a comprehensive guide of tactics and strategies that have been effective transforming regimes more oppressive than the current U.S. one, read political theorist and sociologist Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy, which includes nearly 200 “Methods of Nonviolent Actions.” Among Sharp’s 49 “Methods of Economic Noncooperation,” he lists over 20 different kinds of strikes. And among his 38 “Methods of Political Noncooperation,” he lists 10 tactics of “citizens’ noncooperation with government,” nine “citizens’ alternatives to obedience,” and seven “actions by government personnel.” Yes, nothing was more powerful in ending the Vietnam War and saving American and Vietnamese lives than the brave actions by critically thinking U.S. soldiers who refused to cooperate with the U.S. military establishment. Check out David Zeigler’s documentary Sir! No Sir! for details.

For a quick history lesson on “the nature of disruptive power” in the United States and the use of disruptive tactics in fomenting the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, and other democratic movements, check out sociologist Frances Fox Piven’s Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America. Piven describes how “ordinary people exercise power in American politics mainly at those extraordinary moments when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules that ordinarily govern their daily lives, and, by doing so, disrupt the workings of the institutions in which they are enmeshed.” In the midst of the Great Depression when U.S unemployment was over 25 percent, working people conducted an exceptional number of large labor strikes, including the Flint, Michigan sit-down strike, which began at the end of 1936 when auto workers occupied a General Motors factory so as to earn recognition for the United Auto Workers union as a bargaining agent. That famous victory was preceded and inspired by other less well-known major battles fought and won by working people. Check out the intelligent tactics (and guts and solidarity) in the1934 Minneapolis Truckers Strike.

For an example of “the nature of creative power” that scared the hell out of—and almost triumphed—over the moneyed elite, read The Populist Moment by historian Lawrence Goodwyn. The Populist movement, the late-19th-century farmers’ insurgency, according to Goodwyn, was the largest democratic movement in American history. These Populists and their major organization, commonly called the “Alliance,” created worker cooperatives that resulted in empowering economic self-sufficiency. They came close to successfully transforming a good part of the United States into something a lot closer to a democracy. As Goodwyn notes, “Their efforts, halting and disjointed at first, gathered form and force until they grew into a coordinated mass movement that stretched across the American continent ... Millions of people came to believe fervently that the wholesale overhauling of their society was going to happen in their lifetimes.”

In Get Up, Stand Up, I include the section “Winning the Battle: Solutions, Strategies, and Tactics.” However, a major point of the book is that, currently in the United States, even more ignored than street-smart strategies and tactics is the issue of morale, which is necessary for implementing these strategies and tactics. So, I also have a section “Energy to Do Battle: Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect, and Collective Self-Confidence.”

3. The Energy to Do Battle

The elite’s money—and the influence it buys—is an extremely powerful weapon. So it is understandable that so many people who are defeated and demoralized focus on their lack of money rather than on their lack of morale. However, we must keep in mind that in war, especially in a class war when one’s side lacks financial resources, morale becomes even more crucial.

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization and oppression don’t set people free to take action. But having worked with abused people for more than 25 years, it doesn’t surprise me to see that when we as individuals or a society eat crap for too long, we become psychologically too weak to take action. There are a great many Americans who have been so worn down by decades of personal and political defeats, financial struggles, social isolation and daily interaction with impersonal and inhuman institutions that they no longer have the energy for political actions.

Other observers of subjugated societies have recognized this phenomenon of subjugation resulting in demoralization and fatalism. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Ignacio Martin-Baró, the El Salvadoran social psychologist and popularizer of “liberation psychology,” understood this psychological phenomenon. So did Bob Marley, the poet laureate of oppressed people around the world. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley called “mental slavery.” Unless we acknowledge that reality, we won’t begin to heal from what I call “battered people’s syndrome” and “corporatocracy abuse” and to, as Marley urges, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

Whether one’s abuser is a spouse or the corporatocracy, there are parallels when it comes to how one can maintain enough strength to be able to free oneself when the opportunity presents itself—and then heal and attain even greater strength. This difficult process requires honesty that one is in an abusive relationship. One should not be ashamed of having previously believed in corporatocracy lies; and it also helps to forgive and have compassion for those who continue to believe them. The liars we face are often quite good at lying. It helps to have a sense of humor about one’s predicament, to nurture respectful relationships, and to take advantage of a lucky opportunity—often created by the abuser’s arrogance— when it presents itself.

For democratic movements to have enough energy to get off the ground, certain psychological and cultural building blocks are required. Goodwyn, from his study of the Populists in the United States, Solidarity in Poland, and other democratic movements, concluded that “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” constitute the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. Without individual self-respect, people do not believe that they are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and they accept as their role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, people do not believe they can succeed in wresting power away from their rulers. There are “democracy battlefields” —in our schools, workplace and elsewhere—where such respect and confidence can be regained every day.

No democratic movement succeeds without determination, courage, and solidarity, but modern social scientists routinely ignore such nonquantifiable important variables, and so those trained only in universities and not on the streets can, as Martin-Baró pointed out, “become blind to the most important meanings of human existence.” Great scientists recognize just how important nonquantifable variables are in certain areas of life. A sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office at Princeton stated: not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

The battle against the corporatocracy needs critical thinking, which results in seeing some ugly truths about reality. This critical thinking is absolutely necessary. Without it, one is more likely to engage in tactics that can make matters worse. But critical thinking also means the ability to think critically about one’s pessimism—realizing that pessimism can cripple the will and destroy motivation. A critical thinker recognizes how negativism can cause inaction, which results in maintaining the status quo. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian political theorist and Marxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini, talked about “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” —a phrase that has inspired many critical thinkers, including Noam Chomsky.

Can one have hope without being an insipid Pollyanna? Until shortly before it occurred, the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed an impossibility to most Americans, who saw only mass resignation within the Soviet Union and its sphere of control. But the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, did not see their Soviet and Communist Party rulers as the all-powerful forces that Americans did. And so Polish workers’ Solidarity, by simply refusing to go away, provided a strong dose of morale across Eastern Europe at the same time other historical events weakened the Soviet empire.

Today in Iceland, citizens have refused to acquiesce to the demands of global financial institutions, simply refusing to be taxed for the mistakes of the financial elite that caused their nation’s recent financial meltdown. In a March 2010 referendum in Iceland, 93 percent voted against repayment of the debt, and Icelandic citizens have been drafting a new constitution that would free their country from the power of international finance (this constitution will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections). Yes, participatory democracy is still possible.

The lesson from the 2011 Arab spring in and other periods of history is that tyrannical and dehumanizing institutions are often more fragile than they appear, and with time, luck, morale, and our ability to seize the moment, damn near anything is possible. We never really know until it happens whether or not we are living in that time when historical variables are creating opportunities for seemingly impossible change. Thus, we must prepare ourselves by battling each day in all our activities to regain individual self-respect, collective self-confidence, determination, courage, and solidarity.

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is

Aug 25, 2011

Arrested at the White House: Acting as a Living Tribute to Martin Luther King | Truthout

Thursday 25 August 2011
by: Bill McKibben

Writer and climate activist Bill McKibben was among several dozen arrested outside the White House on August 20 at the start of more than two weeks of planned demonstrations by activists opposed to the construction of an oil pipeline carrying petroleum from the Canadian "tar sands" to the US. (Photo:jaymallinphotos)

I didn’t think it was possible, but my admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr., grew even stronger these past days.

As I headed to jail as part of the first wave of what is turning into the biggest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement for many years, I had the vague idea that I would write something. Not an epic like King's “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” but at least, you know, a blog post. Or a tweet.

But frankly, I wasn’t up to it. The police, surprised by how many people turned out on the first day of two weeks of protests at the White House, decided to teach us a lesson. As they told our legal team, they wanted to deter anyone else from coming -- and so with our first crew they were… kind of harsh.

We spent three days in D.C.’s Central Cell Block, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like it might be. You lie on a metal rack with no mattress or bedding and sweat in the high heat; the din is incessant; there’s one baloney sandwich with a cup of water every 12 hours.

I didn’t have a pencil -- they wouldn’t even let me keep my wedding ring -- but more important, I didn’t have the peace of mind to write something. It’s only now, out 12 hours and with a good night’s sleep under my belt, that I’m able to think straight. And so, as I said, I’ll go to this weekend’s big celebrations for the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall with even more respect for his calm power.

Preacher, speaker, writer under fire, but also tactician. He really understood the power of nonviolence, a power we’ve experienced in the last few days. When the police cracked down on us, the publicity it produced cemented two of the main purposes of our protest:

First, it made Keystone XL -- the new, 1,700-mile-long pipeline we’re trying to block that will vastly increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico -- into a national issue. A few months ago, it was mainly people along the route of the prospective pipeline who were organizing against it. (And with good reason: tar sands mining has already wrecked huge swaths of native land in Alberta, and endangers farms, wild areas, and aquifers all along its prospective route.)

Now, however, people are coming to understand -- as we hoped our demonstrations would highlight -- that it poses a danger to the whole planet as well. After all, it’s the Earth’s second largest pool of carbon, and hence the second-largest potential source of global warming gases after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. We’ve already plumbed those Saudi deserts. Now the question is: Will we do the same to the boreal forests of Canada. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has made all too clear, if we do so it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” That message is getting through. Witness the incredibly strong New York Times editorial opposing the building of the pipeline that I was handed on our release from jail.

Second, being arrested in front of the White House helped make it clearer that President Obama should be the focus of anti-pipeline activism. For once Congress isn’t in the picture. The situation couldn’t be simpler: the president, and the president alone, has the power either to sign the permit that would take the pipeline through the Midwest and down to Texas (with the usual set of disastrous oil spills to come) or block it.

Barack Obama has the power to stop it and no one in Congress or elsewhere can prevent him from doing so. That means -- and again, it couldn’t be simpler -- that the Keystone XL decision is the biggest environmental test for him between now and the next election. If he decides to stand up to the power of big oil, it will send a jolt through his political base, reminding the presently discouraged exactly why they were so enthused in 2008.

That’s why many of us were wearing our old campaign buttons when we went into the paddy wagon. We’d like to remember -- and like the White House to remember, too -- just why we knocked on all those doors.

But as Dr. King might have predicted, the message went deeper. As people gather in Washington for this weekend’s dedication of his monument, most will be talking about him as a great orator, a great moral leader. And of course he was that, but it’s easily forgotten what a great strategist he was as well, because he understood just how powerful a weapon nonviolence can be.

The police, who trust the logic of force, never quite seem to get this. When they arrested our group of 70 or so on the first day of our demonstrations, they decided to teach us a lesson by keeping us locked up extra long -- strong treatment for a group of people peacefully standing on a sidewalk.

No surprise, it didn’t work. The next day an even bigger crowd showed up -- and now, there are throngs of people who have signed up to be arrested every day until the protests end on September 3rd. Not only that, a judge threw out the charges against our first group, and so the police have backed off. For the moment, anyway, they’re not actually sending more protesters to jail, just booking and fining them.

And so the busload of ranchers coming from Nebraska, and the bio-fueled RV with the giant logo heading in from East Texas, and the flight of grandmothers arriving from Montana, and the tribal chiefs, and union leaders, and everyone else will keep pouring into D.C. We’ll all, I imagine, stop and pay tribute to Dr. King before or after we get arrested; it’s his lead, after all, that we’re following.

Our part in the weekend’s celebration is to act as a kind of living tribute. While people are up on the mall at the monument, we’ll be in the front of the White House, wearing handcuffs, making clear that civil disobedience is not just history in America.

We may not be facing the same dangers Dr. King did, but we’re getting some small sense of the kind of courage he and the rest of the civil rights movement had to display in their day -- the courage to put your body where your beliefs are. It feels good.

Firestick Farming

How the indigenous Australians used fire to change their environment...

Interesting... Monte

Permaculture Lawns: 15 Minutes You Don’t Want to Miss

by ethanappleseed

Wesleyan University’s Miles Bukiet paints a painful picture of lawns in the over-developed world, and interviews Ethan Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture for some green permaculture solutions.

A spirited cry for a new paradigm in the way we maintain the landscapes that surround us.... great video... Monte

Aug 24, 2011

Permaculture Ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of People, Fair Share

Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. Ethics are culturally evolved mechanisms that regulate self-interest, giving us a better understanding of good and bad outcomes. The greater the power of humans, the more critical ethics become for long-term cultural and biological survival. Permaculture ethics are distilled from research into community ethics, learning from cultures that have existed in relative balance with their environment for much longer than more recent civilisations. This does not mean that we should ignore the great teachings of modern times, but in the transition to a sustainable future, we need to consider values and concepts outside the current social norm.
CARE OF THE EARTH The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without ongoing care and nurturing there will be consequences too big to ignore. The icon of the young plant represents organic growth, a key ingredient in sustaining life on Earth. Care of the Earth can be taken to mean caring for the living soil. The state of the soil is often the best measure for the health and well-being of society. There are many different techniques for looking after soil, but the best method to tell if soil is healthy is to see how much life exists there. Our forests and rivers are the lungs and veins of our planet, that help the Earth live and breathe, supporting many diverse life forms. All life forms have their own intrinsic value, and need to be respected for the functions that they perform - even if we don’t see them as useful to our needs. By reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’, we reduce our impact on the environment, which is the best way to care for all living things.
CARE OF PEOPLE If peoples needs are met in compassionate and simple ways, the environment surrounding them will prosper. The icon of the two people together, represents the need for companionship and collaborative efforts to affect change. Care for people starts with ourselves, but expands to include our families, neighbours, local and wider communities. The challenge is to grow up through self-reliance and personal responsibility. Self-reliance becomes more possible when we focus on non-material well-being, taking care of ourselves and others without producing or consuming unnecessary material resources. By accepting personal responsibility for our situation as far as possible, rather than blaming others, we empower ourselves. By recognising that the wisdom lies within the group, we can work with others to bring about the best outcomes for all involved. The permaculture approach is to focus on the positives, the opportunities that exist rather than the obstacles, even in the most desperate situations.
FAIR SHARE We are provided with times of abundance which encourages us to share with others. The icon of the pie and a slice of it represents the taking of what we need and sharing what we don’t whilst recognising that there are limits to how much we can give and how much we can take. When a tree fruits, it usually produces much more than one person can eat. It makes sense to share what we can’t use. It takes time to pick, eat, share and preserve the harvest and there are limits to how much fruit we can produce and use. The growth in human consumption and the accelerating extinction of species make clear the impossibility of continuous growth. Sometimes we need to make hard decisions and consider what enough is. We need to focus on what is appropriate for us to do, rather than what others should do. By finding the right balance in our own lives we provide positive examples for others, so that they can find their own balance. Source:

Public opinion on climate just tipped

One of the hallmarks of tipping points is that you don't know when you're in one. There's growing agreement that peak oil, for example, happened between 2004 and 2008. Still, you're never sure about such inflection points until well after the fact.

This week, though, sure feels like the tipping point on public opinion on climate, and so I'm going to stick a fork in it right here, folks. Climate opinion just tipped. Why do I say that? In the last week:
Australia, with huge coal reserves -- but rapidly passing the Arctic as ground zero for climate impacts with epic fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and dust storms --passed a carbon credit law, with a tax coming up next.
Canada rolled out regulations that will likely phase out coal by mid-century.
Michael Mann's "hockey stick" research was once and for all vindicated.
Prominent Republicans like Jon Hunstman and Chris Christie agree that climate science is real, and there's even pressure within the GOP to not become the anti-science party. In fact, when Rick Perry denied climate science, he wasn't just censured by some Republicans, he was instantly and vigorously debunked by the Washington Post.
The press is finally doing its job by calling deniers like Rick Perry out on their climate claims.
Last and most important, prominent intellectuals, scholars, and youth (the people who always make up revolutions and are regularly jailed in less freedom-friendly countries) were arrested and imprisoned for peaceful protest in our nation's capital, and kept overnight on the eve of the national dedication of a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is a gift. What more could an activist ask for than for all these things to happen at once -- to wind up in jail, just like Dr. King in Birmingham, and to have it all happen on the eve of a national dedication to this great man who would certainly have seen our cause as his own: about poverty, and intergenerational justice, and equality. Dr. King tragically and prophetically said that he might not get there with us, but that he had seen the promised land.

But he did get there with us. Because from public opinion comes policy. And that suggests that, indeed, the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

FINALLY... Monte

Auden Schendler is Vice President of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. His book is Getting Green Done.

10 small but brilliant things about Google Plus | TechRepublic

By Kevin Purdy

Takeaway: Google+ includes several attention-grabbing items — like Circles, Google Takeout, and Sparks — but there are some great subtle features you should know about as well.

Have you heard about all the nifty things the new Google Plus social network can do? Of course you have. But have you dug around to see what’s really good beyond the headline items? Well we have, and we’ve brought back some small yet superb details to crow about.

1: Automatic photo uploading from your phone

At first, the Android app for Google+ seems like a nice way to check activity, post about how awesome it is to skip work for a ball game, and so on. But head into the app’s settings, enable Instant Upload, and the way you use your phone, and Google+, changes entirely. Everything you shoot is almost instantaneously synced to a private album in Google+. From there, it’s just one click to sharing the photo, but you’ll want to type out a sentence. Even if you don’t share your stuff, Google+ is basically freeing you from the need to find a cord, fire up a program, and monkey around with your phone storage — everything you shoot is in Google+, too. But you decide whether to put it out there.

2: Unlimited photo storage (pretty much) in Picasa

To make Google+ a place where people want to share their photos, among many, many competitors, Google had to pull out the big guns. In this case, those guns are server storage, something Google has more of than anybody else, by a good long shot. Google can offer almost unlimited photo storage in Picasa, so that photos smaller than 2048 by 2048 in pixels and videos less than 15 minutes long don’t “count” against your storage space. Shoot and shoot and share and shoot again, and Google just keeps smiling at your feeble attempts to take up space.

3: Quick, easy, undo-able photo editing, with I’m Feeling Lucky

Photo presentation in Google+ is a nice, content-forward experience, with a black backdrop and easy sharing or deletion. Even nicer is that Google threw a few of the most helpful photo filters and editing tools in there, too. Click the Actions button just underneath a photo, and you’ll get rotation tools — and more important, Edit Photo. A right-hand sidebar pops up with some Instagram-like filters: cross-process, Orton, and black-and-white. There’s auto-color and auto-contrast and the ever-helpful I’m Feeling Lucky button, which helps non-photo-nerds by applying the most common light and color corrections to your shots.

4: Profiles for better Google search results

Sensing some need to let actual people have a say over the machine math that produces search results, Google previously offered Google Profiles as a dedicated spot where you, the person, could have a say and show up in searches. But like the best advice about vegetables and tax receipts, Profiles weren’t widely adopted by the general user. As Google+ gains users, it’s making the Profile an essential tool in connecting to others and discovering interests, which in turn is causing users to more accurately and fully fill out their Profile. It’s a sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter bill of self-promotion, with the healthy result of having a say in what Google says about us.

5: Keyboard shortcuts, both built-in and add-on

Like most Google products, Google+ has a good built-in list of keyboard shortcuts that let you run through stream items, start a new post, and generally navigate the social realm without reaching for your mouse or moving your fingers onto the trackpad. If you want even more no-pointer-needed functionality, try the Google+ Manager for Firefox or Goo Plus Manager in Chrome.

6: Simultaneous YouTube video watching for groups

The group video chat Hangouts inside Google+ have received lots of attention and rave reviews, and for good reason. Hangouts are like group Skype chats, just with Google helping on the server side and with a more polite single-focus video window. But the part that gets less play is how everyone in the Hangout can see the same YouTube video at once, watching it in real time and commenting on specific moments (in text by default, but by voice if you’d like). That’s handy for training, presentation critiques, and other moments when you can’t all be around the same screen.

7: Drag-and-drop sharing

Technically, yes, you can grab links from other Web pages and drop them into Facebook or Twitter for sharing. But Google+ lets you snag photos, links, YouTube videos, and other items and just drag them into the sharing panel. You can even drag Web items into the Share box on that black Google toolbar we mentioned above for truly lazy content making.

8: The universal Google toolbar

Once you’ve activated Google+, nearly every Google Web service shows a kind of universal toolbar, black and seemingly bolted to the top of your viewing window. It provides universal notifications about new Google+ happenings in a little red number square, quick posting to your Google+ stream, and a quick click to see your profile. But it also somewhat normalizes the links to other Google services you’ll see (Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.) and provides a consistent feeling to Google’s Web services, a win/win for both the search giant and its most dedicated users.

9: Handy chat client to unburden Gmail

Google+ has the same kind of built-in Gmail/AIM chat window in its lower-left corner that Gmail offers. Gmail, which now does far more than it was originally built for (including free phone calls), could use some help lightening its loading time and memory bulk. So consider keeping Gmail for email and opening Google+ when you are available to be social.

10: Post-publish editing… Enough said

Inspiration comes a lot faster than clean, conscientious copy. On most social networks, that’s just too bad. Twitter and Facebook don’t let you clean up your words or remove photos — you have to delete your post entirely and destroy the comment or reply chain. Google+ provides a little arrow in the upper-right corner of all your posts that drops down to offer editing — as well as comment striking, turning off comments, and yes, post deletion if things really went the wrong way.

Thanks to Lee Swanson for these helpful tidbits on Google+ ... Monte

Biochar Deer Hunting We will be starting a food plot for deer.

Though this may take a few years to accomplish, we invite you to stay with us and see the results of this project!

Aug 23, 2011

Solar pump for irrigation in developing countries - on test at CAT

In poor rural communities around the world, one of the only ways of earning extra income is by growing vegetables and fruits to sell at the local market. The key to growing these crops is irrigation. Most current irrigation methods use either labour intensive manual pumps or expensive, carbon-emitting diesel engines.

While undertaking my Masters at CAT in Renewable Energy, I came across a small-scale solar thermal technology being developed that offers an alternative method for irrigation pumping. The system uses a parabolic dish to focus the sun's heat onto a boiler to produce steam power that drives a simple type of reciprocating engine pump.

Having contacted the inventor, I travelled to Holland to see the pump in operation and determine whether I could contribute to further development. This led me to travel to Ethiopia last September where I spent two months monitoring the engineering performance and socioeconomic issues related to pumps installed on ten farms around the town of Ziway. Data indicated that the system could produce 2,500-5,000 litres/day from a depth of 5-13m, allowing for a cultivated area of 500-800 sq m.

If good growing practices are followed, this means the cost of the pump could be paid back in less than one year. Monitoring also showed that the equipment was simple enough to allow farmers to operate the system independently. One key finding was that the overall efficiency of the system, calculated by comparing incoming solar energy to hydraulic energy output, was about three times less than expected. The main reason for this under-performance was identified as an incorrect sizing of one of the steam engine components. This issue will be addressed in the next development stage, leading to a large increase in daily pumped volume, and thus directly improving the income potential and marketability of the solar steam pump.

The Green Economy Is Growing, It's Inevitable

image: 1BOG

Since 2008, these two things haven't changed: the world is getting warmer and millions of Americans are out of work. They're not going away any time soon.

Green For All was founded on the idea that those two problems could be relieved with a common solution, green jobs. We've seen that this can work; renewable energy businesses are among the fastest growing in the American economy.

We've also learned that the green economy holds much more promise than just renewables. The scope of jobs that improve our environment runs from factory workers building high-efficiency vehicles to entrepreneurs selling organic skincare products to businesses that turn a profit recycling waste from shredded automobiles.

In July, the Brookings Institution released a report detailing the extent of the green economy. Some 2.7 million Americans work at green jobs - more than work in the fossil fuel industry. The US Conference of Mayors estimates that number will almost triple by 2040. And green jobs are quality jobs. Median wages are 13 percent higher than the median - and they're available to more Americans who have a high school degree. Investment in clean energy projects yields more than three times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels.

Even so, there is a lot of room for growth. Back in 2008, we argued that the green economy held great promise - and could grow to scale if Congress acted boldly. Had Congress passed comprehensive climate legislation, for example, or if they'd enacted the HOME STAR program.

Neither of which happened. If they had, millions more Americans would be at work right now. Just as millions more could be at work had the stimulus been larger. Just as millions could be put to work today by decisive government action. The only thing in more critical condition than our global environment is our political environment.

Which is too bad. We've seen the positive impact that support from government can have at a local level - in Philadelphia and Portland, Oakland and Atlanta. Some projects haven't been as successful; others still have been runaway successes. This is how the American economy works.

It's how the global economy works as well. Germany recently passed the United States to assume the number two position in global clean energy investment. In first place - by a mile - is China, where government investment is deliberate and robust. Clean energy is a growing market, but a confined one - and every sale made by overseas competitors is a job lost stateside.

Some people are just fine with that. Few economic sectors in history have had an active segment of the population rooting for its failure. Fossil fuel companies, climate change deniers, those happy to see a stagnant economy until November 2012 - there are many for whom a robust, green economy is a threat. Many see those 2.7 million jobs and wish they didn't exist.

Well, they do. And that number will grow. We wish it would grow faster: the faster it grows, the sooner we can stem the worst impacts of global warming and the sooner we get money into households that desperately need it.

But that number will grow. We'll step over obstacles we encounter and roadblocks placed in front of us.

It's inevitable.

The green economy will grow.

Down Goes Moammar Gadhafi In Libya

Rebels in Libya appear to have ended the rule of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Does this validate the Obama Administration supporting a no-fly zone? The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

Cenk Uygur nails it again... Monte

Aug 22, 2011

Raised garden beds: hugelkultur instead of irrigation « PermaculturePower

August 23, 2011 by permaculturepower writes…

Raised garden bed

“It’s a german word and some people can say it all german-ish. I’m an american doofus, so I say “hoogle culture”. I had to spend some time with google to find the right spelling. Hugal, hoogal, huegal, hugel …. And I really like saying it out loud: “hugelkultur, hoogle culture, hoogal kulture ….” – it could be a chant or something.

I learned this high-falootin word at my permaculture training. I also saw it demonstrated on the Sepp Holzer terraces and raised beds video – he didn’t call it hugelkultur, but he was doing it.

Hugelkultur is nothing more than making raised garden beds filled with rotten wood. This makes for raised garden beds loaded with organic material, nutrients, air pockets for the roots of what you plant, etc. As the years pass, the deep soil of your raised garden bed becomes incredibly rich and loaded with soil life. As the wood shrinks, it makes more tiny air pockets – so your hugelkultur becomes sort of self tilling. The first few years, the composting process will slightly warm your soil giving you a slightly longer growing season. The woody matter helps to keep nutrient excess from passing into the ground water – and then refeeding that to your garden plants later. Plus, by holding SO much water, hugelkultur could be part of a system for growing garden crops in the desert with no irrigation…”

Shop-in-a-Box | re:char

by ABBY on AUGUST 22, 2011 in BLOG

With the growing trend of converted shipping container homes popping up all over town, re:char has decided to join the revolution, but with a twist; we are building ametal workshop out of a shipping container instead. Complete with lighting, ventilation, electrical wiring, re:char’s container will house a most exciting spin on the shipping container phenomenon: a CNC plasma table. The idea is to create a completely modular, replicable, portable workshop, send it to our base in rural Western Kenya, and begin testing production of our climate kiln (known by our Kenyan customers as Rutuba, kiswalhili for “soil fertility”), iterating our designs, and expanding our product line and scope. re:char believes that previous efforts to bring products to the developing world have failed due to “engineering at a distance.” We are confident that by bringing our production directly to our customers, we will have insight into local needs along with a flexibility to fill those needs.

and we want your suggestions on equipment and supplies to augment the shipment. We’ll be sending a 20′ shipping container from Austin, Texas to Bungoma, a city in Western Kenya. The primary goal will be constructing a metal working facility where we will fabricate our biochar kilns for sale to farmers, and we want to make the shop as versatile as possible.

Thus far, we’ve definitively spent ~$8,000 of our $20,000 budget, mainly on a used plasmacam 4′x4′ CNC with 2 plasma cutters, and allocated <20% of our space.

Here’s a taste of our equipment list:cnc table w/ backup suppliesdesktop computer
Diesel Generatorwelding equipmentband saw, full + handheldcompressor, full + portablepower supply scrubberoxyacetylene torchessaws, table + chopsoldering ironprojector w/ spare bulbshop fansdrill press, hand drill, corded + cordlesskinect (3d scanning)webcams and laser pointers (3d scanning #2)grindersforge

What are we missing that we just shouldn’t be without?

We’ll have access to (dirty) grid power, standard industrial building materials, and (slow, expensive) shipping from the West.

Please leave us a comment to add your ideas to the spreadsheet along with your broader thoughts on the project below. We’ll read everything, incorporate the best suggestions, and let you know what our final inventory becomes.

We set sail September 3rd, so don’t delay!

Interested? check out our posts on hack-a-day and instructables.

Towards a Sustainable Economy - a knol by Sam Carana

Feebates are the most effective way to facilitate the shift towards a sustainable economy

Feebates are proposed to facilitate a shift away from fossil fuel toward clean energy. Furthermore, fees are proposed on livestock products, nitrogen fertilizers, Portland cement and similar products with high emissions, to finance rebates on methods that can remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as biochar burial and olivine grinding.

Cycle A: Inorganic Waste

We're all familiar with recycling. Reusing waste to manufacture new products can help resolve two problems: the economic problem of scarcity of resources and the environmental problem of waste. Dedicated bins can help separate waste and collect glass and plastic containers, to be reused in new products.

Where needed, surcharges can be levied on items, to ensure they are returned at collections points for recycling. Items such as bottles and car batteries have also been successfully recycled in this way for years by retailers and garages.

Recycling is possible for much of our inorganic waste. The concept of recycling can also be used in a wider sense, in efforts to take surplus carbon out of the atmosphere and oceans, e.g. by adding olivine to materials for building and road construction. This effort will require more recycling than the traditional recycling of inorganic waste.

Cycles B and E: Biomass and Organic Waste

Dr. James Hansen once calculated that reforestation of degraded land and improved agricultural practices that retain soil carbon together could draw down atmospheric carbon dixode by as much as 50 ppm, adding that this and using carbon-negative biofuels could bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm well before the end of the century.

Recycling of organic waste constitutes another cycle in a sustainable economy. Soil can be degraded by deforestation and by a failure to return nutrients, carbon and water to the soil. Manure and sewage have long fertilized the land, but are increasingly released in rivers and in the sea, and combined with fertilizer run-off from farms, this causes low-oxygen areas in oceans.

Many people now compost kitchen and garden waste, thus returning many nutrients to the soil. Composting, however, releases greenhouse gases. Pyrolyzing organic waste from households, farms and forests can avoid such emissions.

Pyrolysis is an oxygen-starved method of heating waste at relatively low temperatures that will result in the release of little or no greenhouse gases. With pyrolysis, organic waste can be turned into hydrogen and agrichar, or biochar, which can store carbon into the soil and make the soil more fertile.

There is an abundance of soil to sequester biochar. Estimates range from 363 tonnes of CO2 per hectare to 303.8 tons C per hectare. The U.S. has some 475 million hectares of agricultural land. Australia has almost 762 million hectares of land, mostly desert. Desert soils can contain between 14 and 100 tonnes of carbon per ha, while dry shrublands can contain up to 270 tonnes of carbon per ha. The carbon stored in the vegetation is considerably lower, with typical quantities being around 2–30 tonnes of carbon per ha in total. Eucalypt trees grow rapidly and eucalypt forest can store over 2800 tonnes of carbon per hectare. The FAO-OECD Agricultural Outlook 2009-2018 says (on page 11) that over 0.8 billion ha of additional land is available for rain-fed crop production in Africa and Latin America. In total, the world has 3.842 billion hectares of land, which could sequester up to 1166 Gt of biochar carbon.

The need to feed a growing world population also makes it imperative to look at ways to increase soil fertility. Biochar will result in better retention of nutrients and water. Once applied, biochar can remain useful for hundreds of years. Increased vegetation in many ways feeds itself. It results in additional input for pyrolysis and thus additional biochar. There are also studies indicating that an increase of vegetation goes hand in hand with an increase in rain. Healthy soil will contain numerous bacteria that increase rain, both when they are in the soil where they break down the surface tension of water better than any other substance in nature, and when they become airborne.

Furthermore, there are indications that forests generate winds that help pump water around the planet, resulting in increased rainfall for forests. This would explain how the deep interiors of forested continents can get as much rain as the coast.

In the 1990s, U.S. farmers needed to implement a soil conservation plan on erodible cropland to be eligible for commodity price supports, and the no-till farmland increased from 7 million hectares in 1990 to 25 million hectares in 2004. Similar policies could be implemented to add biochar, such as making local rates dependent on carbon content.

Using published projections of the use of renewable fuels in the year 2010, biochar sequestration could amount to 5.5 to 9.5 Pg Carbon per year, says Lehmann et al. in Bio-char sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems (2006). That would take carbon dioxide in the atmosphere down by about 1ppm per year.

Cycle C: Clean & Safe Energy

In case of energy, there's not so much a scarcity problem of fossil fuel, but a scarcity of clean energy; a rapid shift to clean ways to produce energy is needed, while additionally surplus carbon needs to be taken out of the atmosphere and oceans, as part of a huge recycling effort to restore natural balance.

To achieve this, it's imperative to electrify transport and shift to renewable energy. Pyrolysis of organic waste can not only produce biochar (as discussed above), but also bio-oils and bio-fuels for use in transport.

Surplus energy (see box on right) can close the energy cycle, resulting not only in clean energy, but also leading to a range of new and clean industries, such as water desalination which could in turn result in the production of lithium for car batteries and magnesium for clean concrete.

Electrolyzers can now be made without a need for platinum and there's also interesting research into using electricity to turn seawater into hydrogen. When vehicles run on hydrogen, their output is clean water, rather than emissions.

Cycle D: Air Capture

A rapid shift to clean energy and transport would help bring down levels of carbon dioxide, not only by avoiding emissions, but also by making available large amounts of clean energy at times of low demand.

As such off-peak energy will be relatively cheap, it can be used for purposes such as capture of carbon dioxide from ambient air. Such technologies can be used to power aviation, to feed carbon dioxide to greenhouses, to produce urea and to supply carbon to industry, e.g. for manufacture of building material, plastic, carbon fiber and other products.

Fees on polluting kilns, furnaces, stoves and ovens can also fund rebates on products that avoid emissions, such as clean kilns, efficient electrical appliances, solar cookers, etc.

Surplus Energy

As the number of wind turbines grows, there will increasingly be periods of time when turbines produce more energy than the grid needs. Especially at night, when demand on the grid is at its lowest, there can be a lot of wind. Unless this energy can somehow be stored or used otherwise, it will go to waste. Similarly, surplus energy can be produced by solar power facilities. Especially in the early hours of the morning, just after sunrise, the sun can shine brightly, yet there's little or no need for electricity on the grid. It makes sense to store such surplus energy at solar farms in molten salt facilities.

Such surplus energy can be used to help restore the climate, such as by:
water desalination and grinding olivine, and associated transport

storage (for later use)

- car batteries - pumped-up water - flywheels - compressed air - hydrogen

carbon air capture, to offset aviation emissions

spraying seawater into the sky, to change albedo above oceans
reforestation, by pumping desalinated water into deserts

Towards a sustainable economy

Instead of burning fuel and throwing things away, there are more sustainable ways to do things. Not only are they environmentally more sustainable and healthy, they also provide good job opportunities and investment potential. While some of these technologies are controversial, in that they aren't natural and their consequences aren't fully known, the need to act on global warming makes that they should be further explored.

Such technologies include:

- clean and safe electricity generation with solar, wind, tide, wave and geothermal power

- using electricity and hydrogen to power transport

- carbon dioxide captured from ambient air

- spraying seawater into the sky, to change albedo above oceans

- pyrolysis to produce biochar, hydrogen and synthetic fuel

- enhancing soil quality in order to produce extra biomass for pyrolysis and to stimulate young growth, which has a lighter color, thus reflecting more sunlight back into space

- producing rain by means of cloud seeding, using dry ice and urea, produced by means of pyrolysis and from carbon dioxide captured from ambient air

- water desalination for irrigation, residential and industrial purposes

- algae bags

Because many such technologies complement each other, their combination can make them more commercially viable than when looked at in isolation.


Feebates are the most effective way to facilitate the shift to technologies that reduce greenhouse gases. Energy feebates merely need to insist that the alternatives are safe and clean. Similarly, feebates aiming to have carbon dioxide removed from the atmsophere and the oceans merely need to insist that, to be eligible for rebates, methods need to be effective and safe. Communities can select feebates to suit local circumstances, while allowing market mechanisms to further sort out what works best where.

The following seven feebates (the yellow arrows on above images) are particularly recommended:

1. fees on nitrogen fertilizers and on livestock products, funding local rebates on biochar

2. fees on fuel, funding local rebates on clean and safe electricity

3. fees on engines, funding local rebates on electric motors

4. fees on aviation, funding CO2 capture from ambient air

5. fees on ovens, kilns and furnaces with high emissions, funding rebates on building insulation and clean ovens, kilns and furnaces, as well as on solar cookers and on electric appliances for cooking and heating

6. fees on industrial processes with many emissions, funding similar processes that are powered by clean electricity and that incorporate carbon in their products

7. fees on Portland cement, metals, glass, pavement and further conventional construction materials, funding clean construction materials, as described in carbon-negative building and olivine rock grinding.

Feebates can be well combined, e.g. feebate 7. and feebate 1. can jointly produce beneficial soil supplements, while pyrolysis of organic waste can also produce bio-oils that can in turn be used to make asphalt and be combined with road construction methds that use olivine. In short, many such feebates are complementary, i.e. one feebate can help another feebate, making the combination even more successful and thus effective.

As another example, industry may at first be reluctant to switch to, say, electric arc furnaces in metal smelting, arguing that it was more efficient to burn coal directly in blast furnaces than to burn coal in power plants first and then bring the resulting electricity to electric arc furnaces. But as other feebates facilitate the shift from fossil fuel to clean ways of producing electricity, it increasingly makes more sense to shift from the traditional blast furnaces to electric arc furnaces.

Energy feebates, pictured in the top half of the image below, can clean up energy supply within a decade as well as lower the price of off-peak electricity, which will help enhanced weathering and other activities (see boxSurplus Energy).

In conclusion, feebates are highly recommended to deal with global warming and to help achieve a sustainable economy.


The image below, from Geoengineering the climate, by the Royal Society (2009), pictures a range of geoengineering methods that could be deployed to combat global warming.

One may disagree with the relative cost and effectiveness of these methods (see e.g. this post on biomass), but the urgency to act on climate change is such that we may well need all of them to avoid runaway global warming and to move towards a sustainable economy.

Aug 21, 2011

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? | Rolling Stone Politics

Image:Pete Gardner/Getty

A whistle-blower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals.
by: Matt Taibbi

Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.

That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency's records – "including case files relating to preliminary investigations" – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term "Orwellian," devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or "Matters Under Inquiry" – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission's internal website. "After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation," the site advised staffers, "you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI."

Many of the destroyed files involved companies and individuals who would later play prominent roles in the economic meltdown of 2008. Two MUIs involving con artist Bernie Madoff vanished. So did a 2002 inquiry into financial fraud at Lehman Brothers, as well as a 2005 case of insider trading at the same soon-to-be-bankrupt bank. A 2009 preliminary investigation of insider trading by Goldman Sachs was deleted, along with records for at least three cases involving the infamous hedge fund SAC Capital.

The widespread destruction of records was brought to the attention of Congress in July, when an SEC attorney named Darcy Flynn decided to blow the whistle. According to Flynn, who was responsible for helping to manage the commission's records, the SEC has been destroying records of preliminary investigations since at least 1993. After he alerted NARA to the problem, Flynn reports, senior staff at the SEC scrambled to hide the commission's improprieties.

As a federally protected whistle-blower, Flynn is not permitted to speak to the press. But in evidence he presented to the SEC's inspector general and three congressional committees earlier this summer, the 13-year veteran of the agency paints a startling picture of a federal police force that has effectively been conquered by the financial criminals it is charged with investigating. In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division – whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating. In another case, the agency farmed out its inquiry to a private law firm – one hired by the company under investigation. The outside firm, unsurprisingly, concluded that no further investigation of its client was necessary. To complete the bureaucratic laundering process, Flynn says, the SEC dropped the case and destroyed the files.

Much has been made in recent months of the government's glaring failure to police Wall Street; to date, federal and state prosecutors have yet to put a single senior Wall Street executive behind bars for any of the many well-documented crimes related to the financial crisis. Indeed, Flynn's accusations dovetail with a recent series of damaging critiques of the SEC made by reporters, watchdog groups and members of Congress, all of which seem to indicate that top federal regulators spend more time lunching, schmoozing and job-interviewing with Wall Street crooks than they do catching them. As one former SEC staffer describes it, the agency is now filled with so many Wall Street hotshots from oft-investigated banks that it has been "infected with the Goldman mindset from within."

The destruction of records by the SEC, as outlined by Flynn, is something far more than an administrative accident or bureaucratic fuck-up. It's a symptom of the agency's terminal brain damage. Somewhere along the line, those at the SEC responsible for policing America's banks fell and hit their head on a big pile of Wall Street's money – a blow from which the agency has never recovered. "From what I've seen, it looks as if the SEC might have sanctioned some level of case-related document destruction," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose staff has interviewed Flynn. "It doesn't make sense that an agency responsible for investigations would want to get rid of potential evidence. If these charges are true, the agency needs to explain why it destroyed documents, how many documents it destroyed over what time frame and to what extent its actions were consistent with the law."

How did officials at the SEC wind up with a faithful veteran employee – a conservative, mid-level attorney described as a highly reluctant whistle-blower – spilling the agency's most sordid secrets to Congress? In a way, they asked for it.

On May 18th of this year, SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami sent out a mass e-mail to the agency's staff with the subject line "Lawyers Behaving Badly." In it, Khuzami asked his subordinates to report any experiences they might have had where "the behavior of counsel representing clients in... investigations has been questionable."

Khuzami was asking staffers to recount any stories of outside counsel behaving unethically. But Flynn apparently thought his boss was looking for examples of lawyers "behaving badly" anywhere, includingwithin the SEC. And he had a story to share he'd kept a lid on for years. "Mr. Khuzami may have gotten something more than he expected," Flynn's lawyer, a former SEC whistle-blower named Gary Aguirre, later explained to Congress.

Flynn responded to Khuzami with a letter laying out one such example of misbehaving lawyers within the SEC. It involved a case from very early in Flynn's career, back in 2000, when he was working with a group of investigators who thought they had a "slam-dunk" case against Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant. A few years earlier, Rolf Breuer, the bank's CEO, had given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he denied that Deutsche was involved in übernahmegespräche – takeover talks – to acquire a rival American firm, Bankers Trust. But the statement was apparently untrue – and it sent the stock of Bankers Trust tumbling, potentially lowering the price for the merger. Flynn and his fellow SEC investigators, suspecting that investors of Bankers Trust had been defrauded, opened a MUI on the case.

A Matter Under Inquiry is just a preliminary sort of look-see – a way for the SEC to check out the multitude of tips it gets about suspicious trades, shady stock scams and false disclosures, and to determine which of the accusations merit a formal investigation. At the MUI stage, an SEC investigator can conduct interviews or ask a bank to send in information voluntarily. Bumping a MUI up to a formal investigation is critical, because it enables investigators to pull out the full law-enforcement ass-kicking measures – subpoenas, depositions, everything short of hot pokers and waterboarding. In the Deutsche case, Flynn and other SEC investigators got past the MUI stage and used their powers to collect sworn testimony and documents indicating that plenty of übernahmegespräche indeed had been going on when Breuer spoke to Der Spiegel. Based on the evidence, they sent an "Action Memorandum" to senior SEC staff, formally recommending that the agency press forward and file suit against Deutsche.

Breuer responded to the threat as big banks like Deutsche often do: He hired a former SEC enforcement director to lobby the agency to back off. The ex-insider, Gary Lynch, launched a creative and inspired defense, producing a linguistic expert who argued that übernahmegespräche only means "advanced stage of discussions." Nevertheless, the request to proceed with the case was approved by several levels of the SEC's staff. All that was needed to move forward was a thumbs-up from the director of enforcement at the time, Richard Walker.

But then a curious thing happened. On July 10th, 2001, Flynn and the other investigators were informed that Walker was mysteriously recusing himself from the Deutsche case. Two weeks later, on July 23rd, the enforcement division sent a letter to Deutsche that read, "Inquiry in the above-captioned matter has been terminated." The bank was in the clear; the SEC was dropping its fraud investigation. In contradiction to the agency's usual practice, it provided no explanation for its decision to close the case.

On October 1st of that year, the mystery was solved: Dick Walker was named general counsel of Deutsche. Less than 10 weeks after the SEC shut down its investigation of the bank, the agency's director of enforcement was handed a cushy, high-priced job at Deutsche.

Deutsche's influence in the case didn't stop there. A few years later, in 2004, Walker hired none other than Robert Khuzami, a young federal prosecutor, to join him at Deutsche. The two would remain at the bank until February 2009, when Khuzami joined the SEC as Flynn's new boss in the enforcement division. When Flynn sent his letter to Khuzami complaining about misbehavior by Walker, he was calling out Khuzami's own mentor.

The circular nature of the case illustrates the revolving-door dynamic that has become pervasive at the SEC. A recent study by the Project on Government Oversight found that over the past five years, former SEC personnel filed 789 notices disclosing their intent to represent outside companies before the agency – sometimes within days of their having left the SEC. More than half of the disclosures came from the agency's enforcement division, who went to bat for the financial industry four times more often than ex-staffers from other wings of the SEC.

Even a cursory glance at a list of the agency's most recent enforcement directors makes it clear that the SEC's top policemen almost always wind up jumping straight to jobs representing the banks they were supposed to regulate. Lynch, who represented Deutsche in the Flynn case, served as the agency's enforcement chief from 1985 to 1989, before moving to the firm of Davis Polk, which boasts many top Wall Street clients. He was succeeded by William McLucas, who left the SEC in 1998 to work for WilmerHale, a Wall Street defense firm so notorious for snatching up top agency veterans that it is sometimes referred to as "SEC West." McLucas was followed by Dick Walker, who defected to Deutsche in 2001, and he was in turn followed by Stephen Cutler, who now serves as general counsel for JP Morgan Chase. Next came Linda Chatman Thomsen, who stepped down to join Davis Polk, only to be succeeded in 2009 by Khuzami, Walker's former protégé at Deutsche Bank.

This merry-go-round of current and former enforcement directors has repeatedly led to accusations of improprieties. In 2008, in a case cited by the SEC inspector general, Thomsen went out of her way to pass along valuable information to Cutler, the former enforcement director who had gone to work for JP Morgan. According to the inspector general, Thomsen signaled Cutler that the SEC was unlikely to take action that would hamper JP Morgan's move to buy up Bear Stearns. In another case, the inspector general found, an assistant director of enforcement was instrumental in slowing down an investigation into the $7 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Texas con artist R. Allen Stanford – and then left the SEC to work for Stanford, despite explicitly being denied permission to do so by the agency's ethics office. "Every lawyer in Texas and beyond is going to get rich on this case, OK?" the official later explained. "I hated being on the sidelines."

Small wonder, then, that SEC staffers often have trouble getting their bosses to approve full-blown investigations against even the most blatant financial criminals. For a fledgling MUI to become a formal investigation, it has to make the treacherous leap from the lower rungs of career-level staffers like Flynn all the way up to the revolving-door level at the top, where senior management is composed largely of high-priced appointees from the private sector who have strong social and professional ties to the very banks they are charged with regulating. And if senior management didn't approve an investigation, the documents often wound up being destroyed – as Flynn would later discover.

After the Deutsche fiasco over Bankers Trust, Flynn continued to work at the SEC for four more years. He briefly left the agency to dabble in real estate, then returned in 2008 to serve as an attorney in the enforcement division. In January 2010, he accepted new responsibilities that included helping to manage the disposition of records for the division – and it was then he first became aware of the agency's possibly unlawful destruction of MUI records.

Flynn discovered a directive on the enforcement division's internal website ordering staff to destroy "any records obtained in connection" with closed MUIs. The directive appeared to violate federal law, which gives responsibility for maintaining and destroying all records to the National Archives and Records Administration. Over a decade earlier, in fact, the SEC had struck a deal with NARA stipulating that investigative records were to be maintained for 25 years – and that if any files were to be destroyed after that, the shredding was to be done by NARA, not the SEC.

But Flynn soon learned that the records for thousands of preliminary investigations no longer existed. In his letter to Congress, Flynn estimates that the practice of destroying MUIs had begun as early as 1993, and has resulted in at least 9,000 case files being destroyed. For all the thousands of tips that had come in to the SEC, and the thousands of interviews that had been conducted by the agency's staff, all that remained were a few perfunctory lines for each case. The mountains of evidence gathered were no longer in existence.

To read through the list of dead and buried cases that Flynn submitted to Congress is like looking through an infrared camera at a haunted house of the financial crisis, with the ghosts of missed prosecutions flashing back and forth across the screen.

Goldman SachsMLA-019096/99 - 4/00Market Manipulation
Deutsche BankMHO-0935611/01 - 7/02Insider Trading
Deutsche BankMHO-094322/02 - 8/02Market Manipulation
Lehman BrothersMNY-070133/02 - 7/02Financial Fraud
Goldman SachsMNY-0819811/09 - 12/09Insider Trading

One MUI – case MNY-08145 – involved allegations of insider trading at AIG on September 15th, 2008, right in the middle of the insurance giant's collapse. In that case, an AIG employee named Jacqueline Millan reported irregularities in the trading of AIG stock to her superiors, only to find herself fired. Incredibly, instead of looking into the matter itself, the SEC agreed to accept "an internal investigation by outside counsel or AIG." The last note in the file indicates that "the staff plans to speak with the outside attorneys on Monday, August 24th [2009], when they will share their findings with us." The fact that the SEC trusted AIG's lawyers to investigate the matter shows the basic bassackwardness of the agency's approach to these crash-era investigations. The SEC formally closed the case on October 1st, 2009.

The episode with AIG highlights yet another obstacle that MUIs experience on the road to becoming formal investigations. During the past decade, the SEC routinely began allowing financial firms to investigate themselves. Imagine the LAPD politely asking a gang of Crips and their lawyers to issue a report on whether or not a drive-by shooting by the Crips should be brought before a grand jury – that's basically how the SEC now handles many preliminary investigations against Wall Street targets.

The evolution toward this self-policing model began in 2001, when a shipping and food-service conglomerate called Seaboard aggressively investigated an isolated case of accounting fraud at one of its subsidiaries. Seaboard fired the guilty parties and made sweeping changes to its internal practices – and the SEC was so impressed that it instituted a new policy of giving "credit" to companies that police themselves. In practice, that means the agency simply steps aside and allows companies to slap themselves on the wrists. In the case against Seaboard, for instance, the SEC rewarded the firm by issuing no fines against it.

According to Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant at the SEC, the Seaboard case also prompted the SEC to begin permitting companies to hire their own counsel to conduct their own inquiries. At first, he says, the process worked fairly well. But then President Bush appointed the notoriously industry-friendly Christopher Cox to head up the SEC, and the "outside investigations" turned into whitewash jobs. "The investigations nowadays are probably not worth the money you spend on them," Turner says.

Harry Markopolos, a certified fraud examiner best known for sounding a famously unheeded warning about Bernie Madoff way back in 2000, says the SEC's practice of asking suspects to investigate themselves is absurd. In a serious investigation, he says, "the last person you want to trust is the person being accused or their lawyer." The practice helped Madoff escape for years. "The SEC took Bernie's word for everything," Markopolos says.

At the SEC, having realized that the agency was destroying documents, Flynn became concerned that he was overseeing an illegal policy. So in the summer of last year, he reached out to NARA, asking them for guidance on the issue.

That request sparked a worried response from Paul Wester, NARA's director of modern records. On July 29th, 2010, Wester sent a letter to Barry Walters, who oversees document requests for the SEC. "We recently learned from Darcy Flynn... that for the past 17 years the SEC has been destroying closed Matters Under Inquiry files," Wester wrote. "If you confirm that federal records have been destroyed improperly, please ensure that no further such disposals take place and provide us with a written report within 30 days."

Wester copied the letter to Adam Storch, a former Goldman Sachs executive who less than a year earlier had been appointed as managing executive of the SEC's enforcement division. Storch's appointment was not without controversy. "I'm not sure what's scarier," Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic observed, "that this guy worked at an investment bank that many believe has questionable ethics and too cozy a Washington connection, or that he's just 29." In any case, Storch reacted to the NARA letter the way the SEC often does – by circling the wagons and straining to find a way to blow off the problem without admitting anything.

Last August, as the clock wound down on NARA's 30-day deadline, Storch and two top SEC lawyers held a meeting with Flynn to discuss how to respond. Flynn's notes from the meeting, which he passed along to Congress, show the SEC staff wondering aloud if admitting the truth to NARA might be a bad idea, given the fact that there might be criminal liability.

"We could say that we do not believe there has been disposal inconsistent with the schedule," Flynn quotes Ken Hall, an assistant chief counsel for the SEC, as saying.

"There are implications to admit what was destroyed," Storch chimed in. It would be "not wise for me to take on the exposure voluntarily. If this leads to something, what rings in my ear is that Barry [Walters, the SEC documents officer] said: This is serious, could lead to criminal liability."

When the subject of how many files were destroyed came up, Storch answered: "18,000 MUIs destroyed, including Madoff."

Four days later, the SEC responded to NARA with a hilariously convoluted nondenial denial. "The Division is not aware of any specific instances of the destruction of records from any other MUI," the letter states. "But we cannot say with certainty that no such documents have been destroyed over the past 17 years." The letter goes on to add that "the Division has taken steps... to ensure that no MUI records are destroyed while we review this issue."

Translation: Hey, maybe records were destroyed, maybe they weren't. But if we did destroy records, we promise not to do it again – for now.

The SEC's unwillingness to admit the extent of the wrong doing left Flynn in a precarious position. The agency has a remarkably bad record when it comes to dealing with whistle-blowers. Back in 2005, when Flynn's attorney, Gary Aguirre, tried to pursue an insider-trading case against Pequot Capital that involved John Mack, the future CEO of Morgan Stanley, he was fired by phone while on vacation. Two Senate committees later determined that Aguirre, who has since opened a private practice representing whistle-blowers, was dismissed improperly as part of a "process of reprisal" by the SEC. Two whistle-blowers in the Stanford case, Julie Preuitt and Joel Sauer, also experienced retaliation – including reprimands and demotions – after raising concerns about superficial investigations. "There's no mechanism to raise these issues at the SEC," says another former whistle-blower. Contacting the agency's inspector general, he adds, is considered "the nuclear option" – a move "well-known to be a career-killer."

In Flynn's case, both he and Aguirre tried to keep the matter in-house, appealing to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro with a promise not to go outside the agency if she would grant Flynn protection against reprisal. When no such offer was forthcoming, Flynn went to the agency's inspector general before sending a detailed letter about the wrongdoing to three congressional committees.

One of the offices Flynn contacted was that of Sen. Grassley, who was in the midst of his own battle with the SEC. Frustrated with the agency's failure to punish major players on Wall Street, the Iowa Republican had begun an investigation into how the SEC follows up on outside complaints. Specifically, he wrote a letter to FINRA, another regulatory agency, to ask how many complaints it had referred to the SEC about SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by reptilian billionaire short-seller Stevie Cohen.

SAC has long been accused of a variety of improprieties, from insider trading to harassment. But no charge in recent Wall Street history is crazier than an episode involving a SAC executive named Ping Jiang, who was accused in 2006 of enacting a torturous hazing program. According to a civil lawsuit that was later dropped, Jiang allegedly forced a new trader named Andrew Tong to take female hormones, come to work wearing a dress and lipstick, have "foreign objects" inserted in his rectum, and allow Jiang to urinate in his mouth. (I'm not making this up.)

Grassley learned that over the past decade, FINRA had referred 19 complaints about suspicious trades at SAC to federal regulators. Curious to see how many of those referrals had been looked into, Grassley wrote the SEC on May 24th, asking for evidence that the agency had properly investigated the cases.

Two weeks later, on June 9th, Khuzami sent Grassley a surprisingly brusque answer: "We generally do not comment on the status of investigations or related referrals, and, in turn, are not providing information concerning the specific FINRA referrals you identified." Translation: We're not giving you the records, so blow us.

Grassley later found out from FINRA that it had actually referred 65 cases about SAC to the SEC, making the lack of serious investigations even more inexplicable. Angered by Khuzami's response, he sent the SEC another letter on June 15th demanding an explanation, but no answer has been forthcoming.

In the interim, Grassley's office was contacted by Flynn, who explained that among the missing MUIs he had uncovered were at least three involving SAC – one in 2006, one in 2007 and one in 2010, involving charges of insider trading and currency manipulation. All three cases were closed by the SEC, and the records apparently destroyed.

On August 17th, Grassley sent a letter to the SEC about the Flynn allegations, demanding to know if it was indeed true that the SEC had destroyed records. He also asked if the agency's failure to produce evidence of investigations into SAC Capital were related to the missing MUIs.

The SEC's inspector general is investigating the destroyed MUIs and plans to issue a report. NARA is also seeking answers. "We've asked the SEC to look into the matter and we're awaiting their response," says Laurence Brewer, a records officer for NARA. For its part, the SEC is trying to explain away the illegality of its actions through a semantic trick. John Nester, the agency's spokesman, acknowledges that "documents related to MUIs" have been destroyed. "I don't have any reason to believe that it hasn't always been the policy," he says. But Nester suggests that such documents do not "meet the federal definition of a record," and therefore don't have to be preserved under federal law.

But even if SEC officials manage to dodge criminal charges, it won't change what happened: The nation's top financial police destroyed more than a decade's worth of intelligence they had gathered on some of Wall Street's most egregious offenders. "The SEC not keeping the MUIs – you can see why this would be bad," says Markopolos, the fraud examiner famous for breaking the Madoff case. "The reason you would want to keep them is to build a pattern. That way, if you get five MUIs over a period of 20 years on something similar involving the same company, you should be able to connect five dots and say, 'You know, I've had five MUIs – they're probably doing something. Let's go tear the place apart.'" Destroy the MUIs, and Wall Street banks can commit the exact same crime over and over, without anyone ever knowing.

Regulation isn't a panacea. The SEC could have placed federal agents on every corner of lower Manhattan throughout the past decade, and it might not have put a dent in the massive wave of corruption and fraud that left the economy in flames three years ago. And even if SEC staffers from top to bottom had been fully committed to rooting out financial corruption, the agency would still have been seriously hampered by a lack of resources that often forces it to abandon promising cases due to a shortage of manpower. "It's always a triage," is how one SEC veteran puts it. "And it's worse now."

But we're equally in the dark about another hypothetical. Forget about what might have been if the SEC had followed up in earnest on all of those lost MUIs. What if even a handful of them had turned into real cases? How many investors might have been saved from crushing losses if Lehman Brothers had been forced to reveal its shady accounting way back in 2002? Might the need for taxpayer bailouts have been lessened had fraud cases against Citigroup and Bank of America been pursued in 2005 and 2007? And would the U.S. government have doubled down on its bailout of AIG if it had known that some of the firm's executives were suspected of insider trading in September 2008?

It goes without saying that no ordinary law-enforcement agency would willingly destroy its own evidence. In fact, when it comes to garden-variety crooks, more and more police agencies are catching criminals with the aid of large and well-maintained databases. "Street-level law enforcement is increasingly data-driven," says Bill Laufer, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "For a host of reasons, though, we are starved for good data on both white-collar and corporate crime. So the idea that we would take the little data we do have and shred it, without a legal requirement to do so, calls for a very creative explanation."

We'll never know what the impact of those destroyed cases might have been; we'll never know if those cases were closed for good reasons or bad. We'll never know exactly who got away with what, because federal regulators have weighted down a huge sack of Wall Street's dirty laundry and dumped it in a lake, never to be seen again.

Editor’s Note: The online version of this article has been amended from the print version to reflect that the SEC’s case against Deutsche Bank proceeded beyond a Matter of Inquiry to a full-blown investigation.