Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday Night Movies

Briefly from Bassett & Partners on Vimeo.

FILM_FX L3.0 (2014) from ISART DIGITAL on Vimeo.

LOOMS from Funk Brothers on Vimeo.

CHIT CHAT ROULETTE from David Luepschen on Vimeo.

Osmo from Vadim Draempaehl on Vimeo.

David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrong from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

Sounds of Paragliding from shams on Vimeo.

Brume, cailloux et métaphysique from Tshaw on Vimeo.

What is Literature for? from Marcus Armitage on Vimeo.

The Bug "Function / Void" By Factory Fifteen from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

Chasing Light - Freerunning Short Film (4K UHD) from claudiu voicu on Vimeo.

NORWAY - A Time-Lapse Adventure from Rustad Media on Vimeo.

Unsquare Dance from Stewart Maclennan on Vimeo.

Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

No credit, no cash, no bank account? There’s still a place to go shopping, but it comes at a price.

October 16 at 7:56 PM

CULLMAN, Ala. — The love seat and sofa that Jamie Abbott can’t quite afford ended up in her double-wide trailer because of the day earlier this year when she and her family walked into a new store called Buddy’s. Abbott had no access to credit, no bank account and little cash, but here was a place that catered to exactly those kinds of customers. Anything could be hers. The possibilities — and the prices — were dizzying.
At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.
Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.
Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.
The poor today can shop online, paying in installments, or walk into traditional retailers such as Kmart that now offer in-store leasing. The most striking change in the world of low-income commerce has been the proliferation of rent-to-own stores such as Buddy’s Home Furnishings, which has been opening a new store every week, largely in the South.
In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to low-income borrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.
And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.
It’s a group whose jobs, not so long ago, were more secure and better-paying; they could pay cash at Wal-Mart and had access to more affordable credit. But today, with the excesses of the subprime boom leading conventional banks to stay away from low-income borrowers, it can be their only option. Compared with pre-recession highs, the riskiest borrowers have been all but cut off from access to big loans, like mortgages, experts say.
“Basically, the market pulled back from all low-income borrowers instead of trying to figure out how to serve them,” said Michael Barr, a University of Michigan law professor and author of “No Slack: The Financial Lives of Low-Income Americans.”
Nobody wants to buy items for amounts two or three times what they’d cost at a retail store. But when Abbott did her shopping in February, she didn’t have the money to make even a small lump-sum payment for anything of decent quality, even on Craigslist. She couldn’t buy via a layaway plan; Wal-Mart offers that option only during the holiday season. Perhaps she could have saved up the money on her own, but whenever she has tried to do so, her stash has been wiped out to handle daily needs.
“Rent-to-own was basically all we could do,” Abbott, 33, said.
So Abbott and her husband walked into Buddy’s this past winter, hoping to replace the old sofa in their trailer, six years old, its wiring poking through the bottom, cutting gashes into the living room floor.
Their decision to spring for a new sofa set was, if anything, a bet on the most optimistic arc for their family. Donald was getting regular work, sometimes making $500 in a week, paid by the load to haul pureed chicken guts — used for pet food — to factories across the South. If he could keep up the pace, they’d be okay.
Inside Buddy’s, Abbott walked over to a brown Ashley Furniture model, something she and her husband agreed would fit the colors of their Buccaneer trailer. The love seat had a cup-holder console in the middle and the cushions were plush, and when they took turns testing the feel, they realized it could pivot like a rocking chair.
“I about died when I saw that,” Abbott said months later.
By the next day, the Abbotts had a remade living room, two companion pieces, both of the same blended material, 17 percent leather. The love seat and sofa retailed, together, for about $1,500. Abbott would pay for hers over two years, though she still had paying the option to pay monthly or weekly. The total price if paid weekly: $4,158.

‘I’ve never seen a customer base or an economy like this’

A rent-to-own store provides a front-row seat to observe the bottom of the economy. It is here, at the Buddy’s in Cullman, where customers first gamble that they can handle the payments, even as the new weekly or monthly installments lessen their slack. And it is here where those gambles play out, as customers persist or falter in keeping up with what they owe.
Some persist. The Iraq war veteran who comes in — walking past the camouflage armchairs and bank of flat-screen TVs — with envelopes of cash. The hairdresser who says that if it’s a bad pay week, “I give Buddy’s what I have.” The 37-year-old grandmother who says that pretty much everything in her house comes from this store.
Most falter. At the Buddy’s in Cullman, some 75 percent of items are returned or repossessed within weeks of the transaction, store manager Angela Shutt says. And nationally, the percentage of returns has been gradually ticking upward — a sign of growing struggles for lower-income workers, said Joe Gazzo, the president of Buddy’s.
“I’ve never seen a customer base or an economy like this,” Gazzo said in a telephone interview from the company’s headquarters in Tampa. “You may have five people open an account in a day, but five people return in a day. You almost become like a Blockbuster.”
Buddy’s and its larger competitors, Aaron’s and Rent-A-Center, are criticized by some consumer advocates for predatory strategies. Items are labeled with a buy-at-once “cash price” and an installment price, the weekly payments given the largesttype size. In Cullman, Buddy’s employees pinfliers — “Own it faster for less!” — inside the doors at trailer parks and government housing complexes.
But those in the industry say they offer a legitimate service to an easy-to-overlook customer base. Customers who can’t make the payments face no penalty; because they start out as renters, not owners, they don’t face debts or credit damage if they make a return.
The Cullman store is one of Buddy’s best performers, and the five employees there empathize with their customers. Derek Bland, who drives around the county repossessing items from derelict renters, just left a job at Papa John’s. Brandy Day, one of the saleswomen, winces when talking about the jewelry that Buddy’s keeps near the register. “Take away a 42-inch TV from somebody, that’s one thing,” Day says. “But a wedding ring?”
Buddy’s rapid expansion was rooted in the economic crisis. As recently as 2007, Buddy’s — private, family-run — was essentially a Florida-based company. But as the first mortgages starting going bust, Buddy’s saw 6,000 products returned over several weeks, Gazzo said. The initial goal of expansion, Gazzo said, was less about domination than survival: Buddy’s wanted to get away from Florida, the epicenter of the real estate bubble.
The company found itself with a thriving strategy almost by accident. On a Web site for potential franchise owners, Buddy’s says that many customers who had access to subprime loans before the recession now are “unable to obtain traditional financing and therefore remain within the [rent-to-own] customer base.”
In 2008, Buddy’s had 80 stores. Now it has 204. By 2017 it wants to have 500. Gazzo said that company revenue is rising at double-digit levels annually, even as it contends with a new wave of rent-to-own Web sites.
“The industry as a whole is in the biggest fight we’ve had, because we have to compete with everybody,” Gazzo said. “And the customer doesn’t have as much money as they used to.”

‘I don’t know how we’ll make it’

Abbott has spent eight months now with the sofa set, and some days, she can shrug off the costs. She’ll sink into the cushions just before her kids get out of school and say she wouldn’t trade the feeling “for a million bucks.” Normal families have sofas, she says, and you’ll do what it takes to feel normal.
But other days, like this one, a recent Thursday, the trade-offs felt more intense. It was a payday, and Donald called a toll-free number before sunrise to see how much was left on the family’s prepaid H&R Block debit card.
“Two hundred and thirty dollars,” he heard the automated voice say , and that number represented his latest weekly paycheck — the family’s total balance, and all they’d have for a week. Abbott and Donald smoked a cigarette in the bathroom and sorted through the grim math. It was less than they were used to, but sickness and an oversupply of drivers had left Donald with the shrunken paycheck.
Already, they’d taken out their last $1,500 in savings, putting two-thirds toward a new fuel pump for their sputtering Ford and one-third to Buddy’s for back payments. Some weeks, they couldn’t pay their cellphone bills. They hadn’t eaten out in two months.
They were perpetually behind with their Buddy’s installments and had taken to skipping one week and then catching up, with a $5 late fee rolled in. To make matters worse, those payment trips to Buddy’s put them eye to eye with more temptations. One week, they added a smartphone to their order. Another week, some Samsung speakers. And suddenly, the weekly payments to Buddy’s were $110.
And on weeks such as this, those payments had become unimaginable, especially with the $598.99 monthly mortgage payment on their trailer.
“I don’t know how we’ll make it,” Abbott said, and every solution came with a problem. Return the sofa? Sure, but she’d burn the money she’d already put into it and leave her living room with a hole. Find work? She’s tried, but neither Wal-Mart nor Jack’s nor the nursing home cafeteria have shown interest in an applicant with psoriasis and a ninth-grade education. Hope and wait? Maybe Donald could get more work driving his “gut truck” — say, two cross-state hauls in a day, rather than one — but that was up to his employer.
By midday that Thursday, $51 of the $230 had already vanished, used for gas and cigarettes, and Abbott headed to Wal-Mart looking to spend as little as possible on groceries. She grabbed a 12-pack of ramen, some hot-dog buns and bumped into a friend, Rachel Bryant, in the Halloween aisle.
“You look tired,” Bryant said.
“My sugar levels are out of whack,” Abbott said.
Bryant nodded and then Abbott went quiet, dabbing her eyes.
“I’ve held it in all day long,” she said, choking out the words.
She got out of Wal-Mart having spent just $11.18 and headed back to her car, still with several more hours before she had to pick up her kids, make dinner and think about how to stretch her money for another six days.
“We’ve always talked about the benefits and costs,” she said on the drive home. “Because with a family you can’t just say, ‘I want this, I’m going to get it.’ But growing up having the chair, the recliner, the love seat, the couch and everything, you just get used to the normal stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to break from the normal stuff and get to reality.”


The coming era of unlimited — and free — clean energy

EDITOR's NOTE TO THE CITIZENS OF MARINWOOD CSD : The twenty year "lease to own" contracts on first generation solar from prominent members of the Marin "Green Mafia" should be put under the microscope. Huge rebates are paid directly to the vendors but the full price retail price is charged to the city. In addition  the price of the solar arrays are dropping like a rock.   We will be stuck with OLD technology at inflated prices for twenty years.

Imagine if you went into a car dealership and you were offered a car for "no money down".  The car dealer offered you a twenty year lease on the full sticker price of the car.  Meanwhile, the dealer pockets a huge rebate from the manufacturer that nearly pays for the price of the car.  He gives you very "affordable" terms, telling you how much you will "save".  Next year, the price of your car drops.  In five years, new technology renders your car too expensive to drive and maintain yet you are "on the hook" for fifteen more years. Does this sound like a good deal to you?

Marinwood CSD voted down the SEI/Optony/Sol Ed contract in September 2014 for solid reasons  including the enormous cost,  the poor condition of our roofs housing the solar arrays, the questionable financing,  and technological obsolescence.  Bill Shea, Justin Kai and Deana Dearborn voted against the contract.  Bill Hansel and Tarey Read voted to approve the 70 page contract (DESPITE the lack of legal and financial analysis by competent professionals!) for a twenty year term.

Despite the clear will of the majority Hansel and Read, along with a few community members are insisting on bringing back the contract for a SECOND time to vote.  

If this was not bad enough,  the contract faces possible legal challenges due to the fact that a former CSD director was awarded the "no bid" solar consulting contract.  It was modified and signed outside of a public meeting review in violation of state laws.   Legal, financial and technical difficulties will be ahead if CSD directors Bill Hansel, Tarey Read approve the solar contract.

The prudent course of action for the Marinwood CSD, is to fix our roofs and other essential maintenance and revisit solar energy in the near future when solar array prices drop further. 


Come to the CSD meeting at 7 pm on Tuesday,  October 7th at the Marinwood Community Center.  We need to stop the back room deals and foolish waste of Marinwood CSD money.

From the Washington Post:

The coming era of unlimited — and free — clean energy

In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones.  McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant.  It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out.  McKinsey was wrong, of course.  There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use in 2000; there are billions now.  Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford a cellular phone.

The experts are saying the same about solar energy now.  They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world’s energy needs.  They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies.  They too are wrong.  Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target.  But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years.  Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.

In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest United States, residential-scale solar production has already reached “grid parity” with average residential electricity prices.  In other words, it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies.  The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years alone and will fall much further as the technologies to create them improve and scale of production increases.  By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world.  Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil-fuel-based alternatives do.

It isn’t just solar production that is advancing at a rapid rate; there are also technologies to harness the power of wind, biomass, thermal, tidal, and waste-breakdown energy, and research projects all over the world are working on improving their efficiency and effectiveness.  Wind power, for example, has also come down sharply in price and is now competitive with the cost of new coal-burning power plants in the United States.  It will, without doubt, give solar energy a run for its money.  There will be breakthroughs in many different technologies, and these will accelerate overall progress.

Despite the skepticism of experts and criticism by naysayers, there is little doubt that we are heading into an era of unlimited and almost free clean energy.  This has profound implications.

First, there will be disruption of the entire fossil-fuel industry, starting with utility companies — which will face declining demand and then bankruptcy.  Several of them see the writing on the wall.  The smart ones are embracing solar and wind power.  Others are lobbying to stop the progress of solar power — at all costs.  Witness how groups in Oklahoma persuaded lawmakers to approve a surcharge on solar installations; the limited victory that groups backed by the Koch brothers won in Arizona to impose a $5 per month surcharge; and the battles being waged in other states.  They are fighting a losing battle, however, because the advances aren’t confined to the United States. Countries such as Germany, China, and Japan are leading the charge in the adoption of clean energies.  Solar installations still depend on other power sources to supply energy when the sun isn’t shining, but battery-storage technologies will improve so much over the next two decades that homes won’t be dependent on the utility companies.  We will go from debating incentives for installing clean energies to debating subsidies for utility companies to keep their operations going.

The environment will surely benefit from the elimination of fossil fuels, which will also boost most sectors of the economy.  Electric cars will become cheaper to operate than fossil-fuel-burning ones, for example.  We will be able to create unlimited clean water — by boiling ocean water and condensing it.  With inexpensive energy, our farmers can also grow hydroponic fruits and vegetables in vertical farms located near consumers.  Imagine skyscrapers located in cities that grow food in glass buildings without the need for pesticides, and that recycle nutrients and materials to ensure there is no ecological impact.  We will have the energy needed to 3D-print our everyday goods and to heat our homes.

We are surely heading into the era of abundance that Peter Diamandis has written about — the era when the basic needs of humanity are met through advancing technologies. The challenge for mankind will be to share this abundance, ensuring that these technologies make the world a better place.

Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke, and distinguished fellow at Singularity University. His past appointments include Harvard Law School, University of California Berkeley, and Emory University.

Today's average electrical appliance has more computing power than the first generation personal computers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NEW and IMPROVED Microwave Towers blast Marinwood Village Residents!

October 1, 2014- Sprint has just recently applied to place MORE MICROWAVE transmission facilities next to the Marinwood Village property at 190 Marinwood Avenue.  This tower will be literally yards away from living units housing pregnant women and small children.  Where is the outrage from Susan Adams, Nursing PHD or the housing activists?  Do they actually care for the health of the future residents  of Marinwood Village!?   see THIS
Families living in proposed Marinwood Plaza will have two high powered microwave antennas literally yards away from their home.  Would you want to live here?

High powered Microwave transmissions are a known health risk.

The FCC has strict safety warnings for workers and people close to microwave transmission towers.

 Two microwave towers on the property, the one on the right is disguised as a redwood tree
There are actually TWO HIGH POWERED MICROWAVE transmission towers on the South end of the Marinwood Plaza property that will be literally yards away from bedrooms of small children and pregnant woman.  Any cell phone user is aware of microwave interference with radio waves. We are asked to turn off our cellphones on airplanes and in hospitals.  People with pacemakers are asked to avoid being too close microwave ovens.

If you wouldn't move your family next to these towers, why would you allow Bridge Housing to develop here?

For more information on potentional health risks from microwave radiation: Cell Tower Dangers

If we truly care about our new neighbors, why would we ask them to live so close to the dangers of the pollution near the freeway and microwave towers?

Clearly, some people have different agendas than "helping" the working poor.

If the doublespeak,  the distortions,  the hidden agendas,  and  secret meetings concerning the Marinwood Village development proposal upset you,  please join us to Save Mariwood. Come to our meetings on Mondays .

We can have a better future for our community.

Life is Good in Marinwood/Lucas Valley


Do Statistical Race Disparities Mean Injustice?

How many times have we heard laments such as "women are 50 percent of the population but only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs" and, as the Justice Department recently found, "blacks are 54 percent of the population in Newark, New Jersey, but 85 percent of pedestrian stops and 79 percent of arrests"? If one believes that people should be represented socio-economically according to their numbers in the population, then statistical disparities represent injustices that demand government remedies. Before we jump to conclusions about what disparities mean and whether they are indicators of injustice, we might examine some other disparities to see what we can make of them.

According to a recent study conducted by Bond University in Australia, sharks are nine times as likely to attack and kill men than they are women. If sinister motivation is attributed for this disparity, as is done in the cases of sex and racial disparities, we can only conclude that sharks are sexist. Another sex disparity is despite the fact that men are 50 percent of the population and so are women, men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. I wonder what whoever is in charge of lightning has against men.
Another gross statistical disparity is despite the fact that Jews are less than 3 percent of the U.S. population and a mere 0.2 percent of the world's population, between 1901 and 2010, Jews were 35 percent of American and 22 percent of the world's Nobel Prize winners.
There are other disparities that we might acknowledge with an eye to corrective public policy. Asian-Americans routinely score the highest on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks score the lowest. The population statistics for South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their populations is black. In states such as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented in terms of their percentages in the general population. When this kind of "segregation" is found in schooling, the remedy is busing.
There are loads of international examples of ethnic disparities. During the 1960s, the Chinese minority in Malaysia, where Malays politically dominate, received more university degrees than the Malay majority -- including 400 engineering degrees, compared with just four for the Malays. In Brazil's state of Sao Paulo, more than two-thirds of the potatoes and 90 percent of the tomatoes produced have been produced by people of Japanese ancestry.
Blacks are 13 percent of our population but 80 percent of professional basketball players and 65 percent of professional football players and among the highest-paid players in both sports. By stark contrast, blacks are only 2 percent of the NHL's professional ice hockey players. Basketball, football and ice hockey represent gross racial disparities and come nowhere close to "looking like America."
Even in terms of sports achievement, racial diversity is absent. In Major League Baseball, three out of the four hitters with the most career home runs are black. Since blacks entered the major leagues, of the eight times more than 100 bases have been stolen in a season, all were by blacks. In basketball, 50 of the 59 MVP awards have been won by black players.
If America's diversity worshippers see underrepresentation as "probative" of racial discrimination, what do they propose be done about overrepresentation? After all, overrepresentation and underrepresentation are simply different sides of injustice. If those in one race are overrepresented, it might mean they're taking away what rightfully belongs to another race. For example, is it possible that Jews are doing things that sabotage the chances of a potential Indian, Alaska Native or Mexican Nobel Prize winner? What about the disgraceful lack of diversity in professional basketball and ice hockey? There's not even geographical diversity in professional ice hockey; not a single player can boast of having been born and raised in Hawaii, Louisiana or Mississippi.
Courts, bureaucrats and the intellectual elite have consistently concluded that "gross" disparities are probative of a pattern and practice of discrimination. Given all of the differences among people, such a position is pure nonsense.
Walter E. Williams

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.' 

Monday, September 29, 2014

It is easier to fool people....

Why wealth redistribution doesn't work. The myth of "economic justice" and "social equity"

In the end, we all get soaked because government determine "fairness" not the free will of people.

Let's start with a state of nature, where wealth can be measured on a scale. Let's say that the poorest person is a "0" and the richest person is a "10". We, as a society, as a community, and as a nation, collectively decide to follow the advice of our moral leaders who decide that no person shall have a wealth beneath a "3".

At that point, people from "3" to "10" are asked to voluntarily contribute money to the impoverished "0" to "2" crowd in order to avoid imprisonment. And we use democratic principles to ensure that most people do not pay this tax; preferably, only the "8" through "10" people will pay it. And with any luck, these richest people (formerly "8" to "10") will become "7" people, as no one has the right to be rich in the presence of so much human suffering.

Now, after this transfer, our improved society has a wealth distribution of "3" to "7" instead of the original "0" to "10".

Do you know anything about scales? Probably not. So pay attention: The "3" people are rescaled to "0" because they are the poorest, and the "7" people are rescaled to "10" because they are the richest. That brings us back to an unjust "0" to "10" society.

And because injustice requires justice, and since we as a society, a community, and a nation have already declared that "0" to "2" is unacceptable (to say nothing of the unequal distribution of wealth), we repeat the process to eliminate poverty -- and spread the wealth -- once again. And, again, it is done in a democratic fashion, since the majority of people, "0" through "7", will either get a well-deserved government check in the mail, or are unaffected.

Rescale the old "3-to-7" to the new "0-to-10".






Does a "0" still look different from a "10"?




In the end, we will achieve social and economic justice when everyone has the same "wealth number".

Stop the use of Glyphosate in the Marin Municipal Water District Lands

Only Larry Bragman, candidate for Marin Municipal Water District is talking about preserving water QUALITY.  Water is life.  The other candidate, Liz Crosse, (aide to Supervisor Steve Kinsey) is favoring use of glyphosate and importing water from Antioch water treatment plant to meet our needs for urban growth.  I don't want contaminated water from glyphosate or treated wastewater from Antioch.  Do you sincerely want to drink chlorinated water for the rest of your life?  The choice is clear. Vote for Larry Bragman for MMWD, District II Commissioner

Spread the news...


Dear Citizen Marin Friends,

As mentioned before, the Marin Municipal Water District's (MMWD's) DRAFT Wildlife Protection and Habitat Improvement Plan proposes administering conventional herbicides, including Glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup), as part of its approach to manage weeds in our watershed.

At the recent presentations in Marin about Glyphosate, Don Huber PhD (Emeritus Professor of Plan Pathology at Purdue University), Bob Streit (Crop, Seed, Technology and Soil-remediation Consultant) and Lori Grace MS demonstrated that Glyphosate travels easily and that if it were applied to weeds in the MMWD watershed, it could end up in the reservoirs and our water supply.

Dr. Huber, after visiting the watershed and studying MMWD's DRAFT Wildlife Protection and Habitat Improvement Plan, stated that, if MMWD uses Glyphosate, it would be applying more than the amount typically used on a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crop. 

Dr. Huber, who has studied Glyphosate and GMOs for 40 years, stated that Glyphosate is the most chronically toxic chemical in our environment.  The presentation showed a strong correlation between the increased use of Glyphosate and the increase of chronic health conditions.

I have done some additional research and found a video entitled; "Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease", which is easy to understand and clearly shows how Glyphosate contributes to numerous serious chronic diseases. In the video, Jeffrey Smith, author of bestseller "Seeds of Deception" interviews Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Here's a link to the video: 

Jeffrey Smith interviewing Dr. Stephanie Seneff

Dr. Seneff states; "Glyphosate is possibly the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies."  Glyphosate consumption is linked to:
Gastrointestinal diseases (Inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis, and Crohn's disease)
Parkinson's Disease
Cardiovascular Disease
Multiple Sclerosis
Alzheimer's Disease
Kidney Disease

Dr. Seneff summarizes the two key problems caused by Glyphosate in the diet:
1) Nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals; and
2) Systemic toxicity.

Excerpt of Dr. Mercola's summary of the video:

How Glyphosate Worsens Modern Diseases
"While Monsanto insists that Roundup is as safe to humans as aspirin, Seneff and Samsel’s research tells a different story altogether. Their report, published in the journal Entropy1, argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”

Interestingly, your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm.

Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.

The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to 1. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!

Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease. In the interview mentioned above, Dr. Seneff reviews a variety of chronic diseases, explaining how glyphosate contributes to each condition. So to learn more, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. It’s quite eye-opening."

They also discuss how Glyphosate consumption inhibits cytochrome P45 (CYP) enzymes (that detoxify foreign chemical compounds) and impairs sulfate transport, both vital for good health.

Here's the link to the video entitled; "Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease":

I will soon be giving out suggestions on what you can do to help stop MMWD's potential use of Glyphosate in our watershed.  If you wish to become actively involved in this movement, please contact me

LEED Buildings that are not Really "Green"

The Four Sins of LEEDwashing: LEED Green Buildings That Perhaps Aren't Really Green

Henry Gifford, photo by Travis Roozee
"Is LEED a Fraud?" is the provocative title of an article on the Fine Homebuilding website by Kevin Ireton. It appears that mechanical designer Henry Gifford thinks it is, and makes a few good points in his paper A Better Way To Rate Green Buildings. (PDF Download here)
It is a good starting point in a discussion of what one might call the Four Sins LEEDwashing: using the LEED system to make a building appear green, when for any number of reasons, it really isn't. The Sins are:
1) The Sin of Not Following Through
2) The Sin of Valuing Gizmos Over Appropriate Design
3) The Sin of Laughably Inappropriate Use
4) The Sin of Wretched Excess.

Gifford makes the controversial case that LEED certified buildings use more energy than comparables, not less- as much as 29% more.
Gifford gets some solid hits, when he complains about the money wasted installing solar panels at the wrong angle and blocking them with other equipment just to get some LEED points.
Building energy use is probably the largest field of human endeavour in which almost nobody measures anything.

And he is right, that engineers and architects should be able to show that the decisions they make and the designs they produce actually work.
LEED is, in terms of the pace of architecture, brand new and still going through growing pains. It is also constantly evolving, so things that we complain about one year may be gone or changed in the next update. Many of the things I complain about here might already be fixed.
But it is interesting nonetheless to look at past TreeHugger posts and see what was passed off as being green, and why it might actually be questionable, our own list of the Sins of LEEDwashing.

The Sin of LEED Green Buildings that Don't Follow Through

Used with permission from Vidiot
Henry Gifford writes of the Hearst Tower:
"The building is reportedly equipped with sensors that turn the lights off based on occupancy, yet lights throughout the building stay on through the night, night after night....Energy efficiency is dependent on specific procedures at least as much as on the use of special products or technologies. But, because better procedures do little or nothing to promote the image of energy efficiency, they have been mostly ignored in the rush to rate buildings as green."
One might point out that the Hearst Tower houses the operations of newspapers and magazines, and they often have deadlines that keep people working at night, but his point is generally valid; if people don't operate a building in a green fashion it doesn't matter how it was built.
More in TreeHugger: Hearst Tower Leed Certified in "Gold"Hearst Tower Leed Certified in "Gold"

LEED also has a program designed around follow through. Discovery Headquarters got LEED Platinum for its operations and improvements, a ""top to bottom effort to become carbon neutral through the use of carbon offsets and wind power renewable energy certificates, and a robust employee engagement program to challenge and motivate employees to become involved in recycling and reduction programs."
More in TreeHugger: Discovery Headquarters Get LEED Platinum
But I have also been in LEED certified spaces and looked in the janitors closet and seen the usual toxic supplies and a kitchen full of styrofoam- the LEED practices ended as soon as the plaque went up. There is really no point in doing it if you don't follow through.

Next: The Sin of LEED Green Buildings that Value Gizmos Over Appropriate Design 

This is Canada's first LEED Platinum house. It has ground source heat pumps, lots of insulation and a pile of other tricks that are good for LEED points. It also has a black asphalt roof, double car garage, no shading of its windows and an impermeable driveway. In short, it has almost none of the features that we know can make a better, more energy efficient house. As James Russell wrote in Bloomberg:
Homes designed today can be much more efficient at low cost. Whether they're high-tech or old-fashioned, houses with awnings, porches and carefully placed windows can harvest natural breezes for cooling. Just shifting the primary orientation from east-west to north-south keeps summer's roasting sun off glass and lets windows grab winter heat. It can knock several percentage points off fuel and lighting bills. Backyard windmills, solar panels and planted "green'' roofs are chic, yet walls covered with shading vines offer most of the benefits for much lower cost.
See more in our Eight Ways to Build a Better House when They Start Building Houses Again and LEED Platinum in Canada: Designed to Bore

Donovan Rypkema is angry that we are losing so many good existing buildings, with so much history, not to mention embodied energy and real efficiency, to build new buildings that won't last as long and that are covered with expensive green gizmos. He suggests that LEED stands for "Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing."
Rypkema points out that architects are using LEED to justify demolition of perfectly good buildings. If one complains, they respond "Yeah, but we're going to be LEED certified."
More: Donovan Rypkema: LEED stands for "Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing"

In fact, the key to building a greener building is not to throw more technology at it, but to use less, like the Terry Thomas Building by Weber Thompson that we go on about. Instead of heat pumps, it has awnings, natural ventilation, courtyards and vines. More: "Smart Architect Builds Dumb Building."
Terry Thomas Building By Weber Thompson

As I learned at Greenbuild in Boston, gizmos rule. When the head of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was the headliner to talk about how green old buildings were, Richard Moe spoke to an empty room while you could not get into the gizmo workshops downstairs. LEED practitioners demonstrated with their feet that they really couldn't care that The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall.
More: GreenBuild: Richard Moe Has a Tough Row to Hoe

Next: The Sin of LEED Green Buildings That Are Laughably Inappropriate 

It is in the middle of the New Mexico desert, miles from anywhere, which is a good thing, because they are going to be firing off rockets powered by burning rubber and nitrous oxide to give very rich people a seven minute space ride. And it is going for LEED platinum. Really, what is the point of being ""both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings" when your purpose for being is neither?
Contradiction in Terms Dept.: a LEED Certified Spaceport

LEED should be a challenge for an above grade parking garage, even if it was made from site-grown bamboo and ventilated by flapping butterfly wings. I even came around and did a Santa Monica Mea Culpa where I concluded that it was a lovely thing. But can you truly call it green?
More: Santa Monica Mea Culpa
Contradiction in Terms Dept: Sustainable Parking Structure

The new HSBC headquarters has a gaggle of green gizmos and gold certification, but is in the middle of nowhere. Ken Benfield of NRDC put it best:

"God, where to start. What we really have here is yet another high-tech building calling itself “green” but that warrants the label only if you completely discount the sprawling, totally automobile-dependent location. Research proves that buildings in sprawling locations cause far more carbon emissions from employees and visitors driving to and from them than they save with energy-efficient building technology.

Proximity and land use are only a few points on the LEED scale, and the building does a lot of good things. A commenter pointed out that
"the fact that it was a farm screws over 1 LEED credit. If there is no local public transit, that's another 1 LEED credit. Most LEED buildings fall short in a few categories. Should we attack every LEED building that isn't off the grid? I don't think this is "greenwashing" because in a number of regards it is indeed green.
This all-or-nothing attitude so many people take when it comes to sustainability is ridiculous. You should be happy this building was green at all."
I am not so sure, I do not think we are being all-or-nothing or overly doctrinaire. Really, there should be some kind of dealbreaker clause that suggests that if any one thing is so out of whack as to bring the whole program into disrepute, then certification can be questioned.
Greenwash Watch: HSBC Headquarters

The Sin LEED Green Buildings that are models of Wretched Excess

Criticizing Frank McKinney's Aqua Liana House in Manalapan Beach, Florida is like shooting $29 million fish in a barrel, with its fifteen thousand feet of excess.

Speaking of fish, were they harvested sustainably? Yet the builder claims that
it is the first to be built and certified to the rigorous "green" standards (environmentally responsible) as defined and mandated by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Florida Green Building Council and Energy Star for Homes. Acqua Liana is the only known residence to receive "triple" certification.
No, it isn't green and demeans all three organizations.
Who Cares If It Is Green, Is It Ethical?
In the end, one has to consider what Leo Hickman wrote about ethical living:
Ethical means above all taking personal responsibility. This in turn means considering the "sustainability" of everything you do- making sure that your actions do not have a negative influence on you or more importantly the wider world. As more and more people around the world, rightly or wrongly, aspire to and obtain western lifestyles, the pressure on natural resources will become even more intense. Therefore, a major tenet of ethical living is to attempt, wherever possible, to reduce one's own demand for resources... Simply, it is a call to consume a fairer and more proportionate slice of the pie. "
I have noted before that LEED is an evolving system, and category weights change. Could the HSBC building be Gold with the 2009 community connectivity credits? Shari Shapiro writes at Green Building Law:
LEED 2009 has attempted to fix one of my major criticisms, that LEED does nothing to prevent “green sprawl”—green buildings built on unsustainable sites—first voiced here. Although there is still nothing to prevent a “green” big box store surrounded by acres of parking lot on the urban periphery from being LEED certified, the increases in points to the Sustainable Sites credits are an attempt to give more weight in the LEED system to green buildings built in mixed-use community settings linked by public transit.

Is Henry still right about monitoring of buildings when there are increased points for measurement and verification? Will buildings still be as ineffective at reducing energy use as Henry says? According to an engineer commenting at Green Building Law,
It will be almost impossible to get any level of certification without making meaningful attempts to reduce the building carbon footprint and water use.

So perhaps we won't see too many posts like this in the future.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A request for Civility from the Supervisors from Novato Citizens.

Judy Arnold's Wacky World of Politics.

Judy Arnold is on the hunt for Marin's invisible Tea Party.  oh my!

The Wacky World of Marin Politics: Judy Arnold warns of the Invisible Tea Party and Gives Advice to new Politicians

Judy Arnold attacks 49% of the voters in her district after a narrow re-election.  She claims the invisible Tea Party and "Property rights activists" are secretly trying to sabotage her political career.

 While it is true that the vast majority of Marin residents oppose high density development, few of them are associated with the Tea Party.  In fact the vast majority are environmentalists, progressive Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, and Green Party.  Judy Arnold just doesn't get it.  People want to live in human scale communities where they know their neighbors,  kids can get a good education, nature abounds and the streets are safe.  Most of us escaped cities to come to Marin.  Marin has a 100 year tradition of careful growth. 

We do not oppose affordable housing per se but the imposition of high density, urban growth of our communities. We will save Marin again.  This is a clip from a the Marin Woman's Political Caucus Candidates Forum held in August 2014 .

Journalism in a Surveillance State. "How can we have a free press?"