Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Time To Develop Community Volunteer Pools

It's Time To Develop Community Volunteer Pools -

"Foreclosures Prompt Cities to Make Plea for Aid :
The United States Conference of Mayors ( more than 250 mayors , agreed that the collapse of the subprime market had left a growing problem of vacant houses, depressed property values, tighter credit, and a need to cut services to close municipal budget gaps. "

With news like this, and many other stories threatening the possibility of a global Depression, (Based on a repeat of the land speculation mistakes of the 1920's and other factors) it is time to organize volunteer labor pools. Absent any real leadership from the government, the unemployed and bankrupt will increase in numbers dramatically over the next few years. This represents a lot of economically desperate people and a huge pool of idle talent.

Food security is going to become difficult under these circumstances. It will become vital to begin massive vegetable gardening efforts in urban and suburban areas. It is also going to become necessary to build large scale shelters as housing foreclosures continue to skyrocket, driving up the ranks of the homeless.

Why not begin forming the structures of a "citizens' W.P.A." now, before all this happens? Strapped municipalities could use these pools of labor to avoid much of the cost of infrastructure improvements, focusing their dwindling property tax intake on purchasing materials for volunteer workers to use. In return, such municipalities could provide materials and space for shelters and gardening projects to feed the volunteers and their families.

Additionally, judicious use of eminent domain laws could foreclose on the Foreclosers - seizing bank-owned vacant properties and using them to house homeless laborers in return for their labor hours on community projects. They do not need the federal government to solve the problem. This could be a way for rural communities and suburbs to turn the situation around - since such efforts would in effect fall outside the purview of the failing capitalist economy.

Obviously, recycling and local sourcing of materials would be driven higher by such measures. Energy efficiency could also be built into such plans.

Just as the States are taking action on renewable energy and climate change through local initiatives, the States and local communities could begin a national turn-around absent help from the federal government, in a legal and moral manner.

Idle union workers could initiate apprenticeship programs within the volunteer pools, creating a vast pool of skilled workers for when the economy does rebound. Municipal energy projects such as wind, solar, and biomass (not using food grains, but rather agricultural and yard waste) systems could be built also, driving up local renewable power generation.

Local sustainable forestry programs could also be developed and maintained, providing a source of lumber for furniture and interior building structures. Earthen housing using lumber only for floors, windows and roofing could provide highly durable and energy-efficient housing in place of the current lumber-intensive methods of buildings. Existing vacant structures could be tapped for materials and space to build with.

Municipalities that embark on such paths could begin to draw people back out into the small towns and suburbs without the need for long-distance commuting.

Small family-owned farms might even work with such communities, providing much-needed food in return for volunteer labor to help with growing and harvesting. Composting and sustainable farming methods are age-old ways of working farms without the need for petroleum-based fertilization. Natural methods of controlling pests would leave enough production in place, when combined with urban/suburban gardening efforts, to feed local populations.

Grass lawns are a waste of precious crop-growing space. If you add up the aggregate land area of lawns in the USA, that is a large area of "farmable" land.

I also wonder if milkweed pod fiber and cattail fiber couldn't be used to produce small quantities of local textiles in a manner similar to the way cotton is used today. Does anyone out there know if there are small-scale textile mills that could be used or built to operate with such materials? Milkweed and cattails are ubiquitous in the Midwestern US in my experience.

It's time to think outside the traditional box, and recover some of the skill sets that were our heritage from times when communities had to be much more self-reliant in the past, combined with modern technologies in ways that are harmonious to the natural environment and the natural rhythms of the human body.

There are things we can do to head the worst effects of a severe economic downturn off, while making the lives we lead more sustainable and healthy. More walking, biking, and horsepower in the flesh, more local foods, more local work, shared computers at libraries, community fire brigades, and many other means are available.

Open private schools where laid-off teachers could educate children and recover from the closures of public schools resulting from No Child Left Behind and lack of federal funding.

There are ways to do these things, using non-profit entities and local initiatives that would bypass the failures of national-scale systems. A mixture of the best from the past and present could lead to a more sustainable, stable, and bright future.

It's not necessary to go down in flaming despair at all - if we work together, and start now.


Dan Stafford

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Habitat For Humanity

January 2008 News
Going back to the Gulf
Habitat for Humanity’s 25th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is set for May 11-16 in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an area still struggling to recover after bearing the full fury of Hurricane Katrina more than two years ago. The Carters will lead nearly 2,000 volunteers as they build 20 new houses with families in Pascagoula and 10 in Biloxi. Learn how you can be a part of this milestone project.
The power of partners
Thanks to new or renewed partnerships with Tropicana, Coldwell Banker and Schneider Electric/Square D, many more families in need will be celebrating the life-changing joys and responsibilities of owning a home.
Gifts worth giving
Looking for unique gift ideas? How about a translucent fold-up ruler or a foam puzzle in the shape of a house? Items from Habitat’s online store make any gift-giving occasion even more special, while also contributing to an exceptional cause: eliminating substandard housing worldwide.
Get Involved with Habitat

A WISH come true
Great news! Thanks to the support of thousands of Habitat supporters like you, the WISH Act of 2007 has been passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. This groundbreaking legislation creates a national commission to focus on the safety and well-being of children in the aftermath of any natural disaster, such as the severe problems with housing that resulted from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Thanks for all your efforts!
Habitat Success Story
Impacting the Next Generation
Asunta Vilches and her family have found “space and comfort” in their two-bedroom Habitat house.

Q&A: David Minich

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when thousands of volunteers travel around the world to build? Submit your questions for David Minich, director of Habitat’s Global Village program, to

Housing Statistic

Number of children in poverty in the United States (2003 estimate).1


Was this e-mail forwarded to you by a friend? Sign up for Habitat Extra via our Web site.

Learn about Habitat
- Local affiliates
- Read our site index

Partner with Habitat
- Donate online
- Job opportunities
- Volunteer programs
- Be an advocate

1Housing Assistance Council

To contact us:
Habitat for Humanity International
121 Habitat Street
Americus, GA 31709-3498

©2008 Habitat for Humanity® International. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Republican Albert Howard & Democrat Dennis Kucinich need donations for NH hand count TODAY!!

Donations to the Howard's count can be made here [9]. Donations to Kucinich's count can be made here [10]

- The BRAD BLOG - -

'Send Lawyers, Peace and Money': New Hampshire Election Contests Get Technical, Testy Before They Even Begin

Election Integrity Experts Converge and Join Both Republican and Democratic Candidates in Quest for Transparency

New Hampshire Secretary of State Questioned About Documentation, Poll Records and Diebold Memory Cards...

Posted By Brad Friedman On 15th January 2008 @ 04:27 In Diebold/Premier, Election Irregularities, Election 2008,, New Hampshire, Dennis Kucinich, Harri Hursti, Albert Howard | 13 Comments

By Brad Friedman from Sacramento...

Election Integrity experts from around the country have been converging on the Granite State over the last several days, in preparation for "historic" state-wide hand counts of New Hampshire's Primary Election ballots, The BRAD BLOG [1] has learned. Counts of votes in both the Democratic and Republican side will begin in earnest this Wednesday, as long as the two contesting candidates deliver certified checks by 3pm on Tuesday, in an amount determined on Monday by Secretary of State William M. Gardner.

The battle for transparency and accountability on the ground, where some 80% of the state's ballots were tallied only by error-prone, hackable Diebold optical-scan voting machines, without human audit or spot-check of any kind, in last week's first-in-the-nation Primary, is already growing heated on both sides of the aisle, and even inside the statehouse as of Monday.

While representatives from each of the contestants have reportedly been working together on several aspects of the two separate counts --- each claiming to have requested the hand-counts in order to help answer questions about anomalous reported results --- what has become immediately clear, during our interviews with several members involved in the challgenges, as well as Election Integrity advocates now in New Hampshire and elsewhere, is that these election challenges may not likely mirror the partial recount in 2004, held at the request of then-Presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

As a two-page request for a detailed list of ballot and voting machine-related public documents and records, obtained by The BRAD BLOG [1], as submitted on Monday to Gardner by the previously obscure Republican candidate Albert Howard made clear, the battle for integrity and transparency in post-election challenges, may have finally caught up with the technical sea-changes in voting equipment that have overtaken the American election system over the last several years.

Due to extraordinary complexities in the ever more complicated computer systems, scanners, tabulators, record sets, databases and proprietary programming that have now been employed by election administrators across the country, the once simple task of examining and recounting paper ballots --- where they still exist, as they do in New Hampshire --- has grown exponentially more technical and confusing.

Early word on the ground in New Hampshire's capitol city of Concord, along with concerns from candidates, surrogates and election experts alike, suggests that these "recounts" could be like no other, in the history of the country...