The National Blues

SUBHEAD: People in the new town square i.e. the Walmart are prematurely old, fattened and sickened.

By James Kunstler on 28 April 2017 for -

Image above: Walmart electric shopping carts lined up with the old, fat and sick. From (

While the news waves groan with stories about “America’s Opioid Epidemic” you may discern that there is little effort to actually understand what’s behind it, namely, the fact that life in the United States has become unspeakably depressing, empty, and purposeless for a large class of citizens.

I mean unspeakably literally. If you want evidence of our inability to construct a coherent story about what’s happening in this country, there it is.

I live in a corner of Flyover Red America where you can easily read these conditions on the landscape — the vacant Main Streets, especially after dark, the houses uncared for and decrepitating year by year, the derelict farms with barns falling down, harvesters rusting in the rain, and pastures overgrown with sumacs, the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town.

You can read it in the bodies of the people in the new town square, i.e. the Walmart: people prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sunk in despair, a deadly consolation for lives otherwise filled by empty hours, trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort.

These are people who have suffered their economic and social roles in life to be stolen from them.

They do not work at things that matter. They have no prospects for a better life — and, anyway, the sheer notion of that has been reduced to absurd fantasies of Kardashian luxury, i.e. maximum comfort with no purpose other than to enable self-dramatization.

And nothing dramatizes a desperate life like a drug habit. It concentrates the mind, as Samuel Johnson once remarked, like waiting to be hanged.

On display in the news reports about the mystery of the opioid epidemic is America’s neurotic reliance on supposedly scientific “studies.”

Never before in history has a society studied so much and learned so little — which is what happens when you resort to scientizing things that are essentially matters of conduct. It rests on the fallacy that if you compile enough statistics about something, you can control it.

Opioid addiction is just another racket, a personal one, in a culture of racketeering that is edging toward truly epochal failure, for the simple reason that rackets are dishonest, and pervasive dishonesty is at odds with reality, and reality always has the final say.

The eerie thing about reading the landscape of despair is that you can see the ghosts of purpose and meaning in it.

Before 1970, there were at least five factories in my little town, all designed originally to run on the water power (or hydro-electric) of the Battenkill River, a tributary of the nearby Hudson.

The ruins of these enterprises are still there, the red brick walls with the roofs caved in, the twisted chain-link fence that no longer has anything to protect, the broken masonry mill-races.

The ghosts of commerce are also plainly visible in the bones of Main Street. These were businesses owned by people who lived in town, who employed other people who lived in town, who often bought and sold things grown or made in and around town.

Every level of this activity occupied people and gave purpose and meaning to their lives, even if the work associated with it was sometimes hard. Altogether, it formed a rich network of interdependence, of networked human lives and family histories.

What galls me is how casually the country accepts the forces that it has enabled to wreck these relationships. None of the news reports or “studies” done about opioid addiction will challenge or even mention the deadly logic of Walmart and operations like it that systematically destroyed local retail economies (and the lives entailed in them.)

The news media would have you believe that we still value “bargain shopping” above all other social dynamics. In the end, we don’t know what we’re talking about.

I’ve maintained for many years that it will probably require the collapse of the current arrangements for the nation to reacquire a reality-based sense of purpose and meaning. I’m kind of glad to see national chain retail failing, one less major bad thing in American life.

Trump was just a crude symptom of the sore-beset public’s longing for a new disposition of things. He’ll be swept away in the collapse of the rackets, including the real estate racket that he built his career on.

Once the collapse gets underway in earnest, starting with the most toxic racket of all, contemporary finance, there will be a lot to do.

The day may dawn in America when people are too busy to resort to opioids, and actually derive some satisfaction from the busy-ness that occupies them.


2017 Retail Closings

SUBHEAD: Brick and mortar chain stores are dropping like flies and the carnage will continue.

By Mike Timmermann on 24 April 2017 for -

Image above: Closed Sears department store at Salem Mall in Trotwood, Ohio. From (

“The reality is that America has been over-stored. We have far too many retail locations, shopping centers and branches of different chains,” Clark Howard said. “But stores that are meeting your needs with low prices will continue to thrive.”

In the meantime, here’s our list of major retailers that are closing stores in 2017:

The latest news

Sears & Kmart – 150 stores and counting…

These 10 retailers are closing more than 1,000 stores in 2017

Sears Holdings isn’t finished shutting down under-performing Sears and Kmart locations quite yet.
In a news release dated April 21, the company said it has made significant progress in its restructuring program, with $700 million in annualized cost savings so far.

The initiative began earlier this year with closures of 150 non-profitable stores, which included 108 Kmart and 42 Sears locations.

Now, the retailer says 92 under-performing Kmart pharmacies and 50 Sears Auto Centers are shutting down. No list of the affected locations was immediately available.

Meanwhile, Business Insider has compiled a list of additional Sears and Kmart stores that are quietly being shut down, according to local media reports.
Here’s the list so far:


  • Livonia, Michigan
  • Kahului, Hawaii
  • Beavercreek, Ohio
  • Meadville, Pennsylvania
  • Mill Hall, Pennsylvania
  • East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Spanaway, Washington


  • Miami, Florida
  • Alamogordo, New Mexico
  • Charleston, South Carolina
Read more: Retail crisis: Sears and Kmart to close even more stores

bebe – 180 stores

Women’s clothing retailer Bebe Stores is shutting down all of its roughly 180 locations nationwide.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission dated April 21, the company said it expects to close all stores by the end of May after liquidation sales are held.

The retailer’s future remains unclear, though some speculate it will continue as an online-only merchant.

Rue21 – 400 stores

Teen clothing retailer rue21 is closing about 400 stores, according to its website.

A message on read, “It’s true – we are closing some stores. It was a difficult but necessary decision. But the good news is we still have hundreds of locations across the country, and our website, open for business!”

Rue21 has posted a list of the locations that are closing on its website. Click here to see if yours is affected.

Department stores

JCPenney – 138 stores

These 10 retailers are closing more than 1,000 stores in 2017

JCPenney is delaying plans to close 138 stores because sales are up since the retailer announced that it was shutting them down.

USA Today reports that liquidation sales at those locations have been postponed until May 22 and store closures have been pushed back six weeks to July 31.
Here’s a list of the 138 stores that will be closing.

Macy’s – 68 stores

These 10 retailers are closing more than 1,000 stores in 2017

Macy’s plans to close about 15% of its locations amid a challenging retail environment.

The retailer revealed in August 2016 that it would close 100 of its 730 stores to concentrate on better-performing locations to “elevate their status as preferred shopping destinations.”

In a January 4 news release, Macy’s announced 68 of the closures. Of the 68, three have already closed, 63 were scheduled to shut down in early 2017, and two will be closed in mid-2017.
The company plans to close approximately 30 additional stores over the next few years.

Mall stores

Abercrombie & Fitch – 60 stores

You can add Abercrombie & Fitch to the growing list of retailers that will be closing stores this year.
According to a news release, the company plans to shut down about 60 U.S. locations during fiscal 2017 as leases expire. Fortune reports that A&F will have 670 remaining stores, down from 839 just five years ago.

Guess – 60 stores

Guess is planning to pull the plug on 60 of its stores this year. CEO Victor Herrero told analysts of the decision during a Q4 earnings call on March 15.  It’s expected that most of the closures will be among the flagship Guess brand stores and Marciano locations.

Guess brands operate 945 retail stores in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Some 400 of those stores are in the United States.

Crocs – 160 stores

Crocs announced in a March 1 press release that the brand will be trimming some 160 stores from its 558-store portfolio by the end of 2018.

The Limited – 250 stores

After more than 50 years in business, The Limited closed all of its nearly 250 stores across the country on January 8. The retailer indicated that its website would live on, but no merchandise is for sale.

Read more: Confirmed: The Limited is closing mall stores across the country

Wet Seal – 171 stores

Bankrupt clothing store Wet Seal has shut down all of its 171 stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. A message on the retailer’s website read, ‘Thanks babe, it’s been real.’

American Apparel – 110 stores

Made in the USA clothing manufacturer American Apparel is expected to close all of its remaining 110 stores very soon.

According to a news release from January 10, Canada-based Gildan Activewear’s $88 million bid at a bankruptcy auction won the rights to American Apparel’s brand and some assets. However, retail store assets were not part of the purchase, according to Gildan.

Read more: American Apparel is expected to close all 110 stores soon

BCBG – 120 stores

High-end women’s clothing chain BCBG is closing about 120 stores, mostly in the U.S., according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune reported in early February that liquidation sales have started and are expected to run eight to 10 weeks before the stores close for good.

The company’s mini-shops within Macy’s will remain open.

Other retailers

Payless ShoeSource – 400 stores

Payless ShoeSource has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will immediately close nearly 400 underperforming locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the company announced April 4.

“This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify. We will build a stronger Payless for our customers, vendors and suppliers, associates, business partners and other stakeholders through this process,” W. Paul Jones, Payless chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Payless has approximately 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries. Here’s a list of the stores that are closing.

hhgregg  – 220 stores

After more than six decades, electronics retailer hhgregg is going out of business.
Liquidation sales have begun at the retailer’s 132 stores, which will close by the end of May. In March, the company announced the closure of 88 locations.
The news comes after hhgregg failed to find a buyer by its April 7 deadline.

GameStop – 150+ stores

After reporting a drop in fourth quarter sales, GameStop announced March 24 that it plans to close between 2% to 3% of its global store footprint, which means at least 150 stores.
GameStop has struggled due to weak sales of certain video games and “aggressive console promotions” from its competitors.

RadioShack – 552 stores

RadioShack has announced the closure of 552 stores after the ailing electronics retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for a second time in March.

The closing locations represent 36% of RadioShack’s stores, Business Insider reported. Here’s the list.

Staples – 70 stores

Staples said in March that it will close 70 locations throughout North America by the end of 2017.
During a recent earnings call, Staples said same store sales in North America were down 7% during the fourth quarter of 2016. The drop in sales was blamed on lower foot traffic.
Read more: Staples to shutter 70 stores in 2017

CVS  – 70 stores

Back in December 2016, we first told you that CVS had plans to close 70 locations across the country in early 2017.
In late February, we began to get the first reports from local media about exactly which locations already have been or will soon be shuttered, including more than 10 stores in Illinois.
Read more: New list: These CVS locations will be closing soon

Gander Mountain – 32 stores

Gander Mountain, the outdoor goods retailer, has announced it will close 32 of its 162 locations. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.
More than 1,200 employees will be impacted by the closures. Here’s the list.

Family Christian – 240 stores

Family Christian, the biggest seller of Christian books and merchandise in the nation, announced February 23 that 240 stores in 36 states would be permanently closed.
Read more: Family Christian closing all 240+ locations

The takeaway: Use those gift cards ASAP!

“If you have any gift cards in your home that are for major retailers, I want you to go and shop. I want you to use them up,’ Clark said. “And when you don’t know what to give somebody, give them a nice card and give them cash. You don’t have to worry about the store closing when you give them cash.”


Pulse of Oahu Neighborhoods

SUBHEAD: Elections are underway for Oahu's volunteer advisory neighborhood boards.

By Natanya Friedheim on 28 April 2017 for Civil Beat -

Image above: Representatives of the the Waianae Neighborhood Board during public meeting. From original article.

[IP Publisher's note: Oahu has neighborhood boards that are publicly elected and have significant power, even though they are not a legislative or regulatory body. Their scale and and location are not dissimilar to the traditional ahupuaa of Hawaiian culture. After the disaster of Kauai's recent clueless update of the Kauai General Plan effort by the Planning Department, maybe we should consider neighborhood boards for more local input . Kauai has no village, town, or city level government bodies for local governance. Unfortunately, our county government has shown itself to be a place that has produced incompetent planning for the rest of the island.  It offers opportunities for grifting speculative developers while providing secure jobs with benefits for those centered in Lihue overseeing our "growth". We need the communities of our island to have structured positions in governing. We recommend looking to Oahu's Neighborhood Boards as a possible means.]

Every month, Michael Eli stands up to address military officials at the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board meeting.

When will the United States end its illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands? he asks.

“No comment,” Army Maj. Richard Bell always responds.

Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board members have probably never heard that question, but they’re used to disputes about noise, alcohol consumption and street closures from block parties sponsored by Chinatown’s young entrepreneurial class.

For the record, Oahu’s 33 active neighborhood boards (two are proposed and not yet formed) can’t grant liquor licenses, or evict the American military. They are strictly advisory, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have impact.

They can pass resolutions supporting or opposing government action, but they don’t create policy or choose where public funds are spent. Topics discussed at board meetings include trees that need trimming, potholes that need repair and sometimes bigger issues like proposed high rise developments.

And if you think neighborhood board meetings are just platforms for people to gripe, it could be that you’ve never been to one.

“Some people feel that they just go there, bitch and complain, and nothing ever happens,” said Amanda Ybanez, a member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board. “But if it’s done correctly and you have the right people on the board that are voted in, not only are the politicians being held accountable and doing things, but the board members make sure that there is follow-up.”

Public outcry followed a proposed charter amendment last year that would have done away with the boards. A separate amendment that calls for periodic reviews of all city boards and commissions was approved.

While the measure to end the board system never made it to the ballot, it prompted a discussion over how effective the boards are as platforms for democracy. Sometimes the meetings are sparsely attended, and 18 of the boards have at least one vacancy.

The Neighborhood Commission Office, which oversees the neighborhood boards, is ramping up its public outreach efforts this year in hopes of drawing more people to the meetings and to vote in the upcoming board elections.

The elections, which occur every two years, take place online beginning Friday and continuing until May 19.

You’re really in touch with the pulse of the community going to the neighborhood boards,” said Shawn Hamamoto, executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission Office.

Image above: Flora Obayashi, chair of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board urges members of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board to pass a resolution opposing aspects of a master plan for the Koolau Poko moku area. From original article.

‘You Don’t Need To Be An Expert’
Honolulu voters created the neighborhood board system in 1973 to give residents a stronger voice in issues and policies that affect them.

“The best training for a neighborhood board member is simply living in their neighborhood,” said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, a member of the Neighborhood Commission. “You don’t need to be an expert in all the policy issues.”

The meetings provide a forum for residents to present their concerns to elected officials — if those officials show up. Some politicians send office representatives who may take an initial shot at answering questions, then return the following month with fuller responses.

Some board members say the information they get at meetings is inadequate, and that officials need to be more transparent.

In recent years, “the city has not been responsive,” said Stanford Yuen, who has served on the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board for 18 years. “They’ll give a halfway answer that’ll raise more questions … a lot of times they’ll just leave it open and walk away.”

Some officials respond to questions with highly technical language. Wilson Koike of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board said that’s a tactic.

“They have substitute, flowery answers which have no yes or no, and that’s the game they play,” Koike said. “We want a simple English answer, not technical, legalese answer.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office referred questions about neighborhood boards to Hamamoto, who said it may take a while for the city to thoroughly respond to inquiries and technical terms are sometimes appropriate.

“I don’t think it’s a case where the mayor’s representatives are trying to deceive,” Hamamoto said.
The boards also provide a forum for business owners, developers, nonprofits and other community organizations.

Dos Santos-Tam would like to see more small businesses get involved with the boards. While some owners might not live in the area where their business is located, he said, they may spend as much of their waking lives in the neighborhoods as residents do.

The boards are places where government agencies, businesses and residents can intersect.
“Government agencies rely heavily on what neighborhood boards say,” Hamamoto said.

The Honolulu Liquor Commission, for example, must notify the local neighborhood board before granting a liquor license.

If residents want a park to close at night, the Department of Parks and Recreation must get the OK from that area’s neighborhood board prior to implementation.

Last month, the Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting drew a crowd because Robert Kroning, the director of the Department of Design and Construction, attended to talk about road conditions in the valley.

While boards can’t create policy, they can wield influence through resolutions.

Over the last few months, Amy Perruso attended one board meeting after another to represent the Hawaii State Teachers Association. At each meeting, she urged board members to pass resolutions supporting Senate Bill 386, which died at the Legislature last week but would have generated more money for schools through a constitutional amendment to raise some property taxes.

Democracy if ‘Real People’ Show Up
Kakaako - Ala Moana Neighborhood Board Chairman Ryan Tam has two categories for the people who attend his board’s meetings: “real people” and “fake people.”

“Real people” are local residents who choose to participate. “Fake people” include contractors, consultants, city and state officials and their representatives, and the occasional reporters who attend because they have to.

Tam has sat through meetings where as few as two “real people” showed up. When the turnout of local residents is low, the meetings become just a conversation between board members, he said.
It can be difficult for people to commit to a meeting that might last two-plus hours on a weeknight.

Location also plays a role in turnout.

Waianae board meetings are held at the district park, a building complex that’s accessible by bus and buzzes with activity after work hours. The April board meeting drew more than 30 people.

Down a windy road with no street lights, the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board meeting at the National Guard Training Auditorium on the grounds of Bellows Air Force Station isn’t easily accessible for those without a car. Less than 10 people showed up for last month’s meeting.

Some boards struggle to retain members and attract young people. Forty percent of board members serving two-year terms in the 2014-2015 period were 64 or older. Only 6 percent were 18 to 30 years old, according to Neighborhood Commission data.

Boards have a minimum of nine members and a maximum of 19. The number is determined by a district’s population and geography.

As the current terms come to a close, some have as few as six members while others have all 19. As the first board ever created, Mililani/Waipiu/Melemanu board has an exception that allows it to have 23 members.

Hamamoto links low participation on neighborhood boards with Hawaii’s record low voter turnout. He and his staff of 13 people have made it their mission to reach out to the nearly 1 million people who live on Oahu.

They’ve visited more than 1,000 establishments islandwide to inform people about the boards, including doctors offices, golf courses, service clubs and cultural festivals.

“We’re boots on the ground,” Hamamoto said.

Elections begin Friday. They are conducted online and are open to all registered voters on Oahu. Mail-in ballots are also available, but require voters to call the ballot request hotline at 768-3763, with more directions at the city’s website.

Political Launching Pad
Sen. Karl Rhoads spent 10 years on the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board before becoming a state representative. He’s now a state senator.

“It was neat to see him work his way up through the ranks,” said Hamamoto, a former member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board.

Dos Santos-Tam has similar sentiments about Rep. Takashi Ohno and Rep. Kaniela Ing, now a Maui leggislator, both of whom served alongside him on the Liliha Neighborhood Board.

Rhoads, Sen. Laura Theilen, Rep. Tom Brower, and City Councilman Brandon Elefante are among the elected officials who started their political careers on a neighborhood board.

Mayor Caldwell served on both the Kaimuki and Manoa neighborhood boards.

Marcus Paaluhi, now the chair of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, ran for the state House last year but lost to Rep. Cedric Gates, who also once served as the chair of the board.

“It’s a good way to get your feet wet,” Paaluhi said.

Record Votes for Neighborhood Boards

By Rui Kaneya on 14 May 2015 for Civil Beat

Image above: Map of Oahu Neighborhood Boards. From original article.

A record number of Oahu residents have cast their vote for the 2015 Neighborhood Board election, according to the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Office.

With a day still left before the ballot closes, nearly 18,500 people have already voted in the all-online election, surpassing the previous record set during the last election in 2013 by nearly 20 percent.

This year, 598 candidates are vying for 437 seats in the biennial, all-online election, which received an innovation award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for cutting costs by switching to a digital format.

Any Oahu residents who were registered to vote in the 2014 elections or newly signed up with the Neighborhood Commission can still cast their votes until 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards serve as advisory councils that help decide what happens in their community in terms of development, business and neighborhood laws at all levels of government.


Forgo Wells Fargo

SUBHEAD: Wells Fargo board of directors face wrath for complicity in bank's corruption.

By Lauren McCauley on 25 April 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: "Around the country, people are saying that we've had enough of Wells Fargo really doing everything it can to extract as much value out of our communities as possible, and we're fighting back," Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project who also is working on the Forgo Wells campaign. From (

The board of directors of Wells Fargo Bank was dealt low-confidence vote, and met with fierce protests in and outside of annual shareholder meeting.

Met by fierce protests both inside and out the annual shareholder meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on Tuesday, members of the Wells Fargo board of directors refused to step down despite expressions of outrage and no confidence for their handling of a massive consumer banking scam.

The meeting marked the first for shareholders since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last September exposed the bank for opening millions of unauthorized accounts, which saddled many customers with fees and blemishes on their credit score, all in the name of meeting unrealistic sales quotas.

The massive scandal and fallout led to the resignation of former CEO John Stumpf and Tuesday's meeting was expected to be the moment that the directors would be held to account.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) issued a series of tweets during the three-hour long meeting, advising those voting to demand accountability:
Either @WellsFargo’s board failed to fully investigate the fraud for years or they knew about it and did nothing – either is unacceptable.
Shareholders should vote out every member of the @WellsFargo’s board who was around during this scam. This is about accountability.
Inside the meeting, multiple shareholders stood up to express anger at the directors.

The New York Post reports:
During the first minutes of the meeting, shareholder Bruce Marks of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America spurred mayhem as he demanded that board members to stand up and tell investors what they knew and when they knew it about the scandal [...]

"Let them speak! Let them speak! Or are they just mouthpieces for the executives who allowed these predatory practices to occur?" Marks said.  [Chairman Stephen] Sanger tried to get Marks to sit down and wait until a specific Q&A session, telling him he was "out of order." [...]
"Wells Fargo has been out of order for years, and your response is, 'Well, we're sorry,'" Marks yelled. "Well, that's not good enough!"
Sister Nora Nash, director of corporate responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, also denounced the board, saying they "failed to set the tone and the culture" that it should have, according to NBC News.

At one point, shareholders introduced a motion to break up the banking giant. Rachel Curley, democracy associate with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said of the request:
"One of the key arguments for reducing the size of Wells Fargo... is that the bank is too big to manage. The massive cross-selling fraud attests to this problem."
Another proposal which recommended the bank drop its funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was also tabled. "You can drink water. You can't drink oil," Robert Taken Alive, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, said during the meeting. "We're looking for action. We're not looking for policy or paper."

Outside the meeting, campaigners held a day of action to draw attention to the "corrupt and unethical business practices" of the bank—from an overnight anti-pipeline protest at a New York City location to a flyover banner above the Florida meeting, which drew attention to Wells Fargo executive Jeff Grubb's support for an anti-LGBT extremist group. Others took to Twitter to express their outrage with the banking giant, using the hashtag #ForgoWells.

"Around the country, people are saying that we've had enough of Wells Fargo really doing everything it can to extract as much value out of our communities as possible, and we're fighting back," Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project who also is working on the Forgo Wells campaign, told CounterSpin recently, explaining that the campaign "is really about getting cities, states, counties, school districts across the country to stop doing business with Wells Fargo."

In addition to the day of action, Forgo Wells is circulating a petition that, Bhatti explained, "calls on the bank to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline, to stop investing in private prisons and immigration detention centers, to stop funding the payday lending industry, to stop its tremendous lobbying that it's doing to try to influence our politics, to stop its predatory foreclosure practices, and a number of other demands that we raise."

Ultimately, "all but three of the directors received less than 81 percent of the shares cast, with risk committee chairman Enrique Hernandez Jr. receiving the lowest tally, 53 percent," reported Deon Roberts and Rick Rothacker with the Charlotte Observer's "Bank Watch," who described the vote as "a strong rebuke."

"It's extremely rare for corporate directors to be voted out or even to have a poor showing in annual shareholder votes," they noted. "Running unopposed, they typically receive voting percentages in the high 90s." Chairman Sanger only received 56 percent. The three directors who fared well were all hired in the wake of the scandal.

The embattled board seemed to hold on with the help of Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns about 10 percent of shares.


Permaculture in Hawaii

SUBHEAD: Permaculture works to keep the birds, insects, soil and surrounding nature content and ourselves fed.

By Juan Wilson on 26 April 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: We at IslandBreath have attempted to do permaculture. Photo from our backyard efforts at that we have named "Akea Aina".  Photo by Juan Wilson.

Akea Aina consists of about 1.5 acres of land - a third of it is our property, a third rented from the Robinson family and another third is on Hawaiian public land.

The photo above show haole koa ("false" koa) trees in foreground. They are early adopters in yards on Hanapepe Valley but few people have let haole koa grow so large as they are usually considered weed trees.

Haole koa are hard and heavy wood good for fires and they are good nitrogen fixers. They provide light shade that sun-delicate plants can grow under. Beneath them are a row of cacao trees with fruit.

To the left and right of this photo are breadfruit trees and cassava. Beyond what you can see are beehives.

In the background, from the left is a starfruit tree, coconut, mango, papaya, avocado and more. That's only a small sample of what can be grown on a small farm.

Below is a brief video survey of permaculture efforts in Hawaii on various islands. By "permaculture" we mean intentional living arrangements on land that produces food and fertile land as a foundation of healthy local flora and fauna. This way of life means living "in nature".

That implies sustainable self sufficiency in food, soil, water and energy.      

Mokupuni o Hawaii
Introduction to the permaculture training programs offered at the  La'akea community on the Big Island, with teacher Tracy Matfin. Get a look at La'akea uses permaculture principles.

Video above: Permaculture Education Programs - La'akea, Hawaii in 2011. From (

Mokupuni o Maui
Fruition Permaculture Design as he gives us a tour of Laulima Farm in lush Kipahulu, Maui, Hawaii. Jesse Krebs discusses the key permaculture design features of this beautiful tropical farm.

Video above: Fruit-based Veganic Permaculture on Maui in 2013. From (

Mokupuni o Molokai
SustAINAble Molokai and Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute of America and of PRI Australia. We now have strategies to heal the land by slowing the course of water.

Video above: Heal the land, Harvest water, Grow food security on Molokai in 2013. From (

Mokupuni o Oahu
Growing your own food and being self sufficient is one of the best ways to give power back to the people and live in harmony with nature.

Video above: Permaculture with Paul Izak in Hawaii on Oahu in 2012. From (

Mokupuni o Kauai
Paul Massey, the Director Regeneration Botanical Gardens gives a concise definition of what Kauai Food Forest is all about.

Video above: Permaculture in Kauai Part 2 in 2013. From (

There is no doubt in our minds that these methods of "farming" are the way to go here in Hawaii. It works to keep the birds, insects, soil and surrounding nature content and ourselves fed.


Executive Order pushes pesticides

SUBHEAD: We can’t allow the protections we depend on for clean water, clean air, and safe food to be gutted.

By Staff on 26 April 2017 for Center for Food Safety -

Image above: Photo detail of can of Dow Chemical's chlorpyrifos pesticide distributed by David Gray Co. with warning: "This product is too hazardous for use by householders. Householders must not use this product in or around the home." From (
The hits to our food, farms, and environment just keep coming.
Just hours ago, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, this time specifically on agriculture, directing the Secretary of Agriculture to undertake a 180-day review to “identify and eliminate" what Trump says are "unnecessary regulations”.1

The Presidential Order also creates a new task force to recommend eliminating food and agriculture legislation, policies, and regulations that might hinder the profit-making of “agribusiness.”

What kind of regulations are they looking at? Well, the details are slim, but what is there doesn’t look good. We know that regulations regarding the oversight, production, and export of genetically engineered crops are high on the list.2

The Executive Order also seems to push for faster and/or easier approvals for pesticides and biotech crops, pushing biotech crops abroad to ease export market access, easing the privatization of scarce public water resources for corporate gain, and opening public lands up to mining, farming, ranching and other activities that don’t belong on our public lands.3

We know that Agribusiness has Trump’s ear. He picked Sonny Perdue, one of Big Ag’s own, for his USDA Secretary.

And this week, the Associated Press dropped a bombshell:
Dow Chemical gave $1,000,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund, and the chemical giant is now urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside its findings on chlorpyrifos and three other pesticides that federal scientists from several agencies found were harmful to endangered species and human health.4
Trump’s EPA also just green-lighted Dow’s new “Enlist Duo” genetically engineered crops, resistant to 2,4-D, part of the Vietnam Era Agent Orange pesticide.

In January, then President-elect Trump sat down chemical giant Bayer’s CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant at Trump Tower and had a “productive meeting” on “the future of the agriculture industry” and the pending merger between the two companies.

Combined, President Trump, EPA Administrator Pruitt, and newly confirmed USDA Secretary Perdue have received millions of dollars from Big Ag and chemical companies.

We can’t allow the protections we depend on for clean water, clean air, and safe food to be gutted by the new administration and the corporations which have purchased great influence over the President and his policies.

Trump needs to hear from you – add your name  to petition