Next meeting:
December 11, 2005, at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, 5 p.m.

We're coming back to the co-op's community room—back where we started out. Attendance at the last several meetings has been running pretty stable at about a dozen, which is a good size for the co-op. (We had move to larger venues because over 30 people came to one of the early meetings... folks sitting on the floor, standing around the edges, and listening at the door because there just wasn't enough space. In one sense, yeah, that was really cool; but it didn't make for a very comfortable experience.) And so, we've come a circle.

There's nothing special planned as yet, so it will probably be a plain-vanilla meeting—most of which have been pretty great. Casual, learn-from-each-other affairs.

See you on Sunday, December 11, at the Brattleboro Food Co-op's community room (back by the copier, behind the wine and cheese).

We had November's meeting at McNeill's Brewery. When we reserved the meeting room at the bank, they told us to pick up the key on Friday... but somebody-or-other forgot to do that. Then we realized later that the bank had actually been closed on Friday for Veteran's Day, and she couldn't have got it anyway.

So we met at McNeill's—mmm, beer—a baker's dozen of us. It was a catch-all meeting with no particular agenda, sharing things we've learned in our individual goings-on. And I'll tell you what: there are some interesting and smart people in these parts with a variety of experiences. It was at times a little hard to hear each other over the music, but—beer—it was successful and fun. Beer.

There was mention made of a moisture-related failure of a strawbale project somewhere hereabouts (maybe in Massachusetts? New York?) currently being discussed by a bunch of strawbale big-brains on a small, lightly-trafficked, invitation-only email list populated by some of the movers, shakers, and thinkers in the strawbale movement. Here's the gory details... read and learn. (Like Marc Rosenbaum says, "Envelope, envelope, envelope." When tossing the word "breathable" around, don't confuse gross air leakage with high vapour permeability. Here's a good thing in that regard: Moisture Properties of Plaster and Stucco for Strawbale Buildings, which can speak appropriately to more than straw bales.)

In related goings-on, one of Marcia Bourne's sustainability groups (doesn't she have, like, half-a dozen of them?) will be having an informal screening of the powerful film Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh on November 21. Email Marcia at for details.

Had a phone call from Jonah Vitale-Wolff of Albany, NY ("Yes," he said, "a natural builder in Albany, NY") who recently returned from the natural building colloquium in Oregon. He's going to be giving a couple-day Earthen Plasters for Urban Renovation workshop in the spring:
Earthen Plasters for Urban Renovation
December 17-18, 2005

This is a BEGINNER LEVEL hands-on workshop. We will plaster the entrance hallway to a newly renovated brownstone in the historic Mansion Neighborhood of Albany, NY. You will leave this workshop feeling confident about mixing your own earthen plasters for a variety of projects and applications.

Learn to make your building materials from scratch with inexpensive or even free materials. Stop depending on the fossil fuel driven building industry. Earthen plasters are practical for nearly all plastering or sheetrock applications, while being completely non-toxic and fun.

During this workshop you will:
  � Make plaster from scratch with locally harvested clay
  � Apply plaster to sheetrock
  � Repair severely damaged horsehair plaster
  � Learn to add sculptural relief work to any plaster project
  � Use a variety of tools, from trowels to your hands

Jonah Vitale-Wolff is an Albany-based natural builder and carpenter. He has recently been experimenting with earthen plasters in urban renovations. Hudson Valley Natural Building (HVNB) offers educational workshops as well as contracting. Projects include earthen plasters and paints for a variety of surfaces, cob, living roofs, and adobe.

Space is limited to 6 people
Pre-registration required ($25 non-refundable)
$75-125 sliding scale (We will give you a full refund or reschedule the workshop if registration is low.)

Hudson Valley Natural Building
Jonah Vitale-Wolff (518) 434-8010 or

The second series of Chris Martenson's four-part presentation about money and the economy has wrapped up—but, fortunately for those who missed them, he'll be doing it again.
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 11:44:36 -0500
From: Chris Martenson
Subject: Next lecture series and a few updates

The next economic series is being planned in the Brattleboro area for January; probably the same set-up (a four part series)... location & time are still undecided. I will inform you of the particulars as soon as they are available, and will commit to at least a 3 week heads-up.

First, there's some information I need to share with you.

Last Friday, this low-key announcement was quietly placed on the Federal Reserve website: "On March 23, 2006, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate. The Board will also cease publishing the following components: large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements (RPs), and Eurodollars."

Holy smokes!!!

This means that the Federal Reserve has decided that whatever amount of monetary creation it shortly envisions, it would rather not report upon. This statistic has been reported for decades and is used by foreign central banks and economists for their own purposes and calculations. The fact that it will be dropped is being viewed with great concern across the pond. Over here, needless to say, it is relatively unreported.

Read more.

Next, take a close look at the following article... then read my comments at the end.

A 'Fiscal Hurricane' on the Horizon
Economists Say Unchecked Spending Will Trigger Recessions and Worse
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON (Nov. 15) — The comptroller general of the United States is explaining over eggs how the nation's finances are going to hell. "We face a demographic tsunami" that "will never recede," David Walker tells a group of reporters. He runs through a long list of fiscal challenges, led by the imminent retirement of the baby boomers, whose promised Medicare and Social Security benefits will swamp the federal budget in coming decades.

The breakfast conversation remains somber for most of an hour. Then one reporter smiles and asks, "Aren't you depressed in the morning?"

Sadly, it's no laughing matter. To hear Walker, the nation's top auditor, tell it, the United States can be likened to Rome before the fall of the empire. Its financial condition is "worse than advertised," he says. It has a "broken business model." It faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings—and its leadership.

Walker's not the only one saying it. As Congress and the White House struggle to trim up to $50 billion from the federal budget over five years—just 3% of the $1.6 trillion in deficits projected for that period—budget experts say the nation soon could face its worst fiscal crisis since at least 1983, when Social Security bordered on bankruptcy.

Without major spending cuts, tax increases or both, the national debt will grow more than $3 trillion through 2010, to $11.2 trillion—nearly $38,000 for every man, woman and child. The interest alone would cost $561 billion in 2010, the same as the Pentagon.

From the political left and right, budget watchdogs are warning of fiscal trouble:

� Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, dispassionately arms 535 members of Congress with his agency's stark projections. Barring action, he admits to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in coming decades. That's when an aging population, health care inflation and advanced medical technology will create a perfect storm of spiraling costs.

� Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, sees a future of unfunded promises, trade imbalances, too few workers and too many retirees. She envisions a stock market dive, lost assets and a lower standard of living.

� Kent Conrad, a Democratic senator from North Dakota, points to the nation's $7.9 trillion debt, rising by about $600 billion a year. That, he notes, is before the baby boom retires. "We're not preparing for what we all know is to come," he says. "We're all sleepwalking through this period."

� Stuart Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation projects a period from now until 2050 in which tax revenue stays stable as a share of the economy but Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending soars. To avoid big tax increases, he says the government has to "renegotiate" the social contracts it made with its citizens.

� Alice Rivlin and Isabel Sawhill of the centrist Brookings Institution put their pessimism into a book titled Restoring Fiscal Sanity. Rivlin, who became the first director of the Congressional Budget Office in 1974, says it will take an "economic scare" such as the 1987 stock market crash to spur action. Sawhill likens the growing gulf between what the government spends and takes in to a "Category 6 fiscal hurricane."

Read more.
Taken together, all the signs are indicating that this spring the Federal Reserve is anticipating some heavy-duty action that will require them to literally "print up a mountain." Should this happen, and the world revolts against this unwanted flood of US dollars, things could easily get, um, interesting.

The key to it all will be to watch the interest rates. They are the core of the US bubble 'reactor.'

All the best,
Chris & Becca

Somebody anonymous posted the preceding to iBrattleboro (be sure to read the interesting discussion following it, with some dissenting/doubting voices) as well, adding these thoughts:
It's looking like this gig is nearly up.

What can you do?! Plan ahead:

—Food & Water: Community gardens in Brattleboro and the area. On your own land if you have it?

—Think about how you will stay warm!

—If you have the resources... consider buying gold and putting it away safely. The dollar is going to devalue. Also, those plastic cards will likely simply stop working.

—Meet your neighbors. Nobody will survive in isolation, only communities stand a chance. Violence breeds violence, let's not go there.

—Change is normal in history; while scary, it results in better things on the other side. Let's ride the storm rather than let it ride us!
Chris is an engaging speaker who can translate the language of the financial world for us normal people, unraveling the mysteries of the monetary system. He's not selling anything. He doesn't claim to predict the future. He's not a wacko. He's really smart. And it's a lot more interesting than it might sound. For more details, email him at

Promo stuff:
If you are concerned about the direction of the economy, or simply want to know more about how our financial and economic systems actually function, you should attend this four part series.

"Did he say economics zzzzZZZzzzz...?"

Don't worry! This will be a brain twister, for sure—but not because it will be droll or boring.

Rather, you will find yourself stunned and asking "Holy cow, how can this be? How can the situation be this dicey without any sort of national discussion from either party?"

Dicey, he says?

Luckily, you don't have to take my word for it:

The economy of the United States is, in the words of former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker, "skating on increasingly thin ice." From a former fed chairman these are powerful words and, unfortunately, all too true.

Poorly taught in school, and even more poorly covered by a complacent US press, it is little wonder that a working understanding of our economy is hard to come by.

We will fix that.

WHAT: Four sequential (and additive—best if you can attend all of them) economic presentations and discussion sessions covering the following:
1. What is money? How is it 'created'? (This is much more profound than you might imagine.)

2. History and Consequences of US Monetary Policy (subtitle: "uh oh").

3. Recent data—consumer & government debt, energy (oil, refined products, & NatGas), housing, stocks, & bonds.

4. Scenarios and options—"what might happen, when, and what steps should be taken?"
WHO: Dr. Chris Martenson has an MBA from Cornell and PhD from Duke, worked in corporate finance for a fortune 50 company, invests extremely actively, and has led this economic lecture twice in the past receiving excellent feedback. Dr. Martenson follows a wide variety of financial markets on a daily and often minute-by-minute basis.

COST: Your time only.

Why is he doing it? Because it's important.


I just came across this website by typing," Brattleboro Holy Smokes" into "dogpile". Although I was looking for the fire starters that benefit Habitat for Humanity, I found something even better!!
My husband and I are residents of Halifax, Vermmont and would like to attend the January economics forum. Do we need to sign up?
Christine Brenner & Christopher Castelli

— Christine Brenner,
Dec 3, '05; 6:14 PM

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Feb 28, '06; 6:16 PM

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