Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Introduction

This blog is a long time coming and I'm a bit overwhelmed with feeling the need to catch readers up in very short order. But begin, I must, so I'll jump right in in the middle. I've gained some unique perspectives and platforms in my last ten years of freedom fighting owing to my readiness - indeed eagerness - to cross America's divides and build alliances where most people would assume only enemies exist.

Thus it was that a young dreadlocked liberal worked for four years at a libertarian / free market think tank Cascade Policy Institute - achieving the position of director of publications. During this time I attended multiple training workshops within the free market movement. I didn't set out to be a mole, but even some colleagues recognized and joked about that possibility. As I learned more about the well-intentioned libertarians and their well-funded socially conservative (non libertarian) allies, I began warning of this libertarian-conservative relationship as an "unholy marriage forged in hell."

Indeed, when 9/11 happened and Americans needed defenders of civil liberties, these libertarians, who'd come to rely on training, funding and even policy solutions from conservatives, dropped the ball. I stuck with them for another year until it was clear they wouldn't budge even after the Twin Towers' dust had long since settled - they refused to launch a civil liberties project. Meanwhile the heightened state of alert in the city, coupled with the total absence of any meaningful preparations for survival in the event of a catastrophe, made it unsafe for me to stay there any longer.

To protect my family, prepare for the future, and build more effective alliances, I had to move to rural America. Thus it was that in late 2002 a dreadlocked, tattooed and self-professed anarchist found a home in one of the most remote places in America -- the conservative Wallowa Valley surrounded by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. My husband had family ties to the area, and family property here, which helped immensely. Still, we were outsiders and strange ones at that.

We spent nearly a year living in a one-room off-grid cabin, trying our hands at self-sufficiency skills like power and fuel production, conducting independent research (like reading John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education), and generally decompressing from the city. It was here that we started Freedom Solutions NW - the world's only anarchist think tank (that I know of). Now before anyone freaks out, anarchist simply means "without a ruler." Though the term has been redefined to describe those who only seek destruction, in truth it applies to the thousands of people who believe that families, churches, businesses, and other natural associations provide better social glue than the centralized power of government. Indeed, those healthy relationships atrophy when government is relied upon, while corruption is allowed to flourish under the protection of the government itself. By now, owing to decades of government schooling, specialized rights and liability protections for corporate supercitizens under the corporate personhood doctrine, and criminal monetary policy from the private Federal Reserve, our economy and political structure are crumbling. We'd like to build alternative healthy systems before the whole thing comes crashing down on us, so that we might see the bulk of society move toward mutual aid rather than devouring each other like rats in cages.

Our aim for Freedom Solutions was (and is) to develop non-political solutions to advance freedom, on the idea that the political system is too slow, corrupt and divisive to promote true freedom anymore. Among other things, we began teaching people small-scale fuel production skills; we amassed a lending library of freedom themed books, movies, and how-to manuals; and we began to develop a plan for a network of similar independently run freedom themed resource centers around the country and world.

I quickly learned the limits of nonprofit funding, however -- that nonprofits will always tend to serve the government and elite interests because they are funded as a tax offset for those with high taxable burdens. The folks who really appreciated and needed our help didn't have a great deal of money to donate, and we didn't want to ask that of them. Thus, we ultimately abandoned our pending 501(c)(3) status and continued Freedom Solutions unabated.

True freedom fighting isn't a lucrative endeavor, I'm afraid. With my parent's help in getting a bank loan, we bought a house on the main street of the tiny town of Lostine in March 2004, just after our first son Wolfgang was born (a successful out-of-hospital birth, thank you). I took a job working some shifts at the town's 100-year old general store, M. Crow and Company, where I enjoyed (and still do enjoy) Saturday morning coffee with some of the town elders as well as the chance to chat up dozens of Wallowa County locals each shift. We also tried to make ends meet through my strategically selected research and writing projects. In 2004 I conducted a series of case studies of highly effective private sector social service organizations for the American Institute for Full Employment (see That Fall I began writing a column on the small acreage page of the West's Ag weekly Capital Press. That column evolved into My Free Country, now a highly popular piece among freedom loving farm folk throughout the Western states and beyond (see I also became the general news reporter and opinion columnist for my local paper, the Wallowa County Chieftain.

In 2005, I left the Chieftain to return to work long-distance as director of publications for the think tank Cascade Policy Institute, on the hope that a leadership change there might open the possibility for a more balanced approach to advancing freedom, prioritizing civil liberties for example. Instead, I found that the Institute had grown more conservative in my absence. There was no hope for a civil liberties project and what's more, they were working toward a defense of predatory -- I mean, payday -- lenders. After a year of struggle, my contract was up and we parted ways again, with one last salvo from me - they published my report, Farm and Freedom Friendly Policies for Oregon, in which I advocated for a regulatory exemption on the local sale of farm products and an end to hemp prohibition among other things. See

Today, our son Wolfgang (4) is joined by daughters Anastasia (2) and Liberty (9 months) - all successful homebirths, thank you. I'm again writing for the Chieftain, as a stringer now. I've syndicated My Free Country to reach a broader audience. And I am developing a food security implementation plan for our region. Though the five year plan is understandably the standard, this is a one growing season plan due to the fact that we may not have the luxury of more time and it's best not to push our luck.

It's now time for me to shift my day's efforts toward homeschooling the little ones. In the coming posts I'll go into many of the above topics in more detail. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

MFC - Control of food, life an ominous proposition

The following My Free Country column appeared in the Wallowa County Chieftain on Feb. 7, 2008 and Capital Press ran an edited version (minus most of the last four paragraphs) on Feb. 22, 2008.

"Control oil and you control nations, control food and you control the people," Henry Kissinger famously said in 1970. It may be hard to fathom such such evil intentions lurking in the wealthy and political classes, but modern laws tell the story.

Let's look at the new seed laws imposed on Iraq to see what the future may hold for us all. The former Coalition Provisional Authority's American administrator L. Paul Bremer III enacted 100 laws to restructure Iraq's economy in accordance with new global standards. Order 81 of Bremer's Laws describes the new paradigm for seeds.

To put it in layman's terms, in order to sell seeds in Iraq, the seeds must be registered. In order to get registered, the seeds must be "new, distinct, uniform and stable." Traditional varieties can't meet this standard, so even if they aren't lost from years of war and upheaval, the traditional varieties are excluded from the market and unable to freely circulate.

Seed sales have thus become the exclusive domain of foreign agribusiness corporations. It is illegal for Iraqi farmers to save the seeds harvested from the "new" registered varieties, so each year, Iraqi farmers will have to buy new seeds, typically genetically modified varieties because that's what the corporations are offering.

Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization determined that the vast majority (97 percent) of Iraqi farmers used seeds harvested from previous years' crops.

Let's look even farther back. Way, way back. Does anyone recall learning in school about the "cradle of civilization" between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers? Who developed the seed stock that modern corporations modify and call their own? Shouldn't the new seed giants pay royalties to the legions of farmers who came before them?

Well, perhaps God -- or Mother Nature -- will demand their due.

As corporations develop so-called "terminator" technology (seeds that are genetically designed to be sterile) mankind is hurtling toward uncharted territory. Will the new self-styled gods have compassion when the poor people of the world can't pay for new seed stock? Or will we see the kind of control Kissinger had in mind?

Control of the world's food supplies doesn't end with plants, either. Corporations are working to genetically map and engineer animal life in order to claim ownership on that front as well. Imagine a world where plants and animals can no longer reproduce naturally and new stock must be purchased year after year. This is truely dangerous territory. After all, humans are animals, too.

The corporations in question will swear on their very "lives" that genetic engineering is safe, I have no doubt. You may read their promises in these pages after I've said my piece. But until corporations are subject to the same liability that individual people face for their actions, those promises can be taken with a grain of salt as far as I'm concerned.

The doctrine of corporate personhood -- the legal fiction that corporations are people and subject to the same protections of life and liberty that human persons enjoy under the law -- is a uniquely American contribution to humanity. When a group of people form a corporation they are no longer individually responsible for their actions. But as the saying goes, a corporation has no soul to save and no body to incarcerate.

In our lifetimes we have seen corporations perpetrate abuses that would have you or I hung for crimes against humanity. The fines that are levied as punishments hold no sway over multi-billion dollar behemoths. If it's cheaper to risk the fine, then the quest for profits continues. Not all corporations are guilty of this, to be sure. But it only takes a few "bad apples" -- with massive budgets, near-monopoly priveleges and extraordinary liability protections -- to bring us all to our knees.

Air and water pollution are no longer the limits of our concerns. How can we bill a corporation for irrevokable genetic pollution? Answer me that.

Angela Black writes on freedom and farming issues from her home in Lostine, Ore.

Friday, February 1, 2008

MFC - The Mark of the Beast: Say 'no' to NAIS

The following My Free Country column appeared in the Wallowa County Chieftain on Feb. 1, 2008. An earlier version of this column ran in Capital Press in Sept. of 2006.

Over my dead body. That's when many small farmers say the government will be able to fully implement its National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The United States Department of Agriculuture began implementing NAIS in 2004, with the intent of making the program mandatory by 2009 after a voluntary phase-in process. But when independent farmers learned of the plan, a vocal opposition developed. In response, the USDA stopped talking about making the system mandatory, but don't be fooled: those plans remain.
According to the USDA's April 2006 "Strategies for Implementation" document, if 100 percent voluntary participation is not achieved by 2009, the USDA intends to create regulations to make NAIS mandatory. Now there's a measure of freedom today: voluntary compliance or else.

Despite widespread opposition, the USDA has claimed broad producer support for the program, describing it as a "federal-state-industry cooperative effort." The term "industry" is employed throughout NAIS documents as if it represents a monolithic entity rather than a diverse group of business people in competition with one another.

In fact, NAIS was developed by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, a consortium of meat packers, large agribusiness associations and the manufacturers of electronic surveillance, and it is designed to serve their interests alone. A provision in the law even provides a loophole for large producers to use a "Group ID" to identify a given herd instead of tracking individual animals.

NAIS is geared toward containment in the event of a disease outbreak by allowing government officials to identify all animals and premises that may have had contact with a disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery. It is specifically meant to conform to international standards so that United States corporations can continue to compete in export markets.

But small-scale producers do not generally participate in export markets. Moreover, many small producers do not have a problem tracing the origins or destinations of their animals; indeed, that is one of their selling points.

Instead of questioning the anonymous factory farming system -- which many people charge is the source of these livestock and poultry diseases -- NAIS would give a final stamp of approval on anonymous food. Consumers would still have no idea where their meat came from under NAIS.

Worse, many of the small farmers that can provide farm of origin information say they'd have to depart the marketplace due to the costs associated with tracking their animals, the regulatory headache involved, and the need to protect themselves from warrantless searches, seizures and forced "depopulation" of their beloved animals - members of their family.

Many farmers plan to refuse to comply with NAIS. They worry their states have already turned their private information over to the feds, and that farms are being registered through the intense marketing of NAIS to naive young people through 4-H and similar programs.
If push comes to shove, no doubt some people will attempt to hide their animals from Big Brother. Imagine, then, how veterinary relationships would be undermined, and the resulting health consequences.

Some farmers anticipate that NAIS ultimately would require them to obtain government permission and pay a fee for the very right to farm. Such fundamental assaults on freedom should be of utmost concern not only to farmers and consumers, but to all of humanity. Indeed, many people worry that an animal tracking system is a trial run for a mandatory human tracking system.

It's no surprise that there's lots of saber-rattling and tough talk coming from our independent farmers. "Don't let it happen in America: USDA agents in protective gear could be staging dawn raids on small farms to confiscate your horse, cow, ducks, sheep, trout or chickens! Say no to NAIS," says one poster from the Small Farmer's Journal that's been popping up in feed stores around the country.

Dozens of anti-NAIS websites now exist, including,,,, and I encourage you to check them out.

Syndicated columnist Angela Black writes on freedom and farming issues from her home in Lostine, Ore.