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Being a Republican's Just No Damn Fun

GOP hopefuls attack each other
for opposing waterboarding, supporting gays,
& letting immigrant children attend school.

Bush's Australian ally gets booted out of office
& his Pakistani pal gives up his military post,
leaving W with as few friends globally
as he has right here at home.

Trent Lott resigns to become a lobbyist
...because it's better than being a GOP Senator.

And Bush had to welcome Gore to the White House.

Being a Republican's just no damn fun.

Well, living in fear, hating Hollywood
& having no gay or black friends
...it just doesn't sound very fun.

...which makes it a very fun time
to share your views & a little booze
at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.

FUNCTIONAL FOODS IN VEGAS

Guest Blogger: Steve Ettlinger

(Kat: Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkie, Deconstructed, is the guy to go to when it comes to demystifying all those industrial-strength ingredients in our processed foods. Steve recently attended a “functional foods” trade show in Vegas which took the notion of “nutritionism,” as Michael Pollan derisively labelled it, to the nth degree. We have to wonder, though: did all those açai-enhanced smoothies Steve consumed fuel this incisive post decrying the evolution of foodstuffs into “alternative delivery vehicles” for nutrients?)

I was hoping that by the end of my day at the recent Supply Side West ingredient trade show I’d be perfect.

Not that I didn’t already have a goodly amount of self-esteem, but within minutes of my arrival on the convention center floor in Las Vegas, I had been offered food to improve my cognition, blood pressure, circulation, macular health, joint condition, gut health, immune system, skin condition, heart health, energy, weight, strength, and for I know, returns on my stock investments.

I ate açai, goji, mangosteen, noni, pomegranate, cha de bugre, sea buckthorn, bilberry, and camu camu, which is the fruit with the highest vitamin C content of any fruit in the world. Some of these were in the form of enriched water, some were in chocolate chip cookies, some in chocolate candy, and some were in gummy candy (honest!).

All were being offered as concentrates, extracts, or just plain powders so that visitors might get an idea for the Next Big Thing and make a nutrition bar that Saves The World and helps us lose weight.

Probiotics were practically leaping out at me as I passed, which is pretty good for microorganisms. I absorbed more anti-oxidants than a bear running amuck in a blueberry patch. I tasted omega-3 fatty acids in the guise of orange juice, not fish oil. I had tea loaded with soluble fiber and soy isoflavones. I had chai loaded with plant sterols, soy protein isolate, and potassium citrate—plus sufficient minerals and vitamins to run three marathons. I had a berry-flavored smoothie “with enhanced levels of protein and omega-3 (ALA) and omega-6 fatty acids” from guarana seed extract and ginseng, among other sources (oh yes, and some berry flavor and soymilk).

This all made me feel particularly efficient at eating, which is not my usual take on that activity. I’m more of a traditional taste-and-appearance guy. I eat for pleasure—six years in Paris and 30 in New York City, along with constant reading on the subject, have shaped my taste from that perspective--but it is pleasure guided by the knowledge that eating right keeps me healthy. That means, for example, that I choose really gorgeous and tasty cashews for my snacks as opposed to, say, a handful of Ritz Crackers.

The exhibitors were well-meaning, but because they were representatives of the 1,000 or so corporate entities seeking to supply the functional food and beverage industry, I had to acknowledge their spirit would last only as long as the market for these things is strong. And it appears to be so, but wait ‘til next year. Who knows?

The thing now is that the traditional food companies are offering products that are an awful lot like supplements, and they see the food as merely a carrier for the supplement. How degrading! Food products are “alternative delivery vehicles” a tech guy for Danisco, a major supplier of probiotics, said, meaning they are improvements upon capsules and tablets. Say what? That would mean that when you eat your spinach because you want iron, you’re confirming that Popeye found it was a great delivery vehicle.

Anyway, after my ninth açai berry elixir, tired of consuming mere delivery vehicles, I had to go eat a major, potent, Italian meal at Mario Batali’s new place, B&B, with lots of Italian wine, cheese (parmigiano Reggiano Sformato with Matsutake Mushrooms), pasta (homemade orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini), followed by chocolate cake with espresso zabaglione and Guiness-stout flavored chocolate sorbetto. Some wild vehicles! Now THAT made me feel better.

What We're Thankful For

Drinking Liberally is thankful for the dynamic network of volunteer hosts around the country who have led chapters, built communities and turned this into a national phenomenon.

So it tickles us to know that they are thankful for DL as well. As John from Addison, Texas, wrote on The Texas Blue:

Being a chapter leader expanded my friend base, as well as political connections. It is also what drew me into the Denton County Democratic Party. Since then I have lead party committees, attended trainings, lead trainings, and even run for political office. If not for Drinking Liberally, and drinking... liberally... I may not have done these things. I may have still been sitting here stewing in my hate of all things George W. Bush and not having an effective outlet. Groups like Drinking Liberally provide an outlet for grassroots change.

Check out the rest of his post...and find something you will be thankful for at a chapter near you.

HOW DOES AN HERBIVORE GRAZE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL?

The road to the White House is a nutritionist’s nightmare; between the greasy spoon meet ‘n’ greets, beyond-the-beltway barbeques, and deep-fried fundraisers, the candidates are hard pressed not to pack on the pounds as they press the flesh.

“Candidates are expected to eat local specialties often and with gusto,” the New York Times noted, “yet still look attractive and fit.”

No wonder Dennis Kucinich became a vegan. It gives him a great excuse to just say no to all those po’boys and ribs and butter cream-frosted cupcakes. At Grist’s presidential forum on climate change last week, Kucinich emphasized that he chose to be vegan because it’s “compassionate and mindful and respectful of the environment.”

This statement had “thousands (or at least a dozen extremely vocal) Grist readers swooning,” as Grist’s David Roberts noted in a recap of the forum.

But does the heartland “heart” Kucinich’s off-the-eaten-path diet? I mean, the poor guy wasn’t even invited to Tom Harkin’s famous Iowa steak fry, which, for the record, did, in fact, offer veggie burgers along with the hot dogs and steaks.

A farmer I chatted with at the steak fry was furious about Kucinich being excluded, but it’s a recurring theme for America’s sole vegan candidate; the Times article doesn’t even bother to mention Kucinich, despite the fact that he surely faces the greatest dietary challenges of any presidential candidate. I’d love to know what Kucinich eats when he’s on the campaign trail, but the Times didn’t bother to ask. I guess even in the blue states, the red meat eaters get all the press.

Happy Buy Nothing Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

USDA APPOINTS “MINDLESS EATING” AUTHOR TO HELP US MIND OUR EATING

Wow, this is just so unexpected that I hardly know what to think. As Marion Nestle wrote on her blog today, “Every now and then something incredible happens and here it is. Brian Wansink, Cornell Professor and author of Mindless Eating, has been appointed executive director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.”

After years of watching the cavalcade of cronies this administration has appointed to every conceivable position, I find myself experiencing the utterly foreign impulse to enthusiastically applaud a federal appointment.

Wansink’s the guy who did the “stale popcorn study,” which demonstrated that people will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them, and as much of it as you give them, regardless of how it tastes. He’s an internationally acclaimed professor with decades of experience studying food psychology, marketing and consumer behavior. His most recent book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, was dubbed “The Freakonomics of Food.”

If anyone can help us get a handle on our love handles, it’s Wansink. His duties will include overseeing the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the food pyramid, that unintelligible hieroglyph that’s supposed to help us make better choices.

Will Wansink be able to overhaul our dietary guidelines over the inevitable kvetching from the food industry lobbyists? Pull up a chair and pass the popcorn; this could get interesting.

THE MAIZE MAZE

So it looks like the farm bill’s pretty much dead, a flattened carcass of Beltway roadkill covered in tractor tracks, waiting to be scraped up and sent to the landfill (too full of inorganic matter and toxins to be compostable.)

Who killed it? You might be inclined to blame partisan wrangling, but, in fact, the farm bill is one area of legislation where regional alliances routinely trump party allegiance. So we can thank “the age-old coalition of Democrats and Republicans that has preserved Depression-era farm subsidies for most of the past century,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which cites the mutually beneficial “formula of buying off urban interests with food stamps and environmental money in return for keeping crop subsidies.”

Most Americans don’t given the farm bill a single thought, and those who do tend to assume that all those subsidies to corn and soy farmers constitute some sort of commodity crop/corporate welfare system that’s largely to blame for our dysfunctional food chain.

But is that really what’s ailing American agriculture? Tom Philpott, who tills the soil at Maverick Farms when he’s not toiling for Grist, posted a suitably contrarian take on the whole farm bill debate earlier this month, “It’s the Agronomy, Stupid,” in which he makes the case that the subsidies are only a symptom, not a cause, of the insane overproduction that drowns us in high fructose corn syrup, cheap livestock feed, ethanol, and all that other corn-based crap we think we need.

Oddly enough, as Philpott points out, Agribiz giants like ADM and Cargill seem willing to relinquish the commodity crop subsidies because they’re holding up all kinds of international trade agreements. President Bush, too, favors severely curtailing the subsidies; it’s a win-win position for him—makes him look fiscally responsible while catering to his corporate cronies’ desire to hasten globalization.

So who still supports the subsidies? According to Philpott, “The voice for preserving subsidies has come from large-scale farmers themselves, mostly through the American Farm Bureau Federation.”

Iowa alone gets some $500 million in fixed payments to farmers annually, so you can see how politicians who hope to get reelected in the heartland might be reluctant to withdraw—or even redirect—such a big chunk of change.

So what does the Senate’s failure to pass the farm bill mean for the average consumer? According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it “blocks an increase in spending on a vast array of popular programs to improve the American diet, make farming practices more environmentally sustainable, and provide California fruit and vegetable growers a place in federal policy.”

With all due respect to the creators of “King Corn,” I think “King” is too kind. Try “Tyrant Corn.”

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying: (Not So) Funny Business

by Justin Krebs

Instead of a joke or a video today, Laughing Liberally wants to share a true story that's a little sad at first and then a little happy.

Comedians are always looking for breaks.  Part of why Laughing Liberally formed was to give comedians a forum for smart, political humor that was often frowned upon in comedy clubs.  So, you'd think we'd be overjoyed by this invitation from ABC News

ABC News Research Team has discovered your website and we wanted to extend this exciting opportunity to you.

...

Send us your VIDEO joke because we're going to take the best submissions and air them on Sunday, November 18th as part of This Week's 'Funnies'.

A chance for national exposure...so why aren't our comedians laughing with joy?  Because of the part of the message from ABC I left out:

The Writers strike has forced most of the late night comedy shows into re-runs. But that doesn't mean the political humor has to stop- You be the comedian!

We at This Week are looking for YOU to help fill the void!

"The void" = "The workforce." In short, they wanted us to become scabs.

I was indecisive:  We're not in the business of strike-breaking.  But I also wanted all of the hard-working comedians who rarely get the shot they deserve to make their own decision, and so we forward the message to them.

And the comedians of Laughing Liberally refused.  Baratunde Thurston sent back the guild rules he chose to respect.  Lee Camp sarcastically suggested it was a great opportunity for someone who didn't want a career in writing.  And as Katie Halper commented:

Isn't this clearly scabbing? Am not being sarastic here, but is there anything I don't know about the strike that would make this anything but scabbing? Of course i love publicity, but we are laughing liberally, not scabbily.

The writers' strike is an important fight, as Jane Hamsher and Matt Stoller have both noted.  We on the Left need to pay attention to it:  to talk about the excesses of corporatocracy, about the rules and roles of new media...and about the respect you give professionals who strike.

You don't cross the picket line.

As Living Liberally's Josh Bolotsky noted:  "Laughing Conservatively wouldn't face this kind of moral dilemma."

PS:  ABC wrote to us from the email account: [email protected]  So we talked back.  I'm sure they'd love to hear from you too.

THE FARM BILL: UNTANGLE THE WEAVE? OR KNIT ANEW


Guest Blogger Annie Myers

(Kat: This past Monday, I had to choose between attending a talk by No Impact Man and a panel at NYU on the farm bill. I opted for NIM—more on that later—but happily for us, one of NYU’s Real Food movement movers and shakers, Annie Myers, attended the panel, titled “The Farm Bill 2007: Understanding the Political, Agricultural, and Nutritional Impact” with guests Marion Nestle, Dan Barber, and Christina Grace. Here’s Annie’s oh-so-astute take, cross-posted from her blog, Thoughts on the Table):

Michael Pollan must have come up eleven times in the two-hour event. With all due respect for the author to whom I might as well dedicate most of my writing, I can’t help but wonder who the next hero will be. We need a new one.

First up of the three guests on the Monday night panel, Marion Nestle lowered a magnifying glass on one, minute proposal of the Farm Bill, that of Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), regarding nutrition standards for school lunches. The rather dysfunctional proposal has brought on excitement and anger from all sides, including both emotions from the very people who had advocated for just such a bill. The “its-better-than-nothing”s endorse the proposal, the “its-too-easy-for-corporations”s say no, and Nestle herself supports the bill with extreme hesitation, and a roll of the eyes. Her reason for speaking about the proposal at all was that “no issue is too small” for the Farm Bill. Even this one little provision attracted pages of published controversy, and it’s one of a gazillion clauses included in a monster legislation. Over a thousand pages long, the Farm Bill is accessible to no one, and understood by not a single member of the House of Congress. Clearly, Nestle concluded, there’s something wrong with how this legislation works.

Nestle was hinting at a perspective I’ve found particularly lacking in the movement for agriculture guided by sustainable, worker-supportive, fair trade principles. We who are up for it sludge through the Farm Bill, and the best of us – whether we’re organizations, institutions, or just crazy individuals - come up with proposals that cut subsidies, end subsidies, fund specialty crop research, or at least somehow cut down on this CORN production, that we’ve all learned from Michael Pollan is a major reason for why we’re stingy, fat, and hated.

What we DON’T consider, is scrapping the Farm Bill altogether. It’s demonstrably ridiculous, in and of itself. To address 3 million square miles of land with 1 Farm Bill simply doesn’t make sense. Agriculture is regional, for one thing. Not only are the culture and politics different in Iowa than in New York, but the land is too, and the climate. A bill with provisions for avocados in California should not be legislating the cows in Maine. Nutrition and Hunger and Agriculture and Trade may be much like adults playing Twister - mischievously intermingled, entirely inseparable, and always (somewhere) hurting – but these forces of the economy need not share the same budget and bed.

Money to support agricultural research should not detract from Emergency Food Programs, and whomever pens provisions for popular exports should not simultaneously sign off on subsidies deemed illegal by the WTO. Not to mention that politicians hassled by agricultural lobbyists shouldn’t be forgiven for forgetting nutrition programs in the meantime! And New York City representatives who disregard something called a “Farm Bill” just because they’re city folk shouldn’t have to be told that the “ag” legislation is crucial to aid New York City’s nearly 1.3 million food insecure individuals. How can we blame politicians for siding with big industrial agribusiness, or settling for the status quo, when the alternative (of actually reading the Farm Bill, and figuring out what’s best for one’s state) is as daunting as Tolstoy! It’s much easier to let Monsanto, Archer Daniels, or Cargill explain the Farm Bill like a bedtime story.

Of course, the Farm Bill proposals of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oxfam, and the National Family Farm Coalition, for example, are innovative and progressive, and are certainly steps in the right direction. But we need to think bigger than a Farm Bill proposal. We need to take the twister-playing issues in the Farm Bill and get them interacting through a different game: synchronized swimming, perhaps, or a maypole dance.

In response to my concerns, Nestle said that election funding really has to change. As long as we have the Iowa Caucus, she said, no presidential candidate is gonna stick their neck out for truly progressive agricultural policy. Maybe she’s right. I’m not sure what we need. But we can at least take the new, trendy interest in the Farm Bill further than the “Buy this! Buy that! Vote with your dollar!” mantra, and foster some truly innovative, political thought. If people did it in the ‘30s, and the ‘70s, we can sure as hell do it now.

Recommended Links:
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC)
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
OXFAM
And for more coverage of the panel, visit the Wild Green Yonder.

Some Parties with Potential:
Nyeleni
Landless Workers Movement
Via Campesina

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