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Bush Calls 'Em Out

Bush: Iran Must Explain Hidden Nuclear Weapons Program
(You read that headline right.)
Today is tuesday, so it's time for Bush's weekly list of impossible demands. They also included:

Namibia Must Explain Invisible Village-Terrorizing Dragons
Evil Must Disassemble Nonexistent Soul-Sucking Machine
Smurfs Must Explain Toxic Waste Producing Mythical Village
North Korea Must Stop Imaginary Tidal Wave
Fred Astaire's Clubbed Foot Must Postpone Ragnorok
Democrats Must Explain Strategy

This Earth Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us

We’re locked in an existential game of “chicken” with China, each nation daring the other not to take its foot off the gas pedal as we careen towards catastrophe. We don’t want to change the way we live, and the Chinese want to live the way we do, too.

Unfortunately, the limitations of our finite world make that a mathematical impossibility. As James Kunstler is fond of saying, (and I am equally fond of quoting,) America’s suburbs represent “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. America took all its postwar wealth and invested it in a living arrangement that has no future.''

Our love of living large has brought us to the brink of disaster, as Al Gore noted in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Norway yesterday. Borrowing a line from Winston Churchill, Gore compared the world’s leaders who downplay the urgency of global warming to those who ignored Hitler:

‘They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.’

But Gore’s not the only one who sees a parallel between the Holocaust and global warming. Climate scientist James Hansen caused a ruckus back in October with this bleak statement:

If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains -- no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species.

Dave Roberts of Grist wrote a brilliant post about whether Hansen’s Holocaust analogy is “appropriate,” asking the question, “Why do we judge the Holocaust unique in history?”

His conclusion:

What gives the Holocaust its unique place in history is its origin in the deliberate intent of a single person and the chilling industrial efficiency with which that intent was carried out.

What's notable about global warming is that you get the industrial efficiency and the horrific result without the intent. You have, in effect, a holocaust with no evil. Coal miners are trying to feed their families. Utilities are trying to keep the lights on. Industries are trying to profit. Governments are trying to gain power and provide for citizens. All us developed world drivers are trying to get to and from work. Nobody intends to create a horror, but cumulatively, that's exactly what we are doing.

America’s original suburb, Levittown, recently declared its intent to become the nation’s first “green” suburb, with a series of initiatives designed to encourage more energy efficient homes and habits in this Long Island enclave. Scott Carlin, an associate professor of geography at Long Island University, wrote approvingly of the plan in Newsday, but noted that “truly greening the suburbs will require a bigger shift in values and behaviors.”

But how can we convince our fellow Americans that conservation is a civic duty, and not a commie plot? An indignant Newsday reader from Hicksville (no comment) replied to Carlin’s op-ed as follows:

In "The greening of the suburbs" [Opinion, Dec. 3], Scott Carlin uses the word "green" or references to it almost a dozen times. But his vision of Long Island is the same old template of Red socialism.

Carlin's vision of Long Island consists of high-density, mixed-use communities with public transportation. Cars will be used sparingly and shared instead of being privately owned. He proposes higher prices for natural resources and higher taxes levied on gas and electricity. And, by some sort of alchemy, being packed in like a bunch of sardines and paying higher prices and taxes will improve our lives.

Far from being a utopia, Carlin's drab Long Island sounds like the former East Germany. Rather than promoting mental health, Carlin's overcrowded, Marxist-socialist community, devoid of private property, would only foster rootlessness and anomie.

In other words, better dead than red. Because, you know, the suburbs do such a stellar job of fostering connectedness and bonhomie. Al Gore said yesterday that our children will either be asking us 'What were you thinking; why didn't you act? Or they will ask instead: 'How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?'''

The answer to the first question: We were thinking, how can we ever get through to every dumbass in Hicksville? The answer to question number two: We had to forge ahead, despite all the dumbasses in Hicksville, because the fate of the earth was at stake.

I don’t know which question our kids will be asking, but I'm guessing that the answer isn’t to cling to a way of living that spells death for life as we know it.

Eating Liberally Food For Thought

The O'Brien Retort: Day of the Dead, & the Naked

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(kat: Iowa farminist & sustainable ag advocate Denise O'Brien, founder of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, recently attended a meeting in Mexico City with Central American women farmers. Upon arriving, her contingent encountered a group of Mexican protesters who'd lost their land to a corrupt politican. Denise provided us with the following account--and photo:)

We came together in Mexico City on the day before All Souls Day, Halloween in the United States. Arriving from El Salvador, Iowa, Honduras, Georgia, Grenada, New York, Wisconsin and Mexico. Farmers, rural and urban women, activists and organizers all gathering to discuss and analyze what impact globalization has had on our communities, on our lives. Travel for some was long and difficult - having to come from remote areas and having experienced being robbed of all money and material goods. Coming with a sense of urgency to discover how our lives connected and how we could attempt to overcome the challenges in our communities.

Chilo, a wonderful anthropologist and activist, oriented us to the culture of the Day of the Dead. She explained how Christianity and Indigenous beliefs intersected to create an honoring of those who have come before us. The traditional mood for this holiday is bright with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the dead. This is because they think of The Day of the Dead as the continuation of life. They believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new stage in life. These people are usually Christians of Native American descent whose ancestors introduced indigenous ideas of life after death. Many questions were asked and some found it difficult to understand how this pagan event could have anything to do with Christian beliefs.

As we explored Mexico City during the festivities our senses were tantalized with many sights, sounds and smells. A cadence of drums came from one end of the Zocalo. Our curiosity took us to observe the members of a group of protesters called the 400 Peoples. They were asking for economic aid from visitors to the Zocalo --México's largest municipal square-- during Dia de Muertos festivities between the 31st and 3rd of November.

These nearly naked men were there in protest of political irregularities by Dante Delgado --photo that covers their private parts-- of Veracruz. They complained that this Senator in the Mexican Parliament had robbed them of everything they had when he was the Governor of the State of Veracruz. Naked women stood on the street corners handing out literature and taking contributions to support their protest. We talked with these women to find out how they could be so courageous to stand naked on the street to let the public know about this corrupt man. They told us that they had no other choice, that this man had taken their land and they had nothing to lose. Those of us from the United States let them know that we were in solidarity with them and told them how brave they were to stage such a protest. This would never have been allowed in our country.

As we returned to the Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker Center and our home for the coming days, we began to debrief and to prepare ourselves for the coming days together.

You may ask what this has to do with food. That will follow in upcoming reports for the retort.

The O’Brien Retort: Day of the Dead, & the Naked

(kat: Iowa farminist & sustainable ag advocate Denise O’Brien, founder of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, recently attended a meeting in Mexico City with Central American women farmers. Upon arriving, her contingent encountered a group of Mexican protesters who’d lost their land to a corrupt politican. Denise provided us with the following account--and photos:)

We came together in Mexico City on the day before All Souls Day, Halloween in the United States. Arriving from El Salvador, Iowa, Honduras, Georgia, Grenada, New York, Wisconsin and Mexico. Farmers, rural and urban women, activists and organizers all gathering to discuss and analyze what impact globalization has had on our communities, on our lives. Travel for some was long and difficult – having to come from remote areas and having experienced being robbed of all money and material goods. Coming with a sense of urgency to discover how our lives connected and how we could attempt to overcome the challenges in our communities.

Chilo, a wonderful anthropologist and activist, oriented us to the culture of the Day of the Dead. She explained how Christianity and Indigenous beliefs intersected to create an honoring of those who have come before us. The traditional mood for this holiday is bright with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the dead. This is because they think of The Day of the Dead as the continuation of life. They believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new stage in life. These people are usually Christians of Native American descent whose ancestors introduced indigenous ideas of life after death. Many questions were asked and some found it difficult to understand how this pagan event could have anything to do with Christian beliefs.

As we explored Mexico City during the festivities our senses were tantalized with many sights, sounds and smells. A cadence of drums came from one end of the Zocalo. Our curiosity took us to observe the members of a group of protesters called the 400 Peoples. They were asking for economic aid from visitors to the Zocalo --México's largest municipal square-- during Dia de Muertos festivities between the 31st and 3rd of November.

These nearly naked men were there in protest of political irregularities by Dante Delgado --photo that covers their private parts-- of Veracruz. They complained that this Senator in the Mexican Parliament had robbed them of everything they had when he was the Governor of the State of Veracruz. Naked women stood on the street corners handing out literature and taking contributions to support their protest. We talked with these women to find out how they could be so courageous to stand naked on the street to let the public know about this corrupt man. They told us that they had no other choice, that this man had taken their land and they had nothing to lose. Those of us from the United States let them know that we were in solidarity with them and told them how brave they were to stage such a protest. This would never have been allowed in our country.

As we returned to the Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker Center and our home for the coming days, we began to debrief and to prepare ourselves for the coming days together.

You may ask what this has to do with food. That will follow in upcoming reports for the retort.

Bush Shouts "Iran!"...Has He Ever Said "I Read"?

NIE findings say no imminent nuclear threat,
yet the President continues the drumbeat:
"Iran. Iran. Iran."

As Americans show outrage at the idea
of a never-ending Occupation of Iraq,
Bush changes the topic: "Iran. Iran. Iran."

And as the war & economy make him
one of the least popular Presidents ever,
W. obsessively continues: "Iran. Iran. Iran."

Maybe he's changing the subject...
or maybe he's describing his workout schedule.

Too bad when asked about the NIE report,
he couldn't have simply said, "I read."

Talk about what makes you different than W
-- your politics, ideas & that you read --
as you share your views and some booze.
with your local progressive social club.

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

The Plot to Make You Shop

The Story of Stuff” is a sly short that offers a crash course in consumption; it’s like a sermon from Reverend Billy, a lecture from Bill McKibben, and a rant from James Kunstler rolled into one and made fun (well, OK, as fun as an analysis of our crass consumer culture can be.)

Eco-activist Annie Leonard’s breezy presentation is a compelling blend of facts, figures, and animated stick figures that traces the path—and the carbon footprint—of all the crap we buy, from inception to incineration. She charts our rising consumption and a corresponding decline in happiness, and exposes the post-World War II mindset that made us a nation of lemme-have-it lemmings with a 1955 quote from a retail analyst named Victor Lebow:

“Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption . . . we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

Lebow’s dream of a consumer-based culture started to look more like a nightmare a couple of decades later—or a horror movie, anyway. “Dawn of the Dead,” George Romero’s classic zombie sequel, was inspired by a 1974 visit to the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania, one of America’s first sprawling shopping complexes.

As Romero walked through the mall, he was struck by:

…the blank, expressionless faces of the mall's shoppers as they shuffled throughout the indoor shopping center. Romero made the connection between the mall's patrons and his own zombies almost immediately, likening the droning consumers — with their insatiable and driving desire for materialistic gratification — with that of his own cannibalistic creations and their driving need for consuming human flesh, each motivated by a singular fulfilling need.

The Story of Stuff has its share of Gore, too. Like An Inconvenient Truth, its goal is to inform and inspire, and it does so beautifully. Yes, it seems like we’re drowning in an ever-rising waste stream, but Annie Leonard shows us that we don’t have to go with this flow. Thanks to those masters of the snappy, socially conscious short at Free Range Studios for tossing us this lifeline.

Old MacDonald Had a Subdivision, E-I-E-I-Yo!

If you’re one of those people (like me) who sees sprawl as a malignant growth, you’ll be heartened to hear about a new kind of development called a “conservation community.” Instead of plopping sterile condos and strip malls down on precious fertile farmland, these visionary suburbs are built around--not on top of--small working farms. A Nation article entitled “Civic Agriculture = Sane Housing,” by Nevin Cohen, professor of urban studies and food policy at the New School for Liberal Arts, sings the praises of these sustainable suburbs.

Cohen describes a groundbreaking, or, really, ground-sparing, form of development that creates a neighborhood where farmers and residents can happily co-exist and benefit from each others’ presence. Land that might otherwise be paved over and built up remains productive, enabling the farmers to provide their neighbors with fresh, local produce while preserving open space, including ecologically fragile wetlands and prairies.

In an era when only 2% of all Americans live on, or near, a farm, a conservation community gives people the opportunity to reconnect with our agricultural heritage even if they lack the time or know-how to grow their own food. At one such development, Prairie Crossing, forty miles north of Chicago, residents curious about farming can sink their hands into the pesticide-free soil at Sandhill Organics, a small family farm situated in the heart of the Prairie Crossing community. In fact, a quarter of Prairie Crossing’s residents have volunteered to work on the farm.

Cohen lists Prairie Crossing’s many attributes: “clustered homes, ecologically restored wetlands and prairie grasslands, two commuter rail stations that connect to Chicago, and 154 acres reserved for organic farming…an elevated walking trail, above the homes and the farm, enables everyone to appreciate the working landscape as a collective creation.”

This farm-friendly style of development is a brilliant way to preserve farmland and still provide needed housing. And it creates a community that encourages exercise, reduces fossil fuel use, and fosters greater connections between neighbors. As Cohen notes, “By integrating organic farmland into residential developments, farming subdivisions give ordinary citizens, real-estate developers, policymakers, and other stakeholders viable alternatives to the current agro-industrial food system.”

What a wonderful way to grow! Too bad Donald Trump didn't try this approach with his proposed "greatest golf course in the world," which was vetoed last week by conservation-minded Scots who preferred to preserve the ecologically sensitive sand dunes on the coast of Aberdeenshire where Trump hoped to build "two championship golf courses, a five-star hotel, a golf academy, almost 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private houses". He could have just built around the scrappy salmon farmer who wouldn't sell his land to the Donald for any price. If only the author of Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life could learn that sometimes, it pays to think smaller.

Reading Liberally Page Turner: What Book To Give Your Conservative Uncle This Holiday Season

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Well, O'Reilly is getting even more ballistic than usual, so y'know what that means - the holiday season is upon us. With the first night of Hanukkah this evening, with Christmas and Kwanzaa only a few weeks away, some of our minds turn to gift-giving. Namely, what to give to that conservative uncle/aunt/friend who constantly e-mails you conservative spam and  turns every family get-together into a political referendum. Figuring that knowledge is power, we asked some of our favorite activists what book to give our favorite conservative this winter. Happy Holidays!

David Dayen, The Right's Field and Calitics: My conservative uncle would get one book for the holidays - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. After all, if they want to live in a country with an ascendant conservative movement they're going to have to find another planet...

Steve Perez, United Federation of Teachers:  I'll recommend Singularity Sky by Charles Stross. Three reasons: first, it's fiction, and I prefer that to a polemic. Second, it's a good book, funny and smart. Third, there's a lot of progressive science fiction being written, and IMO it doesn't get the attention it deserves.

Elana Levin, Drum Major Institute: That Howard Zinn history book could be a good one to convert him. For your apolitical teenage cousin, though, they should get Jessica Valenti's book, Full Frontal Feminism.

James Adomian, Resident Open Left Bush impersonator and comic: What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank. Judging by its cover, it looks like it could very well be a volume dedicated to gloating over the triumphs of Nixon and Reagan - one of those hateful books advertised in the back of National Review. But start reading it, and you see what a dupe you've been for voting on the culture war all these years, when all along it was the sons-of-bitches in the big corporations and the big banks whom you've been boosting at the expense of your own economic welfare! Throw that yule log on the fire, Uncle Wingnut!

Josh Bolotsky, Living Liberally: If your conservative relative is anything like mine, they're not getting their politics from the books they read - it's from the talk-radio they listen to. So the solution is not to get them a physical book. The solution is an audiobook, to first do triage on the problem and stop them from listening to the thing influencing them in the first place. My suggestion? The most recent Stories From Lake Wobegon collection by Garrison Keillor, Never Better. Filled with midwestern values and tales of small-town life that any social conservative would embrace, and punctuated every so often with gentle paeans to progressive politics (a shout-out to Title IX here, an ode to gay rights there). Showing the relative that being a solid traditional American citizen and holding progressive politics aren't in conflict is the first step.



Jay Hazen, Reading Liberally: Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops, by Ilona Meagher. Often the human costs of war are obscured at the time of conflict and well beyond, and it is happening again. My conservative uncle is a big fan of chain emails with pictures of flashy billion-dollar fighter jets twisting into formation for a tight little bomb pattern. This book is a reminder that for all the rhetoric of movement conservatism, responsible government makes more of a difference than an extra three F-22 Raptors in the lives of our military families.

Lee Camp, Laughing Liberally comic: Give them a fairy tale because they're already cut off from reality. It will make them feel at home.

Dodd & the Drinkers of Des Moines

One of DL's most dynamic chapters is the Des Moines, Iowa group that hosted our National Conference and has been visited by Governor Bill Richardson. So it's not surprising to us that another candidate will be meeting with some of its members.

Chris Dodd is going to Cup O' Kyptonite, a coffee and comic book shop owned by one of the DL regulars, for a little caffeinated caucusing tonight.

And, in anticipation, some of the Iowans put together a video:

LET’S ASK MARION: WHY IS THE FDA HAZARDOUS TO OUR HEALTH?

(With a click of her mouse, EatingLiberally’s kat corners Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of Food Politics and What to Eat:)

Kat: An advisory board released a report on the FDA last Friday that depicts an agency so ill-equipped and disorganized that it’s incapable of effectively safeguarding our health and may even be jeopardizing our lives. One of the advisors called the current state of the FDA a crisis, and blamed “a cabal of Congressional majorities and presidential administrations that has serially stripped the agency of assets.”

So the agency entrusted to protect Americans’ health has been systematically gutted by our politicians. Why? Whose interests are being served? Can you shed some light on the behind-the-scene forces that have left the FDA so toothless?

Dr. Nestle: Ah yes. The latest report from the FDA's Science Board. I was a consumer representative to that Board some years ago. If the Board was doing this sort of thing then, I might have stayed on it. The report is scathing, and is particularly tough on the parts that I care about: food regulation and food safety. These come under the purview of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), which has lost 15% of its employees since 1992.

How did this happen? Politics, big time. The FDA used to be the jewel in the crown of American government, an agency relatively free of political influence, devoted to public health. But it went too far. It took on the dietary supplement industry in the 1980s and got creamed for it in the 1990s.

And in the early 1990s, it tried to take on the tobacco industry and get cigarettes regulated as drugs. That did it. Congress passed a series of Acts, one after the other, each further weakening the FDA's regulatory authority. When 9/11 happened, I thought things might change for the better. A safe food supply is, after all, an essential component of homeland security.

But instead of getting a single food safety agency or more resources for FDA, we got the Department of Homeland Security. And in our current "the less regulation the better" atmosphere, the FDA has gotten weaker and weaker. It is ironic that the Food Marketing Institute and other food trade groups are now begging for stronger federal regulations. The public has lost confidence in the food supply and that's not so good for business. So maybe corporations will start pressuring Congress to give the FDA more resources and stronger authority? It's a thought.

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