KAT's blog

Obama A Vegan Socialist? The Nutty Conspiracy

Will Barack Obama use socialist tactics to spread the vegan agenda? Red meat-lovin' red-staters will really be seeing red after watching this clip from Talking Points Memo, which caught Obama on Wednesday confessing to a crowd at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina that, as a kindergartner, "I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Oh, sure, it sounds innocent enough. That's because you haven't heard about a shadowy group of subversive sandwich shillers called The PB & J Campaign. No, they're not a bunch of bread boosters, or a front for the peanut lobby, or the jelly industry. The PB & J Campaign is a nutty group of "private citizens concerned about the environment" on a feel-gooey mission to convince Americans to "fight global warming by having a PB&J for lunch."

The PB & J Campaign's website is full of pro-plant propaganda illustrating just how much kinder to the environment a plant-based diet is than the resource-hogging, planet-polluting, livestock-based diet that most Americans eat. Their diagrams make the case for shortening our food chain, i.e. eliminating the middleman--or, rather, cow, pig, or chicken--and consuming plant foods directly:

In any pyramid, taking out a level lets you shrink the base. So, when you cut the livestock step out and eat plants directly, it takes a lot less of the plants to support you.

(Images courtesy of pbjcampaign.org)

The nut-lovers at The PB & J Campaign have crunched the numbers:

...the water it takes to produce the beef on one burger could produce peanuts for about 17 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the land that it takes to produce that beef could produce peanuts for 19 PB&Js.

We've already had one pro-peanut president, and you know how that turned out. Jimmy Carter had that crazy fixation with energy independence, slapping solar panels on the White House roof and flaunting his woolly cardigan agenda.

In fact, the peanut has long been the preferred legume of liberals, going back to the mid-19th century when African American scientist George Washington Carver made it the foundation of his sustainable agriculture agenda for the South. Carver, a brilliant botanist, came up with something like a hundred different products made from peanuts, "including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin."

Another one of Carver's goals, according to Wikipedia, was to undermine "through the fame of his achievements and many talents, the widespread stereotype of the time that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race."

So now, once again, a smart, ambitious black man is promoting peanuts. Is Obama part of a plant-based plot to conserve land and water and feed people more efficiently instead of pigging out on animal products at the expense of the entire universe? Has he secretly taken the PB & J pledge? When he talks about uniting red states and blue, is it some kind of coded reference to grape-jelly purple?

Look for the folks at Fox to get to the bottom of this--they may not know about eating low on the food chain, but they do know how to go low.

What MoDo Doesn't Know

Image courtesy of collegeotr.com

Memo to Maureen Dowd: if you're going to make an issue of out of Sarah Palin's out-of-touch handlers for playing Caribou Barbie dress-up, try not to reveal your own disconnect with the "real" America in the process. Dowd's column in Sunday's New York Times suggested that Palin wouldn't have been raked over for her makeover if only she'd "popped into Penney’s to buy some new American-made duds."

It's been awhile since I set foot in a J.C. Penney's myself, but I'm fairly certain that patriotic shoppers would have difficulty locating a single item of clothing bearing a "Made In The USA" label at Penney's--or any department store in this country, for that matter. With the exception of niche operations like American Apparel, and some high-end couturiers, we don't really make clothes in this country anymore. In fact, we don't even make clothespins. Go to your local five-and-dime, if you still have one, and you'll see--even the clothespins are made in China. We've moved on to bigger and better things--like fabricating phantom fortunes and manufacturing market meltdowns. Making actual stuff that people really need? That's so last century.

Snack Attack

The satirical saga of an entrepreneurial tyke who pairs two of America's finest traditions--the bake sale and the attack ad. From the Onion:

Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad


Palin impaled:

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

For those of us who keep forgetting to watch Saturday NIght Live on Thursdays, here's Will Ferrell's Dubya amBushing McCain:

And nuthin' says "maverick" like parking your car right in the middle of two parking spaces--and adorning the bumper of your minivan with that banner of nasty nostalgia, the Confederate flag. And, of course, a McCain-Palin bumper sticker. From the iPhone of Daily Kos diarist JackieandFritz:

Finally, speaking of nostalgia, Happy Days are here again, as Obama gets a thumbs up from the Fonz, along with Opie and Andy Griffith:

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

(hat tip: Sue Sie)

The Carrot And The Shtick

Is it in bad taste for the Belgian food show "Plat Prefere"--literally, "Favorite Dish"--to run an episode featuring Hitler's favorite recipe (brown trout in butter sauce, in case you're wondering?) Gee, I don't know; let's ask The Shmethicist!

Shmetha-who? Well, the Shmethicist is a timely new feature from The Jew And The Carrot that addresses the culinary quandaries of flummoxed foodies. The Shmethicist's maiden column tackled the sticky, tricky problem of how to treat Halloween, and add a fair trade flavor to the festivities:

What better way to make people take notice than for your eight year-old to dress as an enslaved child laborer on a cocoa plantation? Sure, it’s tasteless and terrifying, but so is Hannah Montana, and you know that costume will be plenty popular this year.

So, was it was kosher for Madonna get all vegangelical on Guy Ritchie and force him to take his tea with rice milk, or was she being a schmuck? Ask the Shmethicist!

Egg Industry Shill Plays The Race & Class Cards On Prop. 2

The industrial egg industry has truly lost its collective head over the prospect of Californians passing Proposition 2, the legislation that would give farm animals the luxury of stretching their limbs.

Julie Buckner, the Californians for Safe Food spokesperson who went on Oprah to claim that Proposition 2 would destroy California's egg industry, is trying a really tacky new tack, according to today's New York Times.

Buckner told the Times that Winfrey's implied support for the measure "only codified her sense that the ballot measure is being pushed by “wealthy, narrow-minded elitists” who do not understand its real-world consequences."

She went on to dis the Humane Society, who's sponsoring Proposition 2, for being funded, apparently, by diamond-encrusted dog-loving dilettantes:

“This is an organization raising money from upper-middle-class white women writing $100 checks,” she said."

As opposed, I guess, to the salt of the earth Agribiz bigwigs who are funding the fight against Proposition 2. Read Carol Ness's great post on Grist about the egg industry's desperation to derail Proposition 2 and you'll understand why Buckner and her partners in slime are so anxious to frame the issue of animal welfare as some kind of anti-populist cause with dire consequences for your average egg-lovin' Joe and Jane Six Pack.

But this battle on behalf of our farm animals isn't about the rich--if I may get biblical for a moment, it's about the rich in spirit,--as opposed to those who are hellbent on callous consumption and ill-gotten profits. Buckner and co. would have you believe that compassion for our fellow creatures is a luxury only the wealthy can afford. But doesn't a culture that can't figure out how to feed itself without resorting to torture impoverish us all?

Knocked-Up Teen Cuisine

Trig Palin's not the only member of the Palin household with special needs. Now that 17 year-old Bristol's havin' a baby with her hunky high school dropout, she's got special prenatal nutritional needs, dontcha know.

But Bristol's mom is presumably too busy carvin' our country up into pro- and anti-American chunks right now to worry about whippin' up the kind of nutritious, high-fiber meals that Bristol needs to eat to stay well during her pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

Not to worry--the culinary whizzes over at Kitchen Caravan rode to the rescue with a simple, delicious recipe for salmon noodle casserole that's so easy anyone could make it--even Bristol and the 750,000 or so other underage American girls who flunked Contraception 101 this year.

Apparently, our kids have fallen so far behind when it comes to science and math that they can't figure out the most basic biological equation: boy plus girl minus birth control equals unplanned pregnancy.

Well, we may be falling behind the rest of the industrialized world in a thousand different ways, but the U.S. still boasts the highest teen birth rate. Oh, and we've got the highest rate of incarceration, too. Go, team--when it comes to getting knocked up and locked up, we're number one!

You Heard It On Oprah: Factory Farms Stink

That ringing you hear is the sound of the death knell for the "don't ask, don't smell" era of factory farming. Oprah Winfrey's Tuesday show, "How We Treat The Animals We Eat," blew the lid off the battery cage egg industry, shining a long-overdue light on the bleak, black underbelly of sunny-side up.

Investigative reporter Lisa Ling had to don a sanitation suit and cap before leading her camera crew through an industrial egg facility where 87,000 chickens were crammed into criminally close quarters and covered in, well, chicken shit. Words could hardly convey her revulsion at the stench, but the look on Ling's face said it all; factory farm egg production in America is an abomination.

The meat mafia branded Oprah a slanderer back in 1996 when she got mad about mad cow disease and famously swore off burgers. So, this time, a litigation-leary Oprah bent over backwards to give Agribiz apologists a chance to justify their cruel and inhumane practices. Their defense? Americans need cheap eggs so badly that we don't give a cluck about the barbaric conditions it takes to create them.

We'll find out if that's true on November 4th, when Californians will have the chance to pass Proposition 2--the measure that would force a phase out of battery cages in that state by 2015. Julie Buckner, a spokesperson for the Prop. 2 opponents who've adopted the astroturf-y moniker Californians for Safe Food, warned Oprah's audience ominously that if Prop. 2 passes, "Certainly the egg industry in California will be wiped out...and in all likelihood, eggs will come from outside the U.S.--Mexico, even overseas as far as China."

Because, you know, it's just impossible to produce eggs in a safe, humane way at a reasonable price in this country.

Then Oprah brought out the small-scale farmers who produce eggs in a safe, humane way at a reasonable price in this country. The thing is, letting your chickens run around in the open air and take dust baths and grab grubs and flap their wings requires a slightly higher level of animal husbandry than shoving hens in a box and forcing them to crank out eggs till their bones break and their uteruses pop out.

This gruesome phenomenon, called "uterine prolapse," is a common consequence of intensive egg production. The fact that it's tolerated by the factory farmers in the name of economy and efficiency validates Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle's assertion to Oprah that proponents of industrial livestock production are oblivious to the agony they inflict on their animals:

"The problem with the factory farm industry ... is that they don't think it's wrong because they have a worldview that animals are commodities. They're units of production. They're objects."

We've been here before with rBST, the bovine growth hormone that increases a dairy cow's milk output--and puts her at heightened risk for a painful udder infection that produces pus-filled milk. Consumers have resoundingly rejected dairy products from rBST-injected cows. But that hasn't stopped the lacto-lobby from insisting that rBST is actually a super-duper eco-friendly way to farm 'cause it lets you wring more milk out of fewer cows, thereby curbing a dairy farmer's carbon hoofprint.

Oprah's egg exposé will surely go a long way to inspire a similar revolt against battery cage eggs, but she didn't even show her audience the most egregious--no pun intended--offenses of the industrial egg biz. Somebody else got them on tape, though--a non-profit organization called Mercy For Animals went undercover at Norco Ranch, a factory farm in Riverside County, California, and documented the atrocious conditions that constitute business as usual.

And, as usual, when confronted with the footage of workers wantonly abusing animals, a Norco executive insisted that its standards had been violated, claiming that Norco doesn't tolerate such aberrant behavior. You know, just like those Westland executives who decried the "renegade" employees captured on tape earlier this year at their Chino, California meat packing plant tormenting downer cows. Ah, yes, the folks who own these operations are invariably shocked, shocked, when undercover activists capture the routine savagery of their facilities on camera.

As the Sacramento Bee noted on Tuesday, "Norco is owned by MoArk, the top contributor to the No on 2 campaign, having given more than $785,000." Never heard of MoArk? They're the same conglomerate that brings you Land O' Lakes butter, whose trademarked slogan is "Where simple goodness begins."

Watch the Mercy For Animals video and you'll ask "Where does simple decency begin?" I don't know whether freedom is on the march, but cruel, inhumane confinement is definitely on the run in California. On November 4th, voters will have the chance to say "yes" to Proposition 2, which the Humane Society has sponsored in the hopes that it will help end some of the most appalling practices of the industrial egg industry.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof declared Propostion 2 "the most important election this November that you've never heard of." It was Kristof's op-ed on Proposition 2, "A Farm Boy Reflects," that compelled Oprah to delve more deeply into the question of how we treat our farm animals in America. Can we do better? Yes, we can. And if Proposition 2 passes, we surely will.

The Meltdown We Really Can't Afford

Hey, ho, where's the cash flow? Wasn't the bailout supposed to get those streams of credit flowing again? But while the titans of trickle-down and the free-reign rainmakers pray for new rivers of revenue to float their boats, some venerable bodies of water beyond the canyons of Wall Street are in danger of literally evaporating--and all the money in the world won't bring them back once we pass that terrible tipping point.

London Bridge isn't falling down, but the river it spans may be drying up, according to the Guardian:

"Britain's rivers could nearly run dry because long hot summers caused by climate change will not be sufficiently compensated by wetter winters...the overall average trend is towards drastically reduced river flows across the country."

And, to get truly biblical, the BBC reports that years of drought have helped decimate the Sea of Galilee. Should Jesus decide to revisit his old stomping grounds anytime soon (as Sarah Palin reportedly expects him to), the miracle worker who fed the multitudes will be hard pressed to find even two fish in the dregs of this ancient sea, doggone it.

But while rivers and lakes all over the world are simply vanishing into the ether, something really insidious is bubbling up from the Arctic seabed. Scientists have just discovered that "massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats." This could speed up climate change to an unprecedented degree, as the Independent reports:

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

Nevermind the "negative feedback loop" that's strangling Wall Street. If we don't get a handle on this positive feedback loop--which, let's be clear, is not a positive development--it's going to hang us all, and the future of our financial markets won't matter one molecule.

Yes, it's awful that our nation's debt has ballooned so badly that, as of September 30, we passed the $10 trillion mark and the National Debt Clock ran out of room. The Durst Organization, which maintains the billboard, had to bump the dollar sign to accommodate all those zeroes.

But the figure we need to focus on now is not measured in trillions, or billions--it's parts per million (ppm), the way we measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we had a billboard tracking that figure (maybe the Durst Organization would care to donate one?), it would currently read "385 ppm." Unfortunately, James Hansen and his climatologist colleagues have concluded that if we hope to escape catastrophic climate change, we've got to get back to 350 ppm ASAP.

That's why Bill McKibben, the environmental activist and author, founded 350.org, a website devoted to getting the word out about how our collective goose is getting cooked. There's still time to pull ourselves out of the fryer--but just barely. McKibben, who's been sounding the alarm on global warming for nearly two decades (see The End of Nature), told a group of bloggers the other day that the scientists he's been talking to for the past several decades about climate change are "just panicking," at this point. By the year 2012, these experts say, it will be too late to avoid the most dire consequences of global warming, at the rate we're going.

The carbon cabal that's held our country captive these past eight years has cost us precious time in the fight to reduce the world's greenhouse gases. It may have been a Freudian slip when John McCain addressed the crowd at a Pennsylvania rally as "my fellow prisoners," but he inadvertently evoked the feeling of helplessness so many of us have had as the Bush administration stubbornly refused, for years, to even admit that climate change was a problem, and then--having grudgingly conceded that it was real--made virtually no meaningful effort to address this crisis.

But now, with the promise of a new administration, there's hope that the next U.S. president will stop stalling and start being the leader that the world needs now, more than ever. And he--be it McCain or Obama (well, OK, please let it be Obama)--doesn't even have to wait till he moves into the White House. There's a party the president-elect should elect to attend even before the Inaugural Ball: The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland this December. And 350.org's got a new campaign calling on us all to invite our president-elect to show up and tell the world that "Team America is ready to get back in the game."

350.org's goal is to send 35,000 invitations to McCain and Obama. They've collected 16,000 signatures already in less than one week, so they're nearly halfway there. And 350.org's calling on folks all over the world to submit videos inviting the candidates to come to Poland; send in your own spin for possible inclusion on 350.org's nifty revolving globe, if you're cinematically inclined.

The goal of this gathering of world leaders is to hammer out the details of the Copenhagen Treaty, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol--i.e., an international accord to help the world find solutions to this dilemma before it becomes a disaster. Imagine what a powerful statement it would be to have our president-elect choose to attend this critical meeting. It would send the message that when it comes to fighting climate change, Americans are no longer AWOL, or MIA.

And come January, we'll no longer be POWs held hostage by pro-petroleum politicians claiming that the U.S. simply can't afford to incur the costs of dealing with climate change because it will destroy our whole economy. Yeah, and higher fuel efficiency standards were going to ruin America's auto industry. Hey, good thing Chrysler dodged that bullet!

Those arguments are kind of moot, now, so can we please move on and show the world that we're through with tricks and ready for a treaty? Go to 350.org and tell our next president that the U.S. has got to be part of the equation if we're going to get the world's greenhouse gas emissions down to 350 ppm. Because it really doesn't matter how low our financial fortunes sink; if temperatures keep rising, there'll be no bailing anyone out.

Originally published on Alternet.org

Goodbye Good Times, Hello Waltons?

How will you dress for the Bush Depression this winter? Me, I'm counting on my slightly tattered but super-toasty flannel-lined OshKosh overalls--so old they were actually made in OshKosh. That, and the sweaters I'll be wearing à la Jimmy Carter, since our thermostat and our bank balance will both be chillingly low.

President Carter tried, and failed, to make cardigans and conservation cool during the seventies energy crisis. He warned of "the serious consequences of our long delay in creating a comprehensive national energy policy" in a speech announcing the Emergency Natural Gas Act of 1977, and called on us all to buckle down and bundle up:

I again ask every American to lower the thermostat settings in all homes and buildings to no more than 65 degrees during the daytime and to a much lower setting at night...

...I must say to you quite frankly that this is not a temporary request for conservation. Our energy problems will not be over next year or the year after. Further sacrifices in addition to lowering thermostats may well be necessary. But I believe this country is tough enough and strong enough to meet that challenge. And I ask all Americans to cooperate in minimizing the adverse effect on the lives of our people.

Sadly, the sole American family willing to heed Carter's "make do with less" message was the Waltons, who, alas, resided only in the corn pone-filled cranium of Earl Hamner Jr. Two years later, a frustrated Carter asked, plaintively, "Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?" He blamed the loss of community and the rise of materialism in our culture:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

Again, Carter channeled the Waltons while the rest of us stayed glued to the oily exploits of the Ewings. We bought into the more-is-more mania, and our collective carbon footprint expanded exponentially. Houses and cars and waistlines grew bigger, while an endless geyser of consumer goods gushed all around us. Will it ever run out of steam?

Consider this astounding statistic I came across in the October issue of Organic Gardening: In 1995, the average number of food items sold in supermarkets was 3,000; by 2006, it had jumped to 45,000. And most it is cartons and cans and clamshells filled with industrially grown stuff that's been processed to death and then schlepped over land and sea. That's why Michael Pollan's "eater's manifesto," In Defense Of Food, advises us to avoid supermarkets altogether and seek out fresh food from local farmers--and our own front yards--instead.

Sure, some folks will continue to fill their cupboards with Campbell's soup--the only stock that didn't tank when the Dow sank. But more and more Americans are rejecting pre-fab faux foods in favor of DIY dining. Today's New York Times cites a report that, as of May, "53 percent of consumers said they were cooking from scratch more than they did just six months before," driven by the rising cost of convenience foods. Hey, when you're unemployed, there's plenty of time to hone those handy Depression-era skills like how to make your own stock, grow your own veggies, and can tomatoes.

We're reverting to old-timey modes of transportation, too--there's been a dramatic spike in bike sales and train travel in recent months. And many of us are buying less, learning to make do, and turning off the lights when we leave the room. We are, at last, achieving Jimmy Carter's dream of a simpler, less-stuff driven life--a dream, by the way, that he shared with another recent U.S. president, George H. W. Bush.

Poppy Bush declared back in 1992 that he wanted to "make American families a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons". How gratified he must be to see that Waltons-style austerity is finally in vogue. And all it took was his son's catastrophic stewardship of our country.

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