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Let's Ask Marion: Why More Money For The FDA Now?

(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: We've known for ages that the FDA is so grossly underfunded that it can't even begin to assure the safety of our food supply. Now, all of a sudden, in the wake of the tomato salmonella scare, the Bush administration's asked Congress to allocate an additional $275 million to the FDA in next year's budget. What gives? Why now? Are salmonella-tainted tomatoes more of a hot potato than E. coli-contaminated spinach?

Dr. Nestle: No, tomatoes are not a worse political problem than spinach. What's happening is that we are at the end of an administration, not the middle. In the last year, several major reports have exposed the way Congress has weakened the FDA by giving it tons more to do with no money to do it with. As incident after incident has occurred--spinach, green onions, pet food, peanut butter, and now tomatoes--the FDA's situation has become increasingly embarrassing. But $275 million? A pittance.

What's really needed is a major overhaul of the entire food safety system, from the bottom up. We need a food safety system that goes from farm to table, and preferably under a single food safety agency that unites and rationalizes the functions of the FDA and USDA. Until we have that, expect these incidents at regular intervals. Next administration, anyone?

Loyalty Oaths For Clinton Supporters Pledging their Votes for McCain

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying
by Katie Halper

Dear ex-Hillary fans who are showing their support for her by ignoring her call to support Obama and supporting McCain,

First, I'd like to congratulate you. You've asked yourself WWJMD and
you've decided to vote against your own interests and principles while
furthering Senator McCain's. Before you're allowed on the band wagon,
we are asking you to sign the following oath. A McCain presidency will
mean different things for different people, so we have tailored the
oaths accordingly.


The McCain Loyalty Oath for Gays

I, _______________, pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton
to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In
order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...

  • promise to protect "the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman."
  • commitment to banning federal recognition of gay marriage and domestic partnerships.
  • commitment to the Army's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy because to "even reopen the issue" would be a "terrific mistake."
  • opposition to gay adoption which he doesn't think is "appropriate."
  • opposition to expanding the federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.

As a gay person, I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

  • stop engaging in gay sex.
  • never try to marry or adopt.
  • enroll in a program to treat my homosexuality and "straighten" myself out, such as a "M.A.N.S. Journey" (Masculinity, Authenticity, Need Fulfillment, Surrender Journey).
  • install nanny cams in my house to prevent any gay relapses.
  • take responsibility for natural disasters*, including Katrina.

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and his
programs and I will not complain about my loss of civil rights. And I
will continue to refrain from gay sex.

Signature ____________


The McCain Loyalty Oath for Women

I _______________ pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton
to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In
order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...

  • fight to overturn Roe v. Wade and my right to choose.
  • fight against equal pay for men and women.
  • opposition to providing low-income and uninsured women and families
    with health care services ranging from breast and cervical cancer
    screening to birth control.
  • opposition to sex education and support of abstinence-only education.
  • making birth control covered by insurance.
  • endorsement of women's rights more "in theory" than in practice.
  • pet name for his wife.

As a woman I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

  • call myself and my female friends the C word.
  • picket abortion clinics.
  • not use contraceptives.
  • drink bleach so I don't catch HIV and drink Mountain due so I don't get pregnant.
  • give back part of my salary to male coworkers.
  • not vote, but pursue education and encourage my father/husband/brother male friends to vote for McCain.

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and I will
not complain about my losing my right to choose, and other reproductive
freedoms. And I will continue to refrain from pursuing equality for
women.

Signature ____________


The McCain Loyalty Oath for Straight White Men

Straight white men, I bet you thought we left you out. This country
may have turned its back on you, but we haven't. Here's a pledge of
your own:

I _______________ pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton
to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In
order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...

As a straight white man I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and I will
not complain about my loss of limbs or life. And I will continue to
refrain from questioning the war in Iraq or any other wars we will be
fighting.

Signature __________________________________


*Although McCain and Hagee have since unendorsed each other, that was not until Hagee's controversial Holocaust speech
was discovered. McCain didn't think Hagee's position on gay people (or
women of Muslims, for that matter) warrant his disavowal.

The Real Issue With Zohan

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Seth Pearce

When I first heard about Adam Sandler's new movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan, I thought to myself, "Wow, Sandler's at it again. What is this going to be? His fourteenth bad movie in a row?" But then it dawned on me: This could be really problematic.

Not that any movie that involves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't be controversial. It's just that I wasn't sure I trusted Adam Sandler to handle such sensitive material with care. Especially when it involves him playing, what seemed to be a hairdressing Zionist superman (albeit with some quirks.)

I had to see it.

I'll say this: Zohan is not anywhere near as profoundly upsetting or offensive as last year's I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. It does, however, most definitely have its issues.

The main political problem with Zohan is that while Palestinians and Israelis are both stereotyped for comedic effect, the Palestinian characters are treated much worse. Rob Schneider and his amateur terrorist cell are looked at as dirty and primitive, while the Israelis are merely treated as disco-loving buffoons who get extra points for assimilating into western culture. I also take issue with the large number of non-arab actors they hired to play Palestinian parts, (See: Schneider, Turturro, Chriqui).

That is pretty much the extent of the politically problematic parts of Zohan. It acknowledges the complexity of the current conflict and doesn't offer any radical suggestions on how to fix it, short of the somewhat Marxist assertion that the Israelis and Palestinians living in America should band together to fight an evil corporate tycoon who is trying to gentrify their neighborhood because their ethnic identities are just social constructs and it is their economic solidarity, as shop owners living in a relatively low income area, that's important. (After all, as one of the Israelis points out, to Americans, they look the same.)

Ultimately, the real issue with You Don't Mess with the Zohan, is that it is a bad movie. It is not very funny, (maybe with the exception of the hummus gag,) and sadly, though I guess this is now the norm, it does not live up to Sandler's earlier work.

You do not need to see You Don't Mess with the Zohan, but if you do, it won't kill you. Plus Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life is in it.

Take Out: A Story of Stir-Fried Servitude

Eating Liberally Food For Thought
by Kerry Trueman

If Lou Dobbs could wave a magic wand and make all those pesky undocumented workers disappear, he'd do it in a heartbeat. And while that might be a triumph for law and order, it would also be kind of a hollow victory--pretty soon our empty stomachs would begin rumbling, and we'd be grumbling:

Who's going to pick our produce?

Who's going to pluck our poultry?

Who's going to chop up and stir-fry our chicken and broccoli?

Who's going to deliver it to our door?

Millions of illegal immigrants make enormous sacrifices-leaving behind loved ones and paying smugglers a fortune--to come to the U.S. and work long hours for low pay doing lousy jobs. You probably don't give that a whole lot of thought when you dial the Chinese restaurant down the block to order your won ton soup and lo mein.

Filmmakers Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou are out to change that with Take Out, a day-in-the-life saga about one of those guys you grab your bag of food from and hand a dollar to before you shut the door and forget his face. The film opened last Friday at the Quad Cinema in New York City, where Take Out takes place, and illuminates the lives of an ignored but integral segment of our population.

Take Out stars Charles Jang as Ming Ding, an illegal Chinese deliveryman who pedals his way through a drizzly day made more dismal still by ruthless loan sharks. Ming's morning starts with a bruising wake-up call from his debtors, who barge in to the cramped apartment he shares with umpteen other immigrants and demand that he come up with $800 in interest on the massive debt he owes his smugglers by the end of the day.

Ming borrows much of the money from friends but has to double his usual take in tips to make the difference. His scramble to cram as many deliveries as he can into his day takes him-and us-from the hallways of housing projects to opulent lobbies and every class of New York City dwelling in between. His customers run the gamut, too, from kind to curt to cruel, or just surly and obnoxious. Not content to provide a sampler of New York stereotypes, Take Out gives us flashes of humanity behind those front doors--and inhumanity, too.

The repetitiveness of Ming's day, the seemingly endless series of hallways and elevators and apartment doors and customers thrusting dollars, makes for a movie that's monotonous in a mesmerizing kind of way. The filmmakers opted for a neo-realist approach that made a virtue out of their bare bones ($3,000) budget, forcing them to film the movie in a real Chinese restaurant while it remained open for business. The end result blurs the line between documentary and drama, but yields a sharply drawn portrait of a life most of us couldn't imagine and would prefer not to think about.

The film is perfectly cast and its cinema verité approach makes its message all the more compelling. While the Broken Borders brigade is fixated on erecting barriers, Take Out asks us to step outside of our individual fortresses, just for an hour and a half, and see the view from the other side of our front doors. It's a powerful ploy; as Nathan Lee wrote in his review of Take Out in last Friday's New York Times, "I'll tip more, I promise!"

The Obama Pound: In Historic Moment, White People Exposed To "Fist Bump" For First Time

Laughing liberally To Keep From Crying
by Katie Halper

The Obama pound, exchanged between Michelle and Barack on Tuesday night, marked a historic moment. Yeah, there's that whole first black nominee for president thing. But more significant, is the fact that the greeting which has been described by confused white journalists as a "fist bump," "closed-fist high-five," "a frat-tastic fist bump" and a "'Hezbollah' style fist-jabbing" is finally being introduced to mainstream culture. The introduction of "The Pound" into our national vocabulary will have ripple effects. It already has. People previously unfamiliar "the pound" are seeing the world in a whole new way. For instance, they should now realize that when the New York Times' Ashley Parker wrote about Reggie Love "offering closed-fist high-fives to members of the news media...." she was not describing a painful caveman greeting, but said pound. (I think the Times owes Reggie a correction.) I can't find an official history or definition of the pound, but here is what I found on Ubrandictionary.com

  1. pound: a greeting between two mutual friends. In reality, a fist from one person is "pounded" against the fist of the other person, accompanied by both persons saying "pound."
  2. Pound: The knocking of fists as a form of greeting, departure, or respect see daps
  3. Dap: The knocking of fists together as a greeting, or form of respect. He gave me a dap when we greeted.
  4. dap: a fist-on-fist greeting, front-to-front as if each person is punching each other on the hand. He gave me a dap when we greeted
  5. dap: The Dap includes simple to very intricate series of rhythmic hand slaps, clasps, hand and arm gestures exchanged between two persons as a sign of personal greeting, respect and group solidarity. Has origin in greetings developed and practiced by members of Black Power organizations founded in southern California in the early 1970s and then became common place and outlawed practice among African-American draftees and soldiers stateside and abroad during the latter years of the Vietnam War. Was soon adopted by huge duck bill cap, suspender and knicker attired African-American street and club dancers who originated the dance known as "Lockstepping." Best known Lock Stepper is Fred Barry aka Rerun from the hit 1970s black TV sitcom, "What's Happenin'?" simplest of Daps is to tap closed fists together one time horizontally or vertically.

Emergency update! The Right Wing pundit who creatively described the pound between Michelle and Barack as "'Hezbollah' style fist-jabbing" must have read my post. His blog post no longer contains the following sentence:

"Michelle is not as "refined" as Obama at hiding her TRUE feelings about America-etc. Her "Hezbollah" style fist-jabbing-mouth-twisted anti-American speeches is STRAIGHT from ISLAM!"

Thank you for admitting you were wrong. I interpret your delete as an apology and I accept it.

Bush in Six Words

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth by Justin Krebs

"Married librarian, never read a book."

Doesn't that just about sum up the story of George W. Bush? If you think so, then you might award Felix Gill of Salt Lake City first place in the "Bush in Six Words" competition.

The contest is inspired by the story of Hemingway once being challenged to tell an entire story in six words. His response: "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."

So, how would you sum up a life of so few accomplishments with so few words? A few other Salt Lake Citizens, challenged by their chapter or Drinking Liberally (a surprisingly large group for a state not known for drinks or liberals), have already submitted their suggestions in advance of tomorrow night's special event in Utah:

"Thanks for all the new Democrats" - Joe Spencer

"Heckuva job, Bushie. Door, meet ass." - Jeremiah Roth (SLC-DL co-host)

A quick Google search reveals that this same challenge has been tackled by others, with such bi-partisan results as: "criminal appeaser hypocrite user...that's enough," "Does what needs to be done," and "I only need half that: 'Worst President Ever'"

So can you sum it up? Post your version below, or email the SLC chapter at saltlakecity (at) drinkingliberally (dot) org -- and if you're in SLC tomorrow, join them for their special event and recite your six words in person.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

I was served woodchuck stew for dinner last Thursday at an upstate farm and thought it was quite a novelty, but apparently it’s just the latest thing; today’s New York Times offers a recipe for woodchuck au vin along with tales of woe from gardeners weary of sharing their prized homegrown produce with gate-crashing critters.

The woodchuck I ate had romped and chomped his way through a farmer’s fields like a shoplifter at an open-air salad bar, poaching the gorgeous organic greens already bought and paid for by the farm’s CSA members. So the woodchuck had to go. And since he had to be sacrificed so that others might eat, they figured it was the honorable thing to do to eat him.

One gardener profiled in the Times piece—who requested anonymity out of fear that slaughtering and sautéing up woodchucks may still be just a little outré— overcame his initial squeamishness and ultimately killed 19 woodchucks, altogether:

He was finally able to make a little bit of peace with shooting the woodchucks on his property by cooking and eating them. “It was a way of taking full responsibility for taking a life,” he says. “Almost like a spiritual journey.”

Matt and I have taken less lethal--but potentially illegal--steps to deal with the woodchucks in our garden, so I’d best not give the details. One more humane method of handling hungry invaders is to simply plant extra, or, as another gardener tells the Times:

“I do what the Bible says: Leave the corners of your field unharvested for the poor and strangers among you.”

This is all well and good, unless, like us, you’ve only got a fifth of an acre and most of it is a steep, shady slope. There’s no extra space to “plant extra”. We share the berries with the birds, and the squirrels steal most of our hazelnuts, so I am sympathetic to farmers and gardeners who feel driven to drastic measures.

And this conflict between two-legged and four-legged eaters is only going to heat up; as today’s Wall Street Journal notes, higher food costs are inspiring more and more folks to rip out their lawns and plant veggies instead. The growing recognition that maintaining a lawn is a catastrophic waste of resources is contributing to the boom in vegetable seed and seedling sales, too, while flower sales are falling.

But edible landscaping also feeds the hunger to spend our leisure time doing something more gratifying than, say, shopping or plopping down in front of the tv at the end of the day—or mowing the lawn on the weekend.

Artist Fritz Haeg has been challenging the tyranny of turf and helping front yard farmers homestead for several years with his Edible Estates installations. The most recent Edible Estate was recently installed in Baltimore, where the Eat Well Guide’s Leslie Hatfield was among the eager green thumbs pitching in to help a neighbor get growing.

Leslie was also present for the woodchuck stew last Thursday, along with the rest of the Eat Well gang and our fellow blogger and Greenhorns filmmaker Severine Von Tscharner Fleming, with whom we went off on a field trip to visit some of those new American farmers that we’re always championing. Severine’s posted her eloquent take on the decline and renewal of the American landscape over at her blog, The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles.

It does look as though the tide of lawn lemmings is at long last turning. But this mass conversion of grass to veggies may bring an influx of other rodents to our backyard buffets. Will we let them nosh, or will we quash and sauce them?


Let’s Ask Marion: Waste Not, Want Not?

(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:The NY Times recently reported that, at a time when food shortages are plaguing so many countries, Americans waste an extraordinary amount of food, equivalent to "a pound of food every day for every American." Moms have been chiding their kids to clean their plates for decades on behalf of starving children in ________(insert deprived region of your choice). And, for decades, kids have wondered what eating those last bites of brussels sprouts could possibly have to do with some poor malnourished kid in Kenya. Is there a connection between America's overloaded plates and empty bowls elsewhere in the world?

Dr. Nestle:Yes, I saw that article. It has a great graphic of all the food a family of four wastes in a month superimposed on a map of the United States. I filed it under the heading of “let’s blame the world food crisis on wasteful Americans.” I don’t buy it. Americans have been wasting food for years. We can afford to. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t. In any case, half the food dollar is spent on food prepared outside the home, so a big chunk of that wastage is in the production and distribution system. According to the USDA, wastage amounts to about 1,400 calories a day on average for every man, woman, and child in the country (that still leaves us with 2,600 a piece).

Once again, the blame goes on personal responsibility, not policy. The world food crisis is your fault. If you personally didn’t waste so much, children in Haiti and Africa wouldn’t go hungry? Wouldn’t that be nice? Of course we should all be careful not to waste so much, and now that food prices are going through the roof, my guess is that we won’t. But I’ve been collecting reasons for the world food crisis, and wastage is just one of them. Try these:

• Climate change is depressing crop productivity
• Natural disasters--cyclones, earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis—are disrupting agriculture
• The war in Iraq is disrupting agriculture (among other things)
• The war in Iraq is raising oil prices
• Increased demand in developing countries is raising oil prices
• The war in Iraq is depressing the U.S. dollar
• Our huge trade imbalance with China is depressing the U.S. dollar
• Commodity speculators are raising crop prices
• We are growing too much corn for ethanol
• We all are eating too much meat (animals eat a lot of grain)
• People in India and China are demanding more meat
• Something about reduced interest rates that I don’t quite get

I’m sure there are more. Most of them make sense. Nearly all of them seem more important that food wastage, but OK. We can all do our part and be more careful. But surely the world food crisis is about politics, not personal responsibility.