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Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 03/12/2008 - 4:46pm.
Eating Liberally Food For Thought
There are simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, and then there’s the Twinkie, made from military industrial-complex carbohydrates. It’s got some of the same ingredients as tracer bullets and artillery shells, as I learned from reading Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie, Deconstructed.
Ettlinger’s book, just out in paperback, documents the 39 ingredients it now takes to make a Twinkie, many of them minerals and chemicals, some derived from crude oil. This petroleum-based pastry is about a million food miles removed from your grandma’s yellow sponge cake, which had a shelf life of maybe two days, max.
Today’s Twinkie, on the other hand, stays frighteningly “fresh” for an unnaturally long time (officially, 25 days, but we all know it’s really more like 25 months.) Real butter turns rancid too fast, so the Twinkie gets its butter-like taste and texture from petrochemical-based ingredients like diacetyl, a close cousin to acetylene welding gas, and butyric acid, a flavor which Ettlinger gleefully informs us is “a natural component of Parmesan cheese, rancid butter, and, unbelievably, vomit and perspiration."
Twinkie, Deconstructed may amaze and appall you, but the fact is that while a Twinkie is not particularly good for you, it’s not all that bad for you, either. It’s just an amalgam of industrial ingredients and artificial flavors posing as an actual pastry. How did we ever fall for this oily oblong cake with the mystery “cream” filling?
Take a trip down Madison Avenue’s memory lane via YouTube with the classic seventies Twinkie ad at the top of this post and you'll find out. Watch the housewife-on-a-budget vow that no matter how tight money gets, she’ll never deprive her kids of “fresh, wholesome” Hostess Twinkies, because “you can’t skimp when it comes to your children.”
Fast forward to this series of Flickr photos taken last month entitled “It’s What’s For Breakfast,” in which a visibly disgusted mom in Portland, Oregon documented five days of the hot "food" served free to kids at her local public school in the morning before school. Stuff like “Bagel-ers,” which are some kind of bagel and cream cheese concoction, and a pancake-sausage-breakfast-sandwich that “tastes like sugar,” and a cereal bar made of whole grain oats glued together by “corn syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup. . . followed by a long list of other ingredients most of them with names only a chemist would understand.”
Or Steve Ettlinger. Twinkie, Deconstructed is not a Fast Food Nation/Omnivore’s Dilemma-style indictment of our food chain; it’s a science writer’s agenda-free foray into the peculiar world of processed foods, an odyssey Ettlinger embarked on in response to his daughter’s innocent question, “Daddy, what’s polysorbate 60?”
After reading Twinkie, Deconstructed I have a better understanding of what goes into the “cakelike cylinders (with creamlike fillings) called Twinkies that never grow stale,” as Michael Pollan describes them in In Defense of Food.
What I don’t understand is why our agricultural policies continue to promote these “edible foodlike substances” (Pollan's words, again.) It’s bad enough that your tax dollars are paying for all those amber waves of grain that get turned into nutritionally bankrupt foods and environmentally disastrous biofuels. But did you know that the USDA actually penalizes commodity crop growers who want to replant their fields with fruits or vegetables?
I didn’t, until I read Jack Hedin’s op-ed in last Saturday’s New York Times. Hedin, a small organic vegetable farmer in southern Minnesota, reveals that, at a time when farmers’ markets are popping up all over the country to meet the growing demand for fresh local produce, the USDA is working “deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding.” Why in the world would they want to do that? Hedin explains:
The USDA actually fines farmers who have the audacity to switch from growing commodity grains to, say, melons or tomatoes, as Hedin learned the hard way. Talk about passive/aggressive. The USDA’s telling us we’ve got to eat more fruits and vegetables even as it’s thwarting the efforts of small family farmers to help us do just that.
At a time when Michael Pollan and those Skinny Bitches are convincing this nation of meatheads that a plant-based diet is better for us--not to mention our fellow creatures and the planet--our government is in cahoots with Agribiz and Big Food to keep us hooked on a chemical plant-based diet. And that’s a shame, because the epidemic of diseases caused by our Western diet poses a far greater threat to mankind than Middle Eastern terrorists.
Joe Wilson went off to Niger in search of “yellow cake” and came up famously empty-handed in the fiasco we’ve come to know as “PlameGate.” Little did he know we’ve got a yellow cake-based weapon of mass destruction right here at home.
Originally posted on TakePart.com.
Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 03/11/2008 - 12:00am.
A month ago, we told you about the inaugural meeting of Shooting Liberally which would be coming up later that day. Well, the second meeting of Shooting liberally NYC is coming up (next Tuesday, in fact), and we wanted to report back to you on the first Shooting Liberally in the Empire State - what happens when a group of Manhattanite liberals bond over progressive politics and shooting ranges?One novice, Tim, summed it up this way:
Which hints at an important aspect of the chapter - of the sixteen spaces we reserved at the range, a healthy majority were taken up by women. When Shooting Liberally was not busy shooting down bullseyed targets, they took turns shooting down gender stereotypes.
Gender stereotypes weren't the only stereotypes that we took aim at, however - we also took aim at political stereotypes. Scott explains:
Which brings up an interesting issue - all of our Shooting Liberals are no slouches to the second word in the name. These are real lefties, and that includes believing in sensible gun control as well as responsible gun ownership. However, the last time we posted on this topic, we got a fair amount of comments from folks whose view of the 2nd amendment has changed a bit due to the radical nature of the Bush administration. Do you in the comments have any thoughts on this matter?
Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 03/10/2008 - 11:16pm.
My dad installed a reverse osmosis water filtration system in our house decades ago for religious reasons; as a Christian Scientist, he objected to the City of Los Angeles imposing its “medicated”—i.e. fluoridated---drinking water on us.
Looks like you were ahead of your time, Dad! The Associated Press has just released the results of an investigation showing that:
I blogged about this problem a year and a half ago in a post called “Sexually Confused Fish Popping Up In The Potomac,” about another AP report citing concerns that these “endocrine disruptors” were suspected in a dramatic rise in malformed male fish found in DC waterways. In that post I noted that:
So, what’s the EPA’s reaction to the AP’s latest findings?
Grumbles--great name for a guy whose primary duty probably involves a lot of fancy foot-dragging.
While the pharmaceutical industry is insisting, by and large, that this contamination of our water supply is not a cause for worry, the AP quotes Mary Buzby, director of environmental technology for drug manufacturer Merck, as saying ''There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they're at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms.''
Americans are ingesting prescription drugs at record rates, but that’s not the only source of contamination. Veterinary drugs used to treat our pets for “arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity,” and drugs used to treat livestock, are a factor, too, according to the AP. And the problem’s not limited to surface waters, either:
Maybe it’s time for the researchers to stop focusing on male fathead minnows and start taking a closer look at how all this stuff is affecting two-legged male fatheads. In the meantime, the beverage industry is ramping up production of “enhanced” bottled waters fortified with all kinds of supposedly nifty nutrients. Save your money, folks! Take it from the tap—apparently, it’s got traces of every prescription drug you could possibly need, and then some. Unless, of course, that’s against your religion.
Originally posted on TakePart.com.
Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 11:04pm.
While some of us moan and groan about the unmitigated awfulness of industrial agriculture and our craptastic food chain, others are literally sowing the seeds of an agrarian revival. The idealistic young farmers and gardeners fueling this ag-revolt have been christened “The Greenhorns” by one extraordinary, exuberant young farmer/filmmaker, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, who’s documenting their horticultural heroics in a film by the same name.
America’s got more prisoners than farmers these days, and the average age of the farmers we do have is over sixty years old. Strip mall sprawl has displaced the small family farmers who once nourished our nation. Monocrop madness is sucking the life out of our precious topsoil, poisoning our air and water, and giving us really lousy food, to boot.
Actually, that description sounds a bit like Severine herself; she’s thrown herself into this project with a passion, but no deep-pocketed patrons to finance the film. So right now she and her feisty team are scrambling to scrape up a few thousand dollars to finish a short version of The Greenhorns to submit to Slow Food on Film’s International Festival this May in Bologna, Italy.
We watched the trailer last night at a fundraiser for The Greenhorns held in a perfectly pastoral Brooklyn loft full of biodynamic young movers and shakers who shared with us their lovingly prepared local food. They are “onto something good, and real,” as Peter Hale, one of the film’s fundraisers and host of the party, said.
And essential, I'd add. Sadly, Matt and I had to leave before they broke out the s’mores made with homemade graham crackers, but we headed back to Manhattan heady with hope that Severine and her Greenhorns could lure a new generation back to the land to reclaim our food chain.
With dwindling resources, global food shortages, climate change, and the triple threats of peak oil, peak soil, and peak water nipping at our heedless heels, industrial agriculture is becoming a “luxury” we can’t afford.
What we have come to call “conventional” farming is, in fact, a total aberration from the way food was produced the world over for centuries. The UK’s Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett decried “the malign influence of an unthinking worship of technology” at a lecture in London last year:
This is a lesson that Agribiz advocates have yet to learn, but while they’re busy cloning cows, shoving bogus bio-tech breakthroughs down our throats, and declaring dominion over the American dinner table, Severine and her merry band of urban and rural rebels are plotting to overthrow King Corn and declare our independence from industrial agriculture. You’d better hope this revolution takes root, because we are dying for a better way to live in this country.
Originally posted on TakePart.com.
Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 5:47pm.
Screening Liberally Big Picture
It's rare that we talk here about the selling of movies, preferring to talk about the movies themselves. But tonight we make an exception, with a quick note about the recent film about the post-1968 Chicago convention trial, Chicago 10.
The standard method for selling a Hollywood movie is, well, pretty standard. You spend a lot of money saturating the market with ad buys, posters at bus stops, morning talk show interviews, and so on. Then, it either catches on, or it doesn't. But Chicago 10 is doing something a little different, something which might could help illustrate the potential for smaller films to become a little bigger thanks for the evangelizing of their most fervent fans.
This is the kick-off bid, by Morgan Spurlock, in a contest being held by Participant Media and DeclareYourself.com. Essentially, the associated website provides extensive video and audio clips to visitors, which they can utilize in their own videos. The idea is that you combine your own footage with the Chicago 10 materials to create a PSA on the issue you most care about in the upcoming Presidential election, with the winner selected by director Brett Morgen to be featured on the film's DVD.
Is this game-changing? No - there've been plenty of create-your-own-significant-length contests paired with the launch of relatively major films before. But it is the first such contest I can remember making such heavy use of a liberal distribution of the original film footage itself, and thait is a very exciting step in a positive direction.
Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:48pm.
Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying
A version of this post originally appeared on Take Part.
Dear Hamilton Nolan & Gawker:
I want to thank you for your post supporting Christopher Hitchens' claim that women aren't funny. I also I want to apologize for not writing sooner, but between getting my bikini line waxed, shopping, trying, in vain to be funny, and dealing with PMS, I had no time-- and was in no shape--to write anything. But I want to thank you for having the testosterone-drenched you know whats to say what nobody else, besides Christopher Hitchens and lots of men, will say: women comics Suck! And Christopher Hitchens Rocks! Responding to the unfunny and boring and (I know this is redundant) female-written Vanity Fair article Who Says Women Aren't Funny, you write
The problem they [female comics] have is they often talk about things that women can relate to--relationships with men, babies, periods, shopping, love. As a man, I can't relate to all that. That puts women comics at a distinct disadvantage when trying to win over me and my fellow men. This is obvious day, right here.
THANK YOU! I can't STAND when Sarah Silverman talks about her babies! Oh, right she doesn't have any, but I bet if she did she wouldn't shut up about them.
And Tina Fey, can you please stop talking about your period? I mean, I haven't hear her talk about it, but she's a woman and it happens once a month--I know, TMI, sorry :( -- and when it does we're really emotional, so I bet even if she didn't want to talk about her period, it would be biologically impossible for her to stop herself from talking about her hormones and her feelings. So I'm sure it comes up, right?And I too wonder why "girls," as you call us, bother getting their frilly pink panties all up in a bunch over Christopher Hitchens. I love your point that
Chris [that is SOOOO cool that you call him by his nickname!] Hitchens is a brilliant, repugnant slob of a man, and any argument he makes should be taken as one from a male point of view. For him to say that women aren't funny is for him to say that they're not funny to him, a man.
THANK YOU! That reminds me of when the PC Nazis spit up their fair trade soy organic lattes over my occasional harmless observations about black people's inferior intelligence. See, I'm a brilliant, appealing, slob of a white person, and any argument I make should be taken as one from a white point of view. For me to say that black people aren't that smart is for me to say that they're not smart to me, a white person. So take a chill pill ladies... and black people.
Do you actually think women are funny? Then take action and support the Hysterical Festival, New York's first female comedy festival ever.
Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:15am.
Clinton calls a vote for Obama a gamble;
Obama suggests that Clinton lacks "judgment" --
The Dems face months more of uncertainty...
And honestly...which would you rather have:
Wash out that taste of the "straight-talk express"
Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 03/05/2008 - 6:19pm.
In the below post, we briefly discuss Michael Connery's excellent new book on progressive youth politics, Youth To Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority. For those Open Left readers in the NYC area, Connery is joining us for a free book launch party with drinks, debate, discussion & a little laughter courtesy of Laughing Liberally, at The Tank, 279 Church Street, Manhattan - more information available here.
We often hear Drinking Liberally described as a progressive youth organization. We appreciate the sentiment, but that's only half-right.
Don't get us wrong, we're proudly progressive, and many of our most enthusiastic and capable members are millenials. But as much as we belieiving in empowering and equipping the next generation of liberal leaders, it wouldn't be accurate for us to call ourselves gurus of youth politics - we're much more intergenerationally oriented, with chapter leaders ranging in background from campus dwellers to card-carrying AARP members.
While there's no shortage of great progressive youth organizations out there (with Young People For coming to mind as a particularly sterling example), there have been few published authors on progressive youth politics that we could point to.
Until now, with the publication of Michael Connery's wonderful new book, Youth to Power, which hits a zeitgeist of curiosity about youth politics that's been a long time coming - a time in which Michael has been one of the greatest champions of young voters, dating back to his co-creation of Music For America back in 2004.
While we'll have more content about YTP in the upcoming weeks, including a full review, we'd like to take this time to quickly note that if you want to help encourage the right memes about youth voting in the traditional media discussion, then now is the time to check out Mike's argument, whether through the book or through his blog, Future Majority.
This is, after all, a unique historical moment, as Mike noted in his TPMCafe appearance on Monday (where he'll be fielding questions all week), the public perception of youth voters as engaged civic participants has went from laughable a few year ago to a given in the aftermath of Obamamania - and as such, now that we have the floor to talk about engaged youth voters, we better be careful about doing a good job. Or, as Mike puts it:
We were in a similar moment a few years ago, when non-plugged-in voters found themselves asking, "What are these progressive blogs I'm hearing so much about?", and, thankfully, Crashing The Gates was there to help answer that question, even if it wasn't primarily about blogging. (Thankfully, Hugh Hewitt's Blog didn't play that role.) Now, we have a similar void to fill - and Connery's book is an ideal vehicle to do so.
Chapter leaders... Please login here.