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Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A
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Archive for September, 2009

Arms Sales as Economic Warfare

September 30, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Politics

Money spent on arms is money that impoverishes people.  Governments take money from their citizens, money that they can ill afford to give up.  Instead of using that money on education and social programs which would help the poor climb out of poverty, it is paid out to weapons manufacturers.  Tax resentment, stemming from all the taxes it takes to keep up with arms purchases, makes social spending even more impossible.

According to a Congressional Research Service report out this month titled Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2001-2008 (CATDN), 76.4% of 2008 arms transfers agreements by major weapons suppliers were to nations in the developing world.  “The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2008 was nearly $42.2 billion.”

Let’s put $42.2 billion into perspective. India is one of the primary developing country purchasers of weapons around the world.  According to the World Bank’s Geo, India had a 2006 per capita income of $820.  So $42.2 billion is equivalent to a year’s income for more than fifty million Indians.

How many people is that?  Take the populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and San Antonio.  Add them together.  Now double it.  It is still less people than the fifty million Indians whose yearly income equivalent is being spent on arms by developing nations.

“India ranked second in arms transfer agreements during 2005-2008 with $20.2 billion (in current dollars), or 13.7% of the value of all developing-world arms transfer agreements.”   So while India contains a third of the worlds poor and while nearly a quarter of urban residents live in slums, the government is spending vast amounts of money on arms.

The money that is spent on arms by developing nations goes primarily to companies from the richest countries in the world.  And the United States military industrial complex benefits more than anyone. “In 2008, the United States ranked first in arms transfer agreements with developing nations with $29.6 billion or 70.1% of these agreements” (CATDN).*

Selling arms benefits the United States in all sorts of ways.  First there is the money directly made from the initial arms sales.  Then there is the continuing income from “upgrades, spare parts, ordnance and support services” (CATDN).

Rather than feeling any moral ambiguity about taking money from poor people in developing countries to fill the coffers of the U.S. “defense” industry, many in our government see the arms race as a desirable mechanism for keeping dependent countries from ever catching up.

Lest you think I have been hanging out on too many conspiracy theory websites, I direct your attention to Senate Bill 1044.  The bill was introduced by Republican John Thune of South Dakota.  It is titled Preserving Future United States Capability to Project Power Globally Act of 2009.  Its purpose is to “pursue a development program for the next generation bomber” and it reads, in part:

(2) Long range, penetrating strike systems provide…the ability to impose disproportionate defensive costs on prospective adversaries of the United States.

In other words, as long as we can keep other countries buying our outrageously expensive high tech weapons, our world hegemony remains secure.  The fact that this hegemony depends on keeping the poor impoverished is not an unintended consequence.  It is a tactic.

_____

* Please note that this figure includes only the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales.  Data for commercial export sales is not kept by any government agency.

United States commercially licensed arms deliveries data are not included…The United States is the only major arms supplier that has two distinct systems for the export of weapons: the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system, and the licensed commercial export system. (CATDN)

David Vitter is an Idiot

September 29, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

This post was going to be about one of Senator David Vitter’s idiotic bills.  But then I started looking at all his bills and each one was stupider than the last.

This isn’t the first time I have written about Vitter.  In Sneaky Union Busting I wrote about his bill meant to poke a planet-sized hole in collective bargaining.  But destroying unions isn’t all Vitter has been up to.  Vitter has sponsored 54 bills in the Senate (none of which, thankfully, have passed).  Of the 108 items he has cosponsored, only one has passed.

S.Res.22 – A resolution recognizing the goals of Catholic Schools Week and honoring the valuable contributions of Catholic schools in the United States.

Wow. Vitter has really done Louisiana proud.  I’m sure his constituents’ lives are much better now that this resolution has passed.

Hopefully, none of his constituents are too into that whole separation of church and state thing.  Vitter isn’t.  One of his other submitted senate resolutions is,

S.Res.5 – A resolution expressing the support for prayer at school board meetings.

Vitter is also a proud teabagger. He introduced,

S.Res.98 – A resolution designating each of April 15, 2009, and April 15, 2010, as “National TEA Party Day”.

And he is on the anti-Czar bandwagon.  According to Think Progress, he

filed an amendment to the $32.1 billion FY10 Interior-Environment appropriations bill that would block any of the bill’s funds from being used to carry out orders from Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, who is often referred to in the press as the White House “climate czar“

Do you like that health insurance your employer provides?  Vitter doesn’t.  He would prefer if you lost that and were mandated to buy your own.  Vitter isn’t too fond of immigrants either. He would like to change our citizenship laws. Currently, if you are born on U.S. soil, you are a U.S. citizen. Vitter submitted

S.J.Res.6 – A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to United States citizenship.

This proposed amendment would restrict citizenship to only those who have at least one citizen parent. That’s not Vitters only anti-immigrant proposal. He would also like to make sure any wages you earned (and social security contributions you made) while in the U.S. illegally can never be credited to you, even if you become legal (S. 115).

And then there is this gem.

S.91 – A bill to reduce the amount of financial assistance provided to the Government of Mexico in response to the illegal border crossings from Mexico into the United States, which serve to dissipate the political discontent with the higher unemployment rate within Mexico.

Cause, you know, the best way to stop economic refugees is to try to make life in their own country even more dire. Or maybe he wants to cut off U.S. funding for the drug war in Mexico? Hey, I might actually be down with that one.

No, my bad, that’s not it. He’s a drug warrior. He wants drug testing for anyone who applies for help from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

S.97 – Drug Free Families Act of 2009. A bill to amend title IV of the Social Security Act to require States to implement a drug testing program for applicants for and recipients of assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

And while they are there, maybe they can just give DNA samples too. Vitter would like anyone convicted of a felony to have to fork over DNA (S. 106). So when poor people go to apply for temporary assistance, we can drug test them, convict them for a felony, collect their DNA, and send them off to prison. Then they’ll have three squares a day. It’s just brilliant.

Of course, he has the requisite anti-abortion bills (S. 96 and S. 85).  And he has the requisite anti-flag burning bill (S.J. Res. 15). He made sure to show his pro-Israel chops by submitting

S.Res.6 – A resolution expressing solidarity with Israel in Israel’s defense against terrorism in the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps now that the Goldstone Report has come out, clearly showing Israel’s human rights violations, he’ll rescind that one? Yeah right.

Out of all of the horrible miscarriages of justice that David Vitter is fighting against, his crusade against ACORN is my personal favorite.  He is shocked, just shocked, to find out that ACORN has been caught supposedly assisting prostitutes.  It’s one thing for a Louisiana senator to hire a prostitute to play out his diaper fetish, but low-level ACORN employees advising someone posing as a prostitute on how to report their income to the IRS, well that’s just beyond.

Come on Louisiana.  You can do better than this.  Can someone please get rid of this guy in 2010?

Update:  Apparently, Citizens for Responsibility also think Vitter is an idiot and are trying to get him disciplined by the Louisiana bar for soliciting a prostitute.  (Dare I make a crack about how Vitter will feel about being “disciplined”?)

Is Protest Possible?

September 28, 2009 By: Mel Category: Change

The G20 meetings in Pittsburgh brought out thousands of protesters, although you might not know that given the little media attention they have gotten.    You can see an eleven minute video over at Fluxview of a permitted protest.  The city was very stingy with permits.  In fact, the only reason even a bit of protest was permitted in Pittsburgh was because the ACLU took the city to court.

Even the permitted protest was surrounded by cops in riot gear, but they let the protesters be.  Anyone who tried to gather without a permit was attacked.  In this video, some kids who had gathered in a park for a concert (kids who look like they were expecting a confrontation) were tear gassed and possibly shot at with rubber bullets.

Massive protest is allowed, just barely.  It has to be permitted.  It can’t disrupt the normal day to day.  It can’t pose any real challenge to order.  If it does, it will be squashed immediately.  And the police (and military) are very good at squashing.  That is because they have spent decades developing an arsenal of “less lethal” weapons that too few Americans seem to mind being used on us.

They don’t just have batons anymore.  They have pepper spray, light flashes, and rubber bullets.  You can peruse a list of items commonly used by police and military in this Department of Defense Nonlethal Weapons and Equipment Review.  Note, throughout the review, how it talks about “riot control” and “crowd control.”  They describe these weapons as meant to be used when “engaged in missions where a noncombatant threat exists” or for “crowd control during civil disturbances.”

In other words, less lethal weapons aren’t to protect us from harm, they are to protect the authorities from unarmed challenge to the system (and to protect property, of course, which often amounts to the same thing).

Many of the less lethal weapons used by police and military have been thoroughly tested on Palestinians by the Israeli army.  The sonic cannon (or something similar) that they used on Pittsburgh protesters was used on Palestinian protesters in Bil’in as early as 2005.  Tear gas and rubber bullets are regularly used on Palestinians.

And less lethal weapons are dangerous.  Hundreds of unarmed U.S. citizens have been killed by tasers. According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights, hundreds of Palestinians have been intentionally and seriously injured by the Israeli army, often with less lethal weapons like rubber bullets.

As Naomi Wolf points out in this video, protest works, but only if it isn’t the controlled and sanitized version that the authorities allow us.

But the authorities aren’t going to allow it.  We are caught between a sea of bureaucratic permits and an army of cops with less lethal weapons.  Amazingly few citizens seem concerned about the loss of freedom or the threat from overzealous authorities.

In this situation, is protest even possible anymore?

Carnival of the Liberals No. 97

September 26, 2009 By: Mel Category: Misc

Welcome to Carnival of the Liberals.  Lots of good posts this month.  My highlights are preceded by asterisks and followed by short quotes.

It has been one hell of a month or so in the U.S.

The health care crisis, perfectly summed up by  Dave Away From Home’s stark graphic titled Cristina’s Health Insurance, continued to spark contentious debate and even an outburst by Congressman Joe Wilson during Obama’s health care speech.

Torture made headlines again after Eric Holder announced that he would investigate interrogators who went beyond allowed methods.  Talking heads argued about whether or not torture provided accurate information, but as Stump Lane points out in What is Torture For, torture is not intended to get accurate information.

** At Apple of Doubt, Friar Zero goes into excruciating detail about what torture is and Why Torture Matters.

Torture doesn’t provide reliable information, it doesn’t deter future acts of terrorism, it doesn’t separate the guilty from the innocent, it treats prisoners like irredeemable animals rather than men, it’s born out of a primeval need for retribution, it’s subjective and capricious, and it is antithetical to civilized justice.

Treating prisoners like irredeemable animals isn’t just limited to war on terror suspects.  This month saw increasing attention to the Texas execution of (likely innocent) Cameron Willingham, for an accidental fire – a story Executed Today has been on for quite some time.  And Texas was also ground zero for some of the harshest criticisms of Obama’s speech to students, (Rough Fractals).

**The objections to Obama’s school speech appeared nonsensical.  The only explanation seemed to be that they were rooted in The Anti Obama Bigotry that Staring at Empty Pages describes.

It’s not acceptable to say that they don’t want a black president talking to their children, so they make up shit about political “indoctrination” and “subliminal” liberal messages, or compare him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il (as Mark Steyn did last week), and won’t allow their children to listen to the president.

Those racism tinged objections continued on 9/12 with anti-government, anti-cap and trade, anti-health care, anti-everything protests as covered on Stupid Right Wingers in Observations From the Tea Bag Protest in DC – 9/12/09.  And now it looks as though anti-government sentiment may be the motive for the murder of a federal census worker, a death that God’s Own Party argues was the result of Fear, Paranoia and Ignorance propagated by right-wing leaders like Michelle Bachmann.

**Meanwhile, as Doctor Biobrain points out, the Counter-Productive Charges of Racism get us no closer to solving our problems.

And rather than discussing the merits of Obama’s proposal, the Republicans gleefully attack us for “playing the race card” and insist that we’re unfairly smearing all “real” Americans; while the media has fun describing the mud fight that ensues.

Ah yes, the media.  When they aren’t giving the Michelle Bachmanns of the world a stage, they are whining like toddlers.  See Mad Kane’s post, Chris Wallace Feels Dissed.  (Don’t feel too bad about the state of our media U.S., River’s Edge was compelled to write In Defense of Local Journalism upon hearing about the troubles of an actually useful major publisher of local newspapers in the UK.)

Is it really a shock that the media aren’t covering anything substantial?  The people who own the media are quite happy to keep us peons squabbling and vilifying one another.  They don’t want any commie George Bailey types inspiring people.  The fact that, as Liberal Agnostic Redneck points out, teabaggers are duped into defending Pottersville works out quite nicely for some.

With all of these crises, an impotent media, and a paralyzed populace, it is easy to get discouraged.  Unless you too enjoy getting your weekly exercise through uncivilized, senseless screaming like the kind Freechezeburgerz describes in Have an Argument and Call Me in the Morning, you might be in a fit of despair by now.

**I mean, where do we go from here?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to discover Some Possible Health Care Solutions of Rick Foreman’s in a health care reform bill amendment – perhaps his suggestion that

If you don’t have health care we can pass legislation that will just exclude you from the species. If you’re not considered human then there’s no need to worry about human rights.

The scariest part is that we are dealing with, what should be, easy issues like health care.  We better learn how to have real debates soon or we are going to be in serious trouble when the moral issues get more complicated.  Can you imagine the explosion that will occur when science finally figures out Sexual Reproduction for Same Sex Couples, an event The Chromosome Chronicles describes as not being as far fetched as you might think.  You thought surogacy and in vitro was controversial.  That aint nothin.

It would help if we were able to agree on verifiable facts, or even that there are such things.  But verifiable facts are the purview of science and science is currently in disrepute with a significant portion of the population.  Not even congress is interested in scientific information.

**It is precisely that problem that is addressed in the book Unscientific America.  Unfortunately, according to the Primate Diaries, the book focuses on Rebranding Science, rather than real solutions.

In focusing on science communication alone, rather than unequal access to scientific tools, Mooney and Kirshenbaum have chosen to focus on style rather than substance. They present a host of wrongs but think that mere cosmetic changes will reverse two decades of decline.

And while scientists and other logical thinkers try to figure out how to make science cool again, too many of our fellow citizens live in fact free environments. The gay marriage panic is a perfect example.  All the right’s freaking out has, of course, turned out to be as ridiculous as it sounded.

** Will the facts matter?  Will it matter that, as (((Billy the Atheist))) shows, The Right is Wrong Again: Gay Marriage Does Not Hurt Marriage?

Looks like allowing human rights for all humans did not hurt the family, or the institution of marriage, or destroy America, or any of the other absurdities being spouted by the radical right wing.  Instead, Massachusetts now has a lower divorce rate than it did when the legalized gay marriage.  Oopsie.

Maybe Rick is right and this is all Evidence of Conservatives Mental Imbalance.  Maybe we are all, as the Evolving Mind shows, Normally Biased toward information that supports our already held beliefs.  Maybe liberals and conservatives are just wired differently.  Honest Inquiry asks Are We Born Liberal? and discovers that, unlike conservatives who want predictable familiarity, liberals want change and inclusiveness.

**Mind you, that doesn’t mean that liberal-leaning groups are always so great at being inclusive.  Greta Christina shows, in her post Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and RacePart I and Part II, that progressive movements suffer from the same homogeneity and denial that plagues other groups.

People can have racist or sexist attitudes without being conscious of them. You don’t need to be a torch- wielding member of the KKK or Operation Rescue to say and think dumb things about race or gender. (As someone who has said and thought plenty of dumb things… believe me, I speak from experience.)

So is it hopeless?  Should we all just throw in the towel, buy a shit ton of really good drugs, and go party naked on a warm Caribbean beach until global warming or the nuclear arms race takes us all?  Although that does sound like a good vacation plan, I’m not giving up on democracy just yet.  Neither, luckily for us, is Greta Christina.

**So let me leave you with Greta’s post Decisions are Made by Those Who Show Up: Why Calling Congress Isn’t a Waste of Time, Part I and Part II. We should listen to Greta.  We should get (or stay) involved.  Because as frustrating as our political discourse might be right now, she is right.

When very few people get involved in politics — when very few people even bother to vote, and even fewer bother to call or email their elected representatives — then the few people who do bother are the ones who get listened to. The hard-line crazies get to set the terms of the debate. Them, and the people with money.

And that does it for this month’s Carnival of the Liberals.  If this post left you wanting more of Greta Christina (and really, who doesn’t want more Greta), she will be hosting next month’s edition – scheduled to come out on October 31st.

Hunger Chalenge Thoughts

September 25, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality

I’ve been on the Hunger Challenge this week.  It’s been forcing me to think a lot more about my food.  That’s a good thing.  Even someone like me, who used to work at a center for agroecology, tends to forget about where my food is coming from and who is involved in bringing it to me.

I have new found sympathy and respect for the people who make a $4 per day food stamp budget work.  It takes careful planning and a lot of time cooking and shopping to eat on that.  There are single parents out there trying to work two jobs and still plan meals on that tight a budget.  They are amazing.

It’s infuriating that anyone would have to do that though.  Food is a human right.  And yet, according to the World Food Program

There are 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today. That means one in nearly six people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

That’s criminal.

Meanwhile, while people starve or scrape by as underpaid food system workers, agribusinesses and the food industry rake in monstrous profits.  Even in bad times, Archer Daniels Midland is making profits of $64 million a quarter.

ConAgra brought in $165.9 million in profit last quarter.  Monsato is cutting back now but looking to “more than double gross profit to as much as $8.8 billion in fiscal 2012 from $4.2 billion in 2007.”  That’s right.  That was billion with a b.

Food should not be a commodity that Wall Street speculates over and buys yachts with while millions are malnourished.  It’s disgusting.

Poor Women Feed the World

September 24, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about women using women.  In it I commented on privileged women using poorer women to clean their houses and raise their children – women who have low salaries and no benefits.

But the truth is that all of our lifestyles are built on the backs of poor people (and women in particular), even if we don’t have the direct exploitative employer/employee relationship.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Rural women in particular are responsible for half of the world’s food production and produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries.

And yet while these women are feeding us all, estimates are that 70 percent of the worlds poor are women.

It isn’t just an issue of small-holder agriculture either.  Women are overrepresented in all aspects of the grossly underpaid food system.  Women are the majority of wait staff, fast food workers, and counter attendants.

The latest occupational employment report shows the U.S. median wage at $15.57 per hour.  Workers in the food industry typically make little more than half that.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “more than two-thirds of all low-wage workers in 2003 were in service-type occupations, mostly in food service jobs.”

Every step of food production  – from the farm worker to the food processing plant to the food prep worker to the counter help or wait staff – relies on millions of underpaid workers with few (if any) benefits and little security.

How is it that the people who do the jobs most fundamental to survival are so undervalued?

Rethinking the 912 Protest

September 23, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

It is time for me to enter the 912 commentary fray.  It seems like most of the posts I’ve seen have either ridiculed all the protesters as ignorant racists or completely ignored the obvious racism and ignorance.

Below is a series of photos taken by Chris (that’s the boyfriend), who describes his undercover adventure into the 912 protests:

I would ask each protester in my Oklahoma accent if I could get a picture of their great sign. They would ask me suspiciously, one eyebrow up, who I was with. I told them I was an independent blogger. Not MSNBC, okay. They would ask me where I was from and I would tell them Oklahoma. Geographically okay. I just hoped they didn’t have any lefty sniffing dogs.

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Is it wise, or even fair, to just dismiss the 912 protesters as a hoard of pitchfork carrying, white-hood-wearing, racists?  Some of the signs were appallingly racist.  But most of the signs Chris shot were not indicative of the kind of personal hatred and bigotry that we most associate racism with.

Even the boyfriend, who grew up around people very much like those at the protest, “expected to see screaming lunatics like at the town hall or secessionist meetings I see on the television.”  But as Chris spent more time wandering around and talking to people, he got the impression that:

The vast majority of the people at this event were more government-out-of-my-life Libertarian types as opposed to right wing spittle spewing racists. That doesn’t mean there were not racist messages or people out there, because there were. It seemed, however, that there were more class issues and anti-government issues.

Now it is impossible to separate class and anti-government issues from racism in this country. It is impossible to separate anything from racism in this country, including healthcare. We are saturated in racism. But that is exactly why it is so ludicrous to dismiss people as racist and therefore unnecessary to be listened to.  If only non-racists are allowed to participate in our democracy, then we better anoint a king now.  The only problem is, where do we find the one non-racist to be king?

Dismissing all the protesters isn’t just undemocratic, it also avoids confronting issues that we need to confront.  As Stephen Maynard and Charlton McIlwain point out in their must read post, using racist as a noun only obscures the fact that we are fighting structural racism and not just personal bigotry.

And remember, as you look at some of the more appalling photos and images from that protest, what the media does to us.  There could be a million everyday-looking people at an anti-war march, but the media will film the three naked hippies or the two kids throwing rocks through windows.  We don’t get reporting anymore.  We get Jerry Springer with a veneer of newsiness.

That’s if the media bothers to show up at all.  Note that most of the footage and photos floating around the internet don’t seem to be from major news stations.  Chris said, ” I saw one other person wading through the crowd as I was covering the event. I didn’t see any news trucks.”

The media doesn’t need to stick around because they have no plans to talk about anything substantive.  Darren at Dissenting Justice observes that:

The issue of race has become the latest nonpolicy distraction for the media. Earlier, the media covered violence and mayhem at healthcare town hall discussions — rather than the substance of reform. It then covered the conflicts between moderate and liberal Democrats (rather than the substance of reform). Now, it is exploring whether the opposition to Obama is racist (rather than the substance of reform).

Nobody knows what the hell is in those healthcare bills.  Matt Taibbi says you would have to read 9,000 or 10,000 pages of documents in order to figure out what they are trying to do.  And then the myriad of bills will just go into committee, where who knows what will happen.

It isn’t surprising that people are confused and enraged and feeling as though our government is constantly confusing, deceiving and taking advantage of us.  And since we don’t communicate with each other, it’s easy for the Glenn Beck’s of this world to rake in the cash insinuating that the money of “hard working Americans” is going to be given to less hard-working, less American (less white ) people.

The anger and confusion is legitimate.  It is the target that is too often confused.  Glenn Greenwald (the Glenn that people should be listening to) says:

It is true that the federal government embraces redistributive policies and that middle-class income is seized in order that “someone else benefits.” But so obviously, that “someone else” who is benefiting is not the poor and lower classes — who continue to get poorer as the numbers living below the poverty line expand and the rich-poor gap grows in the U.S. to unprecedented proportions. The “someone else” that is benefiting from Washington policies are — as usual — the super-rich, the tiny number of huge corporations which literally own and control the Government.

In the first link of this post, there is a video of some anti-czar protestors. The interviewer points out that Ronald Reagan appointed the first czar and that Bush increased them. The protestors had no idea. It’s easy to ridicule them for being ignorant, but by doing so you might miss something important. One of the women says she has been a republican all her life, but is rethinking that now. That’s what we really need, a whole lot of Americans rethinking their knee jerk support of the republican and democratic parties. That’s what we could get if we actually spoke to one another.

I’m not saying it will be a piece of cake or that everyone is equally open to new information. Too many people, right and left, are closed minded as hell. Chris didn’t talk to everyone, but he talked to enough people to give him an impression that he wouldn’t have gotten from sitting in front of the televison

Once people realized my t-shirt was Bob Marley and not Go Army (same green color), they stopped giving such candid proud photos. They would still talk to me though, guarded perhaps. But they would still have an ideological political discussion with me. I believe, to save our democracy, we need to find a way to have those conversations in the midst of all the crazies.

***P.S. Still on the Hunger Challenge this week.  Yesterday went a bit better.  I managed to stay in my $4 budget and get to the gym.  I was still sadly lacking in veggies though.

Poor People Can’t Eat Healthy

September 22, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality

I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post that I am participating in the Hunger Challenge.  It means I am trying to eat on $4 per day.  That’s how much someone gets if they are on food stamps.

How am I doing?  Not so good.

Yesterday I was hungry and cranky.  I skipped working out because I would have been famished after.  I usually eat every few hours to keep my metabolism up (and my crankiness down), but that was impossible.  My daily apple was skipped.  Fruit is just too expensive.  My lunch salad consisted of three ingredients.

With all that I still went over my $4.  Pathetic no?

Research shows that obesity and poverty are linked in this country.  Just one day on the Hunger Challenge showed me why.  I knew I was going to have to give up the farmers market and the organic food.  I knew I was going to have to give up pricey fish and cheese.  I didn’t think I was going to have such a hard time including even a couple fruits and vegetables.

The cost of fruits and vegetables isn’t just a matter of chance, it is a matter of policy.  Our government subsidises farmers, but not the farmers who grow most fruits and vegetables.  In fact, government policies actually prevent farmers from growing fruits and vegetables.

That’s just crazy.

Thoughts on the People’s Summit

September 21, 2009 By: Mel Category: Change

The overwhelming thought I had after attending the People’s Summit opening day on Saturday was, why?

Why did I bother to go?  What is the purpose of these gatherings?  Are they a good way to spend our time and money?

I’m not trying to say that it was a total waste.  I heard some interesting speakers.  I have pages of notes on topics I would like to write about.  I have information on several local groups in my area.  But is that enough to travel far and wide for?

It seems that people in Phili didn’t think that was enough to travel across the city for.  The event on Saturday was sparsely attended.  And, despite the fact that the event was in the midst of two universities, the attendees were decidedly mature.

I think the summit was a missed opportunity.  We can read about the ideas that were there.  We can watch U-Tube videos of speakers.  If you are bringing people together, it should be for more than just listening to speakers on a stage.

There were breakout sessions.  The one I attended was interesting, but it would have been even better if the specific goal of the conference was to bring people together to share information and lay the groundwork for connections that could have practical impact.

**On another topic – I’m taking the Hunger Challenge this week.  I have to somehow manage to eat for $4 a day.  If anyone has any tasty recipes that don’t involve adding water to Ramen, pass them along.

The Real Czar – George W. Bush

September 18, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

The right wing, with Glenn Beck leading the charge, has been drumming up controversy over Obama’s “czars.”  They claim the “czars” have powerful positions with no oversight.  This is despite the fact that, as Politico reports,  many of them were confirmed by congress or fill posts specifically authorized by congress.

The democrats are now jumping on board too.  Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold, and Diane Feinstein want to make sure these “czars” do not upset the checks and balances in our system.  (Somebody want to tell me where they were when Dubya and Darth Cheney were running the Whitehouse/world?)

I think a little history lesson might be in order here.  Czars were overprivelged, hereditary royalty.  The last czar of Russia, Nicholas, was adamantly autocratic, loved pogroms, and was prone to letting the people die of starvation while he lounged in his palace surrounded by Faberge eggs.  His excesses and corrupted mind decimated Russia’s economic system and military.

So, let’s see, George W. Bush:

  • overprivileged – check
  • hereditary position – check
  • autocratic – check (he was “the decider” you know)
  • lets people die while he lounges/vacations – check (Katrina)
  • pogrom loving – I think Fallujah qualifies
  • economic devastation – check
  • military decimation – check

I believe this means that Rove is Rasputin.  He was the mystic who advised Nicolas and is often blamed for Russia’s downfall.  His alleged penis is now on display in St. Petersburg.  I don’t wish violence on anyone, but Rove might want to start wearing a cup.