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Posted 2/10/2011 8:46am by Eugene Wyatt.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the plan for a Bill of Social and Economic Rights in the State of the Union address broadcast on January 11, 1944.

People have a human right not to be hungry or malnourished in this age of abundance.

Speaker of the House John Boehner just rolled over in his Sun Spa to tan his back side.

Posted 4/23/2010 7:46am by Eugene Wyatt.

Sarah immerses a madder-red dyed yarn into the indigo pot; after 30 seconds, she will pull it out of the blue dye bath: it will be maroon like the yarn hanging on the right.

We hand dye the yarn that we have spun for us—this is value added farming—and with a good local market in Manhattan to sell our yarn and lamb, we can keep sheep upstate an hour away from the city.

If I were not so fortunate, if I were to sell the wool from my sheep, I might get $3.00 a pound from the corporate agribusiness middlemen who will send it to China to be processed and blended with an acrylic fiber before it comes back to be sold at our local Wal-Mart cheaply, "Always Low Prices, Always." 

But there is a cost to those low prices, my penny-wise and poor shoppers, and that cost is the shambles of the current US economy which results from, to name but one example of our debting process, the wars waged in the middle east paid for by money we borrowed from China, whom we'd made wealthy by buying their products, in order to, among other things, build Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles fired (by a technician looking at a monitor on a base in Arizona) at a suspected Taliban operative in a village in Pakistan that kills women and children in a nearby hut.  

We excuse these deathsin God we trustas collateral damage which is simply the cost of our flag waving to preserve the American Way as we protect the jobs of the off-shoreing agribusiness middlemen who bought my wool and the corporate interests of Wal-Mart who sell it. "Save Money, Live Better."

It's not just them and it's nothing personal; it's all of us to a lesser or greater extent.  We're all clinging to the same life boat.  How we spend our money, with whom, is how we vote.

And I am lucky...to know people in New York like Christine (see her comment below) with which to share value.

Posted 12/2/2009 12:31am by Catskill Merino.

December 2nd, 150 years ago, abolitionist John Brown was hanged, evoking this comment from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "They are leading John Brown to execution in Virginia for attempting to rescue slaves! This is sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind..." He paraphrases Hosea 8:7.

December 1st, yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke to the cadets at West Point and announced that 30,000 more soldiers will invade Afghanistan.  The President justified the invasion by bringing the howling wolf of terror to our hearts once again as if he had a parrot on his shoulder whispering into his ear and that bird resembled the former Vice President, Richard Cheney; the tone of the speech was surprising too, so different from his usual soaring rhetoric, and its tenor sounded like it had been drafted by Republican speechwriters with their trickle down reasoning in its subtext: we must protect the interest of Bank of America to protect the interest of Americans.

Broken promises or broken dreams? That I was disappointed understates my concern.  It was a "business as usual" speech that agonized and bored me to the point of my looking for distractions: drumming my fingers on the remote, making a tea I didn't drink, mindlessly skimming Proust again, etc.,  as I watched it on TV like an ADD sufferer off medication; this ennui takes over when listening to politicians telling partial truths, or condescending in the sense that they know more than they can tell me for my own good (as determined by them), and these slights merit a partial consciousness.

But on the other hand, what do you say to students of warfare, some of whom you will send to their deaths as Commander in Chief.  You must give these youngsters good reasons to die for Old Glory and that was what this spinning speech did; like a George Bush rerun, it promised them and their survivors the sweet truisms of democracy, liberty and freedom. 

O those whirling winds.

Tags: Politics
Posted 11/9/2009 7:16pm by Catskill Merino.

The End of Poverty?, a full length documentary film, co-produced by Union Square friend-of-the-farm Matthew  Stillman, indicts the neo-liberal global financial systems that create poverty, not the people caught up in it; and for me, the film does suggest solutions to diminish this scourage.  Like Life and Debt (2001), a film that addressed the impact of  globalization policies on the people of Jamaica, this film, which premieres in New York at the Village East Cinema the weekend of November 13th (opening also in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Austin), questions the rectitude of a world where fabulous wealth is built upon the backs of people living in acrid poverty.  And the film names names like the systemic institutions of the World Bank and the IMF while it traces their metastasizing tentacles of financial dominance back to the colonial enslavement of indigenous peoples when the north began to pillage the south for its treasure.

The film makes clear that a neo-liberal financial system (neoliberalism is pervasive and it is the credo of the world's investment banks, like Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and all others; it seeks to transfer part of the control of the economy from the public to the private sector, under the belief that the transfer will produce a more efficient government and improve the economy.  Does this not sound like the conservative's argument, against the public option in the current heathcare debate, to privatize) creates poverty, that neoliberalism is a "common enemy", an enemy of all people, an enemy of me and of you, be we rich or be we poor.  This film is important to us because the questions asked by it have answers that provide food for the hungry; some of these answers are direct and are about how to end poverty, not about why.

Questions of how, taken from the abstract and reframed as "What is to be done?", lead to the active question, "What can I do?"  The film offers several possible answers to the question of   poverty and what we can do about it:

1. Forgive international debt unconditionally...
2. Change the tax system in every country of the world...
3. Restore the land  to the people who actually work it...
4. End privatization of natural resources...
5. "Degrowth," cut consumption of resources and production of waste...

I support the conceptualization of  the above solutions—I do hope these changes can be implemented—but mostly they (numbers 1-4) are external to me: I don't know any world bankers or IMF accountants whom I could bribe with the wealth of compassionate reason; and as for land reform, I doubt if anyone would follow me into the Sierra Maestra mountains as they followed Fidel and Che.

However, "Degrowth" is a small yet powerful solution, it is internal, it is personal, it is something I can do and so can you.  Degrowth involves, as novelist Jonathan Safran Foer says about how choice can cure our global malnutrition from industrialized food spawned in factory farms, "These little daily choices that we're so used to thinking are irrelevant are the most important thing we do all day long."  In the interview quoted below, Foer didn't use the word "capital" even though his argument glaringly points to it by its omission.  In the minds of many American citizens (his potential book buyers) only tiresome Marxists use that word; besides in this day and age who would buy Das Capital, except a used copy from Strand or so he suspects his publisher thinks, I would suppose. 

We've found that capital (power) has no outside, no external; there is no escape or freedom from it, and you can not avoid capital by your denial of  it; you and I are complicit.

Be that the case, then we must choose accordingly in our home within the corporate bowels of capitalism and one choice will be where and how we spend our money.  Corporations with whom we do not trade are degrown by the dollar that we spend (grow/invest) elsewhere.   An example might be buying fair trade coffee rather than free trade coffee making sure the coffee farmers and field hands earn a fair, living wage.  Another example is local and it occurs when you buy fresh produce from a small farm at the Union Square Greenmarket rather than days-old produce from Whole Foods across 14th Street.   Obviously your dollars encourage the small farm; but in like kind, their absence at Whole Foods encourages this  feel-good chain store to trade with the world more fairly, to become more transparent, to become a truly responsible capital coproration, even to live up to its rosy, warm advertising, in order to recapture those lost dollars.  Corporations become aware of changes in public awareness in a  financial language they understand: their real and projected bottom lines as reflected by changes in the public's spending patterns.

That dollar is a vote and it is more active than a ballot cast to elect a representative who may or may not represent our  fair wishes, like the well-intentioned, admirable and inspiring, Mr. Obama.  A dollar spent is immediate; it represents us directly.  It isn't channeled indirectly to sway or support the compromised opinion of a politician.  By not giving our money to corporations systemically infected by the financial policies of  the World Bank and the IMF we can cut  their consumption that produces people as waste: the needy, the sick, the hungry; in short, the impoverished—us, for whom the bell tolls—north and south, neighbor and not.  Nobody is bigger than the collective you and I with our trillions of choices; nobody is too big to fail  (think of global warming) and if they are, they have already failed...I could go on, but I'd rather you go on, that we go on together.  Go see the film, feel it and be changed by it as I was.  The End of Poverty? Think Again

What is politics without poetics—hunger without food—let me leave you with a favorite poem, disliked by many for various and good reasons, but few can argue with its semantic music.

Gerontion

                  Thou hast nor youth nor age
    But as it were an after dinner sleep
    Dreaming of both
.
 
HERE I am, an old man in a dry month,    
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.    
I was neither at the hot gates    
Nor fought in the warm rain    
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,          
Bitten by flies, fought.    
My house is a decayed house,    
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,    
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,    
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.           
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;    
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.    
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,    
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.    
                    I an old man,           
A dull head among windy spaces.    
 
Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”    
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,    
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year    
Came Christ the tiger           
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,    
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk    
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero    
With caressing hands, at Limoges    
Who walked all night in the next room;           
 
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;    
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room    
Shifting the candles; Fräulein von Kulp    
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles    
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,          
An old man in a draughty house    
Under a windy knob.    
 
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now    
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors    
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,           
Guides us by vanities. Think now    
She gives when our attention is distracted    
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions    
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late    
What’s not believed in, or if still believed,          
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon    
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with    
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think    
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices    
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues           
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.    
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.    
 
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last    
We have not reached conclusion, when I    
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last           
I have not made this show purposelessly    
And it is not by any concitation    
Of the backward devils    
I would meet you upon this honestly.    
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom           
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.    
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it    
Since what is kept must be adulterated?    
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:    
How should I use them for your closer contact?           
These with a thousand small deliberations    
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,    
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,    
With pungent sauces, multiply variety    
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,           
Suspend its operations, will the weevil    
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled    
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear    
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits    
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,           
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,    
And an old man driven by the Trades    
To a sleepy corner.    
 
                    Tenants of the house,    
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.           

T. S. Eliot, Poems 1920

Posted 11/9/2009 5:51am by Catskill Merino.

"Jonathan Safran Foer is a strict vegetarian, but his most recent book, Eating Animals is not a screed against meat. It is, rather, an indictment of the corrupt, large-scale factory farming that dominates the American meat market."

Jessica Roy 

In the Nov. 6, 2009 issue of Salon, Ms. Roy interviews Mr. Foer at a coffee shop near his home in Brooklyn.

JR: This is not a straightforward case for vegetarianism. What is this book making a case for?

JSF: It's an explanation of my own vegetarianism, and it's a straightforward case for caring and thinking, and for the ideas that matter. These little daily choices that we're so used to thinking are irrelevant are the most important thing we do all day long. An enormous and very destructive force -- historically, it's unprecedented how destructive our farm system is -- has taken over America and is starting to take over the world. And unlike so many other horrible systems, this one doesn't require electing a new government or raising billions of dollars or fighting a war. It can be dismantled just by people making different choices. I think there are a lot of different choices people can make that will lead to dismantling the system. It's not like everybody has to go vegetarian. There are plenty of people who feel like, for whatever reason, they just can't stop eating meat, but if they bought meat at Greenmarket, from farmers they know by name, that's as effective a rebuttal.

and

JR: Can you talk a little bit about America's obsession with food?

JSF: There's never been a culture that wasn't obsessed with food. The sort of sad thing is that our obsession is no longer with food, but with the price of food. Factory farming supplies a demand for cheap meat. That's it. It doesn't taste good, it's not healthy for us. The only good thing about it is that it's cheap. But the thing is that it's not cheap. It's cheap at the cash register, and it's sold as cheap -- that's the defense for factory farming, "Look, we're making affordable food for normal people and all other arguments are elitist." But in fact factory farming is like the ultimate elitism because it's the most expensive food ever produced in the history of mankind. We pay very little at the cash register, but we pay and our kids are going to pay for the environmental toll, obviously the animals are paying, rural communities are paying. And for what? So that corporations can prosper. The huge agribusiness -- companies make hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars, not in the name of feeding the world, but in the name of making something that's so cheap that people become literally addicted to it.

JR: Aside from...eating locally, what are things that both vegetarians and meat eaters can do to help the transition from factory farms to something better?

JSF: First of all, they just have to say no to factory farms always. Not sometimes, not most of the time, but always, which means eating vegetarian a lot of the time. I think this issue is frankly more important than our conversation about the environment, because it is the No. 1 cause of global warning. The World Watch just released a report that showed that they thought animal agriculture was responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gases, but it turns out it's 51 percent. So to talk about the environment and not talk about this is not to talk about the environment. This conversation has to be totally mainstreamed. There has to be a consensus behind it that factory farming is bad and we're not going to support it and we're done with it. And it has to be unacceptable either to pretend these problems don't exist or not to actively engage with them. I'm not saying everybody has to reach the same conclusions, but they do have to agree on the common enemy.

http://www.salon.com/books/jonathan_safran_foer/index.html?story=/books/int/2009/11/06/jonathan_safran_foer

Posted 6/26/2009 3:27am by Catskill Merino.

In his opening monolog on June 8, David Letterman lamely joked on The Late Show:

"One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game," Letterman said, "during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."

By using her daughter, Sarah Palin exploited the joke for it's maximun political capital and Letterman subsequently apologized to the Palins, again and again, giving a bad joke long Republican legs.

But where was his apology to Alex Rodriquez...a Palin?  Oh David, shame on you!

Tags: Politics
Posted 6/18/2009 9:23pm by Catskill Merino.

Barg:

(I) have been following the Iranian thing on Twitter...very interesting how these Iranian kids are finding ways around the internet and cell phone blackouts with open source, block-breaking soft wares and satellites...  My heart goes out to them. All they want is to live in the 21st Century and make their own choices.

Eugene:

I love to see people in the street moving against the state; it stands the hierarchy of power on its head, if only for a moment.  At times like these, the people do not refuse the state in their manifestations (as media believe and say), instead they no longer refuse themselves in their gift-of-power to the state as they do on the days of giving, the days of métro, boulot, dodo. In the street they take their gift back.

Foucault is right, power is always offered from the bottom up (by the people) and they effect this in their thinking that assumes that power, and its oppression, is inflicted on them from the top down (by the state)—such beautiful, antithetical Derridian logic we live under—we are our own best policemen, what we believe is our penal sentence, and our sentence is for life...

Tags: Politics
Posted 6/18/2009 7:46am by Catskill Merino.

As reported by the AP, PETA wishes Obama hadn't swatted that fly.  PETA has turned its ethics on insects.  Next, will they work to protect vegetables from toothy deaths; if so, we all starve.  No one will be left to form PETU, People for the Ethical Treatment of Us, all living things.

Tags: Politics
Posted 2/9/2009 6:48pm by Catskill Merino.
"Members of Congress should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers to identify their corporate sponsors." — Author Unknown
 
 
Tags: Politics
Posted 11/6/2008 1:52pm by Catskill Merino.
Tina Fey told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, now that the people have spoken, she will retire Sarah Palin.
 
Tags: Politics
Posted 10/27/2008 5:28pm by Catskill Merino.

Don't be like me.  "He will bomb my goats..."
 

Tags: Politics
Posted 10/16/2008 8:00am by Catskill Merino.

(Note: In the style of H. L. Mencken I love to use invective, tangled with wit, as much as my politically contrarian friends love to read it, but the 2008 presidential campaign  may be too sad to be even darkly humorous.)

Last night I saw an old man nervously blinking in anger, smug with unwarranted pride, badly concealing his confusion, substituting talking points for thinking points.

Senator McCain's capacity is greatly diminished from 4 years ago, he is a man in the natural death throes of age, painful to watch and frightening as he slides away from the rational. He pretends nobody knows.  He's like a drunk trying to act sober while asking for the keys to our car.

Watching this embarassing sitcom, the possibility of the cartoonish Sarah Palin assuming the presidency became real; and that horror should drive  the 'undecided voters' to Senator Obama on election day.  Here we see a political phenomenon: during our current escalating financial crisis, the fear of McCain's and Palin's age and incompetence trumps the innate racism of the, euphemistically called, "white working class males" who, like good republicans, always vote their pocketbooks even if they have to vote for "that one."

Senator McCain should be retired from the race; and someone please, while  leading the poor man home—be kind to us—put lipstick back on the pit bull and drop her off at a Flyers game.
 
Tags: Politics