The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities

From The Nation:

Frances Moore Lappé
September 14, 2011

For years I’ve been asked, “Since you wrote Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, have things gotten better or worse?” Hoping I don’t sound glib, my response is always the same: “Both.”

As food growers, sellers and eaters, we’re moving in two directions at once.

The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years.

That’s one current. It’s antidemocratic and deadly.

There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.

Some Americans see the food movement as “nice” but peripheral—a middle-class preoccupation with farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthy school lunches. But no, I’ll argue here. It is at heart revolutionary, with some of the world’s poorest people in the lead, from Florida farmworkers to Indian villagers. It has the potential to transform not just the way we eat but the way we understand our world, including ourselves. And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.

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Has American-Style Conservatism Become a Religion?

From Alternet:

Fundamentalist religion plays a big role in today’s Republican party–but has it gone even further, spreading dangerous beliefs as articles of faith?

By  Joshua Holland
September 15, 2011

As the American right lurches from traditional conservatism – a go-slow approach to governing that stresses the importance of continuity and social stability – to a far more reactionary brand typified by acolytes of Ayn Rand and Tea Party extremists waving misspelled signs decrying Democrats’ “socialism,” the time has come to ask whether modern “backlash” conservatism has become a religious faith rather than a pedestrian political ideology.

Ideology is grounded in the real world. It offers us a philosophical lens through which we can efficiently process what’s happening in the world around us. Religion is different. It’s a fixed belief system, based on faith, and it is immune to – or at least highly resistant to – challenges mounted by objective reality. Which better describes the belief system of a typical Rush Limbaugh fan or Tea Party activist?

Like religious faiths, the hard-right reveres an original text – the Constitution – and, like all religious fundamentalists, conservatives claim to adhere to a literalist interpretation of it while actually picking and choosing from among its tenets. Just as the vast majority of Christian fundamentalists don’t actually stone their daughters to death when they’re obnoxious to their fathers, the Tea Partiers conveniently ignore more or less the entirety of Article 3. Also like other fundamentalist sects, most conservatives actually have a poor understanding of what the text they revere actually means.

Like the Manicheans – adherents of one of the world’s great religions at one point in history – they tend to see a world defined by a conflict between the forces of light and darkness. The forces of good are decent, conservative, “real” Americans – mostly white, married Christians, but with exceptions made for others who keep the faith. They stand opposed to a wide array of diabolical figures: liberals, gays and lesbians, Muslims, Mexicans, socialists and other foreigners, especially the French.

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Book: Women in Obama White House felt excluded and ignored

From Washington Post:

By Nia-Malika Henderson and Peter Wallsten,
Published: September 16, 2011

A new book claims that the Obama White House is a boys’ club marred by rampant infighting that has hindered the administration’s economic policy and left top female advisers feeling excluded from key conversations.

“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind due out next Tuesday, details the rivalries among Obama’s top economic advisers, Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. It describes constant second-guessing by Summers, now at Harvard, who was seen by others as “imperious and heavy-handed” in his decision-making.

In an excerpt obtained by The Post, a female senior aide to President Obama called the White House a hostile environment for women.

“This place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

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Corporate media promotes Republican ultra-right

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Patrick Martin
16 September 2011

The Republican presidential debate held September 12 in Tampa, Florida was co-sponsored by a major television network and an ultra-right group, Tea Party Express, one of a half-dozen organizations, lavishly financed by right-wing multi-millionaires, that posture as the “grass roots” of the Republican Party.

The debate was the first time that one of the main television networks had formed a formal partnership with sections of the Tea Party movement, who invariably demonize the media as “liberal”, except for the openly right-wing and pro-Republican Fox News.

The effect of the whole presentation was to appeal to those who would once have been considered the lunatic fringe of American politics and to portray them as a legitimate and even “mainstream” trend. It is these forces, which represent a tiny minority of the population, that set the tone for policy, not just in the Republican Party, but in the entire political establishment.

The event was deliberately staged as a celebration of patriotism and American nationalism, with the singing of the national anthem at the beginning, and the eight Republican candidates brought on stage one by one with the announcer identifying them and giving a capsule description. As several media critics noted, CNN brought the production values of a professional football game to the debate.

CNN linked the debate broadcast to satellite feeds from three other Tea Party meetings, in Virginia, Ohio and Arizona, where local ultra-rightists gathered to pose questions to the candidates and voice their reactions.

It was all the more sinister because the CNN debate feed was picked up and rebroadcast over the Armed Forces Network, the Pentagon’s in-house television network for troops on bases in 175 countries, and on Navy ships at sea. In other words, the military brass made a decision to promote to a captive audience of soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and other overseas locations the Republican presidential candidates making their appeals to a far-right audience.

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The Great Oyster Crash and Why Ocean Acidification Is “A Ticking Time Bomb” for Both Marine Life and Humanity

From Think Progress:

by Kiley Kroh
Sep 14, 2011

Americans consume approximately 700 million farmed oysters per year.  Despite our love for these briny bivalves, shellfish and the coastal communities that depend on them face serious threats.

In a recent piece, Eric Scigliano examines “The Great Oyster Crash” of 2007, in which oyster seed (larvae) off the coast of Oregon and Washington began dying by the millions, seemingly without cause.  After taking aggressive measures to eliminate bacteria in the tanks, and failing to halt their losses, the owners began to suspect the problem was a more fundamental change in the makeup of the oceans.  With the help of local scientists, they found that their losses were directly linked to a far more ominous phenomenon: ocean acidification.

As Scigliano explains, “the oceans are the world’s great carbon sink, holding about 50 times as much of the element as the air.”  As carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes rise, so too does the level of acidity in the oceans.  Once it reaches a certain threshold, ocean acidification becomes lethal to many species, including clams and oysters, which become unable to build the shells or skeletons they need to survive.

The rise in acidity and subsequent oyster crash took a significant toll on coastal communities – from 2005 to 2009, West Coast production dropped from 93 million pounds to 73 million pounds, representing  $11 million in lost sales. This case is among the earliest examples of ocean acidification imposing a direct effect on the economy. Unfortunately, we can safely say it is far from the last.

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