How bailing out the rich created the Depression


From IAN WELSH
Crooks and Liars

The other day, Krugman wrote that we’re in the beginning of a new Long Depression.

Forgive me, but he’s wrong: this isn’t the beginning, it’s been going on for about two years now.

During a Depression there are periods where GDP grows. There are periods where jobs grow. It’s just that the periods of job growth don’t last.

There were opportunities to end the Depression before it really dug in its heels. The last one was at the beginning of Obama’s term. Kicking out of the Depression required two things.

The first was an adequate stimulus. This didn’t just mean a large enough stimulus, though the one offered was not large enough, it meant one properly constructed. Tax cuts for ordinary Americans are not stimulative, because folks like banks who have pricing power (you must have a credit card, loans, etc…) will simply take that money away by raising rates and fees. And it doesn’t mean short term shovel-projects, it means making commitments which will last for years so that businesses, when making plans know that hiring is worth it because those employees will be needed for more than a year or so.

Likewise the US has some serious problems with the structure of the American economy. The cornerstone of the stimulus had to be reducing US dependence on oil because as long as the US economy is so dependent on oil, full fledged growth is simply not possible. The days of $20/barrel oil aren’t coming back, and every time the price of oil gets too high, it puts great pressure on the US economy (and every other modern nation.)

more here
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Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love and the Law of Violence


From DAVE SMITH
to be of use
Ukiah

[The Last Station, the wonderful film about Leo Tolstoy's relationships with his wife and followers, and his last days, is now available on Netflix.]

At the end of his wistful last book, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence, Leo Tolstoy wrote:

Put the good of your life in the progressive liberation of your mind, freedom from all the illusions of the flesh, and in the perfecting of your love for your fellow man — which is in essence the same thing. As soon as you begin to live like this, you will feel a joyous sensation full of liberty and happiness. You will be surprised to find that the same external conditions which caused you such anxiety, and which were far from what you wanted, will not prevent your experiencing the greatest possible happiness.

And if you are unhappy — I know that you are — reflect upon what is proposed to you here, which is not the product of my imagination merely, but of the thoughts and feelings of the best minds and hearts. It provides the only way to deliver you from your unhappiness and give you the greatest good you can get in this life.

That is what I have wanted to say to you, my brothers. Before I died.
~~

10 Easy Steps for Becoming a Radical Homemaker


From SHANNON HAYES
YES! Magazine

When Shannon Hayes made a list of easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker, she didn’t realize just how revolutionary they were.

When I first released Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, I was advised to make a list of “easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker” as part of my publicity outreach materials. My shoulders slumped at the very thought: Three years of research about the social, economic, and ecological significance of homemaking, and I had to reduce it to 10 easy tips? I didn’t see a to-do list as a viable route to a dramatic shift in thinking, beliefs, and behaviors. But since the objective of such a list was smoother discussion and communication of Radical Homemaking ideas with the public, I did it.

I came up with the simplest things I could imagine—like committing to hanging laundry out to dry, dedicating a portion of the lawn to a vegetable garden, making an effort to get to know neighbors to enable greater cooperation and reduce resource consumption. I would perfunctorily refer back to them when radio dialogues flagged, when interviews seemed to be getting off track, or to distract myself when an occasional wave of personal sarcasm (I do have them on occasion) threatened to jeopardize an otherwise polite discourse about the book. After about 40 media interviews, I was pretty good at rattling them off, and I began to see their power and significance beyond helping me to be polite.

Take hanging out the laundry as an example. At the outset, it is deceptively simple: It saves money and resources, and it’s easy. As I spoke about line-drying laundry more, however, the suggestion took on more meaning. Of course everyone would like to hang out the laundry. But many people don’t do it. They’re too busy.

Jim Houle: War going badly? Let’s just fire the General!


From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

The abrupt dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal by President Obama confirms that the war in Afghanistan is going very badly indeed. The general would not have been fired for a few unguarded remarks to a 2nd tier magazine had the war been succeeding according to plan. It may well be that his only offense was to express in too blunt and undiplomatic a fashion the sentiments of broad sections of the US officer corps. Nevertheless, the COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy, that McChrystal himself designed and that his boss General Patraeus sold to Washington, is rapidly falling apart:

•The death toll for US and NATO troops rose to 85 so far in June, making this the worst month since the US invaded Afghanistan way back in October 2001.

•The US quartermasters who maintain the supply chain for war materiel hire various war lords to funnel these supplies from Pakistan ports and from Central Asian airports into our Afghani bases. A good portion of these transportation costs have now been exposed as flowing directly into the coffers of Taliban insurgents so as to convince them not to attack the trucks. Thus, the Pentagon is indirectly financing the insurgency to the tune of approximately $2 million a week.

•The failure of the US intervention in the southern town of Marjah this spring is now admitted (McChrystal calls it “a bleeding ulcer”). The Marjah campaign was intended to demonstrate how COIN would win local support (McChrystal jokingly called it ‘government in a box’). The major advance into Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, has had to be postponed at least until next fall.

•Amongst the Afghan people, President Hamid Karzai is widely reviled as a corrupt American puppet while his brother continues to operate a major opium entrepot. Opium remains the country’s major cash crop (right next to US handouts and bribes).

Thom Hartmann: There are now Bankster Sharks in the Water…


From THOM HARTMANN

In his New York Times column, economist Paul Krugman is ringing the warning bell and saying we are in the early stages of a “third depression.” “This third depression,” he writes, “will be primarily a failure of policy” as the world’s leading governments focus “about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.”

It’s truly bizarre to watch country after country across Europe fail to learn the lessons of the past and hang tight to the economic policies of Herbert Hoover and Milton Friedman when both have been tried – and failed – repeatedly in countries all over the world over the past 80 years. The only reasonable rationale for why these national leaders are willing to destroy their social safety nets, throw their working people into serfdom, and drain the resources of their tattered middle classes to reduce their national debts is that – unlike other times in the past – there are now sharks in the water.

Those sharks are the banksters, liberated in 1998 and 2000 by Phil and Wendy Gramm and Bill Clinton, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin. Now that the banksters have been deregulated and can run trillion dollar gambling casinos, one of their easiest targets are the countries that have a lot of debt – just like the corporate raiders and so-called “private equity” companies look for companies with lots of debt to take down, disassemble, fire all the workers, and ship the jobs to China. Because these bankster sharks are now fully empowered in the waters of international finance, the traditional tool used

Book Review: Nothing’s too small to make a difference


From TRANSITION U.S.

[...] But perhaps the most heartwarming thing I found in this remarkable little book is a short sentence in an essay by co-editor Wanda Urbanska as she writes about the Simple Living television series she hosted.

A mantra which threaded overtly and subliminally throughout the show’s 39 episodes … “Nothing’s too small to make a difference.” Picking up a trash-bound paperclip, repurposing your mother’s 1960s skirt into kitchen curtains, installing a water-saving, dual-flush commode; each of these action steps qualified.

“Nothing’s too small to make a difference.” In the short days since I’ve read that phrase, it has given me enormous peace of mind.

In the Transition movement I often immerse myself in the huge problems, the sweeping issues. How do we transform an entire society? How do we Transition a city the size of Los Angeles? How do we bring along the poor and the extremely poor, not just the upper-middle-class white faces? What events or programs will best get the attention of those upper-middle-class faces, entrenched as they are with teeth gritted in the final throes of the Industrial Growth Complex rat race?

So often I forget to value what I do have. “Nothing’s too small to make a difference” has given me enormous relief this week. An hour spent weeding the community garden. A meal which includes vegetables from my own backyard. Watching my kids sit in the cage with our new chickens. There is great joy in these little moments.

The journey to the post-petroleum future is going to be made up of a bazillion of these “too small” events. It is the cumulative energy that creates the Transition movement. Yet there is joy in the details. No, it doesn’t make U.S. dollar sense to raise city chickens, but it makes enormous difference to my kids and to my own heart. No, it doesn’t change the world if my dinner includes only a few homegrown ingredients. But it’s a start. And at this point on the timeline, we need to remember to value each of those little “too small” steps. We need to make space in our lives to appreciate and honor the “starts.”

Less is More and the Simplicity movement remind us that the inner goal is “knowing who you are, being clear about your values, understanding what brings true well-being.” In this context, each of the erstwhile “too small” steps has value. Each brings us that much closer to the mark …

of living the way we dream of living;
of living a life of deeper integrity;

Todd Walton: Solar School


From TODD WALTON
Anderson Valley

Mendocino has a spanking new elementary/junior high school on Little Lake Road about a mile inland from the village, and I am happy to report that her shiny blue metal rooftops are being covered with photovoltaic cells to produce electricity. I was recently at the school shooting hoops on one of the three new outdoor basketball courts, fresh nets affixed to glossy orange rims, and as I huffed and puffed in humbling pursuit of my largely uncooperative basketball, valiant technicians were hard at work affixing the solar cells.

It was a sunny day, and in the absence of students or anyone else making use of the new school, I thrilled to imagine the school’s electric meters whirling in reverse as great currents of electricity flowed from the rooftops into the greater power grid. Such imagining made me happy in the face of the murderous gusher continuing to gush in the Gulf of Mexico. I am aware that solar power is not the ultimate answer to the woes of the world. I have read myriad articles by smart people explaining how electric cars are every bit as bad for the earth as gasoline powered cars. I have read even more articles by these same and other smart people explaining how renewable energy will never replace oil and that we are destined, rather soon, for a new Dark Age of lawlessness and mass starvation. But whenever I stopped to catch my breath from chasing my runaway basketball and saw those fellows affixing solar panels to the shiny blue roof, I felt twinges of hope.

When I was a young man I decided to try to make my living as a musician and a writer. I worked as a landscaper, a gardener, a janitor, a ditch digger, a farmhand, a day care worker, and at several other low-paying jobs. With whatever energy I had left at the end of each day, I practiced music and writing. And for ten years, every person I knew, including my best friends and many smart people, told me with absolute certainty, “You will never succeed as a writer or as a musician. Give it up.” And when I did succeed, these same absolutely certain people said, “I always knew you’d make it.”

Indeed, I have subsequently observed again and again that smart people are often very good at talking themselves and other people out of doing things by stating with absolute certainty that the thing in question cannot be achieved, and they know the thing cannot be achieved because they have the data to prove it. “Oh, so you put in a gray water system to water your garden and conserve water. Big deal. That won’t help. Corporations waste millions of gallons of water every minute. Your little gray water system won’t make a bit of difference.

Michael Laybourn: The Real Facts About Social Security


From MICHAEL LAYBOURN
Hopland

This letter from FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 hit the internet a couple of years ago and I answered it. Maybe we need to do it again…

The letter starts:
Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social Security (FICA) Program.  He  promised:
1.) That participation in the Program would be completely voluntary,
2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual incomes into the program,
3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year,
4.) That the money the participants put into the independent “Trust Fund” rather than into the general operating fund, and therefore, would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program, and no other government program, and,
5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income.

ML A: Wrong. Originally, President Roosevelt called for “social insurance.” He envisioned a plan through which workers would contribute and provide for their own future economic security. He specifically disdained the idea of reliance upon welfare. The original SSA embraced the idea of Social Security being an insurance program under which a group of individuals were insured against identifiable risks: disability and old age. Workers paid for their own insurance.

The original 1935 statute paid retirement benefits only to the primary worker. Many types of people were excluded, mainly farm workers, the self-employed, and anyone employed by an employer of fewer than ten people. These limitations, intended to exclude those from whom it would be difficult to monitor compliance, covered approximately half of the civilian labor force in the United States.

This had to change of course: In 1939, the 1937 Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax was amended in three important ways:
1. The widowed, nonworking spouse of a someone  entitled to an old-age benefit also became entitled to an old-age benefit.
2. Survivors (widows and orphans) became eligible for a benefit. This feature was very popular among the millions of elderly Americans hard hit

Bruce Patterson: The Anyhow Saloon


From BRUCE PATTERSON
4mules.com
Anderson Valley

Old Henry never thought he’d ever get snake bit enough to have to endure forty-two days hunkered down inside his backwoods cabin under a near-on relentless barrage of rain, hail, sleet and snow. There was wet snow dropping from the sky like bullets; snow falling in downward spirals like mortally wounded bi-planes; snow howling sideways and, now and again, fat snowflakes gently floating through the redwoods to silent landings all shoulder-to-shoulder and butt-to-belly. Then the next morning them poor snowflakes would get themselves bushwhacked by a good old-fashioned, shutter-banging, tree-slapping, gully-washing rainstorm.

No Siree. If old Henry had’ve wanted to winter up in Alaska, he’d’ve moved to Alaska by golly. He hadn’t set down stakes in the redwoods just to have to sit and stare out his foggy window at them shivering half to death.

The other day a Great Blue Heron landed in Henry’s yard and got his big webbed feet stuck in the mud. Henry watched out his window as the poor fellah furiously flapped his wings trying to unstick himself, and then strained to lift up one foot and then the other. Having no luck either way, the heron finally got to just standing there perfectly still as if, reconciled to maybe having to stay put till spring, he decided he may as well get some hunting in.

Not willing to leave the poor fellah to his fate, and after deciding he couldn’t very well lasso him and yank him loose without hurting him, much less dig him out by hand without getting his eyes plucked out for his trouble, Henry chose to go outside to try’n scare the fellah free, herons being bashful of people and all. So Henry showed himself and, seeing this towering, ungainly biped waddling his way with its skinny wings flapping and him honking like a goose, the heron shriveled his webbed feet, gave his wings one powerful downward whoosh, jerked up his knees into his chest, got airborne and raced away on the wind like he’d wasted enough time already.

Now there was a break in the noon clouds, a spot of blue, and Henry got to scratching the bottoms of his itchy feet. If the trail was too slippery to saddle up his clumsy young gelding, Henry could damn sure walk down the mountain his own self. In need of human company, a stiff drink and a jug of moonshine to go, Henry gathered himself up

Lucy Neely: The European Grapevine Moth in Mendocino County


From LUCY NEELY
Ukiah

The story of the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) in Mendocino County demonstrates the risks inherent in globalized agriculture and in monocropping Mendocino County in grapes. Conversely, it shows the advantages of a local, diversified food system’s greater resistance to pests, disease, and market fluctuation. It provides a challenging exercise in reconciling the reality of grapes with the idealism of a local food system.

When I first heard about the EGVM in April, my gut reaction was, “That’s what we get for monocropping the county,” and I didn’t think much more about it. But I became interested in the EGVM when I heard that work at the County Department of Agriculture had been consumed by the moth, while I heard nothing of grapes being consumed by the moth.

To understand this phenomenon, I talked to Tony Linegar, Agriculture Commissioner of Mendocino County.

“I’ve been eating, breathing, sleeping the EGVM,” Tony declares. “We’re all working extra hours.” So this moth must be bad! Really harming the crops? Well, not exactly. 1,400 traps were set in Mendocino County to survey the moth’s presence. The traps yielded 35 moths, all of them in the Ukiah Valley. By comparison, Napa County’s traps turned up 100,000 moths.

Why does this moth merit so much attention if it isn’t destroying crops? “If you don’t treat for it, it could take your whole crop,” Linegar says. And since grapes are the biggest (legal) economy in Mendocino County, if that whole crop was taken, we could be belly up. So the Department of Agriculture has taken the necessary steps to control the moth and save Mendocino’s economy. These steps include spraying grapes with pesticides, mating disruption, and quarantine. All this is “extra work and extra costs” for everyone.

EGVM has the potential to wreak havoc on grape crops in Mendocino County, but it’s easy to kill with the proper attention. For now, the moth is a big hassle and a little ominous, and it doesn’t look like the hassle or the threat are going away, since nearby Napa will be infected for the foreseeable future.

So what lessons can be gleaned from the EGVM in Mendocino County? First, there’s monocropping. When I asked Tony if the monocropping of Mendocino County in grapes makes him nervous, referring to the vulnerability it creates to pests and disease, he paused and replied “a little bit,”

A BBQ Master Delivers: Tips for Preparing Chicken


From the Award-Winning DVD, BBQ Secrets: The Master Guide to Extraordinary Barbecue Cookin’, world champion cook Mike Davis demonstrates some tips for preparing chicken for the cooker. For many of us, the notion that cooking barbecue requires much experience and know-how to do a good job—it doesn’t!

But, for those who want to cook barbecue that is consistently extraordinary, there is an art, a science, and an incredible body of knowledge to acquire in order to become a true master. Mike “Sarge” Davis, head cook of the Whole Hog Café, in Little Rock, Arkansas is one of those true masters of barbecue.
~~

Ukiah Transition: The Hard Realities of Community Building


From PEAK OIL BLUES

[...] If you want to trade and learn from the self-reliant, resilient community of people around you then I suggest that you:

1. Be open and listen with humility. Do not come with your own ideas of how things should be. If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.

2. Avoid condescending someone’s way of life either indirectly, subtly or directly. Live and Let Live. If it is necessary to dress down like the locals or drive a crappier car, so be it. Today’s symbols of success will not insure tomorrow’s success. That greasy redneck next door neighbor may be your lifeline in the future – think about that.

3. Bring some useful skills or resources to earn your seat at the table. I’m sorry I don’t need the services of a retired pilates instructor, an interior decorator or a golf event organizer. A pilates instructor needs to learn how to build a fence. An interior decorator needs to learn how to refinish hardwood floors. A golf event organizer needs to learn how to get stuff that busy people don’t have time to find.

4. Avoid calling attention to people who don’t want it or threatening their way of life in ANY way. More often than not self reliant people are that way because they just want to live without any attention. Bear in mind…. The last holdouts of the oil rich paradigm will be the government. I’m not advocating lawlessness here. I am saying that the laws which restrain people from being self-reliant are threats. The government will continue to legislate and enforce regulations that are impossible to follow in post-peak oil world. They will do their jobs with gusto because jobs in the private sector are becoming ever increasingly scarce. And the most dangerous aspect of all, these folks will do their job for your own good.

5. Be willing to work hard and get dirty. Nothing makes a better impression on these people than being willing to work and sweat. Even if you don’t know which end of the shovel to use, there is still plenty of little tasks that can be made lighter. And, I guarantee you that EVERYONE you meet will show you how to use a shovel!

My martial arts instructor reminds us frequently that our character is our first line of defense and greatest source of strength. Courtesy, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit – these character traits are embodied in all of these suggestions.

To conclude, here are the hard realities of community building:

The Bullshit Lies of Alan Simpson about Social Security


From FIREDOGLAKE

[...] Let me elucidate some of the ways that Simpson is wrong about Social Security:

SIMPSON: It’ll go broke in the year 2037.

FACT: The Social Security program faces a modest long-term financing shortfall of tax revenue and interest on Trust Fund assets. The Social Security Trustees estimated in 2009 that the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program will continue to add tax revenue to their Trust Funds up to 2016. The Trust Funds will continue to grow because of interest earned through 2023, at which time total assets will be $4.3 trillion. Subsequently, Social Security will gradually draw down all reserves before the end of 2037, if Congress takes no action whatsoever, it will have sufficient resources to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits. Hardly “going broke.”

SIMPSON: All of them have to do with stabilizing the system, which we are told is insolvent, it’s paying out more then it’s taking in.

FACT: Social Security is currently running a surplus. In 2009, an estimated 94 percent of Social Security tax revenues were spent to meet current expenditures (benefits and administrative costs). The surplus tax revenues, along with interest credited to the Trust Fund, contribute to a growing Trust Fund balance.

SIMPSON: It’s 2.5 trillion bucks in IOUs which have been used to build the interstate highway system and all of the things people have enjoyed since it has been setup.

FACT: The interstate highway system was built in the 1950’s when Social Security’s income and outgo were equal. The build up of the trust fund began after 1983 when Congress consciously chose that route as part of the 1983 amendments.

SIMPSON: When I was your age there were 16 people paying into the system and 1 taking out and today there are 3 people paying into the system and 1 taking out.

FACT: This is the same misleading information that Bush used to sell his privatization plan. The 16 to 1 ratio is a figure plucked from 1950, the year that social security expanded to cover millions of farm and other workers. All pension programs that require a period of employment for eligibility show similar ratios at the start or when expanded because all newly covered workers are paying in, but none of them have yet qualified for benefits. By 1955, the ratio was 8 to 1 and by 1973 the ratio was where it is today…

More here.
~~

Doc Searls: The Bottom Line Isn’t Everything


From DOC SEARLS
Linux Journal

Is there something new that [computer] open source development methods and values can bring to the economy? How about something old?

I think the answer may come from the developing world, where pre-industrial methods and values persist and offer some helpful models and lessons for a networked world that’s less post-industrial than industrial in a new and less impersonal way.

This began to become apparent to me a few years ago I had a Socratic exchange with a Nigerian pastor named Sayo, whom I was lucky to find sitting next to me on a long airplane trip. We were both on speaking junkets. He was coming from an event related to his latest work: translating the Bible to Yoruba, one of the eight languages he spoke. I was on my way to give a talk about The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book I co-authored.

My main contribution to Cluetrain was a chapter called “Markets are conversations. Sayo asked me what we meant by that. After hearing my answer, he acknowledged that our observations were astute, but also incomplete. Something more was going on in markets than just transactions and conversations, he said. What was it?

I said I didn’t know. Here is the dialogue that followed, as close to verbatim as I can recall it…

“Pretend this is a garment”, Sayo said, picking up one of those blue airplane pillows. “Let’s say you see it for sale in a public market in my country, and you are interested in buying it. What is your first question to the seller?”

“What does it cost?” I said.

“Yes”, he answered. “You would ask that. Let’s say he says, ‘Fifty dollars’. What happens next?”

“If I want the garment, I bargain with him until we reach an agreeable price.”

“Good. Now let’s say you know something about textiles. And the two of you get into a long conversation where both of you learn much from each other. You learn about the origin of the garment, the yarn used, the dyes, the name of the artist, and so on. He learns about how fabric is made in your country, how distribution works, and so on. In the course of this you get to know each other. What happens to the price?”

Book Review: ‘Medium Raw,’ Anthony Bourdain


From SF GATE

[...] His new book, “Medium Raw,” is subtitled “A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook,” and much of it reads more like a poison-pen letter than a love note. Sandra Lee is the “hellspawn of Betty Crocker and Charles Manson.” The movie “No Reservations” makes him want to “vomit blood.” Rocco DiSpirito’s TV series is a “reality-show-driven abomination.” Even the saintly Alice Waters is dissed for her “crude and obvious blend of self-aggrandizement and genuine good intentions.”

Elsewhere, Gael Greene, Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck and many more come in for varying degrees of evisceration. This, of course, is all great fun, even if some of it’s the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel variety. But just in case you’re wondering whether Bourdain can take it as well as he can dish it out, he turns his verbal knife skills on himself. “A loud, egotistical, one-note -hole who’s been cruising on the reputation of one obnoxious, over-testosteroned book for way too long,” “the angry, cynical, snarky guy who says mean things on ‘Top Chef,’ ” “the very picture of the jaded, overprivileged ‘foodie.’ ” Well, he makes some good points….

But for my money the standout chapter in the book is “My Aim Is True,” which describes the work and life of Justo Thomas, who cuts and portions at least 700 pounds of fish every day at Le Bernardin, the New York seafood restaurant. The man is a brilliant craftsman and a force of nature, and when he goes on vacation, three people have to be employed to do his work.

Bourdain observes and describes Thomas in wonderfully fine detail. We “see” the way he employs different methods for different fish, how he uses his knives, the way he removes skin and bones, how he’s able to cut absolutely identically sized pieces. Then we learn about his background in the Dominican Republic, and the role he still plays in his family there. And finally, in a masterful flourish, Bourdain takes Thomas to eat at Le Bernardin.

It’s generally unthinkable for kitchen staff to eat in their own restaurant, but for Thomas, people make exceptions. By the end of the piece I felt I knew Thomas better than I know most of my own friends. You have to hand it to Bourdain; this is really good writing, not just really good food writing.

Bourdain says he spent 28 years as a professional cook and chef. By my reckoning he’s spent 15 years as a professional writer. Will it surprise you that he doesn’t think much of writers? He says, “hanging out with more than one of them at a time is about as much fun as being thrown in a cage full of hungry but toothless civet cats.” Just once in a while, even Mr. B. overcooks his similes.

Full review here.
~~

Guess what? Frozen Yogurt is not a Health Food.


From NATURAL NEWS

[...] Here’s what’s in it:

Pure Crystalline Fructose, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Non-fat Milk, Yogurt Powder, Micro-encapsulated Probiotic (Lactobacillus Sporogenes)

Did you catch all that? The first three ingredients are all sugars, followed by processed cow’s milk. Maltodextrin, in particular, has a glycemic index so high that it’s practically poison to diabetics. It’s often derived from genetically-modified corn, by the way.

As you can see from the ingredients list, frozen yogurt is basically just ice cream with some yogurt powder thrown in. It’s ice cream with probiotics.

That doesn’t make it healthy food. It’s still junk food, but with probiotic powder…

… [P]eople almost never examine what they eat. They chew and swallow blindly, giving less thought to what they put inside their bodies than the clothes they wear outside their bodies.

Actually, they choose their foods from the perspective of entertainment. What taste and texture will be entertaining right now? What will give my taste buds pleasure in this instant, regardless of the lifelong effects of this substance on my body?

What sugars, fats or chemical taste enhancers can I place on my tongue in this instant that will provide some level of sensory experience to my brain and remind me that I’m still alive?

That’s the real essence of it, you see. People are sleepwalking through our world half dead, and what they really seek is just stimulation to remind them that they aren’t dead yet. Almost any stimulation will do: The loud blaring of speakers at a rock concert, the sexual foreplay with a new partner, the rush of an abused prescription drug, the thrill of a horror movie, the sensory engrossment of a violent video game, the stimulant kick of a Coca-Cola… it hardly matters as long as something is being felt through the numbness of emotional trauma that typifies human experience in our modern world.

The numbed-up, dumbed-down metrosexual seeker of experience is actually a biological stimulation machine with a tiny unit of consciousness tacked on top that’s seeking a heavy hit of just about anything to remind himself that he still exists. “I feel, therefore I am,” to bastardize Descartes’ famous utterance.

America: Speak Back and Derail the Drive to Cut Social Security and Medicare


From FIREDOGLAKE

Next weekend will feature another milestone in the drive to cut Social Security and Medicare. The organization America Speaks will be hosting a series of 20 meetings in cities across the country. They will ask the people at these meetings, a cross section of the nation, to come up with proposals for dealing with the country’s projected long-term budget deficit.

The way the problem is outlined for these meetings virtually guarantees that most of the participants will opt for big cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The results of this song and dance exercise will then be presented to President Obama’s fiscal responsibility commission on June 30th, which will use it as further ammunition for plans by its co-chairs to gut these programs.

The rigged deck approach should come as no surprise. America Speaks is largely funded by Peter G. Peterson, the investment banker billionaire who has been on a decades long crusade to gut these programs. In recent years Peterson has redoubled his efforts, committing more than a billion dollars to a wide variety of groups in addition to America Speaks. To advance his agenda Peterson has even set up a fake news service, the “Fiscal Times.” To fill the staff, Peterson’s son hired a number of reputable reporters who were displaced by the collapse of the newspaper industry.

The “Federal Budget 101,” the guidebook for the discussion, follows a predictably shoddy path. The book discusses the budget in almost complete isolation from any larger discussion of the economy. There is virtually no discussion of the ways in which the budget fosters growth, for example by funding education, research and infrastructure; nor the way in which the pattern of growth affects the budget.

For example, the booklet never discusses the extent to which the economic mismanagement that allowed the unchecked growth of an $8 trillion housing bubble contributed to the debt that is its central concern. The downturn caused by the resulting economic collapse will eventually add more than $3 trillion to the country’s debt according to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.

The booklet also neglects to point out the extent to which the long-term budget disaster story is driven by our broken health care system. If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any other wealthy country, we would be looking at enormous budget surpluses in the long-term, not deficits

More here.
~~

Manifesto: I am not a brand


From MAUREEN JOHNSON

[Enough with the brand bullshit already. -DS]

[...] Just to be clear on this thing I am not, maybe I should define my understanding of personal branding. A personal brand is a little package you make of yourself so you can put yourself on the shelf in the marketplace and people will know what to expect or look for when they come to buy you. For example, Coke is a brand. When you see Coke, you expect a dark brown effervescent sweet drink that is always going to taste like . . . Coke. McDonalds is going to sell you inexpensive, fast food. The Ritz or the Four Seasons is going to sell you a luxury experience. BP will now be known as the brand that destroys the costal ecosystem of the southeastern United States.

And yes, authors sometimes have these “brands.” Nicholas Sparks is going to sell you a Roman . . . love story, excuse me . . . where someone dies of cancer/similar disease at the end. V.C. Andrews will sell you something awesomely insane and creepy. Dan Brown will sell you a series of puzzles, facts, and clues leading to the unveiling of a huge secret. Tom Clancy will sell you something with a submarine or some kind of large weapon in it. You get the idea. I don’t know if any of the above actively works on his or her “brand” . . . (well, V.C. Andrews won’t, since she died in 1986 having written only eight books -— her official ghostwriter has written over sixty more in her name since that time, which is pretty impressive work).

I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. I don’t want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won’t, because I am weird…

I think the divide is pretty basic. I think there are people out there who see the Internet as a way of employing the same old techniques of SHILL, SHILL, SHILL. A hundred years ago, they would have rolled up to you in a wagon, shouting about their tonic. Fifty years ago, they would have rolled their vacuum cleaners up to your door.

The other side, the side I am on, is the one that sees an organic Internet full of people. Sure, when I have a book come out, I will often say, “Please, could you buy a copy? I need to buy food and Post-it notes and hamsters.” But in reality, I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t think you would like it. I have a lot of fun writing my books, and hey, if you can buy one, great! I think it’s just as great if you take it out of the library. I write because I actually like doing it, and through some miracle of science, I get paid, so wayhay!…

MY POINT IS . . . it’s early days yet on the Internet, and lines are being drawn. We can, if we group together, fight off the weenuses and hosebags who want to turn the Internet into a giant commercial. Hence, the manifesto. It goes something like this:

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