In Around the web, Books on January 16, 2012 at 5:30 am
From CYNTHIA SALAYSAY
Scores of books depict farms as little slices of heaven on earth, where venison is smoked and butter is churned, and things seem perfect. But today’s farmers are far from unrealistic dreamers, longing for a Little House on the Prairie-esque pastoral ideal. They’re socially conscious doers. And when asked about books that inspire them, they cite writings that are practical, at times poetic, and that beckon them to rescue the land.
Here are some of the books that farmers are reading and getting inspiration from today.
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry. “I had spent seven or so years of my life as a ‘punk’ growing up in the the central NJ suburbs of NYC, disgruntled and disillusioned and looking for real meaning and ways to be in the world, and [Berry] was someone seemingly so disgruntled and disillusioned, yet incredibly intelligent and coherent, with a posited solution of sorts…. Challenges [were] laid forth to take full responsibility for our lives and to truly push against what our culture is feeding us, to move towards a society built around community, equality, a new free culture, and a cooperative economy in which we all work satisfying jobs in support of each other; ideals I cannot imagine any human being would deface. Farming could embrace these challenges and reconnect us with the land and each other like no other, I was convinced.” — Anthony Mecca, Great Song Farm
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. “I read The Good Earth when I was a child, I think I was ten or eleven. I read it again in my 20s, and again in my 30s…. It’s an inspiring novel about building a dream, perseverance. I think the best line is at the end of the novel when it says, ‘without land, you’re nothing.’ It’s a quote my father and mother used to repeat to us kids all the time. So that book always meant something for many reasons.” — Alexis Koefoed, Soul Food Farm
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. “I read it as a freshman in college. This was kind of a critical treatise More…
In Around the web, Books on December 5, 2011 at 6:07 am
December is one of our favorite months to curl up and read. If you need a little extra inspiration in this most hectic of months, however, never fear. To spur you on, we’ve collected a few inspiring quotes about reading by some people who read quite a lot — the authors themselves. Click through to read forty of our favorite quotes from writers about books and reading, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your own favorite inspirational declarations in the comments!
“When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus
“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman
“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” — Sherman Alexie
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” More…
In Around the web, Books, Food on November 15, 2011 at 6:52 am
From DAN SHAPLEY
The Daily Green
A portrait of Hardwick, Vt., which may be unique in its efforts to develop a new kind of local food system.
I wanted to read The Town that Food Saved because I grew up and live in New York’s Hudson Valley, where small-scale farming has always been a part of the fabric of life…
The book tells the story of Hardwick, Vt., a small town that the modern U.S. economy basically forgot about after its days as a center of granite quarrying ended. An influx of Canadian farmers, followed by a wave of back-to-the-land countercultural types helped maintain a local farm economy while downtown decayed into a familiar rust belt shell of itself: a strip club, a liquor store, a supermarket and a lot of abandoned buildings. Then along comes, along with a wave of wealthy second-home owners seeking the bucolic country life, a fresh crop of farmers and “agripreneurs”: Young, educated and – in some key cases – as well-suited to the world of PR as to the world of farming. Buzz builds about how the town is redefining a local food system in opposition to the consolidated More…
In Books on November 7, 2011 at 4:38 am
From MALCOLM JONES
The Daily Beast
[...] Not all of his books are equally good, but they all flow unmistakably from the same pen. As a result, once you get hooked on him, you’ll willingly read whatever he produces. (I’ve dreamed of having something like a subscription to his work—he could just send them along when they’re ready and bill my account.) His vision is unique enough, and pure enough to propel you through even those books of his which do not quite work (South of the Border, West of the Sun; Sputnik Sweetheart) and he is so good at several things that you forgive his few if not insignificant shortcomings. All of these qualities are showcased in his latest novel, 1Q84 (at 944 pages, how could it not include them all?). This the first really successful epic-sized novel Murakami has delivered since his dazzling The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in 1997, and it is worth the wait.
Murakami paces a story as well as any writer alive. He knows how to tell a love story without getting cute. He understands how to blend realism and fantasy (magical realism if you want to get all literary about it) in just the right proportions. And he has a knack for writing about everyday matters—fixing dinner, going for a walk—in such a way that the events at hand, no matter how mundane, are never boring. Indeed, there is something comforting, even reassuring, about watching a Murakami character dice vegetables for dinner.
Most impressive, he knows how to inject the logic and atmosphere of dreams into his fiction without becoming coy or vague. He’s Kafka-esque to the extent that he’s not interested in why or how a man may have turned into an insect overnight, but in how the man deals with his new situation. And like Beckett, he furnishes his dreamscapes with a mere handful of carefully chosen props—a tree, a streetlight More…
In Books, Mendo Island Transition on October 19, 2011 at 7:50 am
From TRANSITION CULTURE
Here is a review of ‘The Transition Companion’ by Maddy Harland from the new edition of Permaculture Magazine. You can download a pdf of the page on which it appears here.
Transition is now a worldwide grassroots movement that looks climate change and peak oil squarely in the face and dismisses the utter impossibility of endless economic growth on a planet of finite resources. It offers community based solutions to help people in villages, towns and cities adapt to the inevitable challenges of the oncoming reality of profound economic and social change unflinchingly and with a good degree of humility and good cheer. It’s a collection of recipes for building community, environmental regeneration, relocalised economies and so much more.
Transition emerged from an energy descent plan process during an in-depth permaculture design course taught by Rob Hopkins at Kinsale Further Education College in the early 2000s and has since spread around the world. Rob’s first book, The Transition Handbook (2008), introduced the concept and explained how to set up Transition initiatives. It went down a storm. Other titles followed in the series – on local food, money, planning a Transition ‘timeline’, and how to influence local government with these ideas – by a variety of authors working with Rob and the other co-founders of the movement. Almost a decade of experimentation unfolded. This new volume offers stories of Transition initiatives from all over the world, plus practical Transition Tools for starting, and perhaps more critically, maintaining a Transition initiative. It’s an impressive collection of ideas and praxis.
I read so many books about peak oil, the state of the world, and environmental degradation that I often glaze over. This one is different. It has authority born from practical experience, a musculature that is immediately engaging, even reassuring. It feels mature. The book is not afraid to catalogue the limitations and failures, even celebrate them, as well as the successes. I like the way the book was crowd sourced. Rob blogged on each Transition Tool and invited feedback and ideas. The participatory aspect brings it alive: here is more than one visionary man’s voice but a whole chorus of voices. There’s a good degree of futurecasting within its pages: stories from a future that has embraced transition, some not without their humour. As computer scientist, Alan Kay said, “The best way to invent the future is to predict it.” That’s exactly what this book aims to do. More…
In Books on October 13, 2011 at 7:40 am
From MANDY VAN DEVEN
There is a certain circular logic of the hawkish variety that goes a little something like this: In order for Americans to protect our freedoms from terrorist threats to our security, we have to give up certain liberties until we reach a time of absolute safety. Well, I hate to break it to these folks, but there has never been a time in American history when citizens haven’t grappled with one security threat or another, and when the populous cedes power to elected leaders, history shows it’s not likely to be given back without a fight.
In Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in Twenty-First-Century America, Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) take the reader through a brief chronicle of American protest and the U.S. government’s (legal and illegal) disruption of dissent. They examine the detrimental impact that criminalizing lawful political activity has had on social movements and provide concrete guidance for activists who engage in acts of resistance. The authors make clear the need for Americans to reclaim their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and speak without fear of impediment or reprisal, and they reveal the myriad ways individuals are being punished for enacting the ideals of our democratic nation…
Full review here
In Books on October 3, 2011 at 4:33 am
From LAURA MILLER
[The Marriage Plot available for rent $2/week from Mulligan Books. -DS]
In an early chapter of Jeffrey Eugenides’ long-awaited third novel, The Marriage Plot, one of the three main characters, Brown University undergraduate Madeleine Hanna, seeks relief from the thorny cogitations of her semiotics class by reading Edith Wharton and George Eliot. It’s the early 1980s, and such indulgences are under attack. “Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights,” Madeleine thinks. “How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before! What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative!”
Exquisite guilt and wicked enjoyment are more or less what Eugenides intends the readers of The Marriage Plot to experience, too. Whether they actually feel guilty or wicked while reading the book will probably depend on how well-developed their intellectual superegos are. If they’ve convinced themselves More…
In Books on October 2, 2011 at 9:02 am
From AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Via The Raw Story
[Here Comes Trouble available for rent $2/week at Mulligan Books - DS]
Michael Moore, clad in customary baseball cap, a black T-shirt, baggy trousers and white sneakers, strolled into the neo-Gothic splendor of Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall and began to preach.
“We as Americans have allowed a very small group of people to be highly skilled practitioners of one of the seven deadly sins,” he told his youthful and multinational audience on Friday, “and that sin Moore…
In Around the web, Books on September 21, 2011 at 7:24 am
Making Books video series here
I’ve been making books in schools, libraries, and with my family for twenty years. My primary goal is always to make it easy and fun. It is my pleasure and delight to share what I have learned and bring the joy of making books to you.
· Bookmark Book
· Gingerbread House Accordian Book
· Handmade Books for a Healthy Planet
· Books Around The World
· Step Book
· Word-A-Day Journal
· Accordion Book
· Stick and Elastic Book
· Hot Dog Booklet
In Books on September 17, 2011 at 7:26 am
Susan Jacoby talks with Bill Moyer. Watch here. Here’s an excerpt:
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, why is it we’re so unwilling to give, as you say, a hearing to contradictory viewpoints? Or to imagine that we might learn something from someone who disagrees with us?
SUSAN JACOBY: Well, I think part of it is part of a larger thing that is making our culture dumber. We have, really, over the past 40 years, gotten shorter and shorter and shorter attention spans. One of the most important studies I’ve found, and I’ve put in this chapter, they call it Infantainment– on this book. It’s by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And they’ve found that children under six spend two hours a day watching television and video on average. But only 39 minutes a day being read to by their parents.
Well, you don’t need a scientific study to know that if you’re not read to by your parents, if most of your entertainment when you’re in those very formative years is looking at a screen, you value what you do. And I don’t see how people can learn to concentrate and read if they watch television when they’re very young as opposed to having their parents read to them. The fact is when you’re watching television, whether it’s an infant or you or I, or staring glazedly at a video screen, you’re not doing something else.
BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you, Susan, that half of American adults believe in ghosts? Now I take these from your book. One-third believe in astrology. Three quarters believe in angels. And four-fifths believe in miracles. More…
In Around the web, Books on July 25, 2011 at 8:22 am
From FRANK KAMINSKI
Mud City Press via Energy Bulletin
The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality By Richard Heinberg
While “experts” assure us that the economy is slowly emerging from recession, a growing camp of well-informed dissenters thinks not. The scant evidence of recovery, insists this group, is not an anomaly but the sign of a profound sea change. The End of Growth, one book unequivocally calls it, next to a cover image of a burst balloon and a pin. The book’s author, Richard Heinberg, makes his case by far the most eloquently and comprehensively—and though it may be a decidedly unwelcome one for those now struggling, that doesn’t detract from its validity.
The limits-to-growth debate began in 1972 with the MIT report of the same name. That seminal study concluded that without preventive action, sometime early this century the global economy would collide catastrophically with hard ecological limits. No one acted, and now the economy is, in Heinberg’s judgment, trapped in a rut from which there’s no escape. Heinberg is a leading authority on one critical natural limit precluding further growth, that of oil supply—on which his The Party’s Over is a standard reference. In this new book, he argues that industrial economies are on the eve of a great contraction… Full book review here
In Books on July 8, 2011 at 6:19 am
ATLANTIC MAGAZINE (1901)
There is a fine antidote to all manner of morbidness in the brilliant pages of Kim. Mr. Kipling’s last work is, to my mind, his best, and not easily comparable with the work of any other man; for it is of its own kind and of a novel kind, and fairly amazes one by the proof it affords of the author’s magnificent versatility. “Not much of a story” may perhaps be the verdict of the ruthless boy reader who revels in the Jungle Book and Captain Courageous, and derives an unholy gratification from Stalky & Co. Kim is, in fact and upon the surface, but an insignificant fragment of human history; a bit out of the biography of a little vagabond of Irish parentage, orphaned when a baby, and left to shift for himself in infinite India. But the subtlety of the East and the “faculty” of the West are blended in this terroe filius, this tricksy foundling of earth’s oldest earth. His adventures are many and enthralling. He joins himself, as scout and general provider,—incidentally, also, as chela or disciple—to a saintly old lama from Thibet, “bound to the Wheel of Things,” and roaming India in search of the Stream of Immortality. The pious people of the country are permitted to “acquire merit” by feeding and lodging these two, between whom there grows up More…
In Around the web, Books on June 29, 2011 at 9:21 am
From BARRY ESTABROOK
In Vermont, where I live, as in much of the rest of the United States, a gardener can select pretty much any sunny patch of ground, dig a small hole, put in a tomato seedling, and come back two months later and harvest something. Not necessarily a bumper crop of plump, unblemished fruits, but something. When I met Monica Ozores-Hampton, a vegetable specialist with the University of Florida, I asked her what would happen if I applied the same laissez-faire horticultural practices to a tomato plant in Florida. She shot me a sorrowful, slightly condescending look and replied, “Nothing.”
“Nothing?” I asked.
“There would be nothing left of the seedling,” she said. “Not a trace. The soil here doesn’t have any nitrogen, so it wouldn’t have grown at all. The ground holds no moisture, so unless you watered regularly, the plant would certainly die. And, if it somehow survived, insect pests, bacteria, and fungal diseases would destroy it.” How can it be, then, that Florida is the source for one-third of the fresh tomatoes Americans eat? More Tomatoland…
In Books on June 25, 2011 at 8:26 am
From THE INDEPENDENT UK
Thanks to Ron Epstein
Read a book with your laptop thrumming. It can feel like trying to read in the middle of a party where everyone is shouting
In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt. In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten. To pluck just one, Gary Steynghart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story describes a world where everybody is obsessed with their electronic Apparat – an even more omnivorous i-Phone with a flickering stream of shopping and reality shows and porn – and have somehow come to believe that the few remaining unread paper books let off a rank smell. The book on the book, it suggests, is closing.
I have been thinking about this because I recently moved flat, which for me meant boxing and heaving several Everests of books, accumulated obsessively since I was a kid. Ask me to throw away a book, and I begin shaking like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice and insist that I just couldn’t bear to part company with it, no matter how unlikely it is I will ever read (say) a 1,000-page biography of little-known Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar. As I stacked More Books…
In Around the web, Books on June 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm
From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
Excerpts from The Wealth of Nature, 2011
The end of the Information Age
Very few people realize just how extravagant a supply of resources goes to maintain the information economy. The energy cost to run a home computer is modest enough that it’s rarely noticed, for example, that each one of the big server farms that keep today’s social websites up and running use as much electricity as a midsized city. Multiply that by the tens of thousands of server farms that keep today’s online economy going, and the hundreds of other energy-intensive activities that go into maintaining the Internet and manufacturing the equipment it uses, and it may start to become clear how much energy goes into putting pretty pictures and text onto your computer screen…
The gigawatts used by server farms are not the only unnoticed energy that goes into the Internet, though; putting those gigawatts to work requires an electrical grid spanning most of a continent, backed up by the immense inputs of coal and natural gas that put electricity into the wires, and a network of supply chains that stretches from coal mines to power plants to the oil wells that provide diesel fuel for trains and excavation machines…
More Economic Survival…
In Around the web, Books on June 16, 2011 at 7:33 am
From JENNIFER M.
As the local food movement expands and the numbers of small farms, CSA programs, and farmers markets increase, so grows the crop of cookbooks aimed at helping people make the best use of that seasonal bounty. Following in the path of Deborah Madison’s excellent overview of America’s farmers markets, Local Flavors, two new cookbooks share the joys of regional harvests throughout the year.
The first, Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, bases its recipes in the old and new traditions of New England agriculture. This collaboration between dietitian Diane Imrie and chef Richard Jarmusz combines a healthy approach to eating with simple preparations that enhance the fresh flavors of local fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats. While many recipes take old favorites and spruce them up for More Cookbooks…
In Around the web, Books on June 6, 2011 at 6:26 am
Novelist Ann Patchet has a knack for taking her readers to completely new places. In 2002′s Bel Canto, she blended terrorism and opera and now — several acclaimed books and almost a decade later — Patchett’s out with a new novel about an Amazonian expedition.
State of Wonder [Available to rent from Mulligan Books: $2/week] follows medical researcher Marina Singh as she joins her former mentor in a search to discover a promising and valuable new drug in the Amazon. Patchett tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden that she spent 10 days in the Amazon to get a feel for the book’s setting.
“For the first three days, I thought it was the most extraordinarily beautiful, fascinating, all-encompass[ingly] gorgeous place More Ann Patchett…
In Around the web, Books on June 4, 2011 at 8:18 am
From E.F. (FRITZ) SCHUMACHER
The New Economics Institute
Chapter 1: The Problem of Production
One of the most fateful errors of our age is the belief that “the problem of production” has been solved.
The arising of this error, so egregious and so firmly rooted, is closely connected with the philosophical, not to say religious, changes during the last three or four centuries in man’s attitude to nature…Modern man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. He even talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.
The illusion of unlimited powers, nourished by astonishing scientific and technological achievements, has produced the concurrent illusion More Schumacher
In Books on May 21, 2011 at 7:37 am
From SAUL ALINSKY
The American people were, in the beginning, Revolutionaries and Tories. The American people ever since have been Revolutionaries and Tories regardless of the labels of the passed and present. Regardless of whether they were Federalists, Democrat-Republicans, Whigs, Know-Nothings, Free Soilers, Unionists or Confederates, Populists, Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, or Progressives. They have been and are profiteers and patriots. They have been and are conservatives, liberals, and radicals.
The class of radicals, conservatives, and liberals which makes up America’s political history opens the door to the most fundamental question of what is America? How do the people of America feel? It is in the feeling that the real story of America is written. There were and are a number of Americans — few, to be sure — filled with deep feeling for people. They know that people are the stuff that makes up the dream of democracy. These few were and are More Alinsky…
In Books on May 21, 2011 at 7:13 am
From THOM HARTMANN
With any book, one of the most important pieces of that work is its frame or context. In “Rules for Radicals,” Saul Alinsky lays out his largest frame brilliantly in his chapter “The Purpose” when he talks about class distinctions.
“The setting for the drama of change has never varied. Mankind has been and is divided into three parts: the Haves and Have-Nots, and the Have-A-Little, Want Mores.”
Alinsky then includes a social critique worthy of writers from Thomas Hobbes to John Locke to Thomas Malthus to Karl Marx. In many ways, he summarizes the meta-story of most of Charles Dickens’ novels (Dickens’ father had spent time in a debtors prison). For example:
“On the top are the Haves with power, money, food, security, and luxury. They suffocate in their surpluses while the Have-Nots starve. Numerically, the Haves have always been More Alinsky…
In Books on May 19, 2011 at 6:35 am
From FRANK KAMINSKI
Mud City Press
Via Energy Bulletin
Why does neoliberal capitalism fail to see that in ravaging the biosphere it’s spelling its own demise (with the Stern Review memorably calling climate change “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen”)?
There are two common reactions to news about our species’ present-day crisis. One is confusion and bewilderment arising from the fact that even the experts can’t seem to agree on which threats are real or what to do about them. The other is despair at the sheer number of crises and the dire implications of each, which can eventually lead to tune-out, apathy and annoyance whenever they’re mentioned. Neither response is productive, and thus there’s a dawning recognition on the part of experts, activists and educators that the way in which these issues are presented to the public must change if we’re to keep people engaged.
One person calling for such a change in focus is international security analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. More User’s Guide…
In Books on May 17, 2011 at 7:40 am
From KENNETH TURAN
The fascinating documentary gives the back story of the book and its author, including interviews with people who know Lee and celebrities who are fans of the book.
Many books and films have partisans who insist their works are loved and admired by the American people, but “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the real thing.
The Harper Lee novel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has sold nearly 50 million copies in the 50 years since its publication. And when the U.S. Postal Service recently issued a stamp honoring “Mockingbird” star Gregory Peck, it used a still from that Oscar-winning performance as its image.
But what of Nelle Harper Lee, the young Southern writer from Monroeville, Ala., whose reaction to all this success, she said in a radio interview, was one of “sheer numbness, being hit over the head and knocked cold.” What has happened to her? Why hasn’t she given any interviews since 1964 or written any other novels since this remarkable success?
Writer-director Mary McDonagh Murphy addresses these questions and others in her documentary “Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’” More Harper Lee…
In Books, Garden Farm Skills on May 6, 2011 at 8:18 am
From THE ETHICUREAN
[Our own local CSA farms are now taking memberships for the season: Paula and Adam of Mendocino Organics, the Decater family of Live Power Community Farm, and Tom Palley of Covelo Organic... and the new season starts tomorrow 5/6/11 for our local Farmers Markets. -DS]
The first time I heard of Essex Farm, I was working a kitchen/garden internship at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. The school sent me to the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 2009 conference, where I carefully chose workshops I thought would help me plan and plant a garden that would serve the school’s kitchen. It was my first farm-y job, and it didn’t fit the usual master/apprentice approach: I had people I could ask questions, but there was no master — just me. I was in a little over my head, and I was nervous. But that didn’t stop me from taking a detour from what I thought was practical to a workshop that thoroughly intrigued me even though the people running it sounded insane.
The workshop was titled “Everything But Sushi” with a subtitle something like More Dirty Life…
In Around the web, Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya, Books on April 20, 2011 at 7:00 am
From JOHANN HARIJ
[Want to know what the Republicans are really trying to do to our democracy? Read on... -DS]
The perverse allure of a damaged woman
Ayn Rand is one of America’s great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that “the masses”—her readers—were “lice” and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them. Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is “evil” and selfishness is “the only virtue,” she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters. So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?
Two new biographies of Rand—Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller—try to puzzle out this question, showing how her arguments found an echo in the darkest corners of American political life. But the books work best, for me, on a level I didn’t expect. They are thrilling psychological portraits of a horribly damaged woman More Lunacy…
In Around the web, Books on April 17, 2011 at 10:40 am
From LA TIMES
Thanks to Ron Epstein
[Mortenson responds here]
An investigation by “60 Minutes” to be broadcast this weekend will cite multiple sources that contend some of the most inspiring stories in Greg Mortenson’s books “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones into Schools” are not true.
Significantly, Mortenson’s origin story — of being saved by a remote village in Afghanistan and promising to build a school for them — appears to be a fabrication.
In a news release, the television program explains: More Three Cups of Tea…
In Books on March 23, 2011 at 8:38 am
From AMANDA KOVATTANA
Thanks to Energy Bulletin
Fabulous feast of apocalypse storytelling set in Thailand. Peak oil, climate change, genetically modified seeds gone bad, new plant diseases, new plagues. Add to that, interesting mutant technology that produces giant elephant hybrids for factory work and the highly erotic android of the title. Plus assortment of low tech energy sources filling the gap where fossil fuel power once lubricated commerce.
I have to hand it to Mr. Bacigalupi for his skillful use of Thai culture. He preserved my favorite parts of my home country, except of course the sex trade. But then it has become obligatory to feature the sex trade in books set in Bangkok, so I’m not holding it against him. (Where you have farangs [Westerners] in Bangkok you must have the sex trade. It is as much a reflection on white men as it is a global fascination with this infamy of Thailand.) In fact he is a moralist about it, using the degrading forces of the industry to drive the plot.
He also juggled the complexity of Thai politics, our obsession with ghosts and the famous Thai smile to good effect, plus I greatly appreciated his native-like respect for the Thai royal family by allowing royal smarts to play a crucial part in the survival game. Combined with the subplots of the various characters each vying to further their agenda, I felt this to be an entirely accurate description of how the world of trade More Windup Girl…
In Around the web, Books on March 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm
From GINNY MESSINA
[Thanks to Ron Epstein: Response to book by author interviewed here]
Lierre Keith suffers from numerous chronic health problems. Unable to secure a diagnosis for most of them, she decided that the vegan diet she had followed for twenty years was to blame. But she wasn’t content to add a few animal products back to her diet. Instead, she set out to prove that healthy diets require copious amounts of animal foods and that small-scale animal farming is the answer to sustainability. To prove it, she has cobbled together information from websites (yes, she actually cites Wikipedia!) and a few popular pseudoscientific books.
It’s next to impossible to review this book; it is so packed with misinformation and confusion that refuting the claims could be another book itself. This is a long post, and it doesn’t begin to address all of the problems in The Vegetarian Myth.
I read the section on nutrition first. Since it’s my area of expertise, I figured it would give me some idea of the quality of her research and analysis. But quality isn’t at issue here because there is no research or analysis. Keith doesn’t bother with primary sources; she depends almost exclusively More Vegetarian Myth…
In Around Mendo Island, Books, Guest Posts on March 4, 2011 at 8:28 am
From TODD WALTON
“The poet’s only responsibility is to write fresh lines.” Charles Olson
With all due respect to the organization known as Poets & Writers, I have always felt that if there’s no poetry in the writing, who needs it? Oh, I suppose a Chemistry textbook needn’t be rife with lovely language, but in the best of worlds all writing would be touched by the writer’s experience of having read and appreciated great poetry and beautifully crafted prose.
I sold my first short story for actual dollars when I was twenty-five. The year was 1974 and the buyer was Cosmopolitan magazine. This was at the very end of the era when that historic magazine along with a few dozen other large-circulation magazines in America still published fiction. Eventually I would sell stories to teen magazines and men’s magazines, along with several more to Cosmo, as my agent called that trashy mag, but I assure you I wrote all my stories with The New Yorker and Esquire in mind. Alas, those lofty literary realms were off limits to the unwashed likes of me. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as I am wont to do.
That first story I sold was about a black female prizefighter who, through a series of bizarre events, gets a shot at fighting a top-ranked male welterweight boxer. More Todd Walton…
In Around the web, Books on February 17, 2011 at 8:16 am
From LOYD E. ESKILDSON
Basil & Spice Blog
Conventional wisdom is that more diagnosis, especially early diagnosis, means better medical care. Reality, says Dr. Gilbert Welch – author of “Overdiagnosed,” is that more diagnosis leads to excessive treatment that can harm patients, make healthy people feel less so and even cause depression, and add to escalating health care costs. In fact, physician Welch believes overdiagnosis is the biggest problem for modern medicine, and relevant to almost all medical conditions. Welch devotes most of his book to documenting his concerns via examples of early diagnosis efforts for hypertension, prostate cancer, breast cancer, etc. that caused patient problems.
Welch provides readers with four important and generalizable points. The first is that, while target guidelines are set by panels of experts, those experts bring with them biases and sometimes even monetary incentives from drug-makers, etc. Over the past decades many target levels have been changed (eg. blood pressure, cholesterol levels, PSA levels), dramatically increasing the number classified as having a particular condition. (Welch adds that prostate cancer can be found at any PSA level – about 8% for those with a PSA level of 1 or less, over 30% for those with a level exceeding 4; most are benign.)…
Full review here
See also Psychiatric Drugging of Infants and Toddlers in the US – Part I
…and New psychiatric disorders flag normal human behaviors as “diseases”
…and Fish oil supplements prevent mental illness; safe and effective alternative to antipsychotic drugs
…and A nutritional approach to psychiatry has been marginalized
…and more http://www.naturalnews.com/psychiatry.html
In Around the web, Books on February 12, 2011 at 8:25 am
From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World Blog
Brian Doyle’s Mink River is simply the best novel I have read in a decade. It is brilliantly and painstakingly crafted. It tells a wonderful and heart-warming story. It never manipulates. Its prose is pure poetry: Every word counts. Its characters are so contemporary and complex and familiar that they spring to life. And its message — about cultural transition driven by necessity, about the importance of community and of place and of resilience and of love — is essential and delivered with a power and richness that no non-fictional account could hope to match.
This is Dark Mountain-weight writing at its best. The kind of writing I now aspire to and intend to write, though mine will be poetry and song and film and vignette instead of book-length prose. I don’t have Doyle’s stamina. I only hope I can one day match his talent. Although Doyle has published ten books (most of them essays; he makes his living as an editor), this is his first published novel.
Both the style and ambition of Mink River are reminiscent of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The tale is one of an entire community, an entire ecosystem of rich human and non-human interaction, told from a bird’s-eye view, both when the bird (a crow named Moses) soars above and when he peers at the peculiar residents of Mink River More Dave Pollard…
In Around the web, Books on February 4, 2011 at 8:39 am
From MAKENNA GOODMAN
Holy Shit: The Secret Behind Creating Truly Sustainable Food
MG: When I moved to a farm in rural Vermont, I knew life would be a far cry from the New York literary world from whence I came. I knew even though plaid shirts, work boots, and waxed canvas coats cover the fashion magazines these days-life on a real farm has nothing to do with image or status. I do have to say, however, when I meet my old city friends on the streets of Brooklyn to hock eggs or pumpkins, I have been known to brag. Not about how amazing farm life is, or how well I can pitch hay, but rather, how familiar I am with shit these days. And how in awe I am of poop. I tell my friends about where my chickens leave their dollops, and how that’s actually money in the bank.
Shit rules my life-or at least it should, if I were a good farmer. More Gene Logsdon…
In Around the web, Books on January 19, 2011 at 8:53 am
From THE GUARDIAN UK
A hard-hitting study of the social effects of inequality has profound implications
Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level, don’t soft-soap their message. It is brave to write a book arguing that economies should stop growing when millions of jobs are being lost, though they may be pushing at an open door in public consciousness. We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.
The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption More Inequality…
In Books, Thom Hartmann Rebooting Series on January 12, 2011 at 8:28 am
From THOM HARTMANN
Article with footnotes here
Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice. — Dwight D. Eisenhower
Back in the late 1980s, when I ran an advertising agency in Atlanta, a multinational corporation approached us about producing its internal newsletter, a monthly eight-pager about the company’s goings-on in the United States, Mexico, and Japan. Not surprisingly, they wanted the newsletter produced in English, Spanish, and Japanese.
For our small agency trolling for clients, this corporation was a big fish—it could provide a good shot of cash for what was then a startup business with a half dozen employees—so I put a help-wanted ad in the local daily newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution Journal, for a graphic designer who was also fluent enough in those three languages to know how to set type and where to hyphenate words (the company was providing us with the text in the three languages). It was clearly a search for a needle More Thom Hartmann…
In Around the web, Books, Thom Hartmann Rebooting Series on January 4, 2011 at 9:27 am
From THOM HARTMANN
Article with footnotes here
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today. – John F. Kennedy
In 1981, in the midst of a wide-ranging conversation during a night flight across the Atlantic, I got one of the biggest foreign policy insights of my life. Ever since I heard it, it’s filtered my observations of the behavior of virtually every country in the world, particularly ours.
I’d gone to Uganda in 1980 to help start a program to feed the tens of thousands of people starving as a result of the 1978–1979 war, started when Uganda’s neighbor to the south, Tanzania, finally said “Enough!” to the atrocities perpetuated by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and invaded the country. They drove Amin out (he went to Libya first, then to Saudi Arabia, where he lived to a ripe old age in a palace, courtesy of the king and our oil dollars), but the Uganda-Tanzania War produced a disaster for the people of Uganda.
Our relief program was up and running, at least in infant form (it’s still there and operating), and African-American comedian and activist Dick Gregory agreed to go to Uganda with me to see it and to help publicize the starvation so we could raise funds in the United States to expand the program. As the two of us crossed the Atlantic, his first trip to the African continent and my third or fourth, we sat in the plane and drank red wine and talked of all sorts of things, including our common opposition to the Vietnam War back in the day.
In the middle of our discussion about the United States and its unfortunate military adventures abroad, Dick dropped on me the most profound comment More Thom Hartmann…
In Books on December 29, 2010 at 7:54 am
From PEAK OIL BLUES BLOG
A good novel is one that conjures images that linger. It creates characters that you feel a variety of emotions toward. The person stands in front of you and you can imagine interacting with them. You know whether you’d invite them to dinner or bar the door when they come knocking. A good novel does more than have a plot, an adventure, a tale. It brings you into the lives and times of the characters and gives you a chance to feel what they must feel, share their wishes and dreams, and hope along with them for the best (or the worst) as you move through the story. You sympathize, feel anger toward, want to comfort or hold your breath saying to yourself “No, don’t do that!” knowing quite well that the character will in fact do that very thing.
And you understand why.
For me then, as a clinical psychologist, a good novel is all about character development, even more so than it is about the demographics, diversity, or employment opportunities of those characters. Like a good meal, it leaves you satisfied after you finish it and haunts your thoughts. It may also bring lively debate…
The Witch of Hebron
Let me state for the record that I love the last two novels by James Howard Kunstler, and I’ll read every upcoming one eagerly. The characters have stayed with me, like friends I know, and I care about. I find no misstep in Kunstler’s novel for his lack of full-blown, in-depth female characters. Okay, so Jim’s women are courtesans, mystics/magicians, or wives, but I look at it this way: If you want vivid female characters, write your own novel. Or wait for his next installment. I don’t slam people for what they don’t write, I prefer to look at the stories they do tell, and this is a great continuing tale. Both books are a very entertaining More Witch of Hebron…
In Books on December 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm
From TWYLA THARP
Author, The Creative Habit
I read for a lot of reasons, pleasure being the least of them.
I read competitively, remembering Mark Twain’s admonition that “the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.
Mostly, I read for inspiration. But what inspires me is probably not the same as what inspires or pleases the general populace. Although I’m interested in characters and story line and sheer information, I usually read with a specific purpose. I’m searching for patterns and archetypes, concepts and situations that are so basic to the human condition that they’ll connect with an audience in a fundamental way, whether or not the audience is aware of the connection.
I tend to read “archaeologically.” Meaning, I read backwards in time. I’ll start with a contemporary book and then move on to a text that predates that book, and so on until I’m reading the most ancient texts and the most primitive ideas. For example, when I was casting about for the project that ultimately became the Bacche piece, I began by reading Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. That hooked me on Dionysus, and led me back to Carl Kerenyi’s study of Dionysos, which explained the place of goats as part of the worship of Dionysus, and the connection to the development of Greek tragedy. From there it was back to Euripides, and the text of The Baccae, at last turning to a source that Jerome Robbins had suggested to me years earlier.
I don’t know if many people read archaeologically. A lot of people I know read chronologically: if they’re tackling all of Dostoyevsky, they start with his earliest works and plow through to his last writings, in much the same fashion as they did in school. More Tharp…
In Around the web, Books, Thom Hartmann Rebooting Series on December 7, 2010 at 5:30 am
From THOM HARTMANN
Article with footnotes: TruthOut
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.…Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right. —Thomas Jefferson
Talk Radio News Service, based in Washington, D.C., is owned and run by my dear friend Ellen Ratner. Ellen is an experienced and accomplished journalist, and a large number of interns and young journalism school graduates get their feet wet in reporting by working for and with her.
In March 2010 I was in Washington for a meeting with a group of senators, and I needed a studio from which to do my radio and TV show. Ellen was gracious enough to offer me hers. I arrived as three of her interns were producing a panel-discussion type of TV show for Web distribution at http://www.talkradionews.com, in which they were discussing for their viewing audience their recent experiences on Capitol Hill.
One intern panelist related that a White House correspondent for one of the Big Three TV networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) had told her that the network registered a huge amount of interest 66 Rebooting the American Dream in the “hot story” that week of a congressman’s sexual indiscretions. Far less popular were stories about the debates on health care, the conflicts in the Middle East, and even the Americans who had died recently in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“So that’s the story they have to run with on the news,” the intern said, relating the substance of the network correspondent’s thoughts, “because that’s what the American people want to see. If the network doesn’t give people what they want to see, More Thom Hartmann…
In Around the web, Books on November 25, 2010 at 8:40 am
Author Gene Logsdon
It’s not often that a book inspires you to go out and shovel steaming piles of horse poop on a cold November afternoon. But that’s exactly what happened to me after reading Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit, and I mean it as a resounding compliment to the author. I should note, of course, that it doesn’t take much to get me thinking, and writing, about poop, pee, compost, and all things biodegradable.
From the selective flush and letting it mellow, through musing on the benefits of (male) pee on compost, to asking whether recycling our poop is the key to sustainable farming, I am somewhat known as the toilet correspondent here at TreeHugger. But Logsdon’s obsession with all things brown and smelly puts me to shame.
Logsdon has long been known as an eminent agrarian thinker and practitioner. From being an advocate for horse-powered farming (and the resulting fertilizer), to writing (and re-releasing) a guide to small-scale grain raising for backyards, homesteads and small farms, he has always made a strong case for small-scale, low impact farming, and a strong reliance on traditional methods and knowledge.
Romanticism This is Not
But as Matt argued in his post about Logsdon’s argument for horse-powered farms, the man has enough experience and knowledge that it is hard to paint him as your typical starry-eyed nostalgic romantic. Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind is yet further evidence that the guy knows his, errrm, stuff—and that what he has to share is important, practical and common sense knowledge that could help us navigate the looming challenges of feeding the world after peak oil, climate change, and dwindling reserves of phosphorous-based fertilizer take their toll on our oil-dependent farming systems.
The Mainstream Rethinks its Attitude to Manure
Starting with an anecdote about a mainstream mega-farmer More: Holy Shit…
In Around the web, Books on November 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm
From SHERWOOD ROSS
That we take the concept of full equality for women today for granted shows how far women have progressed when only 50 years ago they constituted America’s largest untapped human resource; when only 6% of all doctors, 3% of all lawyers, and fewer than 1% of all engineers were women; when no woman could compete in the Boston Marathon and when every woman needed her husband’s permission even to get a credit card. In the comparatively short span since, American women have made astonishing progress, from legal secretaries to lawyers, from nurses to doctors; from kitchen menials to astronauts, and from USO hostesses to front-line warriors. Their dramatic story is charted in the new book by New York Times columnist Gail Collins in “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present(Little Brown).” Back in the Sixties, “It was legal to say that women couldn’t be in management, because it was bad for the men,” Collins tells interviewer Diane Sullivan, a professor at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, producers of “Educational Forum,” on Comcast SportsNet to be aired nationally at 11 A.M. Sunday(EST), November 28th.
In the Sixties, popular TV westerns such as Bonanza spread the message that “Girls stayed at home and that girls do not have adventures,” Collins recalled. There were a number of amazing women around and here and there women pioneers blazed new paths “but the idea in general was always that women were the mothers and the wives and they stayed in the house,” she said. Some women after World War Two developed the first television shows, shows that featured women in important roles, but “when television became a very big deal, (the women) all went away, and you really had no shows in which women were the main characters.” In Bonanza, for example, lead Ben Cartwright, (played by Lorne Greene), is a widower on a big ranch whose three wives all died and whose sons fell in love with girls who all died as well. “I mean, really, you walk near the Ponderosa (ranch) and you were dead. It was a toxic landmine for women,” Collins said.
By 1970, however, the Mary Tyler Moore comedy series on CBS portrayed bachelorette “Mary Richards” as a single woman in her Thirties who was never married and was not looking for a man to support her. More: Women making progress…
In Books, Thom Hartmann Rebooting Series on November 10, 2010 at 8:14 am
From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout is proud to bring you an exclusive series from America’s No. 1 progressive radio host, Thom Hartmann. Starting today, we’ll be publishing weekly installments of Hartmann’s acclaimed new book, “Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country.” We invite Truthout readers to join us over the next 12 weeks as, chapter by chapter, we explore these groundbreaking ideas for national transformation. We begin today with the book’s introduction.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820
On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, showed up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington that he’d just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation’s capital, New York City. More: Thom Hartmann…
In Books on November 9, 2010 at 7:53 am
From organizing workers to preventing war to making the economy more green, journalist Chris Hedges argues that, for decades, liberals have surrendered the good fights to corporations and ruling powers.
In his new book, Death of the Liberal Class, Hedges slams five specific groups and institutions — the Democratic Party, churches, unions, the media and academia — for failing Americans and allowing for the creation of a “permanent underclass.”
Hedges says that, for motives ranging from self-preservation to careerism, the “liberal establishment” purged radicals from its own ranks and, as a result, lost its checks on capitalism and corporate power.
“For millions of Americans, including the 15 million unemployed Americans,” Hedges tells NPR’S Neal Conan, “the suffering is becoming acute.”
He sites a recent trip to Camden, N.J., per capita the poorest city in the nation, as an example.
“When you get up and see the human cost of what this has done — these foreclosures, these bank repossessions, the fact that one in eight Americans and one in four children depend on food stamps to survive,” More: Chris Hedges…
In Books on November 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm
From AMANDA KOVATTANA
Having stated publicly that he is not anti-feminist as many concluded from his first post apocalyptic novel, World Made By Hand, Kunstler attempts to redeem himself with the title character. The Witch of Hebron is a delectable goddess of a woman who survives living alone through the grace of various psychic powers and the healing of men with a good lay. Armed thus, she appears to have an edge in a world peopled with robbers and filled with frequent violence.
I also greeted, like old friends, the white flight sensibilities of the community of middle aged men who peopled his first novel. The most “colorful” characters being the ridiculously archaic religious order of white men from the South fleeing the race riots, but that is not mentioned again and we are safe for now.
He begins the novel by fleshing out the psychic talents of the porcine queen bee spiritual leader of the religious order, though this does take away a bit of the mystery. And despite his having decreed that dogs are rare in a post apocalyptic world (because there would be no more canned dog food), he introduces quite a healthy dog and a boy. The boy sets the plot in motion due to the dog’s death (by horse stomping).
As we follow along we realize that this boy is everything to the book. And in this regard, Kunstler wins me over by giving the boy such capabilities as have gone missing in the last decades of overcautious parenting. The boy has been apprenticing with his doctor dad since he was 8 and now at 11, he shows a good deal of confidence and success in doctoring at every opportunity as he sets off across the countryside. More: Witches…
In Books on October 31, 2010 at 9:48 am
In his new book about “the long con that is breaking America,” the Rolling Stone reporter chronicles the bizarre sight of a nation about to reward—lavishly—the very same Wall Street titans, DC politicians, and shady power brokers who brought us low
Matt Taibbi, the profane, provocative reporter for Rolling Stone, is a larger-than-life figure in modern political journalism. That’s both literally true (he’s a big guy: he once played for the MBA—that’s the Mongolian Basketball Association) and figuratively true: he writes in a scorching, contemptuous style that gives the best of his work a cast of fire-breathing grandeur.
Known primarily for blaspheming the Pope, labeling Goldman Sachs a “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”, and more recently, slinging a mug of hot coffee in the face of a Vanity Fair reporter, Taibbi is clearly a man of outsized emotions.
His new book Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con that Is Breaking America [Spiegel & Grau] is a stinging new history of the financial crisis that heralds a return of Mencken-esque, dirt-under-the-fingernails American journalism. Griftopia delves into the shadowy world of collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and sovereign wealth funds, but he navigates the turgid money stuff with soaring sentences like “Greenspan’s rise is…a tale of a gerbilish mirror-gazer who flattered and bullshitted his way up the Matterhorn of American power, and then, once he got to the top, feverishly jacked himself off to the attentions of Wall Street for twenty consecutive years.” No one is spared…
In Books, Mendo Island Transition on October 26, 2010 at 8:54 am
From MAKENNA GOODMAN
As weather patterns change and fossil fuel supplies dwindle, communities have to start thinking about food resilience. How can farmers and gardeners grow and preserve food amid rapidly changing weather conditions, and without easy access to cheap industrial fertilizers? In her new book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, longtime gardener and scientist Carol Deppe digs into just such questions.
I recently talked to Deppe about how her form of resilient gardening compares to “traditional” gardening, the importance of not seeking perfection, and how all of this ties into food security.
Q. What’s the first step toward achieving food resilience?
A. There are three ways to do that. The first is through local buying patterns and trade. A second is through knowing how to store or process food that is available locally, whether we grow it ourselves or not. The third is gardening. In The Resilient Gardener, I talk as much about storing and using food as growing it. I love gardening, but not everyone is in a position to garden every year of their lives. However, the person who has learned to make spectacular applesauce or cider or apple butter or pies can often trade some of the processed products for all the apples needed.
More: Local Food Resilience…
In Books on September 29, 2010 at 8:54 am
From CHRIS WALTERS
Once upon a time, a chemical company in St. Louis discovered that normal limits did not apply to it. Whether its products sickened an entire town in the Midwest or poisoned villagers in Southeast Asia, things seemed to break its way. Regulators seemed reluctant to regulate, and judges delivered stupefying decisions with straight faces.
Microsoft’s monopolistic behavior resulted in trial conviction, and heavy penalties. Top executives of Archer Daniels Midland went to prison for price-fixing. Meanwhile the corporation with the sweet Spanish name went on a global tear, flooding the American food supply with dubious genetics, seeding government agencies with sympathizers, intimidating opponents, buying the loyalty of scientists, and transforming the rural landscape in country after country, always for the worse. Only the European Union, resisted it with some success. Only one of its major projects, transgenic wheat, was blocked decisively. more
In Books on September 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm
From RALPH VOSS
Newspapers, magazines and electronic media outlets all over the world recently announced a break-through vaccine that will hopefully protect women against breast cancer.
The following report — from CBS — is typical of what was said by numerous sources: “In the current study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated — half with a vaccine containing the antigen and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with the antigen developed breast cancer, while all the other mice did.”
Dr. Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the project to create the vaccine, sums up the impact: “We believe this vaccine will some day be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children. If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental.” more
In Around the web, Books on September 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm
From GEORGE MONBIOT
I used to think being a vegan was the only ethical way to eat. But an important new book suggests we can change our food system to allow for healthy meat consumption.
This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.
In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world’s livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism “is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue”. I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I’m about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.
In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, [Available in US January 2011] Simon Fairlie pays handsome tribute to vegans for opening up the debate. more
In Around the web, Books on September 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm
From Front Porch Republic
“The sleekest revolutions,” notes Barry Lynn, “are won not at the barricades but in the dictionary.” To control the terms of a debate is to control the outcome. This is certainly true of the term “free market,” a term which has come to mean almost its opposite, and hence a system which is manifestly unfree. The claim that our markets are not free is a serious one, and should only be made on serious evidence, just the kind of evidence that Barry Lynn provides in Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction.
The surest sign that a market is free is that it is competitive; there should be a rich variety of products provided by a vast number of firms, a situation which affords entrepreneurs many opportunities to enter the market and workers many places to sell their labor. And when we waltz into our local Wal Mart, that is what we seem to see. Alas, it is an illusion of competition rather than the reality. For example, if you want eyeglasses, you can go to Pearl Vision, or Lenscrafters, Sears Optical, JC Penney, Target, Macy’s, Sunglass Hut, or buy frames from 25 different manufacturers. Surely choice and competition prevail in this market. But no. All of these are one company, the Italian conglomerate Luxottica. And as with glasses, so also with so many other products. Most of our beer—even some that try to pass themselves off as “craft” beer—is provided by just two companies, ImBev of Belgium or the South African Brewing Company. Proctor & Gamble provides 75% of razors, 60% of detergent, 50% of feminine pads, etc. Even what few companies remain in each market often engage in collusion rather than competition. Wal Mart, for example, appoints one company as a “category manager” to allocate shelf space for all the “competing” companies. more