Friday, March 27, 2009

Just For Fun

...and because I'm a mindless follower who would happily jump off a cliff if my other friends were jumping too -

...and because Sprawling Ramshackle Compound brings back warm, fuzzy memories of my Florida home -

...and because those of us of Irish extraction must hang together -

Please vote for Nora O'Sullivan for Spooksmodel of the Year at Fangoria! She's a doll. The kind of doll that you never ever want to find under your Christmas tree - if you expect to ring in the New Year, that is! Scroll down to her picture and vote early and often!

Update: I just heard from the lovely and talented Nora herself - she came in at third place! She's going to LA with the rest of the lucky 13, and there will be another round of voting. When that happens, I will post again, and recruit more vote-zombies!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The City that Ended Hunger

I don't usually post articles verbatim, but this one blew me away.
Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market—you are no less a citizen. I am still accountable to you.

The new mayor, Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000.

The city of Belo Horizonte puts
The city of Belo Horizonte puts “Direct From the Country” farmer produce stands throughout busy downtown areas.
Photo by Leah Rimkus
The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce—which often reached 100 percent—to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.

'Food as a right'. It makes sense to me. As humans, we owe that to one another, especially when there is enough to go around. Frances Moore Lappé, the writer of this article, put it well:
"In writing Diet for a Small Planet, I learned one simple truth: Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy."
Like health care, there is a minimum subsistence level that every person deserves simply by being human. If you want to call that socialism, fine by me. 'Private charity' is not the whole answer, because then it becomes dependent on personal generosity, which can fluctuate, and it can become a 'moral issue' in which a superior deigns to throw a crumb to an inferior. The donation depends upon the good will of the person doing the donating, and often entails conditions put upon the donation.

Sure, there will always be people who will 'take advantage' of public support, but I believe that, since the majority of people in need are not in need because of laziness or irresponsibility, but are in need because of circumstances beyone their control, it is unfair to deny help to those who need it because of the relatively small percentage of people who take advantage of the system. And, as the article mentions, it is beneficial to society as a whole if everyone is fed, just like it is beneficial to society when everyone is educated.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hey, Bailout Honchos - What Is It About Working Men and Women That You Find So Offensive?

(Thanks, Teddy!)

Oh, it's a darn rotten shame that AIG is using taxpayer money to pay bonuses to the very people who have flushed these same taxpayers down the crapper. Really, it's just awful - terrible. Oh, my. But - unfortunately, these executives have contracts, you see! So, even though it makes us all mad as heck (grrr!), I'm afraid we'll just have to let them have their bonuses. We can't break their contracts, now, can we? You understand, now, don't you? Why, they might sue us if we don't let them have their bonuses! We can't take the risk of making these executives mad, now, can we? After all, we are a country of laws!

Glenn Greenwald says:

Larry Summers, Sunday, on AIG’s payment of executive bonuses:

We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system.

Associated Press, February 18, 2009:

The United Auto Workers’ deal with Detroit’s three automakers limits overtime, changes work rules, cuts lump-sum cash bonuses and gets rid of cost-of-living pay raises to help reduce the companies’ labor costs, people briefed on the agreement said today.

The UAW announced Tuesday that it reached the tentative agreement with General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. over contract concessions, as GM and Chrysler sent plans to the Treasury Department asking for a total of $39 billion in government financing to help them survive.

Concessions with the union are a condition of the $17.4 billion in government loans that the automakers have received so far.

Apparently, the supreme sanctity of employment contracts applies only to some types of employees but not others.


Oh Larry Summers - I'm so glad to have a people's champion like you in charge of the bailouts. Good thing you're on our side! Your fierce tsk-tsk-ing and ferocious finger-wagging must have AIG just shaking in their boots.

With laughter.

Oh yes - these valuable, brilliant executives must be paid these grotesquely huge bonuses - otherwise, we'll lose them!

Heaven forbid. Who wouldn't do whatever it takes to attract and retain such stellar performers? The 'best and brightest'? Yeah - like a California wildfire. Best at what? Oh, right - best at stealing money.

I really can't find the words to say how much I despise these people.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bree Walker for Bay Area Progressive Talk - Green 960


There is an opening in the schedule at San Francisco's Green 960, in the afternoon drive-time slot, and I think my friend Bree Walker would be a perfect fit. The program director there, John Scott, likes her work, but she needs to have at least a few hundred e-mails sent to the station to even be considered for a shot at a tryout. Bree is a passionate, fiercely intelligent, informed and committed progressive voice, and a respected news professional (both TV and radio) and I think she would be just right on Green 960. She is up against some tough competition with much larger email lists and publicity tools, so if you could take a sec and send a quick e-mail or vote in the station's contest, it would be much appreciated.

Send your emails to John Scott at A good subject line would be "Bree Walker for 4-7pm" or something along those lines.

Also, you can vote at the station's website - just choose Bree Walker from the list.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Quote of the Day

“A conservative is someone who believes the problem with our economy is that poor people have too much money.” - Bob Orben, speechwriter for Gerald Ford

Thursday, March 05, 2009

In Which Another Rabble Is Roused!

A nice surprise today. I ran into my friend and co-worker John in the teachers' lounge. John is an amazing bass player and teacher - years ago we played together in a TV-show band; now I teach at the school he has been teaching at for a long time, and we run into each other occasionally between classes. John has a razor-sharp and relentlessly curious mind and is very well-informed about things most people have never even heard of. When we were gigging together, he was always telling me about something interesting he had read about or heard on public radio (which I was not especially clued into at the time, and not the least bit politically active.)

I remember one short conversation we had in passing a while back - he had read Tom "Porn-Stache" Friedman's book The World is Flat and was (understandably) a little bummed about the seeming inevitability of the race to the bottom that the powers-that-be have forced us into. It's hard not to get discouraged when the "serious" people assure us that outsourcing, low-wage living and serfdom is the only future we have to look forward to, so we might as well get used to it, quit kicking, and face reality. I was in the middle of writing The Price of Right and wished we had time to talk about it, since I was in the middle of chewing through the sixty-five political/sociological/historical/psychology books I read in the process of researching my own book. But we were both on our way to class, so there wasn't an opportunity to get into it.

When the book came out, I gave John a copy, and today I see him in the break room. He said that he liked the book, which of course I was glad to hear. But what really made me feel like I've done something worth doing is that he's mad again! He told me that he had given me a shout-out on his blog User-Is-Content - which, by the way, is a very cool and eclectic blog, and I highly recommend that you check it out. If you're interested in science, the environment, government, alternative technology and the politics of possibility - it has a Wired magazine feel to it without the forced graphical hipness - you will dig it for sure.

AM New York called me a "rabble-rouser"
as if were some sort of criticism instead of a badge of honor to me. That's my real aim with this book - I want to rile up as many people as possible. Anger and outrage are exactly what is called for. And anger and outrage are constructive and lead to action, whereas apathy and withdrawal lead to paralysis. As I've said ad nauseum, I think it doesn't matter whether we can 'win' this thing or not - only that we stand up for what we believe, what we know is right. To not take action against what is wrong because it seems too difficult is the pussy way out, and if we sit on the sidelines, we deserve whatever we get, and have no right to complain.

And it's good to see someone as smart and ethical as John back in the game.