Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smile In Your Face All the Time They Want

In the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon, Obama signed an executive order imposing restrictions on abortion funding in the new healthcare reform law. In contrast to the swarm of people in the East Room on Tuesday, this time it was just Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who led the fight over abortion language in the legislation, along with some of their allies. The only record of the event allowed was a photo taken by the White House photographer. (It accompanies this post.)

This sort of thing doesn't do much for the administration's transparency credentials. But there's good reason, politically, for a move like this. Women, especially women's organizations, are an absolutely key constituency for the Democratic Party, and the White House can't afford to alienate them any more than it already did by making this deal with Stupak. On the flip side, Stupak and crew probably didn't want this moment to get much coverage either - though they did get this one concession, they still essentially caved, and have been taking a beating for it.

Alex Koppelman - like the administration, evidently - thinks women won't notice the bill blows. Certainly, some women care more what the boys think than what other women need. The article's wording is so awkward one can't help but notice the boomerang construction. Read again:
This sort of thing doesn't do much for the administration's transparency credentials. But there's good reason, politically, for a move like this. Women, especially women's organizations, are an absolutely key constituency for the Democratic Party, and the White House can't afford to alienate them any more than it already did by making this deal with Stupak. On the flip side, Stupak and crew probably didn't want this moment to get much coverage either - though they did get this one concession, they still essentially caved, and have been taking a beating for it.

What the hell is this? A justification for something, but what exactly? Congress passed the biggest setback to repro right in decades and the President invited the sore winners over for a private hoedown - get it? A hoedown! And women aren't supposed to notice, and when abortion is unavailable, no hard feelings, mmkay? It's no big thing. Where're your checkbooks, ladies?
That's the kind of "choice" we have in America today—limited to those who can afford to pay. I'd like to say I'm hopeful that feminist groups and progressive allies can reverse this trend, but I'm not. Confronted with the GOP filibuster threat, the Democratic Party wholly failed to deliver on its promise to support reproductive rights for rich and poor women alike, and there isn't any other viable political movement to turn to.

"And there isn't any other viable political movement to turn to." That tired story, too: Shut up, no one else would put up with you, make me a sammich. Well, leaving is dangerous, but staying with the abusive fucker will kill you.

When someone, be it a parent, a lover or a political party, is abusing you and you make up your mind that you determine your own fate, you look for your opportunity to leave. When you find it, you slip away. Sometimes, you don't know where you're going when you leave. You just go.

You're ready. Just go.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Put 'Em Under Pressure And You Watch

So I'm - like - frigging civic minded. Last month, I went to a well-attended meeting about sustainability and didn't punch anyone in the face, though the topic did come up. Last week, I went to a second and - fortunately for me - the face I wanted to punch didn't put in an appearance and a mustachioed man at the other end of the table became visibly excited every time I blurted something blunt and sensible. Perhaps he was happy that someone else was interested in tasks and not subcommittees; it's also possible he was tired and my peppery language burned a bit. Anyway, his bouncing was no doubt aerobic: I made many remarks that ended with a growled, "...why the hell not?"

It wasn't a question. I'm colorful like that!

A member of the committee said the tiny town was interested in setting up a recipe exchange.

Tata: Go one better: make the recipes feed a family of four for $10.
Committee Member: Is that even possible?
Tata: Of course it is.
Another Committee Member: With actual food?
Tata: I double dog dare you.

Yes! I did it! I double dog dared the committee to try something tougher than talking, party throwing and meeting attending-ing. Fortunately, other people are working on this very proposition.
USA TODAY asked four dietitians who blog at to come up with creative ways to feed a family of four for under $10 — as healthful alternatives to the meal advertised on a new KFC commercial. The company is selling seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits and a large side, such as mashed potatoes, for $9.99 and is challenging people to make this meal without going over that amount.

This inspiration SUCKS. Is there good news?
Cooking a meal for a family of four for under 10 bucks is a piece of cake. You can make hearty soups, sub sandwiches, chicken dishes, Sloppy Joes, large salads with leftovers, omelets and other egg dishes, nutritionists say.

USA TODAY is not the only entity interested in the challenge, but some responses are more awesome than others.

You're saying to yourself, "No sweat, I can make you six months of recipes with one ladle tied behind my back." Yeah, but you have to do better than a plate and a block of cheddar. That's the caveat: that dinner for four for less than $10 must be nutritious. Don't be shy.

Speak up. I double dog dare you.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fly Through the Revolution

The logo says Feeding the World Two Cups At A Time. What's the big idea?
Here at Soup Kitchen, Inc. we place purpose above profit, and our purpose is simple.

We are here to end world hunger.

Here's how it works:
For every portion of Soup Kitchen Soups sold, we donate an equal portion to someone in need through local and regional food banks. Sales are tracked by area / zip code. We like the idea of people being able to help in their own community.

Holy crap! I LOVE these people! Wait, who are they?
Jamie Klein
Chef / Owner

After more than 25 years of kitchen experience, in every level of restaurant, catering, private chef, movie and television production, my most memorable meals are the ones I've given away.


Besides absorbing a love for food and feeding, I've enjoyed defining my career goals by the process of elimination. It has been a terrific run of feeding people in every way from delis, to the finest restaurants, to the grandest homes and some incredible Hollywood sets around the world (well, the western hemisphere anyway). Now it's time to heed that inner voice that just wants to feed those who are simply hungry.

Omigod, little red hearts are popping up over my cartoon head! Soup Kitchen, Inc. is a website of few words, but they pack a punch: you buy soup and a soup kitchen or food pantry in our area gets an equal donation. So. You can order soup online, which sounds awkward - or! or! or! Or: ask a retailer in your area to carry this product and the donations go to the soup kitchen or food pantry. It's really that simple. See? To stock canned soup, you don't even have to be a food store!

It's a brilliant idea. You gotta eat, right? Soup's on!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Brown Rice, Black Beans To Be Free

If there's anything that can be gleaned from a thoughtful survey of the public discourse it's that the word freedom cannot be defined one way for all people.

A bit less than twenty years ago, the then-boyfriend and I and two friends went to an exhibit of fledgeling virtual reality technology, considered at the time so far out there that the exhibit station was gathering dust until we arrived. The artists had long since gotten bored and wandered away; there was no one to question about possible uses for VR. The guys I was with tried on the helmet and glasses and futzed around with different movements. I chose not to try walking and leaping because I could already walk and leap, but what I really liked were the ideas I had immediately for what could be done with VR tech. Right off the bat: wouldn't it be fantastic if heterosexuals could switch bodies and learn what it was like to get sexy in - as opposed to against - the bodies of their lovers? Wouldn't we learn everything worth knowing if we could learn to feel what other people feel?

What if men could feel for themselves what pregnancy and childbirth feel like? What if doctors could feel what patients feel? What if wealthy legislators could feel the anguish and helplessness of children who go to bed hungry? How different would we be if we could see life through other people's eyes and could learn from their experiences?

As time passed and commercial technology developed, mostly it's been used for video games in which white alpha males kill brown people. Indifference to suffering is desirable; nothing useful has been learned. Nothing has been contributed to the Common Good.

It's shitty timing to refer to a big blogger, seeing as how it's Blogroll Amnesty Day, but Digby posted this video that set me off this morning.

One way to define freedom is to learn who you are and what you stand for. I want you to suspend for a moment your political cynicism and try out a new idea: what would happen if every Sunday talk show, every campaign stop and every speech included someone - maybe you - asking the question, "What does your proposal contribute to the Common Good?" What if you expected someone to ask this question, and what if you expected an answer? What if we all expected an answer? What if consideration the Common Good were what we expected from public discourse?

No one stands up on Sunday mornings and asks the audience why it's watching Bill Kristol talk about endless war instead of the Common Good, but someone should. The pundits have lost their minds about deficit reduction, which will do nothing for the Common Good, but no one says mentions it. But what if you could? Because you can. Picture yourself standing up at a speech, standing up to say, "You keep talking about cutting domestic spending, but that will detract from the Common Good. What do you have to say for yourself?" Or: "This Pentagon budget fattens the wallets of defense contractors but contributes nothing to the Common Good. You will have to rewrite it." What a day that would be!

Picture reporters asking questions about the Common Good because it matters and when we forget that, bridges fall down, hospitals fall apart, garbage collection fails, children don't learn to read, fire departments close, neighborhoods empty and fall to ruin, food banks and soup kitchens close, homeless people sleep in the streets. The politics of selfishness have brought us to the brink of ruin as a country; poverty is what happens when we fail to consider the Common Good. Give this some thought, then: what if you asked politicians, "What does this proposal contribute to the Common Good?"

What if you deserved an answer? Consider this: you do.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Bed With Only Highway

I drag around a buttload of stuff on my bike, but this is amazing.
On any given day in Northampton, Massachusetts, you might see something that would raise eyebrows elsewhere: Someone on a bike, pulling a giant trailer heaped with trash. You'll see this in rain, snow, or heat and humidity; on residential streets and on Main Street; even going uphill in traffic.

Since late 2002, the Pedal People have picked up and hauled more than 341,000 cubic feet of trash, recyclables, and compost, replacing big loud fuel-burning garbage trucks with...bicycles (at prices competitive with the trucks). It's not a viable model everywhere, and nobody's getting rich doing this, but it's the sort of carbon footprint-reducing business we should look at as a model for the places it would work.

You might think a bicycle hauling business wouldn't be viable everywhere because of weather - that it would only work in extremely mild climates. But Northampton gets snow in the winter and has real summers, and the Pedal People rarely delay pickups due to weather.

If there's a town small enough for this service, it's the microdot on the map I live in! But wait - Northampton's not the only steamy composting hotspot.
The Pedal to Petal process is a closed cycle, from food to compost to soil and back to food again, all without the use of fossil fuel dependent vehicles and machines.

Pedal to Petal members are involved in the creation and maintainance of organic edible landscapes throughout the city of Victoria. The compost created through this project will feed the soil and feed the city. An increase in locally produced food will mean a decrease in the amount of food imported from off-island. This further reduces the amount of fossil fuels being used in the course of providing ourselves with sustainance. Not only that, but small-scale organic agriculture has far less of an impact on the environment than farms that rely on the use of heavy machinery. We turn the compost piles by hand and use a method of cultivation that eliminates the need for roto-tilling. Once again, a vast reduction in fossil fuel use.

This is such an exciting, sensible idea. If I were an enterprising, underemployed bicycle owner with a big yard, I'd go into stinky business for myself. Some composting afficionadas go big and get a truck.
EARTHGIRL COMPOSTING will provide you with a five gallon bucket. We will pick up your full bucket weekly, biweekly or monthly, leave you an empty clean bucket and deliver your waste to Vermont Compost Company and/or Intervale Compost Products.

YOU DECIDE how often and we will do the rest.

When you compost with EARTHGIRL COMPOSTING you are making a difference.

All waste is delivered to Vermont Compost Company and/or Intervale Compost Products.

Vermont Compost Company was founded by organic crop growing professionals to meet the need for high quality composts and compost based living soil mixes for certified organic plant production. Vermont Compost Company recycles over 400 tons of food residuals annually and relies on bio-fuels, non-toxic lubricants, and plant-based oils for all of the equipment on the farm.

Intervale Compost Products supports our community and sustainable agriculture by turning waste into compost and selling that compost to organic farmers, gardeners, and landscapers.

Startling use of capital letters aside, that's a wild idea come to efficient fruition. Check this out:
We provide participants in the compost program with their own post-consumer, recycled compost bucket, free of charge. Each bucket comes lined with a completely compostable cornstarch bag.

On the appropriate collection night, participants place their buckets on their front porch. We empty the contents of each bucket into our collection truck, replace the bag, and put the bucket back on the participant's porch, ready to receive another week's compost.

The collected compost is then taken to a city composting site, managed by the Department of Parks and Horticulture, where it is processed for re-integration into the ecosystem. The following spring, we deliver finished compost from the site to participants in the program, free-of-charge.

Montreal returns compost to participants, which is either great or a great threat. Weren't expecting buckets of nutrient-rich compost on your doorstep? Surprise! Goo for you! Were you to, say, Google compost services, you would find such services listed all over the place.

I'm not saying you should consider this an investment opportunity, but I am saying that in 2010, there is money to be made in dirt that can clean up your karma.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Western Region Of My Mental Health

Yesterday, I got a survey and solicitation from the DNC, and those asslicking pigfuckers have a lot of nerve asking me for a list of my priorities and a wad of money after they spent the last year fucking pigs, licking asses and punching hippies like me. So I sent back a mostly completed survey and a paint-peeling description of why I will never give the party another red cent. If you receive a survey and solicitation, I urge you not to discard it. The DNC's list of 2009 accomplishments is a real knee-slapper, deserving of a hot retort or two. Answer the questions, tell the asslicking pigfuckers how you really feel and tell them why you're keeping your pin money. If you've been reading PIC for more than a few minutes, you know exactly why despite the fact that I am married to a man I wrote in black marker: The GayTM is closed.

I am no longer hostage to idea that I have nowhere else to go. I found somewhere else and went there. And I won't be back while the corporatists control the party. When the Democrats remember they are the party of labor, women, minorities, LGBTQs and seniors, the party of social justice and a strong safety net, we may talk again. Maybe. But don't count on it.

Not this time.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What It Don't Get I Can't Use

Huff Po nonsense...pointless crap...nonsense...celebrity gossip - what's all this, then? Sez Arianna:
The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face to taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending, even though the need to get credit flowing again was one of the main points used in selling the public the bank bailout. But since April, the Big Four banks - JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo - all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to businesses by $100 billion.

Everyone around the table quickly got excited (granted we are an excitable group), and began tossing out suggestions for how to get this idea circulating.
Meanwhile, America's Main Street community banks - the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of - are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.

We talked about the outrage of big, bailed-out banks turning around and spending millions of dollars on lobbying to gut or kill financial reform - including "too big to fail" legislation and regulation of the derivatives that played such a huge part in the meltdown. And as we contrasted that with the efforts of local banks to show that you can both be profitable and have a positive impact on the community, an idea took hold: why don't we take our money out of these big banks and put them into community banks? And what, we asked ourselves, would happen if lots of people around America decided to do the same thing? Our money has been used to make the system worse - what if we used it to make the system better?

Imagine my surprise when I found useful advice on the Blogosphere's leading source for medical quackery and Hollywood divorce tweets! But enough about me, what's Arianna got to say about you?
The idea is simple: If enough people who have money in one of the big four banks move it into smaller, more local, more traditional community banks, then collectively we, the people, will have taken a big step toward re-rigging the financial system so it becomes again the productive, stable engine for growth it's meant to be. It's neither Left nor Right - it's populism at its best. Consider it a withdrawal tax on the big banks for the negative service they provide by consistently ignoring the public interest. It's time for Americans to move their money out of these reckless behemoths. And you don't have to worry, there is zero risk: deposit insurance is just as good at small banks - and unlike the big banks they don't provide the toxic dividend of derivatives trading in a heads-they-win, tails-we-lose fashion.

Got that? Don't be a-skeert! If you've been reading PIC during 2009, you may remember I skipped community banks, passed Go and went directly to the credit union:
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn't know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there's another for students and alumni, and if you're an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up - mostly for Miss Sasha's tuition, but I've stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union's services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There's no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn't trying to fuck you over?

I moved almost everything to the credit union but I still have a checking account for reasons that may no longer be valid. It may be possible to establish electronic billpay, but it is not yet possible to buy savings bonds through the credit union. If I can find a way around that mulberry bush, my checking account will be history; so I am not asking you to consider making a leap while I cling to the ledge. No. I'm pretty sure there's a soft spot where we can all land.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

To Memory Now I Cannot Recall

As I watch Congresspersons preen, bicker and bargain away our reproductive rights for the illusion of healthcare, I am bracing myself for the return of commonplace botched back alley abortions and the deaths of our nieces, sisters, daughters and friends.

One of my sisters votes Republican and refuses to consider what that means. "Roe v Wade will never be overturned!" she hisses when the subject comes up, but there is no balm in Gilead. Democrats have made common cause with the anti-choice mob and since women will still need abortions they cannot afford, women will die. It has nothing to do with right or wrong but everything to do with money, shame and social control of women. Today, I believe this is coming, that Americans will have the nerve to be shocked and scandalized and we will have to start the fight all over again because we do not learn and remember.

Months ago, feminists were warned not to mention abortion in the context of the healthcare fight. Blue Gal scolded me about it. She said mentioning abortion was asking for trouble. It's in her archives somewhere. I said then and I say now: we have only the rights we are willing to defend, and we should have taken this fight straight to Congress, because the antis were always going to do that. You saw it today. That was always going to happen, and they're not going to stop.

Perhaps in daylight, cooler heads will prevail on other matters, but not on this one. It's all over but the tears.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Games Played Once Too Often

Recently, Pete joined a credit union and closed his account at Bank of America. It started out as a sensible if exotic maneuver to outrun galloping bank fees but quickly became a floodlit escape. The bank assessed fee after fee until finally Pete got the account closed in the nick of time. Ever since, I've been preaching the gospel of credit unions. Feel free to sing along! Let's start with an uplifting chorus. What is a credit union?
Credit unions are financial institutions formed by an organized group of people with a common bond. Members of credit unions pool their assets to provide loans and other financial services to each other.

Credit unions differ from other banks in several ways:

Credit Unions
Not-for-profit cooperatives
Owned by members
Operated by mostly volunteer boards

Other Financial Institutions
Owned by outside stockholders
Owned by outside stockholders
Controlled by paid boards

These factors allow credit unions to pay dividends to their members (not shareholders) and offer them lower loan rates, higher savings rates and fewer service fees.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn't know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there's another for students and alumni, and if you're an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up - mostly for Miss Sasha's tuition, but I've stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union's services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There's no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn't trying to fuck you over?

Give it a whirl.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Young Blood Is the Loving Upriser

This is one of our stray cat friends. We call him/her "Woym," like the kid from the Little Rascals. I can't really explain that, but I can tell you that feral cats avoid contact with people. Some feral cats come to our All You Can Eat Kibble Bar and though we can see them they flee if Pete or I take a step toward them. Woym, on the other hand, seeks physical contact. Woym wants to chat about his/her busy day of being a cat, wants some scritches and a nosh, thank you very much. This means Woym is not a feral cat. Either he/she ran away or was abandoned. I'm working on finding Woym a home because I can't standing thinking about what winter might be like for abandoned house pets.

This is something I can change. That is an important point to hold on to when much of the world feels deeply unjust, corrupt and profoundly dangerous. I can change some things. Sometimes it is a matter of finding a creative way to do it. We are looking down the barrel of an economy about to blow, which means we are hearing cries for help more often. We cannot ignore them, even as we accept that we have limited time, money and growing compassion fatigue. Arthur Silbers needs your help.
And I'm about to face (again) a choice between food and heart medication. I've eaten through almost all the food I had stored up; in the last week, I've been forced to eat the contents of a few cans of food that had been pushed to the backs of some kitchen shelves. They were very old; perhaps the recent intestinal unpleasantness was the result of something that shouldn't have been eaten. But those particular problems have periodically gone on for a long time now, so possibly tainted food can't be the entire explanation. Eating healthy foods, which would be a good idea given the heart problems, is pretty much beyond my means for good now. Last week, I spent most of a donation from a regular contributor on cat food. (Many thanks to K.R. and to the few others who make donations on a regular basis, as well as to all those who help keep me going.) First things first. It's one thing for me to fade away, slowly or perhaps more quickly, but I can't allow the same to happen to my two feline companions. If I were truly responsible, I would try to find them good new homes right now. That undoubtedly has been true for some time. But I admit that I can't bear to think of life without them. The dilemma haunts me every day.

What can we do for him? If you're in Los Angeles, can you help him find good homes for his cats? You can. Can you bring him a bag of groceries? You can. Can you help him find an air conditioner on Freecycle? You can. If you have a bar and a band, you can hold a benefit. If you're outside Los Angeles, you could drop a little dosh into his Paypal account. Got ten bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Five? Three fifty? Please consider donating.

My friend Mary, deeply involved with the concerns of growing girls, forwards a link to Girl Effect. Their website is a little heavy on persuasion and light on statistics, but it reminds one of Kiva. I can't vouch for Girl Effect, and hope you'll do your own research, but it's great to see momentum building worldwide for the improvement of education and economic opportunity.

Woym has sweet chartreuse eyes and soft fur. I have a feeling my co-worker, bruised by the sudden loss of a feline friend, will take Woym in. Serena told me her daughter had a dream about a tabby cat trying to get in. I said, "Far be it from me to separate you from your companion." The path through despair is love.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Vacant Lot For Any Spirit To Haunt

Oh brudder:
A passenger told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she noticed Sicily was missing - while she was on a flight to the island. Smaller islands, such as Sardinia, were in the right place on the map.

Alitalia was re-launched earlier this year under private ownership. It had been a state-run company for more than 60 years before going bankrupt.

One Italian Senator, Riccardo Villari, said it was unfortunate the big advertising campaign surrounding the re-launch had been followed by "unpleasant" errors. The magazine editor, Aldo Canale, said: "We have run lots of editions on the beauty of Sicily and we would never dream of eliminating it from maps of Italy."

This reminds me of that time on a genealogical bulletin board when someone said my great-grandfather never existed. I recall shouting a lot, "The proof that he lived is that I'M SITTING RIGHT HERE." See, he married a divorced woman, which was cause for little old ladies to slather White Out all over the family records. Hope Sicily reappears or floating through baggage claim in the Mediterranean's going to be VERY FREAKING TRICKY.

You've got to give it to Chris Dodd. He knows he's about to fuck up so bad Connecticut's voters might finally put him out of a job, and yet he sounds so calm about it.
On the one hand, Dodd expressed his strong support for a public health plan that would compete with private insurers and give Americans to buy into an insurance system that doesn’t fatten corporations’ bottom line. On the other, Dodd signaled his willingness to accept a “compromise.”

“We have the votes to pass a bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans, improves quality, protects patient choice, cuts costs, and averts disaster for our economy and our families,” Dodd wrote. “But, as frustrating as it is to you and to me, I don’t know if we have the votes to pass a strong public health care option. What I do know is that whether we can get there or not is still an open question. What I do know is that I plan to fight hard to convince my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate that we need a public option. What I do know is that I’m going to need your help.”

I'd sound a little more nervous if I were saying to Americans, "Dudes - can I call you 'Dudes?' - Dudes, we're going to expand coverage by forcing you to buy it, refuse to help pay for it and sit around with our collegial thumbs up our asses while the insurers refuse claims and make your lives an exorbitantly expensive living hell." In fact, knowing that this plan will actually make the lives of Americans much worse would prevent me from saying it at all.

So who knew I had some dignity? Not Siobhan, who just sent an old picture of Ivan and me in Santa suits in a Tewksbury, MA hotel room where she, Ivan and I met up with Johnny and drank Boone's Farm out of bowls. Apparently, paper cups were illegal within the city limits - but whatever: dignity, motherfuckers! Like the Portuguese, I guess:
Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal's decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for "drug tourists" — has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

You had me at postdecriminalization, Mr. Greenwald.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Running Up That Road, Running Up That Hill

Speechless with horror:
WICHITA, Kan. – Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was detained some 170 miles away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

Although Stolz refused to release the man's name, Johnson County sheriff's spokesman Tom Erickson identified the detained man as Scott Roeder. He has not been charged in the slaying and was expected to be taken to Wichita for questioning.

There was no immediate word of the motive Tiller's assailant. But the doctor's violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics, doctors and staff.

Long a focus of national anti-abortion groups, including a summer-long protest in 1991, Tiller was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, Stolz said. Tiller's attorney, Dan Monnat, said Tiller's wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time.

I knew this day would come. Everyone did. Even so, he lived every day courageously in a dark and dangerous time. He is truly a hero, most especially to the vulnerable women whose lives he saved.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Line That Goes Here That Rhymes With Anything

So I'm tooling around FDL and I read this cheery post by Christy Hardin Smith. La la la la Obamas plant a garden at the White House hooray!
The Obamas will plant a garden at the White House, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's Victory Garden during WWII. Now that is some change I can fully believe in:

And then I made the mistake of clicking through to the happy article about the happy visit to the White House of some wholesome common sense and I fully expect to see Alice Waters dancing on a table, and I read these words in this order in the motherfucking Washington Post:
President Obama famously learned the political perils of being too familiar with "elite" vegetables such as arugula.

I'd worry more about Obama learning the political perils of being too familiar with "elite" vegetables like Timothy Geithner, who may yet turn out to be a member of the Animal Kingdom. Jesus Donkeypunching Christ, "elite" vegetables? "ELITE" VEGETABLES?

Okay, let's take this slowly for the They Come Out Of A Can crowd: when seeds and fertilizer love each other in a certain way, in the presence of water and dirt and with sunshine and time, little sprouts turn into bushes, trees and vines that flower and fruit, and - voila! - vegetables ripen, from the lowly potato - though not the potatoe - to majestic corn. Arugula is freaking lettuce. Everyone's eaten lettuce. Italians everywhere have just decided not to invite the reporter to dinner, fearful of exposing Ms Jane Black to an "elitist" wheat dish called macaroni.

In an unrelated bit of eye-opening hogwash, someone "owns" Colorado's rainwater, and has for more than 100 years.
But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on [Kris] Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It's a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states' water laws.

Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.

"If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. "We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop."

Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource.

"Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river," Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. "Everything always starts with one little bite at a time."

What what what? What what? An insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource - I read that over and over. Stealing water from the sky. Stealing it. From the sky. What in glamorous tarnation is going on in that man's head?
Organic farmers and urban dreamers aren't the only people pushing to legalize water harvesting. Developer Harold Smethills wants to build more than 10,000 homes southwest of Denver that would be supplied by giant cisterns that capture the rain that falls on the 3,200-acre subdivision. He supports the change in Colorado law.

"We believe there is something to rainwater harvesting," Smethills said. "We believe it makes economic sense."

Collected rainwater is generally considered "gray water," or water that is not reliably pure enough to drink but can be used to water yards, flush toilets and power heaters. In some states, developers try to include a network of cisterns and catchment pools in every subdivision, but in others, those who catch the rain tend to do so covertly.

In Colorado, rights to bodies of water are held by entities who get preference based on the dates of their claims. Like many other Western states, Colorado has more claims than available water, and even those who hold rights dating back to the late 19th century sometimes find they do not get all of the water they should.

"If I decide to [take rainwater] in 2009, somewhere, maybe 100 miles downstream, there's a water right that outdates me by 100 years" that's losing water, said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer.

State Sen. Chris Romer found out about this facet of state water policy when he built his ecological dream house in Denver, entirely powered by solar energy. He wanted to install a system to catch rainwater, but the state said it couldn't be permitted.

"It was stunning to me that this common-sense thing couldn't be done," said Romer, a Democrat. He sponsored a bill last year to allow water harvesting, but it did not pass.

"Welcome to water politics in Colorado," Romer said. "You don't touch my gun, you don't touch my whiskey, and you don't touch my water."

Romer and Republican state Rep. Marsha Looper introduced bills this year to allow harvesting in certain circumstances. Armed with a study that shows that 97% of rainwater that falls on the soil never makes it to streams, they propose to allow harvesting in 11 pilot projects in urban areas, and for rural users like Kris Holstrom whose wells are depleted by drought.

Could Michelle Obama install some rain barrels, too?

Seriously, last weekend, I stood at the customer service counter the Lowe's on Route 18 in East Brunswick, NJ and explained to five different employees, with various titles on their Hi, I'm ____ name tags, that I would like to be able to walk into their embarrassingly huge garden section and walk out with rain barrels. I need at least four of them, I explained, and to have them shipped to my house would cost as much as a fifth rain barrel. I would prefer, I repeated and repeated, to pay Lowe's for rain barrels and leave. Not one of them saw there might be some profit to Lowe's to carry the very specific thing a customer was asking to buy four of. No, really.

Manager: At corporate, they don't think it's a good idea to carry something we might sell only once a year.
Tata: Water is expensive. This is a good guard against drought, and you have a lot of small farms around here.
Manager: Maybe you could try our website.
Tata: Did you not hear me explain about the shipping charges? I want to be able to come here, pick out the kind I want, pay you and leave. I want to be able to look at them and see them before they are at my house.
Manager: Some things are just decided at corporate.
Tata: Well, they decided wrongly.

I feel kind of silly hoping simple, obvious things can go right.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Feel And I Feel When

Photo: Bob Hosh. Lilies at Longwood Gardens.

Every morning, I get up in the dark, pad upstairs accompanied by at least two feline companions and turn on the TV at a deafening volume. I row for a while while Mike and Darlene shout the headlines. We painted the attic a whispering yellow-green that reminds one of spring's earliest shoots, so sometimes I forget to turn on the lights. The cats love the attic, which is wide and long, reasonably clean and mostly used as a guest room. Thing is: it doesn't have a floor. It has 90 year old subfloor boards that mostly don't meet and 100 year old wool rug that came to America with Pete's grandfather. I'm allergic to the rug and to doing yoga where there's no flat surface, so we're making a floor. We shopped for weeks. Home Depot had the pressboard at a good price and was running a special on carpet installation.
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it." [...]

"This bill may be one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life," he said, explaining that he could have been on "a 350-foot boat out in the Mediterranean," but felt it was more important to engage on this fight. "It is incredible to me that anybody could have the chutzpah to try and pass this bill in this election year, especially when we have an economy that is a disaster, a total absolute disaster."

East Brunswick Lumber delivered the boards on Monday. Pete sawed the 8'x4' boards in half. You haven't lived until you've seen a 5' woman carry a 4'x4' panel up three flights of stairs. Good thing I exercise! In the meantime, I wrote Home Depot's customer service, to tell the troubled retailer I was cozying up to new hardware and lumber suppliers. They responded:
Thank you for contacting The Home Depot Customer Care in this matter.

Our founder and former CEO was obviously using hyperbole to make a point about a specific piece of legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, and we will be sure to pass your comments along to him.

As it relates to EFCA, like most other retailers - including our main competitors - we think it's a bad bill that takes away American workers' right to a secret ballot, which is the most basic element of any democracy.

We look forward to your continued patronage and assisting you with all of your home improvement needs.

I was born at night, but not last night.
The bill does not, in fact, remove workers' rights to a secret ballot. It removes management's ability to harass card signers. Thus, you are perpetrating a falsehood. If you know that, you're lying. If you do not know that, you've been misled.

Further, if you're an American worker, and you side with management, you are working against your own and my interests. I'm union, as are many of the tradesmen and tradeswomen who shop your stores. Or did. I've made large purchases at Home Depot every week for almost a year, and as of last week, I've begun making them elsewhere. Can you, at a time when Home Depot's financial pitfalls are common knowledge, freely alienate your customer base?

If you can, you deserve the failure ahead. This is a very serious business. People have died for the right to unionize and your boss' hyperbole trivializes their sacrifice. Feel free to pass that on.

To paraphrase the ads: We can do it - without their help.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

To Feel You're "Acceptable"

This week, voters in California voted to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. The effort was funded largely by the Mormon Church, which had to found its own state because its views on marriage were so far outside the mainstream. Anyway, the struggle in California ain't over - not while money is flying in every direction faster than you can say "wedding industry." This is a temporary setback. It's an idiotic, repressive and pointless setback, but it's temporary. I'm certain of this, and here for me is what constitutes proof: Bianca and Reese are getting married.

All My Children tends to circle around and around - and sometimes around again - an issue before making it part of normal life. At first, Bianca was gay and the characters just talked about it. Then there was - zomigod! - a kiss, and we all had to wait for the hysterics to calm down. Then, there was another big build up and another kiss. Nobody was killed and we returned to folding our laundry. Then we had a transgender character talking about emotional and physical love and the audience kind of went crazy, which was stupid but foreseeable. Eventually, the audience calmed down again. Bianca has come back with a brand new baby and a gorgeous girlfriend and this week, Reese proposed. Bianca accepted. They kissed a whole lot and the world did not end. It didn't! I'm sure of it. See for yourself - the first three minutes will do the trick.

The reason I say Californians' setback is temporary is that women are going to watch Erica Kane plan a wedding for her angelic daughter, whose beautiful girlfriend is sweet and warm, and women all over the place LOVE A FREAKING WEDDING. There will be resistance, then women will say things like, "I'm not sure it should be legal, but wasn't that beautiful? I cried my eyes out!" Then a whole lot of women will make one truly crucial recognition: they have gay friends and relatives who might really like to hire a band and polka in public. All gay marriage will mean to most women is the possibility of more weddings, more cake, more dancing, more flowers, more love, more babies to adore, more of what makes life good.

It's just a matter of time. No one can stop that now.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Diamond Desert

Seven days to the election.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reach Out And Touch Fate

Five years and hundreds of thousands of dead later:
Bush, in October 2003, disavowed any connection with the "Mission Accomplished" message. He said the White House had nothing to do with the banner; a spokesman later said the ship's crew asked for the sign and the White House staff had it made by a private vendor.

"President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said `mission accomplished' for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday. "And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year."

She said what is important now is "how the president would describe the fight today. It's been a very tough month in Iraq, but we are taking the fight to the enemy."

At least 49 U.S. troops died in Iraq in April, making it the deadliest month since September when 65 U.S. troops died.

Now in its sixth year, the war in Iraq has claimed the lives of at least 4,061
members of the U.S. military. Only the Vietnam War (August 1964 to January 1973), the war in Afghanistan (October 2001 to present) and the Revolutionary War (July 1776 to April 1783) have engaged America longer.

Bush, in a speech earlier this month, said that "while this war is difficult, it is not endless."

Some things are not forgivable. In the eyes of the world, we are untrustworthy, craven and brutal, and we will pay for this belief for generations, even if we were to withdraw our troops tomorrow and empty our treasury for reparations. There was never a reason to invade Iraq and no reason to believe anything good can come of it now. Our leaders are war criminals. The best thing that could happen to us as a nation would be the arrest, prosecution and punishment of everyone who had a hand in this evil imperialist misadventure. Then maybe we could learn to trust ourselves again.

Instead, we seem ready to destroy ourselves.
The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said yesterday the deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf could serve as a "reminder" to Iran of American resolve to defend its interests in the region.

Gates denied the arrival of a new carrier represented an escalation, pointing out that US naval strength in the Gulf rises and falls constantly with routine naval deployments, but it comes at a time of heightened rhetoric from Washington about Iran's role in the Iraqi insurgency.

In the next few days US officers in Baghdad are expected to mount a display of recently-made Iranian arms alleged to have been seized from insurgents.

CBS News reported the Pentagon has ordered commanders to explore new options for attacking Iran and that the state department was formulating an ultimatum calling on Iran to stop arms smuggling into Iraq. The reports were denied by US officials.

Happy anniversary, America.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Like A Record, Baby

Let's talk about focus. Here are 41 seconds of the tightest focus you may ever see.

On Monday, I got into it with the emotionally charged commenters at Shakespeare's Sister, which has happened before. This morning, I found I'd written about it several years ago.
Siobhan: You're talking about Shakespeare's Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how'd you know?
Siobhan: That's the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I've never met?
Siobhan: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you're in prison. A gal's got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there's no way I'd have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I'm watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, "Look at that girl go! She's gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents."

Except in this case, I'd said to Melissa, "Let's make some noise," and the ensuing ruckus turned out to be just another pointless argument with misogynist trolls. It was disappointing, but I remember a time when I thought it was simply peachy to vent my frustrations in bar fights. Nothing changes when energy is dispersed this way. I don't have the strength anymore to argue, let alone to no result, and Shakespeare's Sister is not my blog. In my vast middle age, I prefer direct action to simmering in my emotions: I gather information, then write letters or phone. Here, Digby lays out the facts.
As you well informed blog readers all know by now, last week ABC broke an interesting little story. It was about how Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, George Tenent, John Ashcroft and other Bush "Principals" all gathered in regular meetings in the White House to discuss and approve of the various torture methods being used against prisoners held by the United States in the War On Terror. ABC interviewed the president a couple of days later and asked him if he was aware of these meetings and he said he was not only aware of them, but that he'd approved of them. Moreover, he specifically said he had no regrets about what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who we know was tortured with simulated drowning --- also known as "waterboarding" -- which is considered by the entire civilized world to be torture.

As I said, we know all this. The blogs have been writing about it non-stop since last week, stunned and appalled at the picture of these high level public officials sitting around watching power point presentations about the efficacy of sexual humiliation and CIA operatives "acting out" various torture techniques for their approval. (According to ABC's source, they went farther than the Yoo memos and mandated that certain techniques could be used in tandem to make the "enhanced interrogations" even more painful.) At the CIA's request, they explicitly signed off unanimously on each instance of torture -- torture which included many of the techniques described here by former POWs of North Vietnam. POW's like John McCain.

Please read the rest. It's concise and effective, leading to a plan at Firedoglake.
Bush Approves of Torture. We Don't.

In a stunning admission on April 10, George Bush admitted that he approved of torturing detainees in U.S. custody.

Write to the editors of local and national newspapers to help get the word out that while Bush approves of the U.S. torture, we – the American people – do not.

Individual effort. Focus. A tidal wave of voices. I like it. I'm going to write, and I hope you will too, wherever you are. And for the time being, I'll avoid comments threads steered to time-wasting nowhere by the whims of trolls.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

While They're Dragging the Lake


A funny thing happened today: the manager of the grocery store I've been haunting called me at work to say he'd found an approved supplier of green products. He offered to fax me a list. I stuttered a bit, thanked him for his thoughtfulness and said I'd love to have a look at that list.

I took this list, sat in the middle of my office and asked the women about these products. One thing that makes environmentalists sing like a Baptist preacher in a bus station is disposable diapers. What about biodegradable diapers?

Lupe: I had friends who used those. They were kind of brown and not cushiony.
Tata: So...a little too biodegradable?
Lupe: Yecch.

I called my sister the socialist businesswoman.

Tata: Biodegradable diapers?
Anya: No? No. No!
Tata: What about the 8 lb. size, before poop smells like poop?
Anya: Yes? Yes. Yes! That would make a great baby gift.

I checked it off on the list.


When the list arrived, my hands trembled for a few minutes. I wasn't bluffing, but Stop&Shop called my bluff. What, I fretted, if I picked products that didn't sell and proved the corporate buyer right? Well, it's not about me, and if I pick wrong, the grocery store will still have to pick green products because customers will buy somewhere else. It's not about me, and though it could go wrong it could also go right, possibly after some trial and error.

I expected to rant for a few years like the little old lady from Second Avenue who pushes a granny cart and rants about secret messages from space - I didn't expect anyone to listen to me. Crap! There are so many stores. I guess I could throw more toilet paper-based hissy fits.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Fear My Darling the Lion

New York Times Online:

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare

I'll just tell you right now I can't read this article because I will suffer an aneurysm. God damn it, I cannot think rationally about depriving Americans of access to what little health care they have -

Okay, I read it and only went a little cross-eyed. Here's the howling mad part:
President Bush set forth his vision for Medicare in February, in a budget that proposed savings of more than $180 billion in the next five years. The House and the Senate rejected those proposals in budget blueprints adopted earlier this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reports reflected policy decisions made by Mr. Bush early in his administration. The president inherited a budget surplus, but, rather than using it to shore up Social Security and Medicare, she said, he squandered much of it on “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said the reports showed that the looming crisis in entitlement programs “is not a phony issue, as some Democrats have stated, but a very real problem that is on our doorstep.”

The administration has lied to us so often it now sends someone out to say, "We're not lying"? If you're lying, and you say you're not lying, YOU'RE STILL LYING. I believe this is another effort to turn the fiscal clock back to the heyday of the robber baron, and I'm quite sure about 67% of Americans agree. Don't fuck with old people!

The lighting fixture that started our quest for color that honored Pete's late mother's taste in furniture.

In other Stuff You Won't Believe, Stop & Shop corporate headquarters has not responded to my email this time to find out if I'm a real human and actually talk like this, but the local store's manager called me at work. We talked about recycled stuff and healthier products and he tried to convince me that he was doing the best he could. Chitter chatter chitter chatter later, I asked him straight out, "Why did you call me? You're not going to convince me to buy Bounty and shut up." He actually tried telling me that all his product options were set at corporate and recycled products weren't available. I said, "The Stop & Shop across the river has an entire recycled and healthy products ghetto, which is bullshit because when customers are in the paper products aisle they can't see what their real options are."

He said, "They have that?"

I said, "Maybe you'd better go look and compare notes. Your store is in trouble when I can tell you what you can order and you don't know."

DING! Thus ends Round 2. I may have taken that one but anyone could still lose.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Cloud Burst, The Head Of the Tempest

Stop & Shop Consumer Affairs

To Whom It Concerns:

Perhaps you remember my open letter of 14 November 2007, in which I presented problems with the 08904 Stop & Shop including smelly, rotten fruit, an eye-opening lack of products from recycled paper and a peculiar lack of significant baking ingredients for National Pie Day. It's true that National Pie Day is usually celebrated in January and fruit is supposed to be one kind of smelly but those things aren't important right now. No, what's important is that your feedback form and I have established a relationship, deepened by a phone call from a nice lady in corporate, and I wrote down almost everything she said because I have a memory that is for poop, a zany coincidence since she promised an improved selection of recycled products and last Thursday night, I found zero recycled paper products in that same store. But I get ahead of myself.

Scenic 08904 is a tiny town of people from all over the world, though I happen to be a local. This all means that people walk to the grocery store, possibly because they don't drive, and when they get there hope to be able to pick up staples. It's a grocery store. You find pantry staples there. So. In November, I mentioned the selection of products from recycled paper was puzzling in 2007, when most people were aware that we were having some trouble with packed landfills; imagine my surprise when last week, which was undoubtedly 2008, I found no recycled paper products on the shelves what. so. ever. Not even one. Trembling with rage, I marched to the courtesy counter, where a manager and an employee pressed themselves against pregnancy tests and pouch tobacco, hoping I would go away quietly.

It's true, I threw a hissyfit. I expressed my G Rated outrage at this improbable turn of events. You'll be pleased to hear they were very nice The manager, brow furrowed, turned to go see for himself. I walked a whole step to the Express Lane, where I counted myself lucky to be third in line. Fortunately, that line didn't move, so when the manager came back from the paper products line, brow more deeply furrowed, he offered to order recycled paper products for me. This is awfully nice but it misses the point. Just today, I took aside the kid putting out the vegetables to tell him his arrangement of lettuces was truly beautiful, but that's beside the point, too.

Across the street, the health food store sells products from recycled paper, along with organic and natural products. That health food store does a brisk business. Tiny 08904 has set its sights on becoming a green town. In good weather, I myself walk to and from work in the city on the other side of the river because it's healthier for me and the planet. In 2008, people are more conscious of what they're doing and what they're ingesting, and yet your very expensive, very poorly stocked store is sitting right in the heart of town, a giant, stodgy blob of festering 1965. What gives?

Rumor has it I am not the only little old lady delivering this message. I hear that people rant this same rant all day every day, which means others think the same thoughts but don't bother mouthing off. If that's true, why is Stop & Shop resisting what customers want? That's kind of like saying, "Your mouth says 'No' but your eyes say 'Can I get extra styrofoam in my dioxin gazpacho?'"

I would like you to observe that Princeton, a scant few miles straight down Route 27, supports a coop, an Olive May and a Wild Oats. A McCafferty's is not far and several pretty good large grocery stores do fine. Even Costco now offers organic vegetables, healthy items and Marcal recycled paper products, which I've reminded you before are made in New Jersey. So what are you waiting for?

Safety first,
Princess Ta

Labels: ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

We Sweep With Threshing Oar

Last week was a little tough for me and this week threatens to be a little tougher. I'm following the writers' strike with rapt attention; half the time, I literally shake my head in disbelief.
For instance, Peter Chernin is privately telling Hollywood that the producers plan to quit the talks any day now. That they have no intention of coming back with another streaming proposal "until we are close". And that they'll only give a better electronic sell-through formula "at the last minute" when a contract with the writers is virtually signed.

These quiet remarks by the Fox/News Corp No. 2 are the complete opposite of what the AMPTP is telling the WGA around the bargaining table.

This is lying and stealing, plain and simple, which you expect from a corporate executive in Chernin's position. I have no sympathy for him or his shareholders. I have much sympathy for union members trying to make a decent living for themselves and their families, knowing that if their lines break, another union, then another after that will break, too. I hope we all see by now that we have to support each other and refuse to cross picket lines where we find them or what's left of the middle class in America goes straight into the old circular file.

Even so, there's good news. Minstrel Boy's got a new niece to spoil rotten, which prospect made me joyous all weekend. One of my favorite magazines has - improbably - gone online. And when you're sending out packages hither and yon, please give a thought to our care package project:
Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Got any good news you want to share with the class?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Quickly I Was Replaced

Stop & Shop Consumer Affairs

To Whom It Concerns:

I'm not an open letter kind of gal, but your contact form offers few specifics. Let's pretend this is the New York Times and, since I'm publishing this on a blog, that other people are actually reading it. Isn't this cozy? Hi, Mom!

I live in a small town on the Raritan River in New Jersey. If you've ever been to New Jersey, you know towns butt up against one another and no town can help sniffing what's only a town over. The Stop & Shop I can walk to is so bad I get in the car and drive to the Stop & Shop two towns away for - well - anything I really want, though sometimes I drive down Route 27 to the Stop & Shop four towns south of here. I've taken to calling my local grocery store The Extortion Mart because residents of this proud walking community might as well jog up, tithe and jog away, lest reanimating produce leap out at us. Needless to say, there's almost nothing in that store I want except cat litter and entertainment.

The other night, my Handsome Prince and I sought baking ingredients. Late last week, I'd picked up a salad and cut fruit for a quick dinner away from home and ended up spitting out rotten grapes at a relatively ballistic velocity so I have become persnickety in the produce aisle. But that tragedy is behind us now! Color us optimistic, we walked the aisles of The Extortion Mart. I had certain ingredients in mind because my co-workers had declared Tuesday, November 13th National Pie Day. I know. National Pie Day is actually observed on January 23rd, and their declaration conflicted with Felix Unger Day, but I admired the joie de vivre. I wanted Philadelphia's new Cheesecake In a Drum and a graham cracker crumb pie shell but the store did not stock the cheesecake goo. Making real cheesecake might give my co-workers the impression I cared about them, so that was o-u-t out! The baking aisle lacked gelatin leaves for fruit compote topping but stocked instant no-bake cheesecake mixes, so my office situation is still a little tense. Fortunately, the usual mayhem occurred in the checkout line, where I instinctively resorted to belting out Ethel Merman tunes when an employee mumbling to himself cut in front of us. My Handsome Prince wanted to pick up the offending teen by his collar, but can't resist Anything Goes! And tranquility ensued.

As something of a connoisseur of Stop & Shops, I know how responsive your store managers are to customer suggestions for new products. I could, as I have many times, take a manager aside and ask if, say, baking pans shouldn't be in the baking aisle but no one wants to be seen as fixating. No, no one does! Yet, it boggles what's left of my tiny little mind that in 2007, and in the third quarter even, recycled paper products may be found in your stores only after an extensive, coordinated search. In two of the three stores I frequent, recycled toilet paper can be found in a corner, huddled, lonely, like a redheaded stepchild. I've been a redheaded stepchild. L'Oreal still makes the best dyes. But the third store doesn't even carry recycled toilet paper, and none of them carries recycled paper towels. I am perfectly willing to warble No Business Like Show Business if I can find the products I need, and that make sense in this time and place. But - if I may be so bold - this is ridiculous.

You may say that the market creates the situation and if people wanted recycled paper products you would stock them in impressive numbers. That, as you know, is self-perpetuating nonsense. If you display and offer coupons for a variety of recycled products, people will buy them. Some Stop & Shops have green product ghettos. In one such cold case, I found whole milk yogurt. Why were there two yogurt cases? Why shouldn't green diapers be next to Pampers and Huggies? Why shouldn't nutritious cereals sit side by side with Cocoa Puffs? Let's be honest: if customers don't know they have these options, they're going to be less and less optional. Customers need them, and you can make money meeting those needs.

Back to the butt-sniffing: while it is true that I will still cautiously shop at The Extortion Mart - and try not to touch anything that looks especially Swamp Thing-y - for small items, the lack of sensible choices sometimes forces me to serenade shoppers at Acme and Pathmark in nearby towns.

I thought you should know.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's Too Hot, Too Hot, Babe

Wednesday evening, RAI International News showed images of wildfires in Sicily, where the situation looked bad to me. I don't understand Italian, but when hillside villages are going up in vivid flames, I can follow the story. So when the report went to the national map and a generous handful of flashing symbols lent the impression that half of Italy and Sicily were en flambe, I was horrified. Still, I am wary of getting emotionally involved in situations where my hovercraft may be full of eels, so I hoped everything would be okay and forgot about it.

This is another story. From the New York Times, in English:
Greece declared a national state of emergency on Saturday as scores of forest fires that have killed at least 46 people continued to burn out of control, leaving some villages trapped within walls of flames, cut off from firefighters and, in some cases, from firefighting aircraft grounded because of high winds.

Desperate people called television and radio stations pleading for help that they feared would not arrive in time.

“I can hear the flames outside my door,” one caller from the village of Andritsena told a Greek television station, according to Reuters news service. “There is no water anywhere. There is no help. We are alone.”

Hear the flames? Oh. My. God.
Firefighters expect the death toll to rise, because they have not yet been able to search some areas that had been overrun by flames. Hardest hit by the fires were a dozen hamlets tucked into the rural highlands around the town of Zaharo in the western peninsula, where at least 12 people, including some who may have been trying to flee by car, were killed. Charred bodies were found in cars, houses and fields in areas around Zaharo, firefighters said.

At least some of the people there were believed to have been killed or trapped after a collision between a fire truck and a convoy of cars apparently trying to flee the flames. Scores of other residents, including elderly and disabled people, remained trapped in their homes, phoning in to local television and radio stations, crying for help.

“Help! Help! Help!” wailed one resident as he spoke with Mega television from the town of Artemida. “Get some one here fast. We’re losing everything.” Minutes later, another caller pleaded for authorities to help save her two children, one of whom she feared was in shock after having seen their home go up in flames.

South of Zaharo, rescue teams confirmed at least six deaths in the seaside town of Areopolis, in the Mani region, a popular tourist destination known for its rugged cliffs and ravines. Among the victims in the area were a pair of French hikers who were trapped in a flaming ravine. Their charred bodies were found locked in an embrace, the authorities said.

I'm fucking speechless. Not this guy.
Late Saturday, Mr. Karamanlis appeared on national television and declared that he was mobilizing all of the country’s resources to tackle the blazes to “prevail in a battle that must be won.” Mr. Karamanlis also suggested that the recent fires might have been purposely set. “So many fires sparked simultaneously in so many regions is no coincidence,” he said, wearing a black tie and suit in a show of mourning. “We will get to the bottom of this and punish those responsible.”

But political opponents accused the prime minister of shunning responsibility for what the authorities have called a “national tragedy.”

“Rather than deflect attention and lay blame on some anonymous arsonist, the prime minister should take blame for the government’s failure to effectively handle this crisis,” said Nikos Bistis, a opposition socialist lawmaker, on local television.

I don't give a good goddamn about the politics, but I care a whole lot about the suffering that is and will be for a long time to come, and there's almost nothing I can do about it. Well, I guess there's this.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Your Mind Is So Full Of Red

Biography Channel
A&E Televison Networks

To Whom It Concerns:

Whenever I mention my current favorite show in cnversation it is immediately canceled. It took awhile to catch on. It started with Soap, which everyone says was canceled when Jerry Falwell flipped his wig over Billy Crystal's gay character but I know it was me. I mentioned it in sixth period Chemistry and whoosh! No more Soap. Even so, it wasn't until my friends and I refused to go out on Saturday nights until after - shhhh! - Xena that I knew I could have favorite shows but their names could never cross my lips.

So it's totally my fault that your fellow A&E stooges canceled Nero Wolfe. At the time, I wrote A&E a letter filled with naughty, unprintable words, though I didn't hesitate to print them. It's effortless with that SEND button, isn't it? I apologize to your programming executives since I plainly forced their hands by inviting friends over and throwing weekly Nero Wolfe parties. I even got The Nero Wolfe Cokbook for Christmas one year. Obviously, the cancelation was my own fault.

You will be pleased to know I subsequently learned to tell people my favorite show was one I wanted canceled immediately. Most of the time, this strategy was successful. A number of unpleasant sexist and even racist offerings went the way of the electronic dodo, so I've thought of it as Using My Powers for Good. The name of my real favorite shows were my secret for the better part of a decade. Then I slipped.

Yes, it's true. In March, my father became ill and I met his Canadian in-laws. They look just like us, you know. Anyway, with these cultured, intelligent people, I discussed British comedies we all loved. We had as marvelous a time quoting Monty Python as you can have while your beloved relative is dying. My guard was down, and I mentioned my favorite show was Midsomer Murders. The televsion was in Dad's sick room, so I didn't see any TV during his month-long decline. Naturally, when I came home, you'd canceled Midsomer Murders along with Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, leaving me with no British detectives all day Sunday. Fortunately, you replaced it with things called The Unexplained, Psychic Investigators, and Haunted History. Please know I am almost prepared to tell everyone I've ever known these are my favorite shows.

It's tough, though. I hate you a lot for taking away shows that didn't consdescend to me. But - for the moment - I still hate Cops more.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chase Down Mr. Hinkydink

Yet another Republican sex scandal? How can there be anyone left babbling that family values shit?

On a positive note: when senators get caught in diapers the rest of us look rather mature.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Music Blogging: Hansel And Gretel Edition

in alamogordo, new mexico, on july 16, 1945

Sometimes, we must become quiet and patient with ourselves to learn when we have stopped hearing anyone else.
It is of course everyone's hope that diplomacy alone can achieve this goal. Iran's activities inside Iraq were the central issue raised by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq in his historic meeting with Iranian representatives in Baghdad this May. However, as Gen. Bergner said on Monday, "There does not seem to be any follow-through on the commitments that Iran has made to work with Iraq in addressing the destabilizing security issues here." The fact is, any diplomacy with Iran is more likely to be effective if it is backed by a credible threat of force - credible in the dual sense that we mean it, and the Iranians believe it.

I am not become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Additional, courtesy of Wintle: I am not a bomb.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Same Old Trip It Was Back Then

Once again, someone's got to fuck with the kids.
Threats Force SC Library to Cancel Summer Program

Was it a program called - I dunno - Crank Calling for Selfish Bastards?
A South Carolina library system has closed down its summer programs for young adults after receiving threats and allegations that it was trying to promote "witchcraft" and "drug use."

The Pickens County Library System’s half-hour summer programs for middle and high school students were supposed to take a light-hearted look at the topics "Secrets and Spies: How to Keep a Secret by Writing in Code or Making Invisible Ink" and "What’s Your Sign?" Another program was to examine astrology, palmistry, and numerology; and others were to feature tarot cards, tie-dying t-shirts, how to make a Zen garden, and yoga.

Now the programs are cancelled in the wake of phone and e-mail threats from the community, believed to emanate from a single local Baptist church. The astrology program was labeled as "witchcraft" by callers, while the Zen garden and yoga programs were objected to as "promoting other religions." The t-shirts workshop? "Promotes the hippie culture and drug use," callers said.

"If you have an anonymous call of a bomb, what do you do?" asks Library Director Marguerite Keenan, explaining her decision to cancel the YA programs. "You clear the building, you close the building for the protection of the children. And that’s hugely sad."

I don't feel sad. I'm pissed.
Keenan says that the stream of threatening 20 or 30 anonymous phone calls, plus e-mails, began two weeks ago. Callers spoke of "picketing" the county’s four libraries and made statements such as "We’re going to get you" and "How dare you?"

She says that a local reporter traced some of the signed e-mails to congregants of a Baptist church, whose pastor was interviewed about the threats.

Keenan adds that she made her decision because she also runs children’s programs and "I’m not going to have preschoolers walk between a gauntlet of pickets.

"It’s just sad that they didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk," Keenan says of the church protest. "We do have a broad community here. And we are a public agency that needs to support all."

I have only one question: who's under arrest?

Labels: ,