Friday, July 27, 2007

A little reminder

Here we go. The Farm Bill fury is out enough so that there is even a little MSM about it, albeit buried instead of front and center. The better nuggets are here. And as a savvy reader emailed me "It's a scary day in the neighborhood when Mike Johanns is a reasonable voice. Kill me now, Billy!"

Watch this. Keep in mind that Washington, Jefferson and Madison were essentially farmers at heart.

Bottom line? Neither Family Farmers, Anybody who grows fruits or vegetables in the U.S., nor Constitutional Framers are dumb.

You can keep your $.99 Value meal and pay $4.00 a pound for grapes, beans, fruits vegetables the way it's going. So it's great for McDonalads and Yum! Brands, but it sucks for both me and you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Worst Style of Blogging

Blink and link!

Just a reminder about asbtinence only in schools.

And a blast from the plast, Flatulence Is Still Funny.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Modern Bully Pulpit

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Bully Pulpit.” Indeed it is in the hands of a bully these days. In fact, it’s in the hands of a bully in a gang of bullies. The level of civil discourse has descended into incivility, largely because the bullies have held the pulpit, and have been using it to smash down all notions of fairness and fair play. Folks take their cue from the alleged leadership, and POW, people become uncivil. This unfortunately includes myself.

I made two mistakes in judgment. One was to keep silent too long in the face of bullies. The other was not to do any homework before engaging one on-line. As far as the administration is concerned, the homework has been piling up for years, and there’s a great wealth of standards to apply to it, namely, the Constitution. Engagement of the administration bullies for my part, has taken place on blogs, emails and phone calls to various legislators over the years. But social, non-presidential bullies are altogether an entirely different story. No standards. Commonly called trolls. Others on-line are not percieved as trolls if they are ensconced in a cyber spot. Care must be taken with those types, and I was hasty.

First what exactly am I talking about when I say “bully?” Someone who meets this kind of criteria. Surely Bush and Cheney fit into those characteristics. If one blogs on political sites like I do, or even other social networking sites like MySpace, one encounters this online.

Bullies of yesterday are different than today’s…

These kinds of bullies one should not tackle lightly. There are three steps one should take,
and I took none of them. (Substitute “online” for “work”, forget the legal remedies, and you get the idea.) Frankly, I reached an emotional boiling point, and unprepared, launched off about someone who is a bully in my opinion on a thread on a blog.

Am I sorry about that? Yes. I do not believe in personal attacks. I believe in moving folks behavior through personal example, and in that episode, I was not an example. I failed. Lesson learned. Particularly since I have now done my homework about the three steps.

Do I feel better about writing words I had thought, but not expressed before? Yes. Would I do this differently after this experience? Yes. Am I sorry I did it? No. And that’s where the rubber hits the road. Bullies must be stopped. It must be done intelligently vs. emotionally.

Some bullies meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Not all bullies will meet all five criteria in your on-line experience, but it’s enough to say, a bully is a bully. We’ve all seen enough of it from this administration to know, fancy words or not, it’s by their actions (and words) that you know them.

Use the three steps on whatever bullies you see in your life; Regain Control, Plan for Action, Take Action

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Arrogance & Ego

Today, July 17th by 5:00 EST, Harriet Miers had to respond to the question of how she would comply with the subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee.

The the response from her attorney, George Manning, is in full

Please open that link, and scroll to the very end.

There's a lot of legalese in the first part of that letter. Full of citations to lots of cases, which Manning claims aren't vaild references, because

"None of these cases involves an assertion of the Executive privileges and immunities at issue here."

Well of COURSE there is no case law one can cite about the current issue of Executive Privelege at issue here, because this is the first brazen attempt to do grab such an idea of Privelege! Not really the first grab at powers heretofore unimaginable by the Founders, but this one is a doozy. How's that for arrogance? I haven't even gotten to Ego.

Please open the link above, of the response by Mr. Manning and scroll to the very end. Look for the signature on Page 4.

Observe how it is signed "George T. Manning/NJF".

Let me tell you something about this. I certified as a paralegal in Arizona in 1996, and have used that certification in the Banking and Telco regulatory fields since that time. (I don't do that currently, but I often rely on that experience.)

What that NJF is code for, is that Manning did not sign that letter. The preparing attorney or paralegal whose initials are NJF at the firm of Jones Day did. Who is NJF?

Understand the import of that. The attorney for the subject of a Congressional Subpoena, who is defying that order, responds to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee with a letter that he doesn't bother to sign personally! The utter Ego involved in these despicable, secretive players in the administration are beneath your contempt.

But not Congress'. Call and give your Congressperson "permission" today to go after the rat bastards, and make them obey the law, starting with former Candidate Justice of the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Farm Bill 2007 - Reality Check, Part 3

Public health organizations are asking some very good questions—do food and agricultural policies contribute to the proliferation of unhealthy foods in our stores and restaurants? And why are corn and soybeans, which provide a large percentage of U.S. sweeteners and oils, so much cheaper than healthier crops like fruits and vegetables? The answer is fairly simple—because food companies and the folks in Washington want it that way.

Every five years, Congress and the White House roll out a new Farm Bill amid grand rhetoric about uplifting "America's family farmers and ranchers." Meanwhile, the food industry consolidates, farm numbers drop as those remaining grow in size while rural economies wither. Cram the bill with enough disparate provisions, obfuscate corporate giveaways, and food-justice advocates and farmers alike are perplexed. That's a shame.
The Farm Bill's 10 titles exert a dramatic influence on the U.S. food system. Under Title I, the provision that is supposed to protect farmers from market swings, the federal government has been doling out an average of $11.3 billion annually propping up industrial agriculture between 1995 and 2004. More than 90 percent goes to producers of corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans, with just 10 percent of farms receiving 74 percent of these subsidies. These large-scale farms aren't producing food and fiber directly for U.S. consumers, but rather inputs in an industrialized global production chain. These five crops are dramatically overproduced and typically sell on global markets at below production cost, imposing hardships on farmers worldwide while enriching transnational food-industry giants. Fruit and vegetable growers-and the vast majority of small and mid-sized farms-get not a penny.

Government food pricing data clearly demonstrates the end result. Since 1985, the real price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased nearly 40 percent, while the real price of sweets, fats and oils, and soft drinks has dropped. With these price signals, is it any wonder people are not eating enough produce and too many calorie-dense foods? We have made consuming junk food an economically smart choice, particularly for people with limited income.

Rural communities have been hit hard by U.S. agriculture policy, as we’ve steadily lost farmers and those who continue rely largely on off-farm income to keep farming. Our public health has suffered as well. The extensive use of cheap commodities in food products has resulted in added sugars and fats that fall into the very dietary categories linked to obesity. High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils—products that did not even exist a few generations ago but now are hard to avoid—have proliferated thanks to artificially cheap corn and soybeans.

Fast food, an important lobby, has entered the fray. Yum! Brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver's, is leading a coalition of fast-food companies including McDonald's and Wendy's lobbying to make the Farm Bill "WTO-compliant." Most likely either the 2002 Farm Bill will be temporarily extended, after which time subsidy payments will eventually be phased out, with no additional safety net for farmers, save perhaps subsidies for ethanol feedstock crops which benefit large producers such as Archer Daniels Midland.

Policy emanating from Washington for decades-both domestically and through global institutions including the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN-has pressured farmers to scale up to produce for a vast global agricultural commodity market. Multinational food-processing giants like Archer Daniels Midland have thrived, while farm incomes have stagnated or dropped, and public health has languished even in the global north. Meanwhile, local food production has withered with people relying on food of dubious qual-ity, grown and processed at great distances. The agendas put forward by Daryll Ray and American Farmland Trust, broadly represent ideas coming from other progressive farming groups, and deserve the active support of food-justice activists. They would likely boost U.S. farm incomes without harming farmers in the global south. But at this point, the real hope for revitalizing local food production networks lies in grassroots organizing. Farm Bill entitlements could raise family farm incomes, support small rural and urban businesses in the food systems, and create more jobs through the growing and sales of local fresh fruit and vegetables.

From the USDAs Farm Bill website: "The 2007 farm bill proposals spend approximately $10 billion less than the cost of the 2002 farm bill over the past five years (excluding ad-hoc disaster aid) and uphold the President's plan to eliminate the deficit in five years. (ahem, bullshit.) These proposals authorize approximately $5 billion more than the projected spending if the 2002 farm bill were extended. "
Bottom line, the domestic food scene is another Iraq, and it's happening right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Farm Bill - reality check Part 2

Take a look around your neighborhood.

If you live anywhere urban or rural, chances are you see some hungry people on a daily basis. You may not know it right then and there, but sometime during your week you will have run across someone who themselves or their family is participating in the Food Stamp program, or is receiving aid from a Food Bank participating agency.

In my videos, I am just showing the slow and invisible problem in the heartland, and that problem is fairly large in rural farm areas. Larger than you'd think. When a disatser strikes, like Hurricane Katrina, the poor suffer even more. America's Second Harvest is STILL providing aid in overdrive to the Gulf region. 65.2 Million Meals to date.

Remember, all of this relief is private; not government funded in the least. So why am I harping on it? The Farm Bill will dictate how the private efforts go. And it's heating up. Next week, it's back in the House Committee on Agriculture. The Senate will talk about it too, and it's fortunate that Patrick Leahy (VT) is the chair on the sub committee for nutrition and food assistance.

Call and write these people. The food stamp program needs to be increased in eligibility requirements and overall spending, not decreased in any fashion.

Justice comes from the bottom, up.

Do you find it as odd as I do, that none of this is apparently newsworthy?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hunger and Injustice in America

Hunger and Injustice

This summer the Congress considers reauthorization of the “Farm Bill.” This legislation is the umbrella that shapes rural policies to a very large degree and provides for Food Stamps as well. Parts of the Farm Bill are essentially American policy about hunger. Some important facts from the ”Hunger in America 2006” study:

-Food Banks served approximately 25 million people in 2006
-In any given week, 4.5 million people receive emergency food assistance
-On average, about 36% of those people are children

It is bad enough that McDonald’s, Burger King and Yum! Brands are attempting to influence this bill such that they receive what they perceive as more favorable economic conditions. Big AgriBusiness does well too, and the family farmer? Not so well. Maddeningly in the most productive farming country on the planet, 4.5 million this week will seek emergency food aid from a food bank or pantry. In Lincoln Nebraska, the food bank there distributed over 2.6 million pounds of food in 2005. Lincoln Nebraska, right smack in the heart of farm country, and 2.6 million pounds of food.

There are many talented and carrying people who are pushing back against the corporate lobbyist efforts, making entirely sound moral arguments to the Senators and Representatives. There’s some real progress being made. There’s a sense of progressiveness that the Congressional leadership is listening, and some headway is being made. The shame of it is this: as a people, we probably can make Congress deliver a reasonable bill. The problem is that it will be accompanied by a “
signing statement” much like this one regarding the 2003 Omnibus Spending Bill:

The bill also includes $3.3 billion in unrequested drought and other assistance, which is only minimally offset by real reductions in existing farm spending. Ninety-five percent of purported savings are scheduled to come several years from now, after the expiration of todays farm bill, and may prove illusory.

That’s Bush code-speak for “I will direct the USDA to spend this money or not spend it, however I see fit.” You can thank the author – Alberto Gonzales.

This administration prattles endlessly about “Homeland;” they have entirely dismissed the “Heartland” with and continue to perpetuate the injustice of hunger, with more injustice.