Why Fermented Foods?
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Why Fermented Foods?
My latest book, “The Essential Book of Fermentation,” published by Avery, a Penguin imprint, has three parts.
The first part shows how the human biome—all the microbes that live on us and within us—is very much like a natural landscape, forming many ecologies, all of which can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how wisely we eat and care for ourselves. I go over the science, showing how diversity is the secret of health: the more biodiverse the ecosystem, the healthier it is. And that goes especially for the ecosystems of our biome. We enhance our biome’s biodiversity most efficiently when we eat foods fermented by and containing live cultures of many kinds of bacteria and yeasts.
The second part is an in-depth look into three fermented foods: bread, cheese, and wine—the perfect lunch. From wheat farmers in Wyoming to bread bakers on the East Coast, we go deep into bread. Ditto with cheese—we visit a sheep’s milk cheesemaking plant in California—and we make a batch of home-made wine with a hobby winemaker.
The third part describes the probiotic, live cultured foods we can make at home. In these foods the bacteria and yeasts are still alive and ready to support our biodiverse and healthy intestinal ecosystem. Full recipes are given for kefir, kombucha, pickles, kim chi, sauerkraut, fresh cottage cheese, yogurt, amazake, tempeh, miso, natto, and dozens more delicious and health-supporting foods.
It’s an important and fun read, and there are 50 drawings by the author (that’s me). Plus a back section that gives you connections to retailers of live cultures and fermenting equipment. You owe it to your good health to pick up a copy. I say that not because I want your money—well, not only because I want your money—but because since I started eating these live culture superfoods, my whole digestive system and outlook on who and what I am has changed mightily for the better.
You can order a copy online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Indiebound, or iTunes, or from any bricks and mortar bookstore.
ORGANIC FOOD AND THE QUEST FOR REALITY
Jimmy Carter, giving an interview to Der Spiegel (German for “The Mirror”) magazine, said the other day that America no longer has “a functional democracy.”
Imagine that! A former President of the United States saying sayonara to American democracy. And yet, it’s true. Through the courage of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, we’ve learned that our government agencies are spying on us all, wholesale, in secret, with secret courts and secret agendas, in direct contravention of the Constitution.
We see the greatest concentration of wealth into the hands of the few in the history of the United States, something our Founding Fathers warned against from the time they were writing the Constitution. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis later wrote, “You can have a democracy or a society divided into the few wealthy and the many poor, but you can’t have both.” Jimmy Carter (and I can hardly believe that I’m saying this) is right. We have lost our democracy. Big Brother is here, and he is watching our every move.
I just found out today that police across America are now armed with Automatic License Plate Readers, recording enormous databases of information about which cars are going where. And it’s all funneled back into the government’s intelligence agencies. Didn’t you know that you’re being followed? On your phone, on your computer, in your car, and everywhere? Not only your movements, but your purchases, too? How long until your thoughts are monitored? This is the iron boot of fascism and it has infected our government. The disease it causes shows up as our rigid partisan politics, in the politics of obstruction, of hatred rather than cooperation, of my-way-or-the-highway instead of compromise. We’ve had our Age of Enlightenment, now we’d better be prepared for the Age of Darkness, unless we choose to do something about this sorry state of affairs.
What to do? At the next election, vote for anyone but the incumbent unless that incumbent is irreproachable, like Bernie Sanders. If we tossed all of Big Brother’s minions out of office, we would go a long way toward solving our political problems. Our commercial, social, and spiritual problems would take more time. And what are our commercial, social, and spiritual problems? Take a look:
We see government officials outing CIA agents like Valerie Plane without consequence. We see Wall Street banks illegally kneecapping the economy for their financial benefit without consequence. We see America’s top officials torturing people, throwing them in prison without trial for indefinite periods, killing American citizens (to say nothing of innocent foreign civilians) with drone strikes—all without consequence. We see security officials like Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lying to Congress—committing perjury—without consequence. And we see patriotic whistleblowers like Bradley and Snowden pointing out these crimes and then being called criminals, being sought for indictment, Snowden having his passport illegally confiscated (what ever happened to innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers?), of these brave men being harassed as traitors when what they were doing was lifting the veil on rampant illegality and high crimes and misdemeanors by the government.
It’s all part of the Big Lie. “America is the greatest country in the world.” More of our citizens are in jail than any other country in the world. “We have the greatest health care system in the world.” Except we have terrible rates of infant mortality in childbirth. Our healthcare costs are twice what anyone else’s are, and yet we rank somewhere between Sierra Leone and Cambodia in health outcomes. “Our education system is the best,” they say, and yet we rank far down the list in math, history, and general knowledge compared to high school students in many other countries around the world.
Here’s another one: “America’s food system is the best in the world. Just look at how well stocked our supermarket shelves are.” Those shelves are stocked all right. With crap. Processed, harmful, chemical-laced, genetically modified crap. There are 30 countries in the world that have banned the food we sell ourselves in the supermarkets. Thirty countries that would refuse to eat an American dinner. All that money spent on those shopping baskets full of crap go to support the big corporations and their PR departments that are spinning us, lying to us, telling us that Coke is “the real thing,” and that RoundUp is “safe as salt,” as Monsanto used to say. Monsanto didn’t mention that salt causes hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks in humans, and that it kills most kinds of vegetation.
The government is lying to us, too. We are not the greatest country in the world when we invade other countries (Iraq) without provocation, despite what Colin Powell told the United Nations and Donald Rumsfeld told us when he said about Sadam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” “We know where they are.” Our tobacco companies tell us their products are safe and tasty when they know damn well they cause disease and death. Advertising for the big corporations is all a pack of lies, half truths, disinformation, and the American people are quickly learning now not to trust big business or their government, or just about anyone else who speaks through the corporate mouthpieces of the media.
Which brings us to the organic movement.
The organic community—its farmers and consumers of their food—are, and have been, looking for truth. First, in the truth found in real science that shows the manifold benefits of organic agriculture for the health of the land and the waters. The truth about the wholesome way farmers farm and farm workers are protected by organic culture from toxic chemicals. The truth about how organic farmers humanely treat their farm animals. The truth about the wise use of antibiotics only when necessary and only for specific diseases. The truth about the purity of food fed to animals, and finally, to the purity of the food fed to us. The truth is that consumers get food with fewer contaminants and greater nutritional value when they choose organic. And finally, the truth that organic farming supports a diverse—that is, healthy—ecosystem.
The organic movement also seeks the truth about the devastatingly ill effects of conventional agriculture. It was only in 2000 that paraquat, an organophosphate pesticide like the chemical that killed those schoolkids innocently eating their lunch at school in India, was banned in the United States. We still use malathion, another organophosphate insecticide. Monsanto poisons the earth and its creatures, including us, with glyphosate and lies about its safety. And the biotech industry lies about the dangers of GMOs. Organic folks want truth in labeling so that we can know when a food contains GMOs. The biotech industry spends millions of dollars to hide that truth and prevent such labeling.
When you get right down to it, the progress of organics in America and around the world is a process of seeking the truth. Conventional agriculture is about hiding the truth, lying, distorting the truth, turning out false propaganda instead of real information.
And I haven’t even mentioned the members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, who take conventional farm products and process them with more chemicals, denature them, producing “food” that has mankind fat and disease-ridden.
Because organic farmers and gardeners strive to perceive nature’s rules and obey them, they are arcing toward reality. They are supporting health, and so assisting life. It’s strange to say, but our modern world of politics, government, wars, pollution, chemical agriculture and food processing—all of it—seeks to find ways to circumvent nature’s rules. If nature fills out a grain of rice with many nutrients, food processing grinds away most of those nutrients. If pests are attacking your crop, kill them with poison rather than discover why those pests aren’t attacking the fields and forests around the crops and use that knowledge to devise a way to avoid and prevent the problem.
Put in the simplest way, the organic movement is about cherishing life, and it’s not confined to agriculture, but extends into all the aspects of life—social, political, personal, environmental, and spiritual.
The conventional food system is obsessive about death–the insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, and especially, the human hubris of genetic modification of life forms, as if we know better than nature what life has to be, what creatures have to do, what consequences nature has failed in building into her creatures and their natural ecosystems. Well, pride goeth before a fall.
Conventional agriculture is just one aspect of our sick culture’s obsessiveness about death—the drones, Guantanamo, the violent movies and videogames we call “entertainment,” the militarized police, the slaughter in our streets, the total spying. I understand why President Truman thought he was doing the right thing by vaporizing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I also know that he unleashed enormous evil into the world. It continues today. The organic community has always fought against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. Yet now we have the Fukushima reactors pouring radioactive water by the millions of gallons into the Pacific Ocean. The organic community has always been in favor of clean, renewable energy, yet today the build-up of greenhouse gases from the burning of carbon-rich fuels threatens life on earth as we know it.
This is the struggle for the soul and body of humankind. I honestly believe that those who choose organic over conventional are choosing life over death.
MONSANTO GIVES UP SELLING GMO SEEDS IN EUROPE
Monsanto has pretty much given up any hope (at least for now) of selling its genetically engineered seeds for corn, sugar beets, and other crops in Europe, where opposition to GMO food is overwhelming, writes John Upton in Grist.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Monsanto said it will largely drop its bid to grow some of its genetically modified crops in Europe. The world’s largest seed-maker has nine pending applications with the European Commission, the executive body for the European Union. A spokesman said the company plans to withdraw eight of those applications.
The requests “have been going nowhere fast for several years,” said Brandon Mitchener, a spokesman for Monsanto’s European division. “There’s no end in sight … due to political obstructionism.”
The European Union’s stubborn resistance to transgenic crops stands in stark contrast to the welcome mat rolled out by American lawmakers for agro-giants and their most controversial products.
In 2012, Germany’s BASF halted the development of genetically modified crops in Europe and moved its European research operations in this area to the U.S.
Welcome home, corporate industrial science.
SEATTLE TO PLANT AN EDIBLE PARK
Seattle’s new park will be filled with edible plants, and everything from pears to herbs will be free for the taking.
Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.
“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” says Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.
The concept of a food forest is grounded in the concept of permaculture, which means it will be perennial and self-sustaining, like a forest is in the wild. Not only is this forest Seattle’s first large-scale permaculture project, but it’s also believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
“The concept means we consider the soils, companion plants, insects, bugs—everything will be mutually beneficial to each other,” says Harrison. That the plan came together at all is remarkable. What started as a group project for a permaculture design course ended up as a textbook example of community outreach gone right.
So just who gets to harvest all that low-hanging fruit when the time comes?
“Anyone and everyone,” says Harrison. “There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”
The concept may be new in America, but it’s not new. On a visit to France in 1977, an organic farmer took me to what he called his “favorite garden plot.” It looked like an overgrown forest, but when I looked more closely, I saw that every tree, shrub, understory plant, perennial, and annual plant was something edible—the plot was an absolute treasure house of food, and as healthy a garden as you’d ever see, proving once again that when it comes to health in the farm or garden, the more the merrier.
Supermarkets and Organic Tokenism
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Supermarkets and Organic Tokenism
If you’re like me, that island of organic produce in your local Safeway supermarket always looks suspicious. I’ve never purchased anything from it, and I eat organic exclusively if at all possible. Now the good folks at the Organic Consumers Association have spelled out exactly why my misgivings are well-placed.
“Last week,” OCA writes in its weekly online newsletter, “we called for a boycott of Safeway’s O Organics™ brand products. Why? Because Safeway is a dues-paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a trade group that donated $2 million to defeat California’s Prop 37 initiative to label GMOs last year, and is now the leading donor to the NO on I-522 campaign to defeat a similar initiative in Washington State.”
Safeway responded on its Facebook page by saying that it “fully supports voluntary labeling of products that are GMO-free and we have not made any contributions to defeat any GMO labeling initiatives.”
Readers of this blog may remember that during the run-up to the vote on Prop 37 in California, I wrote that the corporate food giants would surely try to angle for a law that says foods are GMO free instead of one that labels foods containing GMOs. Not only is Safeway doing that in its response to the OCA, but it wants such reverse labeling to be voluntary. Sorry Safeway, but “Contains no GMO ingredients” doesn’t have nearly the impact of “Contains GMO ingredients.”
OCA further takes Safeway to task:
“Then there was this statement by Safeway spokesperson Sara Osborne, quoted in an article circulated by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services:
The OCA’s information is incorrect. Safeway has never contributed to efforts to defeat GMO labeling initiatives, Sara Osborne, a spokeswoman for Safeway, said.
“We thought we were very clear. By supporting the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Safeway surely is – as we said, indirectly – contributing to efforts to defeat GMO labeling. Maybe you can help us get the message across that Safeway needs to stop supporting the GMA, which is donating millions to defeat GMO labeling.
“Safeway operates 169 stores in 93 cities in Washington State. That’s a lot of sales of O Organics™ products in a state where the GMA has already donated nearly a half a million dollars to defeat a labeling law. We need to let Steve Frisby, President of Safeway’s Northwest Division, know that it’s unacceptable that Safeway continues to support the GMA. Until it stops, and until Safeway steps up to support I-522, we won’t be buying any of Safeway’s O Organics™ brand products.”
Thank you, OCA. If you want to contact Steve Frisby, there’s an email form for Safeway Employees at http://onlinescea.com/contact-seattle-scea/. I suggest you politely encourage him to put up YES on I-522 posters in all his stores if he wants customers to end the boycott of O Organics™.
EPA UPS YOUR DAILY DOSE OF TOXIC HERBICIDE
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has raised the permitted tolerance levels of glyphosate residue—the controversial herbicide and active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp—in many of the fruits and vegetables that you eat.
The new rules raise glyphosate levels in oilseed crops, including sesame, flax, and soybean, from 20 parts per million (ppm), to 40 ppm. It also raises the allowable glyphosate contamination level for sweet potatoes and carrots from 0.2 ppm to 3 ppm for sweet potatoes and 5 ppm for carrots–15 and 25 times the previous levels.
The change in tolerance levels affects several other agricultural products, including animal feed, root crops and fruit trees. While the regulation became effective in May, there was an open comment session that closed on July 1, during which over 10,800 comments against the proposed change in regulation were made to the agency. The comments will have no bearing on the decision, which is already final.
So, this is the EPA, right? How bad can glyphosate be if our environmental protection agency is allowing more of it in the food we eat? Well, next time someone tells you that RoundUp herbicide is safe, refer them to this website:
PHOTOGRAPH A FEEDLOT, GO TO JAIL
A freelance photographer working for National Geographic has been arrested on a charge of criminal trespass for photographing a feedlot in Garden City, Kansas, The Associated Press reports.
George Steinmetz, a New Jersey-based aerial photographer, was taking pictures of a feedlot outside Garden City from a paraglider prior to his June 28 arrest with paraglider instructor Wei Zhang. They were held briefly at Finney County jail and each was released on $270 bond.
Finney Country Sheriff Kevin Bascue told AP the two men were charged because they didn’t have permission to take off from private property and hadn’t told anyone they intended to take photos. The sheriff didn’t mention Kansas’s Ag Gag law, which became the nation’s first when it was signed into law in 1990. The law bars individuals from entering and photographing an animal facility not open to the public.
PROSECUTING FARMERS FOR SELLING FOOD
Around the country, local farmers are selling meat, dairy products, and other dinner table staples directly to neighbors, who are increasingly flocking to the farms in search of wholesome food. This would seem to embody the USDA’s advisory, “Know your farmer, know your food,” right?
Not exactly, writes David Gumpert of Common Dreams (www.commondreams.org), the crusading Progressive website. The following is important for organically-minded people to know. It is, in the food and agriculture sphere, a whistleblowing document. Very few of us, even those most keen to support organic, Biodynamic, and sustainable systems of farming, know this is happening:
“For the USDA and its sister food regulator, the FDA,” Gumpert writes, “there’s a problem: many of the farmers are distributing the food via private contracts like herd shares and leasing arrangements, which fall outside the regulatory system of state and local retail licenses and inspections that govern public food sales.
“In response, federal and state regulators are seeking legal sanctions against farmers in Maine, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California, among others. These sanctions include injunctions, fines, and even prison sentences. Food sold by unlicensed and uninspected farmers is potentially dangerous say the regulators, since it can carry pathogens like salmonella, campylobacter, and E.coli O157:H7, leading to mild or even serious illness.
“Most recently, Wisconsin’s attorney general appointed a special prosecutor to file criminal misdemeanor charges against an Amish farmer for alleged failure to have retail and dairy licenses, and the proceedings turned into a high-profile jury trial in late May that highlighted the depth of conflict: following five days of intense proceedings, the 12-person jury acquitted the farmer, Vernon Hershberger, on all the licensing charges, while convicting him of violating a 2010 holding order on his food, which he had publicly admitted.
“Why are hard-working normally law-abiding farmers aligning with urban and suburban consumers to flaunt well-established food safety regulations and statutes? Why are parents, who want only the best for their children, seeking out food that regulators say could be dangerous? And, why are regulators and prosecutors feeling so threatened by this trend?
“Members of these private food groups often buy from local farmers because they want food from animals that are treated humanely, allowed to roam on pasture, and not treated with antibiotics. ‘I really want food that is full of nutrients and the animals to be happy and content,’ says Jenny DeLoney, a Madison, Wisconsin, mother of three young children who buys from Hershberger.
“To these individuals, many of whom are parents, safety means not only food free of pathogens, but food free of pesticides, antibiotic residues, and excessive processing. It means food created the old-fashioned way–from animals allowed to eat grass instead of feed made from genetically modified (GMO) grains, and sold the old-fashioned way, privately by the farmer to the consumer, who is free to visit the farm and see the animals. Many of these consumers have viewed the secretly-made videos of downer cows being prodded into slaughterhouses and chickens so crammed into coops they can barely breathe.” (Now you know why it’s illegal to photograph animal facilities in Kansas.)
“These consumers are clearly interpreting ‘safety’ differently than the regulators. Some of these consumers are going further than claiming contract rights–they are pushing their towns and cities to legitimize private farmer-consumer arrangements. In Maine, residents of 10 coastal towns have approved so-called ‘food sovereignty’ ordinances that legalize unregulated food sales; towns in other states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, and as far away as Santa Cruz, California, have passed similar ordinances.
“The new legal offensive isn’t going over well with regulators anywhere. Aside from the Hershberger action in Wisconsin, and a similar one in Minnesota, Maine’s Department of Agriculture filed suit against a two-cow farmer, Dan Brown, in one of the food-sovereignty towns, Blue Hill, seeking fines and, in effect, to invalidate all the Maine ordinances. In April, a state court ruled against the farmer, and in effect against the towns; sentencing is due within several weeks, and the case could well be appealed.
“The jury in the criminal misdemeanor case of Minnesota farmer Alvin Schlangen last September acquitted him of all charges of selling unregulated food after several hours of deliberation. But the regulators’ push against privately-distributed food continues unabated. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has moved forward with a local prosecutor in Schlangen’s rural county, pressing similar criminal charges as the ones he was acquitted of in Minneapolis. He is scheduled to go on trial again in late June. And in Wisconsin, prosecutors have sought, in the wake of their loss over the licensing issues, to have Vernon Hershberger jailed for allegedly violating his bail terms since charges were filed in late 2011.
“At its heart, this is a struggle over a steady erosion of confidence in the integrity of our industrial food system, which has been hit by disturbing disclosures seemingly on a weekly basis. In just the last few weeks, for example, we have seen shrimp, cookies, and veggie burgers recalled by the FDA for being sold with undeclared ingredients.
“Also in recent weeks, members of Congress and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have escalated warnings about the growing danger of antibiotic resistant pathogens emerging from farm animals, which consume about 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. The Atlantic reported last summer that medical specialists are seeing a spike in women with urinary tract infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, likely transmitted by chicken meat.
“This erosion in the confidence of the food system carries serious implications. It financially threatens large corporations if long-established food brands come under prolonged and severe public questioning. It threatens economic performance if foods deemed ‘safe’ become scarcer, and thus more expensive. And it is potentially explosive politically if too many people lose confidence in the professionalism of the food regulators who are supposed to be protecting us from tainted food. It encourages folks to exit the public food system for private solutions like the consumers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and elsewhere. Just look at the vituperative corporate response to recent consumer-led campaigns to label foods with genetically-modified ingredients.
“As more consumers become intent on making the final decisions on what foods they are going to feed themselves and their families, and regulators become just as intent on asserting what they see as their authority over inspecting and licensing all food, ugly scenarios of agitated citizens battling government authorities over access to food staples seem likely to proliferate. It’s an unfortunate recipe for a new kind of rights movement centered on the most basic act–what we choose to eat.”
Good article by Common Dreams. And by the way, regarding how well our regulatory agencies are protecting us and our food supply, see again the notice above about EPA upping the amount of glyphosate we get in our conventional food. And note the crux of this article about the erosion of confidence in the conventional food system. Let me repeat it: “It financially threatens large corporations…”
Welcome to the 21st Century
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Welcome to the 21st Century
The following may not seem to have much to do with organic food, but on a fundamental level, it really does. There’s a reason why organic farming is given so little funding or support by our government. There’s a reason that our American food supply is filled with foodstuffs that are banned across most of the developed world and a lot of the developing world. There’s a reason why conventional farming is a deadly assault on nature, on the soil, on plants and animals, and on us. The reason is that conventional food production is a scam designed to sell the public inferior and often toxic groceries at the highest possible price. In the following piece, I take an over-view of the modern political world, a world fed by huge conglomerates that work hand in glove with politicians to insure that profits flow like a mighty river into these conglomerates and their henchmen and henchwomen in Washington and the state legislatures.
Hi. Welcome to the 21st Century.
When we crossed that threshold back on January 1, 2000, I bet you didn’t think it would take only a decade to change everything in America. Back in that Golden Age, pre-George Bush, pre-9/11, pre-Osama bin Laden, what would you have thought if someone told you that shortly after another decade had passed:
• Habeus corpus, which protected British subjects from indefinite detention without just cause, was given to the British nobles 700 years ago, and became enshrined in our Constitution, is now wiped off our books?
• We would invade a country that had done nothing to us, invade under false pretenses, and that thousands of American Armed Forces and hundreds of thousands of that country’s citizens would die because of it? And that the Orwellian “Department of Defense” would wage this offensive war?
• That we’d have a President who lost the popular vote but was installed by a right wing Supreme Court?
• That that Supreme Court would declare that corporations are people and entitled to spend as much money as they want to corrupt the political system? Oh, and gut the Voting Rights Act, too?
• That America would have a policy of hustling people off to secret sites in other countries where they could, without trial or any due process, be tortured using techniques for which we executed Japanese military officers after World War II?
• That the U.S. President would have the power to send small robot airplanes armed with Hellfire missiles to kill anyone he wanted, anywhere in the world, with no accountability?
• That corporations would have so much influence in the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government that they could get a law passed that allows them to put dangerous and toxic products on the market, even when a judge says they can’t?
• That the Congress would make sure that the President’s legislative hopes and dreams and his appointments would be stymied by over 400 filibusters, effectively shutting down the governmental process?
• That women’s health would be jeopardized in the states and Federal government by assaults on reproductive rights, on attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood, and by wholesale rolling back of abortion rights?
• That every piece of mail sent in the United States would be photographed and stored in a data bank for use by secret government agencies, the police, the FBI, and the military?
• That every phone call made within and to and from this country, would be monitored and stored in similar data banks?
• That every computer transaction, such as email, social networking, video conferencing, and video-phone calls would be tracked, monitored, and stored in said data banks?
• That CIA officers would be embedded in police force of New York City, and that our police forces would become more and more militarized? That this police power would be directed at American citizens peacefully protesting their grievances, as guaranteed by the Constitution? And that these assaults would be overseen by the Orwellian “Department of Justice?”
• That, in contravention of U.S. law, our military would be engaged in spying on and infiltrating lawful assemblies of citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest?
• That America would operate a prison at Guantanamo for people it deemed enemies, holding them indefinitely without trial, until they went so mad they chose to starve themselves to death, and then tortured them by force feeding them against their will to keep them alive in their prison of torment?
• That when citizens blew the whistle on these despicable transgressions against the people and Constitution of the United States of America, they would be labeled traitors and accused of espionage and aiding the enemy by the government they were accusing?
• And that these whistleblowers would be tortured by solitary confinement and the illegal cancelling of their passport?
• That the government of the United States could pry into every aspect of all our lives, using secret agencies, secret laws, and secret courts, without probable cause, in direct contravention of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment in the “Bill of Rights?”
• That one President who was just a tool of the neocons and another who was called a Constitutional scholar would preside over all of this?
I could go on into the miasmic bowels of our country’s time of illegality and stupidity on state and federal levels, but why? The real question is, what are we going to do about it?
And the answer is, “We are the 99 percent.” We hold the power at the ballot box. All the branches of our government need a spring, summer, fall, and winter housecleaning by voting every incumbent out of office (except, of course, for Bernie Sanders). Real Americans who value our institutions and our traditions and especially our Constitution need to step up with sensible agendas for turning this thing around. Such an agenda would include:
• Get rid of Citizens United, one of the most wrong-headed and stupid Supreme Court decisions in our country’s history. Corporations aren’t people, for goshsakes. They are rapacious capitalist entities that will eat our brains if they think it will enhance their bottom lines. They don’t need rights, they need regulation and controls.
• Pass an updated version of Glass-Steagall so banks go back to banking and leave the risky stuff to the risk takers. Having the banks making risky bets with our deposits and savings is insane.
• Get the money out of politics. You want to serve in public office? Fine. Your salary will be fixed. You will not be allowed to make another dime or accept any gifts. Your campaign funds will be set by an election commission along with your opponent’s. No corporation or other entity will be allowed to contribute.
• Let’s return to the time when America would never be the first to start a war. That was good policy. Preemptive war is just a license to go around the world shooting up the place and killing people we disagree with.
• Let’s return to the time when if the country committed warlike acts—like drone strikes by executive fiat—the Congress needed to approve that.
• Really strict curbs on government spying. Like the Constitution says, there has to be probable cause and a warrant issued by a court for the cops (of any kind) to go through your things (of any kind).
This is just for starters. The point is that if we are going to be the good guys in the white hats, we have to act like it. And that means not cutting off food stamps for millions of desperately poor citizens, not doubling student loan interest rates, not taking away women’s health rights.
The era of the rich, smug trolls who are curdling the milk of human kindness in our society must come to an end. Forget searching for the perfect Bachelorette, the Next Top Model, or the next American Idol. Let’s start searching for our humanity, our wisdom, and our American soul. They have slipped from our grasp and we need them back.
MAINE REPRESENTATIVE: THEY’RE SCOPING YOUR SKYPE
Maine Rep. Diane Russell reports that on July 11, The Guardian released a new article outlining how Microsoft and Skype have been working directly with the NSA Prism program to collect user communication, including web video chats.
It had been previously reported that the Prism program just collected metadata, but according to the article, the Microsoft and Skype partnership goes well beyond that — including providing access to the popular Microsoft Office SkyDrive cloud used by more than 250 million users.
Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption, to address NSA’s concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal.
The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide.
Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October, 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio.
Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport.”
FUKUSHIMA, NUCLEAR POWER, AND THE ORGANIC COMMUNITY
The organic community—people interested in pure food, protecting the environment, and the health and safety of all creatures on the earth—has long been opposed to nuclear power, to say nothing about nuclear weapons.
The news from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plants in Japan has lately been bad. It now appears that highly radioactive water, many tens of thousands of times more radioactive than allowed by safety standards, has been draining from the three partially melted reactors into the Pacific Ocean ever since the disaster in March, 2011, when a tsunami smashed into the coast of north-central Japan, fatally damaging the power plants. Only now the radioactivity is spiking to the highest levels recorded since the disaster happened.
If only the organic way of looking at the world had guided the hands of humanity when nuclear power plants were first considered, they would never have been built.
First and foremost, there never was an answer to the question of what do we do with highly toxic radioactive waste that remains deadly for many thousands of years? There still is no answer. That’s because there is no answer. There’s nowhere it can go that will make it safe. Our nuclear waste is a legacy from our time into the far reaches of deep time.
The whole point of developing organic systems of food and energy production is to pass a better, safer, and more natural world on to future generations. Because this humane and moral goal has not been accepted, we pass on a world full of toxic substances that future generations will have to deal with.
It’s such a shame, and so unnecessary.
GOOGLE RAISES FUNDS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER
Google’s motto is, “Don’t be evil,” but Google recently hosted a $250-$2,500 per plate fundraiser for one of the worst climate deniers in the world: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Sen. Inhofe has claimed, “CO2 does not cause catastrophic disasters … actually, it would be beneficial to our environment and the economy.”
Google was also the biggest donor to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s recent annual dinner, giving $50,000 to this anti-science group. According to SourceWatch: “The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is an advocacy group based in Washington, DC, with long ties to tobacco disinformation campaigns. It postures as an advocate of ‘sound science’ in the development of public policy. However, CEI disputes the overwhelming scientific evidence that human induced greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change. It has programs to ‘challenge government regulations,’ to push property rights as a solution to environmental problems, to oppose US vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and to spin for the drug industry.
Along with Google, CEI’s many funders include Koch Family Foundations. Think of that every time you Google something.
America Pisses Off the World
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on America Pisses Off the World
Evidently, Big Brother looks a lot like Uncle Sam, or should we say Uncle Sauron? Not only is the government cataloging and data mining our internal telephone calls and internet traffic, but it’s spying on our friends and enemies wholesale, including the members of the European Union. And now it turns out that for the past dozen years, the U.S. Postal Service has been collecting and storing images of all mail sent in or to the United States—all of it. Turns out no one is safe from Uncle Sauron’s all-seeing eye.
And who are the ring-bearers? Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden—true American heroes who revealed our government’s spying and treachery to us American citizens and to the world. Is the world pissed? You bet—and the world has every right to be. The international spying is bad enough—hey, we’re not the only country with an intelligence apparatus, although we may be one of the few who turns its baleful glare on our closest friends–but the internal spying on Americans is illegal and unconstitutional, and members of our government, when they take the oath of office, are sworn to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Turns out the domestic enemy is the government itself—the very people sworn to protect the Constitution from people like themselves.
Here’s what should happen. President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize should be forfeit. He never earned it. His administration’s underhanded spying on American citizens and our country’s allies, and his administration appointees who lied to Congress about the spying’s existence, makes a mockery of the prize. Instead, the prize should be given to Assange, Manning, and Snowden. These three brave individuals knew what they were up against by revealing our government’s reprehensible actions and yet threw themselves into the breach so that we—the people—could know what is being done by our government in our name.
The United States of America now stands for the secrecy of a police state. You are being policed. I am being policed. The CIA was imbedded with the NYPD. The police departments and the FBI and the military, in contravention of the Constitution and common law, are working hand in hand to spy on and disrupt legal, peaceful, citizen protests. Look what happened to the Occupy movement in New York, especially when peaceful marchers were walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. How about those college students who were peacefully protesting at the University of California, Davis, when a cop pepper sprayed a female protester point blank in the face? There are many more examples like these.
If the Tea Party people think they are exempt, then they’re even dumber than I give them credit for. No—the cops and the military and the CIA and the FBI and the NSA and even the postman are watching you. Yes, you. And you’d better not step out of line or you’ll get what Assange, Manning, and Snowden are getting and are going to get.
If I sound disaffected, well, I am. The tip-off came when my progressive heroes in the Senate, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, voted for the Monsanto Protection Act—that piece of the Farm Bill that allows Monsanto to promulgate GMO crops even if the judiciary says stop until environmental requirements are met. And further, when President Obama backed new rules allowing carcinogenic levels of Monsanto’s Round Up herbicide in our food supply. When people like these crumble, you know the game is up. The government is not going to protect us from rapacious corporate Big Ag. Too bad, but there it is.
I THOUGHT THIS BLOG WAS ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD
Okay—let’s get a little perspective here. The vast majority of America’s food is produced by a corporate food system that uses toxic chemicals and genetic modification techniques and harmful practices and inhumane methods to produce basic commodities. These commodities are then shoveled into a food processing system that loads them with more toxic chemicals, denatures them, turns them from wholesome to harmful, and then sells them through an advertising and public relations system that flat out lies about how wonderful they are. Mmm. Chicken McNuggets anyone?
Organic food, on the other hand, is produced without toxic chemicals, with an eye on quality and purity, with respect for the land, the environment, and the people who grow and handle the food. In other words, organic food throws the light of truth on the crap that passes for conventional food. It’s rebel food. It’s for people who understand where their health lies. It stands up to conventional food and says, “You are harmful, toxic, and damaging to the earth and its creatures.” It is a very radical alternative to corporate America’s flim-flam game that cares nothing about your health and everything about what’s in your wallet.
So when I write about the monstrous false front that is modern corporate America, with its phony politics, spies, its deceits, its screw-the-consumer business models, its feed-em-crap-and-who-cares-if-they-get-sick mentality, and its smarmy attempts to make you think everything is wonderful and wholesome and all for your betterment, all the while robbing you blind while destroying your health, you’ll have to forgive me.
Organic food is the real deal, baby. It’s just good food with the lies, subterfuge, toxic chemicals, and mealy mouthed PR stripped away.
“Scoundrels who dare to act, like Snowden, Hastings, Assange and Manning, help us place in perspective the fluidity of moral judgment. This government does itself little service when insisting on criminalizing people who tell the truth, reveal injustice, and bare truly illegal and immoral government activity done in the increasingly discredited name of national security.” –Farmer Steve Sprinkel of Ojai, California, in a Fourth of July letter to his Consumer Supported Agriculture customers.
REAL SPANISH GAZPACHO
Most of us think of gazpacho as a summery cold soup with chunks of tomato and cucumber and such floating in it—kind of a soupy version of a real Greek salad. But in Andalusia in Spain, it’s made a different way. I took a big jar of this to a recent summer party and it was one of the hits of the potluck. Always serve it ice cold. Make sure all your ingredients are organic.
2 lbs. ripe juicy tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
½ yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 piece French bread, about 3 or 4 inches wide and long
1. Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water until the skins split. Remove skins and hard stem ends. Work over a colander set in a pot to catch juice.
2. Peel the garlic cloves.
3. Peel and halve the onion, chop into 3-4 pieces.
4. Rinse the pepper, de-seed it thoroughly, and chop coarsely.
5. Peel the cucumber until no green skin is left; chop into 3-4 pieces.
6. Place the piece of bread in a bowl with water until it’s soaked through. When ready to use, gently squeeze the bread with your hands to remove as much water as you can, and set aside.
7. In a blender or food processor, put the peeled tomatoes, garlic, onion, pepper, cucumber, and squeezed bread. Pulse until a thickish slurry is made. Add the remaining ingredients and whiz on high speed until the mixture is a fine puree. It should be creamy and somewhat thick, not watery. If too thick, thin with a little V8.
8. Adjust the seasoning.
9. Pour it into a jar with a lid and place in the refrigerator for four hours or, preferably, overnight. The colder the better. Do not freeze. Serve it in cups with soup spoons. Keeps well in the fridge for a week, but my guess is it won’t last you a day.