Monday, October 31, 2011

Land of the free? --Food freedom

Here's a story you should probably be aware of.

Beware: Your freedoms are being taken away.

This story has to do with food, food preparation, and government overreach.

I first heard about this from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
Farm-to-Fork Dinner Fiasco
By Laura Bledsoe | October 24, 2011

What an evening we had this last Friday night! It had all the makings of a really great novel: drama, suspense, anticipation, crisis, heroic efforts, villains and victors, resolution and a happy ending.

The evening was everything I had dreamed and hoped it would be. The weather was perfect, the farm was filled with friends and guests roaming around talking about organic, sustainable farming practices. Our young interns were teaching and sharing their passion for farming and their role in it. (A high hope for our future!) The pig didn’t get loose.

Our guests were excited to spend an evening together. The food was prepared exquisitely. The long dinner table, under the direction of dear friends, was absolutely stunningly beautiful. The music was superb. The stars were bright and life was really good.

And then, …

for a few moments, it felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath us and my wonderful world came crashing down. As guests were mingling, finishing tours of the farm, and while the first course of the meal was being prepared and ready to be sent out, a Southern Nevada Health District employee came for an inspection.

Because this was a gathering of people invited to our farm for dinner, I had no idea that the Health Department would become involved. I received a phone call from them two days before the event informing me that because this was a “public event” (I would like to know what is the definition of “public” and “private”) we would be required to apply for a “special use permit”.

If we did not do so immediately, we would be charged a ridiculous fine.

Stunned, we immediately complied.

We were in the middle of our harvest day . . . but Monte immediately left to comply with the demand and filled out the required paper work and paid for the fee. (Did I mention that we live in Overton, nowhere near a Health Department office?) Paper work now in order, he was informed that we would not actually be given the permit until an inspector came to check it all out.

She came literally while our guests were arriving!

In order to overcome any trouble with the Health Department of cooking on the premises, most of the food was prepared in a certified kitchen in Las Vegas; and to further remove any doubt, we rented a certified kitchen trailer to be here on the farm for the preparation of the meals. The inspector, Mary Oaks, clearly not the one in charge of the inspection as she was constantly on the phone with her superior Susan somebody who was calling all the shots from who knows where.

Susan deemed our food unfit for consumption and demanded that we call off the event because:
  1. Some of the prepared food packages did not have labels on them. (The code actually allows for this if it is to be consumed within 72 hours.)
  2. Some of the meat was not USDA certified. (Did I mention that this was a farm to fork meal?)
  3. Some of the food that was prepared in advance was not up to temperature at the time of inspection. (It was being prepared to be brought to proper temperature for serving when the inspection occurred.)
  4. Even the vegetables prepared in advance had to be thrown out because they were cut and were then considered a “bio-hazard”.
  5. We did not have receipts for our food. (Reminder! This food came from farms not from the supermarket! I have talked with several chefs who have said that in all their years cooking they have never been asked for receipts.)
At this time Monte, trying to reason with Susan to find a possible solution for the problem, suggested turning this event from a “public” event to a “private” event by allowing the guests to become part of our farm club, thus eliminating any jurisdiction or responsibility on their part. This idea infuriated Susan and threatened that if we did not comply the police would be called and personally escort our guests off the property.

This is not the vision of the evening we had in mind! So regretfully, again we complied.

The only way to keep our guests on the property was to destroy the food.

I can’t tell you how sick to my stomach I was watching that first dish of Mint Lamb Meatballs hit the bottom of the unsanitized trash can.

Here we were with guests who had paid in advance and had come from long distances away anticipating a wonderful dining experience, waiting for dinner while we were behind the kitchen curtain throwing it away! I know of the hours and labor that went into the preparation of that food.

We asked the inspector if we could save the food for a private family event that we were having the next day. (A personal family choice to use our own food.) We were denied and she was insulted that we would even consider endangering our families health. I assured her that I had complete faith and trust in Giovanni our chef and the food that was prepared, (obviously, or I wouldn’t be wanting to serve it to our guests).

I then asked if we couldn’t feed the food to our “public guests” or even to our private family, then at least let us feed it to our pigs. (I think it should be a criminal action to waste any resource of the land. Being dedicated to our organic farm, we are forever looking for good inputs into our compost and soil and good food that can be fed to our animals. The animals and compost pile always get our left over garden surplus and food. We truly are trying to be as sustainable as possible.)

Again, a call to Susan and another negative response.

Okay, so let me get this right.

So the food that was raised here on our farm and selected and gathered from familiar local sources, cooked and prepared with skill and love was even unfit to feed to my pigs!?!

Who gave them the right to tell me what I feed my animals?

Not only were we denied the use of the food for any purpose, [but] to ensure that it truly was unfit for feed of any kind we were again threatened with police action if we did not only throw the food in the trash, but then to add insult to injury, we were ordered to pour bleach on it.

Now the food is also unfit for compost as I would be negligent to allow any little critters to nibble on it while it was composting and ingest that bleach resulting in a horrible death. Literally hundreds of pounds of food was good for nothing but adding to our ever increasing land fill! . . .
If you've been involved in any of the modern freedom fights, you know the Bledsoes made several mistakes when they meekly acquiesced to the demands and interpretations of the health department.

When the health department called and said their event was "public," Laura was correct to wonder, and she should have asked; no, she should have demanded for the legal chapter-and-verse reference for the definition. Laura and her husband should not have "immediately complied."

But then, having complied, when the inspector came and began telling them what they could and could not feed their guests: whence the craven asking the inspector if they could save the food for a private family event that we were having the next day? And after the negative response to that supplication, why the craven request to be permitted to feed the food to their pigs?

The emotional direction of Laura's internalized question was correct: "Who gave them the right to tell me what I feed my animals?" The problem is, the answer implicates her: She and her husband gave the health department and this unseen woman named Susan and Susan's visible agent Mary . . . --She and her husband gave them the right when they abjectly bowed to and did what these people demanded.


Happily, the story doesn't end there.

Somehow, as the last of the food was being destroyed, Laura's husband remembered that they had joined the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and they "even" had FTCLDF's emergency phone number on their refrigerator.

"We became members of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund several years ago as a protection for us, but mostly to add support to other farmers battling against the oppressive legal actions taken against the small farmers trying to produce good wholesome food without government intrusion," Laura writes. "The local, sustainable food battle is being waged all across America! [But] not one battle has been brought on because of any illness to the patrons of these farms! The battles are started by government officials swooping down on farms and farmers like SWAT teams confiscating not only the wholesome food items produced but even their farm equipment! Some of them actually wearing HAZMAT suits as if they were walking into a nuclear meltdown! I have personally listened to some of their heart wrenching stories and have continued to follow them through the FTCLDF’s updates."
Well, I made the call, told my story and within a short period of time received a phone call back from the FTCLDF’s General Counsel, Gary Cox.

When told the story, he simply suggested that we apply our fundamental constitutional right to be protected against “unlawful search and seizure.”

I simply had to ask Mary two questions. “Do you have a search warrant?” “Do you have an arrest warrant?”

With the answers being “No”, I politely and very simply asked her to leave our property. As simple as that! She had no alternative, no higher power, no choice whatsoever but to now comply with my desire.

She left in a huff making a scene shouting that she was calling the police.

She left no paperwork, no Cease and Desist order, no record of any kind that implicated us for one thing, (we had complied to all their orders) only empty threats and a couple of trash cans full of defiled food.
Laura tells the story of what happened after the inspector left--including the police visit, the chef's hard work to make a new meal from scratch, and many other worthwhile details. If you like "the rest of the story" kinds of stories, I encourage you to read the rest of the story.

Laura Bledsoe concludes her article with the following comments:
I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt the hand of providence helping us in the work of this farm.

As hard and demanding as this work is, I KNOW that this is what we are meant to do.

I KNOW that it is imperative that we stand up for our food choices.

I KNOW that local, organic, sustainable food produced by ourselves or by small family, local farms is indispensible to the health and well-being of our families and our communities now and in the future! If this work were not so vitally important, the “evil forces” would not be working so hard to pull it down. . . .

We were victorious, we will be victorious, we must be! Our grandchildren’s future is at stake! . . .

I feel that we have been compelled to truly become active participants in the ongoing battle over our food choices. This is just one small incident that brings to our awareness how fragile our freedoms are. We are now ready to join the fight!

We would encourage all of you who can to contribute and to become a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. They are not only fighting for the farmers, they are fighting for the consumers to have the right to choose. You can find them at

As I close, I am reminded of the passage written so forcefully by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
The same battle continues. I pray the result of the battle will be the same, that we have been “endowed by our Creator with . . . life and liberty.” . . .

Monte and Laura Bledsoe
Written from Quail Hollow Farm
October 24, 2011

Sadly (probably in keeping with their apparently normally compliant personalities), neither the Bledsoes nor anyone else on the farm that evening shot more than the briefest few seconds of the inspector's activities.

You can see them in the first 16 seconds of this video. (Sorry I couldn't put the video directly on this page. Every time I did, it wanted to begin playing immediately.)

There's interesting commentary after the first 16 seconds. The chef's response from 1:20 to 1:45 absolutely blows me away. How did he ever control his emotions so well? I think I would be throwing things. I find the last 30 seconds or so, too, particularly poignant: "It makes you wonder: Who owns America?"

The chef makes about a 4-minute speech in this segment. Again, imagine the outrage you might feel if you were a professional chef being told to throw away thousands of dollars of your work. Here he responds with grace even as he outlines the specific--and crazy--charges the health agent laid against the food he had been preparing AND as he contemplates cooking an entire new meal from scratch for 100 guests in 45 minutes. . . .

Ready to do something about the future of your food rights in America?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Can we learn from the past for the benefit of the present and future?

I'm not sure why I keep writing about this kind of stuff. Maybe because I think it could be of help to someone.

I received an email this morning that sent me to a video/advertisement. I hate video advertisements! They take way too long to watch. So what I usually do is click on the "Close Window" tab and they then offer to let me "Stay on the current page" and read the transcript.

Yeah. So that's what I did.

And I've copied just a few of the more salient points for your benefit, here. (There's lots more. Lots of historical detail--about inflations from the Roman era to the present; about people's experiences from those times; about laws on the books or being projected (even by government officials; about current trends in the United States . . .)

From Addison Wiggin of Agora Financial:
Many years ago, the United States lived well within its means...
Thomas Jefferson walked to and from his own inauguration ceremony — right down Pennsylvania Ave — and spoke to anyone who came up to him. [13]

But now when the U.S. president travels, he does so in imperial style... 

When President Bush vacationed in Crawford, Texas, the flight on Air Force One alone cost nearly a quarter million dollars. And that didn't include the costs of the cargo planes that shuttled the president's limousines and helicopters... or the salaries of the hundreds of workers who laid the groundwork and organized the trip. [14] [15]

During President Obama's recent trip to India, it was rumored that he brought an entourage of 3,000... that he took with him 40 aircraft and six armored cars (one of which was equipped to even launch a nuclear missile... can you imagine what that car cost?)

Obama and his crew rented out 870 rooms in the five-star Taj Mahal. Political sites claimed that the trip cost the United States over $200 million per day. [16]

But as I'm sure you're aware, the executive branch isn’t the only one spending like crazy. Like a disease, this spree has spread to every branch of the government…

According to the most conservative numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average federal worker is paid 20% more in salary than their private-sector equivalent. Add in the cost of benefits and the total federal employee’s salary boost is 50% over the private sector worker’s. [17]

One report recently revealed that half of the publicly funded Californian lifeguards are making more than $150,000. [18]

Lifeguards making $150,000? Out of taxpayer money? That’s out of control... wouldn’t you agree?

I've even read recent government audits that found...
The National Institute of Health will spend $2.6 million in U.S. tax dollars studying whether or not alcohol increases a Chinese prostitute's chance at getting AIDS... [19]

The National Science Foundation spent $500,000 studying how sick shrimp recover from treadmill exercise... [20]

The New York's Psychiatric Institute spent $400,000 of government grants studying why gay Argentinean men engage in risky sexual behavior while drunk... [21]

The government even spent $80,000 studying why the same NCAA basketball teams always dominate March Madness... [22]
This wasteful spending sounds made up, I know.

But it's not. You can look it all up for yourself after this presentation... and you'll find that it's all 100% true.

Of course, these spending sprees and lavish salaries wouldn't be a problem if our government used its savings to pay for them.

But that’s the rub: The U.S. government has no savings.

Instead, we’ve relied on the savings of foreign nations... mainly places like China, Japan, India, and the Middle East... to pay for these things.

Until now, these "emerging" countries have been happy to lend us money. They're happy to take part in the “great American economic miracle.” . . .
But what's around the corner? Wiggins asks.
[T]he government has spent so much money... we’ve racked up so many bills... we’ve dug a hole sooo deep...
There’s no possible way we could ever pay our lenders back.

Let me ask you: When you can't pay your bills, what happens?

It's only a matter of time before our credit card is finally shut off for good.

The rating agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have all issued warnings that they believe the day the U.S. government's credit card gets shut off is fast approaching. [24] [25] [26] [27]

Even David Walker, the former top accountant of the federal government, has gone on record warning that the U.S. government's credit could be cut off...

"You cannot spend trillions of dollars more than you take in… without someday having a day of reckoning," says Walker. [28] . . . .

In response to the Great Recession of 2008, the government used its “credit card” to borrow even more money to pay for all the stimulus and bailout programs you hear about in the news... putting us even DEEPER in the hole!
"Bank failures? No problem." Ka-ching!

"Automakers going under? No problem." Ka-ching!

"Extended unemployment benefits? No problem." Ka-ching!
The U.S. government’s financial hole has been getting deeper by the trillions of dollars every year since 2008.

Let's look at one specific item the government’s been charging on its credit card: mortgage loans.

You may not know this, but in the past few years, the federal government has used its credit card to buy up 90% of all mortgage loans. [29]

The government’s goal is to keep mortgage interest rates well below free market rates. They believe this stimulates the housing market.

But what will happen to mortgage loans and home prices when the government can no longer buy mortgages with its own credit card?

Look around the world and you’ll find that mortgage rates are...
  • 30% higher in Canada…
  • 42% higher in the U.K....
  • 147% higher in Australia...
  • 344% higher in India...
  • 404% higher in Brazil... [30]
Once your government’s credit card is cut off — and they’re unable to fund the entire mortgage industry — mortgage rates will skyrocket.

Imagine what would happen to the price of your home if mortgage rates doubled...

The housing market would crash yet again.

All that needs to happen to crush the housing market is for our foreign lenders to say, “America, you’ve spent too much... we know you will never be able to pay us back... so we’re cutting up your credit card.”

The reality is this...

The government's outstanding "credit card" bill is now more than the entire economic output of China, Japan and Germany — the next three largest economies in the world — combined! [31]

There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that we will ever be able to pay this money back to our lenders. I say that with 100% confidence.

Consider this fact from the National Inflation Association (NIA):
America’s greatest business success story of the past decade has been Apple Inc. — maker of the iPod, the iPhone and the new iPad.

The U.S would need to see the creation of 700 companies like Apple in the next year just to generate enough tax revenue to balance [this year’s] budget deficit... that's impossible. [32]
Amazing, isn't it?

Think we’ll create 700 new companies like Apple this year?

It took Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, a lifetime to create the wealth he built in that company. It's not likely we can just wave a wand and create 700 more companies like that overnight.

But it's not really important what we think, is it?

It's only important what our lenders think. What happens if our lenders — mainly foreign nations — lose confidence in getting any of their money back? Or even getting a portion of it back?

After they finish being mad as hell, they'll stop lending to us. They'll cut off the credit card. They’ll look for better places around the world to park their own money.

Without that open-ended credit card… without being able to borrow more and more money… without our politicians being able to promise anything they want to get elected… the United States would look like a completely different place.

You know the feeling... standing at the register wondering if your credit card will go through. Wondering if you'll have to select a few items to put back on the shelves... all the while holding up the line.

The U.S. government is in the very same predicament... but the stakes are much higher.

All it would take for chaos to erupt is our creditors saying, “Enough is enough… we’re not lending you any more money.”

You may think this will never happen.

But the reality is that the cutoff process is already under way. Look around you. The consequences are easy to spot.

Consider this...

Throughout the property boom of the early 2000s, our state and local governments bet big that housing prices would continue going up. For them, higher home prices meant increased revenue from property taxes.

Based on those increased revenue projections, state and local governments expanded. They spent beyond their means.

When home prices crashed and foreclosures skyrocketed, the property tax revenue they so desperately needed to come in… never showed up. And they couldn’t “unspend” the money they had spent.

That’s why certain cities and states are now in deep financial trouble.

It’s also why the federal government used its credit card to send “stimulus” money directly to the state governments. The hope was to use Uncle Sam’s credit card to bail out the states and local governments.

With “stimulus” money, the states could continue to pay for more teachers... law enforcement officers... firemen... and other workers.

In total, 80% of the total stimulus money the feds borrowed went directly to the state governments. [33]

But now that “stimulus” money has run out. Now no one wants to lend these states money… because they know local governments can’t pay the money back.

And just this month, in a very similar "denial of credit," the United States Treasury itself cut off funding for state and city governments entirely. (The feds can’t afford to extend any more money. As we've shown you, their credit is already in danger!) [34]

So.... what we get is a real-life, in-your-face view of what America looks like without its credit card. Here’s a terrifying example…

* AMERICAN HELLHOLES — Camden, N.J., used to be the home to the entire Campbell's Soup factory. It was home to the world's first color television. They invented the "drive-in" movie theater. With almost full employment, innovation and massive manufacturing output, the mayor once proclaimed the place "the city of contented industries."

But just like what we’re seeing play out right now, they eventually got in over their heads…

The city's workers demanded more. They began to produce less. The politicians in Camden spent and promised too much.

And now lenders have shut off their credit card — giving them no choice but to cut services.

City leaders have been forced to lay off a quarter of the city workers — including nearly half of the police force and one-third of the firefighters. [35]

"The fear quotient has been raised," said Rev. Heyward Wiggins, pastor of the local church. His fellowship once held choir practice on Thursday and Friday evenings. Now he says he's cancelled those. Members are simply too afraid of being out after dark. [36]

Fellow Camden resident George Watson fears for his life... and home. He told the local news that "[Criminals will] be coming into the houses... they know you can’t call the cops. There won’t be any cops to call."

What’s happening in New Jersey is also happening in California...

After Oakland's police chief was forced to lay off his staff, he informed citizens that the police could no longer respond to various crime calls. Here are just a few things the police won’t show up for anymore…
  • Burglary…
  • Theft…
  • Failure to register as a sex offender…
  • Passing fake checks…
  • Embezzlement…
  • Extortion…
  • Vandalism
  • And the list goes on… [37]
Can you imagine being the victim of a robbery… and knowing the police won’t be there to answer your 911 call?

Then there’s this…

* POOR MAN'S PAVEMENT — In Spiritwood, N.D., they've run out of money for road paving. So they've begun the process of ripping up roads that need repair... and turning them back into gravel.

Sounds unbelievable, I know. But here's what The Wall Street Journal reported:
Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls...

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as "poor man's pavement." Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.
Residents have complained of cracked windshields. They now cough up the dirt stirred up by traffic driving on gravel roads. And they worry about how the lack of roads will affect their businesses.

"When [counties] had lots of money," stated the local county highway superintendent, "they paved a lot of the roads and tried to make life easier for the people who lived out here. Now it's catching up to them."

Just think about that for a second...

Without access to Uncle Sam's credit card, some cities and states in America are already going back to gravel roads... back to the start of the 20th century. . . .

. . . Did you hear the nasty rumors flying around last year about the government seizing control of private 401(k)s? [57]

Financial researcher Jeff Schneider writes:
Americans have $4 trillion saved in 401(k) plans and another $8 trillion in IRAs and pension plans...

If the U.S. government forces investors to invest 50% of their IRAs in government bonds, that would raise $6 trillion. [58]
As you see, the idea was that politicians would take control of your retirement accounts... and then forcefully loan your money to the government.

All in hopes to continue our consumption-driven way of life.

Whether or not this will happen is anyone’s guess. But here’s something that HAS been confirmed...

As I record this presentation for you. Treasury Secretary Geithner has announced that he will start tapping into federal pensions to borrow money for the government. [59]

When times get tight, governments have a history of seizing control of retirement accounts and savings accounts and controlling money flow in and out of the country.

Most people don’t remember this, but in 1982, the Mexican economy was suffering through its worst recession in over 60 years.

Unemployment was running at 40%. Massive money printing resulted in the prices of goods and services going up by 100% in just five months.

Everything is so high,” said Trinidad Angeles, a widow living in Mexico during this time, “I can’t afford anything anymore. Even the price of water has doubled.”

When Mexicans began trying to trade in worthless pesos for other currencies, the Mexican government promptly outlawed the trading.

Here’s the report from a local paper, the Sept. 11, 1982, edition of The Evening Independent:
In a surprise move Friday, the Commerce Department announced Mexicans will not be allowed to take pesos from the country...

The controls, expected to curtail trading in the peso on the international market, are an attempt to maintain the artificially high value of the currency set by the government last week.

The announcement… also included a long list of silver and gold items, jewelry and gems that cannot be taken from Mexico without government authorization. [60]
The same thing that happened in Mexico during a currency crisis also happened in Malaysia, Venezuela, Russia... and other countries.

For you, of course, it doesn’t matter what happened in other places. What matters most is the answer to this question: Will it happen here?

No one can say for sure. But I suggest you don’t wait around for a “surprise”...
Wiggin goes on to offer at least some outlines of what he is doing in response to these looming and breaking crises. And, of course, he offers to sell you some newsletters.

I can't comment on the quality of the newsletters. I do think he may have some insights--even in his advertisement/presentation--that could be of benefit.

I hope you find it so, anyway.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Darren and the encyclopedia: Why print books still have a place

While at my permaculture course, Darren Doherty, our instructor, told a little bit of his own story now and then. At one point, he mentioned that he had learned to read when he was about three years old. And when he was five or six years old, he received a World Book Encyclopedia for his birthday.

"I read the entire set four times through."

--Now, before I say anything else, I should note that he is the second person I have met who has confessed to reading an entire encyclopedia.

But four times through? And why? What would motivate a child to read an entire encyclopedia?

Well, besides the basic thirst for knowledge--which both of the people I have met who have done this have obviously exhibited, Darren replied, "Because it was mine. They were my books."

The encyclopedia was a unique gift and it was his.

Thought: I can't imagine an electronic encyclopedia--an e-book encyclopedia--generating anywhere near the same feelings or motivations in any child.

And that thought led to this: That print books still have a real place in today's and tomorrow's society.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Should we join them?

I mentioned last night my misgivings with Herman Cain's comments about the Occupy Wall Street crowd. My misgivings arise because I'm convinced that there are valid reasons for protest over the corporate connections to the highest levels in our nation's government. The "big boys"--whose leaders are pulling down multi-hundred-million-dollar salaries and bonuses (largely paid for by government largesse)--get unbelievable bailouts, while the "little guys" are looked down upon as leeches on society if they dare ask for a few extra hundred dollars a month in benefits.

There is something seriously wrong, here, it seems to me.

I'd been thinking about these things anyway, but my mental cogwheels were sped up a bit last week when I listened to a brief commentary by linguist Geoff Nunberg on NPR's Fresh Air.
"'[C]lass warfare,'" he said, "has been on a tear in the language of the right" recently.
[I]t's used five times as often in The Wall Street Journal now [over 20 years after the Soviet Union collapsed] as it was 40 years ago [when the Soviet Union posed a credible threat to the United States and to western capitalism]. In fact, the phrase has actually become more frequent as the marginal tax rates have gone down. It's sort of a revenant, a specter that haunts the English language whenever appeals for making the rich pay more are heard in the land. . . .

Democrats react by dismissing the charge of class warfare as a tired Republican talking point, or by trying to turn it around on the rich, the way the old Socialists did.

During the 2000 election, Al Gore described the Bush tax program as "class warfare on behalf of billionaires." But the charge does tend to put Democrats on the defensive. As President Obama said when he announced his tax program, "This is not class warfare, it's math." But that approach doesn't always work in politics, where denials often are apt to raise suspicions rather than dispel them — as in "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and "I am not a crook." . . .

In a speech the day after he announced his tax ideas, Obama said, "If asking a billionaire to pay the same rate as a plumber or a teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I wear that charge as a badge of honor." That may be just stump speechifying, but it also makes him the first Democratic politician who has ever accepted the label and invoked the rhetoric of war against the rich.

The tone is different on the right, too. . . .
And it is in what followed that I found my heart suddenly pumping in excitement. I thought Nunberg made a most amazing observation. (Please forgive my emphasizing what jumped out at me. Or, put another way: All emphases in what follows are mine; they were not in the original written version of what I heard on the air.)
The Republican leadership still warn against divisiveness and avoid talking about class explicitly, other than saying that we shouldn't be increasing taxes on the "job creators" but rather "broadening the base." But the conservative media and bloggers have been less circumspect about cleaving society in two. Some of them talk about an all-out war between the producer class and the moocher class. And Fox Business ran a series of segments last spring called "Entitlement Nation: Makers vs. Takers." It isn't entirely clear who the moochers and takers are, but everybody seems to define them as including the 51 percent of American households who don't pay federal taxes, along with those who receive Pell Grants and other forms of government assistance.

This . . . recalls another famous sentence from the Communist Manifesto: "Society is splitting more and more into two enemy camps, into a face-off between two huge classes." It's true that Marx and Engels would have wanted to draw the line in a different place and switch around those "maker" and "taker" place cards, and of course they were rooting for a different team. Still . . .

Yes. Who did Marx and Engels identify as the moochers, the takers, the non-productive? Wasn't it what we might call the "investor" class? The "makers" and "producers" were the "working" class, weren't they?

I found my head spinning at these thoughts! Whoa! Who are producers? And who are moochers? And even if and as we might all agree that welfare recipients are moochers and takers; are the Wall Street fat cats not moochers and takers as well? Why should they get a free pass?

Well, in the midst of all this smoke and steam that was blinding my eyes, I came across this article by Shah Gilani of Money Morning. The article was published last Friday morning:
Dear Occupy Wall Street: Will You Stand with Me?

Let me start by saying that I applaud your initiative. Grassroots protests are the essence of democracy. And as we've seen with the Tea Party movement and the Arab Spring, nonviolent protests are a powerful way to effect meaningful change.

Yet even though I'm 100% behind you in spirit, I can't fully support your cause.

Don't get me wrong, I want to join you. But I can't - not yet, anyway.

And the reason why I can't support your ultimate goals is a simple one: I don't know what they are.

So how about this? I'm going to tell you what I stand for. I'm going to tell you what my goals are. And if you agree, then we can stand together. And if you agree with me, I won't wait another minute before joining you whenever and wherever I'm needed.

So here it goes.

The reason I'm already leaning towards your side is that the fountainhead of your disgust seems to be "Wall Street."

Now, I don't know what Wall Street means to you. But to me, it means all the crony capitalists and market manipulators whose calculators and spreadsheets say the present value of their self-serving greed is worth discounting all of America's future.

That's the Wall Street that I'm committed to fighting - the Wall Street that's littered with greed and corruption.

But to me, the "Wall Street" we're fighting against is not synonymous with capitalists. The enemy we share doesn't include the entrepreneurs and self-starters that have built this country up brick by brick.

So if you think socialism is better than capitalism, you can count me out. If you think that redistributing earned income from hard working Americans to support lazy, self-indulgent, able-bodied crybabies is fair, count me out. If you think that making a lot of money, fairly and honestly, is un-American, count me out. And, if you're thinking about violence or destroying other people's property, count me out.

But if you're mad that Wall Street money has bought our Congress; if you're mad that there's an oligarchy of banker puppeteers pulling the strings of the U.S. Federal Reserve; if you're mad that Wall Street is hell-bent on toying with the stock market and turning the screws on fixed-income investors, parents, and retirees to expand their profit margins; and, if you are mad that "too-big-to-fail" banks can wreck the economy and get bailed out, only to become bigger bullies while tens of millions of Americans lose their homes, jobs, and retirement savings, then I am solidly with you.

And, if you're with me, we agree that we need to tear down Wall Street to rebuild Main Street!

That's where we stand, hopefully united.

Now let me offer up a list - a manifesto, if you will - that you may or may not choose to adopt. But remember, I'm not trying to hijack your movement. I just want to offer some vision and clarity.

So these are the goals I'd like for us all, as fed-up Americans, to undertake:
  • Break up too-big-to-fail banks so they aren't threatening our financial system .
  • Investigate failed banks for fraud, and indict and incarcerate guilty parties.
  • Scale banker bonuses progressively with long-vesting stock options.
  • Legislate pay claw-back provisions and criminal statutes for bad banker behavior.
  • Eliminate volatility-inducing high-frequency-trading and ETF program arbitrage.
  • Make all derivatives exchange traded, highly margined, and transparent.
  • Limit credit default swaps to two times the value of at-risk underlying credits.
  • Mandate exhaustive studies of the potential market impact of newly created financial products.
  • Create simple, effective, light-touch regulations with heavy criminal penalties .
  • Cap Wall Street's political contributions and make them transparent.
  • Audit the Federal Reserve and limit its lending to domestic banking institutions.
  • Give the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CPFB) criminal indictment powers, including over the Federal Reserve.
  • Make Wall Street answer to the needs of Main Street, not the other way around.
Please don't get me wrong. It's not that there aren't plenty of other things in the United States that need fixing. I think we'd all agree we need to simplify and "fairify" the tax code, if not throw it out altogether. But, your movement is Occupy Wall Street, so let's stick to that.

There's one last thing. I'm certain that with thousands of supporters you'll find a broad spectrum of ideas and beliefs. That we may be united in belief does not necessarily mean we are all alike .

Take me, for example. In some ways, I am a "Wall Street" guy, and in other ways I am one of the 99% you claim to represent. I want an opportunity to make a good living, honestly and fairly. But, like all of you, like all of America, I am sick and tired of the powerful, moneyed oligarchy that runs America profiteering off the backs of hard working Americans.

That's why we need strong, transparent and fair capital markets and honest, smart leaders. The two aren't incompatible.

So what I'm saying is that I'm ready to join your revolution, if you're ready to accept a Wall Street insider who's determined to restore the system's integrity - not destroy it.

And that's why you're going to hear more from me every week, as I call Wall Street's biggest players onto the carpet. And I can promise you this: Some of the indictments I make are going to shock you.


Shah Gilani

P.S. - Sign up now for Shah's Free Report "Blast Profits In the Eye of the Storm: 5 Ways To Trade the Coming EU Crisis - And Make A Killing" and join him on his new website Wall Street Insights and Indictments.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Whoa! Where'd this guy come from?!?

I had never heard of Herman Cain before this afternoon/evening. I saw an article about him and thought I would disagree: Cain: Wall Street Protesters 'Playing the Victim Card'. I thought: "No. There really are victims, here, and there are a bunch of very bad people on Wall Street."

But then I read the article. And I wondered: "Who is Herman Cain?" (Sorry. If you're at all into politics, I'm sure you wonder where my head has been for the last who-knows-how-many weeks. . . . But I have confessed in the past: Even though I often write about political things, I am really not into politics. I really don't enjoy politics. So I'm behind the times. Forgive me.)
Herman Cain, a one-time pizza magnate and tea party conservative, is surging in GOP polls, partly because of his unabashed criticism of the Wall Street protests.

Although the protests left many GOP contenders tongue-tied at first as they tried to gauge which way the wind was blowing, Cain didn't hesitate in condemning the incipient protests as an attack on American capitalism.

He accused the anti-Wall Street protesters of being jealous of other people's money and turning themselves into victims.

"Part of it is jealousy. I stand by that," Cain said on the CBS program "Face the Nation" Sunday. "And here's why I don't have a lot of patience for that: My parents, they never played the victim card. My parents never said that we hope the rich people lose something so that we can get something.

"No. My dad's idea was I want to work hard enough so that I can buy a Cadillac, not take somebody else's," said Cain, a former chairman and chief executive officer of Godfather's Pizza and a former deputy chairman and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo. . . .

Cain, 65, whose come-from-way-behind campaign has been conducted largely via television, presents himself as destined for victory: His new memoir is called “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.”

Now, in the run-up to Tuesday’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, Cain is being pressed on his so-called 9-9-9 tax plan — a flat 9 percent rate on corporate and personal income and a national sales tax — his criticism of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and his lack of experience in public office.

“Get ready for an aberration of historic proportion,” Cain said in an interview Sunday during “State of the Union” on CNN. “People who are criticizing me because I have not held public office, they are out of touch with the voters out there.”

On Sunday, Cain said that "it's anti-American because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you're anti-capitalism." . . .

Cain also has refused to back down from comments he has repeatedly made about African Americans who vote for Democrats being “brainwashed.”

In an address at the Virginia Family Foundation’s annual gala, a fundraising event that drew about 1,100 people to the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Cain said he had majored in math but “never took a course in political correctness." . . .
Whoa! Talk about politically incorrect! Yeah! I guess!

But who is this guy?

The article said his "mother was a domestic and his father a chauffeur." --Is he black? (How else could he get away with making such racist [or, at least, race-based] remarks?)

I decided to do a Google search on him.

Yeah. I'm out of touch.

Yes. He is black. Wow! Bully for him! I mean, to go from his roots, to such high reaches of business and commerce. A true leader against the tide. (At 65 today, he would have been just coming into young adulthood as Martin Luther King, Jr. was making waves. . . .)

I found his campaign website. Well done. And then a link to this video:

Yowzie! He and his team are pulling no punches.

So where are his weak spots? While he comes across as an outsider, is he a bit too much of an "insider" what with his ties to the Federal Reserve? Is he too tied-in to Big Business and Corporate Agriculture and Big Pharma to clean out the cesspool at the USDA and FDA that is contributing to the growing health crisis in America associated with obesity?

Talk to me!


Sunday, October 09, 2011

What food brings back childhood memories?

I've been signed up with Proust, a memory-jogging service designed to help people tell their stories.

Every week they send a question meant to encourage me to write something. I've mostly been ignoring the questions. Until this past week. This past week, I couldn't ignore the question. So I finally wrote an answer this morning.

What food brings back childhood memories?

My answer?
Ah! Buttermilk!

I remember the Carnation brand buttermilk my mom used to have us drink when we lived in California. Little flakes of yellow ("butter!" we were told; I have my doubts; but it sure tasted good). "Churned" buttermilk. Yum.

So we often drank it for lunch. And one day, in fifth grade--probably sprintime of 1966, I came home from school for lunch and a brilliant idea crossed my mind. I loved buttermilk and I loved chocolate milk. What could be better than combining two drinks you love? So I proposed to Mom that I would mix some Nestlé's Nesquik® into my tall glass of buttermilk.

"No! No, John. You don't want to do that!"

"But, Mom! It'll be great!"

"I'm sure it won't."

"But I'm sure it will."

"Okay. Let me suggest you make a very small amount of chocolate buttermilk just to test it."

"No. No! I'll love it!"

"Okay. If you make a full glass, you're going to drink it all. And you're going to have to drink it all before you go back to school. I'm not going to let you throw it out."

"Don't worry, Mom. I'm going to love it."

Oh, fool that I was!

How horrible!

Oh, woe was me! How could two things that I love so much on their own taste so horrible when mixed together?

My mother, tough lady that she was (and she was tough!), made me drink every drop before I could go back to school.

For some reason, I recall I was late getting back to school that day.


Another food. Actually, a meal. Saturday nights: Hot dogs, baked beans and brown bread. Actually, hot dogs, Boston (B&M brand--Burnham & Morrill) Baked Beans and Boston (B&M brand--Burnham & Morrill) Brown Bread (with raisins!). Always. Every Saturday night.

And make sure you add the extra molasses to the baked beans while you're cooking them. And butter the toasted brown bread.


I'll tell you, none of us ever complained!

Only many years later--like, maybe, in the past five years, did I discover that this was (and maybe still is) a tradition among New Englanders. (See, for example, Boston Baked Beans: It's Not Called Beantown for Nothing by Kim Knox Beckius.)

My mom was from the Boston area, so it makes sense.

Funny, though, how a tradition like that can be so strong in your family growing up, and then it kind of disappears when you get out on your own. And, now, sadly, with my gluten sensitivity, I'm afraid I won't be eating too much Boston Brown Bread in the future!


Oh, boy! And then there was the time my parents left us in the hands of a babysitter. I had to have been in first grade. It was winter in Syracuse, NY. So it was probably about February of 1962.

The babysitter was an older woman and, to my eyes, she looked like a witch. I think she had a mole on her chin. She definitely had obvious whiskers. And Mom and Dad left her to feed us something I can't remember having ever eaten before: liver and onions!

Oh, did that smell awful! And it was being cooked by a witch!

I knew she was going to kill us.

And Mom left her with specific instructions, probably because of me. I was a "problem eater." (Still am, apparently. According to Sarita.)

Anyway. That horrible-smelling liver came out of the frying pan looking gray and mossy, and I wanted to throw up.

The witch made sure we knew we had to eat it all, and if we didn't, she was under strict orders to put it in a Tupperware container so we could eat it the next day. (Oh, barf!)

I took a little nibble and left the rest on my plate. There was no way I was going to eat that! I would let it sit in the refrigerator (or out; it didn't matter to me) until it turned moldy and I couldn't eat it. My mom was definitely not going to win this particular contest!

I ate whatever else was available that night, but the mossy, gray-brown patty of liver remained on my plate.

The witch dutifully packed my liver away in the refrigerator so I could eat it the next day.

The next day--for some reason I think it was a Monday; it might have been Tuesday (and this was important, as you'll see in a moment)--Mom asked me if I wanted my liver for breakfast.

"No!" (Obviously! Why would I want it for breakfast when I hadn't eaten it for dinner the night before?)

"That's fine," she said. "But you can't have anything else for breakfast. Indeed, you won't be eating anything else until you eat the liver. So, if I were you, I would simply get it over with."

("Forget it!" I said to myself.) "Well," I said, "Then I guess I'm not eating anything."

It must have been a vacation period. I didn't get to relieve my hunger at school. And I can't imagine Mom would have sent the liver with me as a lunch option. She would have known I would have dumped it in the trash or otherwise disposed of it.

Lunchtime came. I wouldn't eat it.

Dinner. No liver for me. (And, therefore, nothing else, either.)




By this time, I was becoming very weak. For some reason (because she didn't want to be viewed as abusive?), as I recall, Mom let me not go out during the day. I remember wearing my PJs and bathrobe around the house in a way that I wouldn't have normally.

Finally, Sunday noon came. The time we had our fanciest meal of the week.

I still hadn't eaten that vile (and reviled), mossy, grayish-brown-green hunk of . . . body part.

Mom knew my favorite dinner at that time was her fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

"Look," she said. "We are having fried chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner today. If you will eat half of it, that will be good enough. You may then have some fried chicken and mashed potatoes."

"Half of it?" I said.

I looked critically at that awful, putrid piece of flesh. It wasn't perfectly symmetrical. What was "half"? How could I know when I had reached her stated finish line?

I scraped gently at the mossy coating on top. It looked awful, but it was definitely not mold.

I began to realize I would not be able to hold out long enough for it to become mold.

I then drew a line across the top of the piece of meat.

"So if I eat this part [which was pretty obviously somewhat less than half the total volume], I can have some chicken and mashed potatoes?"

Mom was in a forgiving mood at the moment.

"Yes," she said.

With gag reflexes at the ready, somehow I got that portion of the whole all in my mouth and began to chew.

It was enough for her to reward me with chicken and mashed potatoes on a fresh plate.

I got some chicken and mashed potatoes in my mouth to help that hated liver go down my throat.

Five days without food because of a strong-willed mother, a witch who served as a babysitter, and a stubborn boy who didn't want to eat the mossy, gray-green substance called cow's liver fried with onions.


Another food memory: brewer's yeast. Every morning in our orange juice. Mom said it was good for what ailed us, and if nothing ailed us, it was good for what might ail us. Or, at least, that's what she claimed.

Oh! But did that stuff taste awful!


And another regular: Every Sunday morning. (Or, at least, almost every Sunday morning.) Oven-baked Finnish pancake (pannukakku). With canned blueberries on top. And melted (or melting) butter.


Every Sunday morning.

Mom was of Finnish extraction. I guess that was one of her favorites from growing up. It is (or was) certainly one of mine!

What a delicious smell. Not to mention taste!

And one last memory: Fish. With bones.

We weren't Catholic, so we didn't eat fish on a regular basis. Indeed, we rarely ate fish. But when we did, I found it was inevitable: I'd always get a bone stuck in the roof of my mouth.


Why didn't my parents teach me how to avoid them? Or show me how to fillet the fish. Or do the filleting themselves?

I was surprised, a few years ago, to discover that there is a "secret" that can yield almost 100% bone-free fish. And it's not too difficult.

If only I had known. . . .

Oh. I guess a couple more. And then I'm done.

We hardly ever went out while I was growing up.

I remember Mom coming home from shopping sometime around 1963 or so while we were living in Syracuse, NY. "There's a new hamburger stand," she announced. It was a McDonald's hamburger stand (definitely not a sit-down restaurant!) and it featured Mr. Speedee. I have this vague thought that the hamburgers were 15 cents apiece or something like that. And I think Mom brought some home once.

The other thing Mom would bring home in the fall while we were in Syracuse: fresh squeezed apple cider.

And then, finally, while living in Palo Alto in the mid- to late-60s, I remember that every once-in-a-great-while we would go to Shakey's Pizza Parlour. What a blast! Great pizza and old-tyme (silent) movies. I seem to recall a player piano, too.

So though most of my most well-formed memories are related to unpleasant food experiences, I do enjoy a lot of good memories as well. And, certainly, the regular experiences of life had to do with good food. (Except for the brewer's yeast! Yuck!)
So what food memories do you have?