Monday, October 31, 2011

Local Sabor pt 2

The reasons for buying local are growing by the day - or maybe they've always been there and we just didn't know it. As I've been arguing on this site and at Facebook, the way society does business is going to have to fundamentally change. It is going to have to change from a multinational, centralized plutocracy - where most of the power and resources of the world are held in a few hands - to localized, people-centered democracies. Concentrating on buying locally is an important first step in this process. This is further expanded by the fact that buying local helps the local economy and keeps profits generating in the area. Multinationals centralize their profits - some for investing, some for saving, some for keepsies. But very little - besides some charitable work that disguises this grand theft - actively gos back to the local areas from which the profits were extracted.

As we noted earlier, buying from local independents recirculates money used by local producers for local business. An independent grocer is more likely to staff its store with local workers, to use local vendors, to advertise using local talent and on local-based media. This is currency that is self-generating. This is jobs.

For small businesses struggling to make ends meet - not because their products, vision, or service is inferior, but because they're unfairly crowded out - buying local gives them a chance they may otherwise not have. And it brings us a few steps closer between goods and their consumers and between clients, owners and workers. This in turn makes the company more likely to be ethical and follow ethical practices - not least of which because it is not a faceless, money-first multinational.

Now, the arguments made against buying local are legion. They are not without merit on the face, but they're deceptive and evil in practicality. The main reason to support the global economy, or so we've been told since the days of NAFTA, is that it supports and gives jobs and infrastructure to those who would not otherwise have money or access to resources.

But then we realize that those same people were better off before the multinationals came in and convinced them of their need for international commerce anyway. The emperors of the multinationals - with the aid of the mad men on Madison Ave - have convinced the world that having enough is no longer adequate. In doing so, they have traded in the economy of need and joy to that of excess and leisure. Yet since most of the world's citizens cannot possibly achieve that level of excess and leisure*, they are left hungry and overburdened. Even those of us who have the good luck to be in a part of the world and have access to jobs and resources that give us this E&L are finding ourselves fundamentally unsatisfied. (Picture the emptiness and sorrow that inspired this raving piece of antisocial anger of the Wall St leafletteer.

In the two-thirds world, the main resource, the main source of revenue, the main capital is human slavery. So although the PR firms and think-tanks can try to convince us that buying clothes from the Gap and Nike is supporting the Vietnamese and Laotians who make the clothes, those laborers are certainly not getting the wages appropriate for their work. To understate.

The systemic oppression of people within the third world - and largely though not at all exclusively non-white folks in the first world - is the price we pay for the nice stuff we get through globalism. Globalism, by the way, is just a nice-sounding way of saying that a few people have rigged the entire world into an intricate, overly-complex, centralized web in which those few people themselves profit immensely, a few more of us profit well enough to not rise against the system substantially (although thank heavens for the Spring and Occupy movements, largely organized by the richest third of the world - ones who can largely afford higher education and technological devices to spread word and message), but most of the world workers are in all actuality slaves. At a dollar per twelve hour day.

Buy and support local. It just tastes better.

Quote attributed to Gandhi. Picture stolen from Goodnighmoonlight.

pt 1 is here

Friday, October 28, 2011

Local Sabor (pt 1)

Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Al's Italian Beef, Hot Doug's, Miko's Italian Ice, Gino's East, thousands of street vendors selling tamales year 'round, hundreds of affordable neighborhood taquerias, unaffiliated Maxwell St Polishes, Maggiano's, Metropolitan Coffee, Three Doghead Brewery, The Handlebar, Vienna Beef hot dogs, Rick Bayless and his specialty regional Mexican spots, Kasi's Delis, Intelligentsia Coffee, rib-backs, Margie's Candies, Boarhead Delis, El Borinquen, Honey1 Barbecue, Korean barbeque, world-reknown chefs and gastro-pubs.

Italian, Mexican, Polish, Louisiana South, Ethiopian, Argentine, Indian, Eastern European, Russian, Thai, Brazilian, Jewish, Cuban, Pakistani, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Slavic, Ecuadorian, Dominican, Mississippi South, Irish, German, Japanese, Bolivian, Moroccan, Chinese...

"No finer words in the English language than 'Encased meats',"  Hot Doug's. Image courtesy of   Iforgetwho. If these are from your blog, please lemme know. I tagged and then lost the original blog and had to re-write much of it. This pic was saved.
The city of Chicago is built around these delicious ethnic enclaves - many of whom have had the opportunity to mezcla with otra styles and produce some odd and wonderful culinary delights (have I mentioned jibaritos and Italian beef sandwiches?).

Nobody should ever have to eat anything boring or dry or tasteless or centralized or freeze-dried in a warehouse or kept under a heating lamp. Eighty percent of the profits from every shake of celery salt should go right back to this wondrous city.

Whether we go out a couple of times a month or for every meal, there is no reason a Chicagoan has to eat the same meal more than once in her life. There are no more excuses to settle and dull our tastebuds and cultural experiences.

And yet we settle consistently for the McDonald'sPizzaHutBurgerKingDunkinDonutsMillerCoorsTacoBellStarbucksSubway conglomertes. Oddly enough, it is the multinational corporations that maintain, export, and import bland, one-world, hegemony. They co-opt, falsify, then sell a cultural idea.

  • Rather than being adventurous, are we settling for tried, true, and bland?
  • Rather than having special meals prepared and made fresh from our order, are we opting for ready-made, deep-frozen, and super-processed patties heated and assembled on-site?
  • Rather than sixty percent of our dollars going back into our neighborhoods, do we hope that what little wages local workers (if there are any, for many commute) are able to bring home that they'll invest at our next-door businesses?
  • Rather than building a network of community, trust, and quality, do we support the entrenched faceless corporations that are accountable to no one?
  • Rather than supporting our neighbors in their endeavors, are we settling for giving our hard-earned money back to the multinational corporations that are ruining our food supply, our governments, our way of life, our lives?

A study has shown that buying locally not only spurs development - and is better for the environment - but puts twice as much money into the economy as buying through chains. This study focused on the purchasing power of going through a farmer's market vs a supermarket - but I recognize that that may not be an option yet for many people. Buying from independent restaurants and stores allows a good start to build local sustainability.

Further from the Times article that the study was highlighted in:

[M]any local economies are languishing not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. "Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," he says, noting that when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers—"it flows out, like a wound." By shopping at the corner store instead of the big box, consumers keep their communities from becoming what the NEF calls "ghost towns" (areas devoid of neighborhood shops and services) or "clone towns", where Main Street now looks like every other Main Street with the same fast-food and retail chains
Eating and buying local keeps our neighborhoods, towns, burbs, etc from falling into the trap where one is lucky to land a minimum wage job with virtually no chance of elevating.

And it's yummy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fat Dinosaurs on Wall St

This is what we need to fight. This idea that we need what they're selling us.

This is why I believe that sustainable localism is so important. This is why we need to go beyond just business as usual, rhetoric as usual (no matter how smartly dressed), and currency as usual. Too many families and people are dispossessed of any power over their very own lives.

And we're supposed to be grateful? The system needs a shut-down.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mayor McMoneyBoobs

Update below

Rahm Emanuel is an Occupier. I do not mean that in the sense that he is sympathetic to the OWS movement. Quite the contrary, he has arrested hundreds of demonstrators (including nurses staffed for the demonstration) for daring to take back public space in the last two weekends. I mean that the current mayor of Chicago is an occupying force in the traditional sense - ie, he comes into a territory, extracts goods and resources from it for his own benefit, and leaves when he darned well feels like it.

You know, like Rome and Babylon...

It's not really a surprise that Rahm would be so bad for this city in his first year. It's not in the least surprising that he would demonize teachers in order to get an extra two hours each day out of them for free. That he would cut or threaten pensions and benefits for fire and police forces, as well as public transit workers. That he would turn law enforcement against the very people who are struggling for them. That he would further slash library hours and services. And that he would do all this without reaching into the corporate slush funds that are TIFS, in which he could, conceivably at least, use vast sums of money and tax breaks to lure in heavy hitters like Boeing under the auspices that it would bring more jobs to Chicago. Even though the few jobs actually brought by these enormous tax breaks tend to live in the burbs.

None of this wasn't already known. Even the least astute of us political observers, like myself, knew he would do these tactics. He is a forceful pragmatist funded - both personally and in career - by the banks and following in the tradition of the Daley's, after all. It doesn't take a weatherman...

The surprising aspect isn't so much like he's acting like a shrewd Scott Walker, it's that NOBODY in the media said, "We need to cover someone else." Nobody with a real voice said, "I think that we need to get behind and support Miguel del Valle. He has a proven track record, saved the city money, citywide experience, coalition-builder, and he's anti-corporate." Nobody offered an alternative voice.

I'm saddened but not shocked that the state of city journalism has deteriorated so much in such a fine city as Chicago. Neither of the two major dailies raised a dissenting voice against the (Corporate) people's choice - let alone the free commuter rag. This was even amongst those that were heavily critical of Daley. If there were dissenters, they were most often critical of the fact that Rahm is a Democrat and worked for Clinton and Obama, rather than that he leveraged his connections to put him on the overseeing board of Fannie and Freddy - whereupon it's obvious that he oversaw nothing, let alone protected the vulnerable. I'm not absolutely positive about most of the community and alt papers, though, but even the Chicago Reader was deafening by its silence. I went to a forum where Mick Dumke, of all respectable people, offered that Emanuel was the most qualified candidate to run the city. Jarovsky, usually astute on matters of public funding, seemed to cynically hold out on giving his opinion and wishing that Rahm wouldn't "waste the opportunity" to get rid of the all-controlling tool of the mayor's and his burgeoning corporatocracy, the TIF.

HuffPo, TPM, and Salon - all voices for progressivism in the national arena, more or less - were also critically silent when it came to Chicago's future. But not, fortunately for Wisconsin at least, when it came to that bozo just to the north of us.

About the ONLY person investigating the mayoral run and still being critical toward Rahm's mayoral stunt is a long-term activist, Don Washington, who still blogs at MayoralTutorial.

But just as Ben Joravsky has illuminated dialogue about funding in Chicago by his persistent voice and knowledge on the subject of TIFs, just as Mike Royko was able to chink away at the Original Hizzonner, I see Don doing the same toward this mayor given the time an the proper loudspeakers.

Which is too bad. Because when the media doesn't cover the issues, the people have to rely on other sources of information. Besides, what's the main difference between Emanuel and Walker? The people are on to Walker now...


And here Don shows us why he's leading the league. In It’s Called a Fact Check, Media People,Mr. Tutorial not only takes down Emanuel (and his cronies') union-bashing - largely focusing on the CTA this time - but the media's tendency to get behind whatever it is that Rahm says as if it's gospel truth.

So what’s happening here is that Mayor Emanuel and Forrest Claypool are asking the unions to sacrifice their wages, pensions, benefits and your safety and... to take the blame for them having to live up to their responsibilities as administrators of the system. Yes, that’s right. You see between just the TIF funds and the possible savings in the M/WBE program we’re talking over a billion dollars that could be used to do any number of things to help the city’s finances but that’s not on the table. What’s on the table are middle class and working class families becoming less secure or being blamed for you and I having to pay a little more for public transit. This is the case because Mayor Emanuel and Forrest are more interested in REDUCING taxes on corporations and going to bat for them downstate to further shift the tax load from them on to you. (Emphases mine)

Fact. Check.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pre-school Stars, Steve Ditko, and Ladybugs

My four year old is The Clasroom Star this upcoming week. Which means that her class will be decorated by a poster all about our daughter and that all the other snot-nosers will finally worship her, or something I suppose. I was never filled in on all the details, but then I never asked for them. After all, she is a growing young woman and I gotta trust some of her choices.


One of the spaces she was supposed to fill out in this poster asks what she wants to be when she grows up. Independently, and with no prompting from either parent, she told both my wife and I of her plans to be a piggy when she reaches full maturity.

My wife thinks she talked her down to a the possibility of being a farmer. Which is kinda cool because it goes along nicely with my whole localism/agrarian-based society of the future thing-y. But Joss' dreams were not dashed. She still insisted she'd make a wonderful - if not tasty - piggy.

After it became obvious that her uncle and I were not going to let this one go, she found an alternative suggestion while getting ready for bed.

"Ooh, how 'bout I be a ladybug?"

"Well, you're going to be one for Halloween."

She's well-rounded. She believes in fairy tales AND comic book heroes.

"And as a grown-up?"

"No, sweetie. Only for pretend. You can't turn into one. It's physiologically impossible. You won't *grow-up* to be a tiny little ladybug."

Thinking I could turn this into some kind of awesome parent lesson about the interconnectedness of all of creation or whatever, I continue.

"But you know who made the ladybugs?"

"Jee-- Jeeb--?"

"That's right, 'Jesus'."

"Wow... (Sparks flying) All the ladybugs?"

"Yes, honey. All of them. Do you know who else Jesus made?"


"Well, Jesus made all the spiders. Though I personally am no big fan of that action."

"But not Spider-Man?" She actually sounds a little bit disappointed here. As if let down by this glaring omission of Jesus'. Was Spidey merely a freak of nature as J. Jonah Jameson has suggested for all these years?

"No, Spider-Man is pretend. He's not real. But Jesus did make the brilliant minds of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, who invented Spider-Man..."


And that, kids, is how nerds are born.

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.

The job of the First Lady is thankless, of course. I'm not sure how busy it is or needs to be, but it's probably the closest to American royalty-with-cause since Elanore Roosevelt laughed at Jackie and nodded at Betty, I'm sure.

Who's your favorite first, and why?

* The title is both an homage to Gil Scot Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and to Michelle and my alma mater, Whitney M Young Magnet High School.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Odious Freeloaders Ode to the public health system in the United States

Oh, America, how I love, how I adore, how I lavish that you are not like every other wealthy country - and most poor. For when we are sick, you have us fend for ourselves. That can only make us better, and teach us to not be sick or get into accidents if we are poor. And further, it strengthens the teachings that it sucks to be poor. Because there aren't enough lessons out there for the poor. Otherwise, they would quit being so poor already.

Thank you, American Medical System, for practicing expensive invasive medicines rather than advocating for more practical, cheap and less harmful preventative medicine. When we are filled with doughnuts and french fries, you wait until we are gangrene before you take preventative measures - such as chopping off our toes. This must also be a lesson in sacrifice. The poor must bear their weight.

The Old Cook County Hospital Building. I really love the ancient gothic-ness of the place. And that it looks like it's gonna collapse in on itself any minute now.

Thank you, Insurance Companies, for wrestling for more profits during a time when public outcry was great for universal healthcare. When nearly every other country has figured out that profit has no role in adequate medicine, you've successfully confused parties, the middle and working class to fight against their own self-interests and widen your profit margins. Bravo, bi-atches. Brav. O.

Thank you Tea Parties, both leaders and followers, for fighting against your own self-interests under the dumb-foundingly ignorant claims that fundamentally reforming medical care in the US would be more expensive than continuing on the same way. Even though every country with universal healthcare pays roughly half per capita what we do to cover fewer people. More importantly, thank you for fighting against the best interests of the 1/4 of working adults who can't afford insurance and emboldening the insurance companies to squeeze more out of everyone else. You are incredible. And simply astounding.

I want to thank the Supreme Court, for being both partial and childish. Long gone are the days when activist judges applied the constitution to African Americans and women. Now, at long last, we have activist judges who extend the constitution to corporations and profiteers. Three cheers especially for the justice whose wife actively lobbied against health care reform and the Affordable Care Act and who gets to sit on the bench and claim impartiality over this very issue. That was quite shrewd, CThom, quite shrewd.

And finally, I want to thank the Western and specifically American socio-cultural-political system. The one that has made leisure a priority, that has sacrificed your health to cosmetic, agri-business, fast-food, energy, and manufacturer industries through which your lives are endangered via the violence of toxins and pollutants in our air, water, land, and food. If it were not for you, Americans would have had to find some other way to get breast, lung, arterial, or rectal cancers (ok, I'm not sure about that last one...). If it weren't for the need to travel uncountable miles every day in order to procure our basic needs, we wouldn't have such car accidents or lung diseases. If it weren't for the artificial and unnatural additives in our daily bread, we wouldn't have such high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart failure. Moreover, if it weren't for the divisive ways we practice capitalism in this country, we would not be able to have all the enjoyment of practicing so much fun violence. Gangs and their turf wars - as well as alcohol abuse, drug abuse and smuggling, and other signs of eonomic despondency - would be a thing of the past with enhanced opportunities for the unprivileged majority.

So, truly America, stay classy by continuing to fight against your best interests both as individuals and as a nation. Somebody up here is recognizing your good work. But it ain't Jesus.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

JasDye for State Senator (Rent Is Too Damn High)

In a recent story in the venerable Cracked (which I generally adore, by the way), I ran across this paragraph and got my little danders up:

Hating capitalism is not on the table. This is America. Capitalism defines our history, our economy, and our national psyche And the purpose of this protest cannot be a naive attempt to change the very souls of American businesspeople. To punish businesses for their greed. It's the wrong message and counterproductive. Call me jaded, but I thought we all just took it for granted that businesses are amoral creatures driven by profit. Being enraged at Corporate America for being greedy is like reading and being enraged by its use of the list format. This is who we are.

I'm constantly bemused but really always annoyed by variants of this claim I just read in Crack'd:
Why punish the greedy bankers?

Maybe it's the fact that the question is a distraction. It's a ruse, meant to frame complex issues into bloody solutions.

Maybe it's the sheer hypocrisy of the statement. After all, rarely do the same people argue that we shouldn't punish immigrants for jumping a fence and an arbitrary border to allow their families to survive and give their kids a chance in life.  Sort of akin to this:

Or maybe it's the fact that I'm a moralist and supposedly, so are those who usually argue this point. Many are Christians. The Cracked writer self-identifies as a liberal. And yet the very question is antithetical to two basic tenets of Christianity and liberalism.

  • Sharing is good.
  • Greed is bad.

Any economical, political, and social system based on greed is one that deprives the majority of basic needs.

And while the rich can afford mansions, the shrinking middle class increasingly steal away into gated communities, and the noveau-rich try out sampler McMansions, those of us who question the system are patronized like children.

"But you can't say what they should and should not make, nor what they should or can buy with those. Besides, they work hard for their money."

I know many families scrunch together in one measly apartment. We have personally taken in people who would otherwise be homeless for various periods of time, partially because the housing laws and practices are unfair for those with bad credit. But also because people were in between jobs, or were treated unjustly by the system, or recently divorced.

Yet tons of acres of land are currently unused in the barrios and ghettos that could be turned into affordable or sustainable housing, or community gardens and even farms, but landowners don't want to give up temporary rights.

Families were foreclosed on their homes - even if they were making their mortgages - when the bubble burst. Even though they invested in their properties and lived in them and were finally settling into a place of their own they were told was theirs by the very people who would forcibly take it from them, they were out on the streets and lost their investment.

And their homes.

Let's view it from another perspective, though. One-fourth of all jobs in the US now pays enough to qualify as poverty-level or below. That is one out of every four jobs that the typical American could have - from the shrinking few that are available - is making less money than necessary to survive on, under an old rubric that needs to change.

The old rubric of poverty is based on food. Because food was a much more expensive portion of the typical American family's budget, it was estimated to be a third of the monthly cost of living. And that is what the rubric of the poverty level is based on: How much would it cost an American family to sustain themselves on emergency food - and then multiply that by three. Which may be a fine way to still describe who qualifies for federal or state aid, but it's completely disastrous if, say, it's no longer relevant.

While the overall prices of food have largely stabilized and not moved much over the last thirty years or so (of course, we are dealing with that cost in other ways), the costs of housing and insurance have bloated far out of proportion. While food used to account for a third of the budget and housing roughly one-fourth, now food counts for a seventh of the typical budget while families are lucky to find a place to live that will only cost them a third of their intake. But at poverty levels, without subsidized housing it's nearly impossible for a working class family to find safe housing - let alone housing that is easily accessible to their places of work (often, they are across town from their low-paying jobs) that costs anywhere near fifty percent of their wages.

And, again, we are in a recession. And the first cuts during a recession are to social programs of uplift. Programs that would help ease the financial burden of finding affordable housing. Oddly, the very programs that are most necessary during these very times for the most people. But, since those people don't have access to the halls of power, more of those people are left under the burden of both food and living scarcity.

So, after their regressive payroll taxes are taken out, what little remains for a vast amount of working class Americans is chewed up between child care (if possible), food, clothes, car notes, gas to get them across the city to their low-paying jobs, and rent. Health care may not be an option because they aren't wealthy enough to afford it and are considered too wealthy to go on Medicaid.

Everything is in a constant state of emergency for a third of US citizens. 

This is unacceptable.

And frankly, I'm not interested in blaming landowners, or bankers, or even banks - as a whole (Some are guilty, for sure. But not all). I'm interested in dismantling a system.

An economic and political system that favors a few for the price of the many is an evil system. Greed is EVIL. It should not be the primary motivator of any system.

There are solutions, but I am under the conviction that it would mean changing our entire society's values around.
To live more simply.
To truly have a love revolution of sharing.
To give control back to community.
To live off the earth and therefore employ everybody who is able to work.

It is called Localism. We're continuing to talk about that, but I also want to talk about my possible run for a political seat.

My name is JasDye. And I will speak truth to power with the American people. Because, for most of us, the Rent Is Too Damn High.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Look to the Hills

I've lost my center.*

For the last couple months or so, I've allowed worry and frustration of some very real threats to undermine my spiritual core. For consumerists to find peace, they shop. For Christians, we focus in on God through the three-in-one. The God-with-us person of Jesus. The amazing grace of the Father. The comforting Spirit of peace blowing through us like a restless wind.

I've neglected to trust in the God who dresses the lillies of the valley. But that God doesn't neglect me.

I've allowed the fact of the wickedness of the world - this same world that crushes souls and turns most of us into automatons for the relentless raping machine that is the capitalist system - to temporarily overtake my own joy.

It is darkest before dawn.

Trust me when I say this: there are many reasons to feel overwhelmed right now.

I had to take a day off from my low-paying/no-benefits job. Which means I will make even less money than I am currently. Which, to be frank, doesn't even cover the rent.

My joy comes in the morning.

I have been sitting in the ER room of the local public hospital because I no longer have insurance. Along with a growing number of working class, self-employed Americans, I can not afford basic health insurance in an economic system that perpetually marginalizes the working class and the middle class for the benefit of short-sighted greed. In a time when more and more people need state and federal assistance, we are turned away and herded from increasingly shrinking resource to smaller, less adequate resource by the minute.

Funds were cut from our state insurance.

We're behind on many of our bills, even though we live bare-bones. We never buy frivolous or lavish equipment. In fact, we haven't owned a TV since we got rid of the space-taker donated to us, and we have no desire to, either. And I don't brag to say we walk or take public transport everywhere we go. It's partially as a convenience, partly as an ethos, but sometimes a large pain in the butt

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen.

Joss is sick again. And that's freaking scary. She has lung disease.

I look to the hills...

I've been battling depression and trying to start some extra work on the side, but I always feel so overwhelmed and exhausted...

I look to the hills. From where does my help come? It comes from the Lord.

This is an ancient psalm that we used to sing in one of my churhes. I learned in this same church that the hills were the High Places, where contemporaries of this psalmist went to worship false idols.

  • Fleeting relations.
  • Greedy lusts.
  • Sexuality divorced from meaning.
  • Violence.
  • Consumerism.

The Israelites would flirt with these flash-in-the-pan gods, trading in joy and love for happiness** and gratification.

I sometimes look to those hills as well.
  • Wall St. 
  • Madison Ave. 
  • The Magnificent Mile. 
  • Washington.
  • Hollywood. 
  • Best Buy. 
  • Amazon. 
  • McDonald's.

But my help, 
my joy, 
my center comes from the Lord.


*Full disclaimer/warning: Although I never hide the fact that I'm a Christian, I do try to make this blog as inclusive as possible. But this is an exorcism of sorts that I just need to air. I do not mean to offend, but I do understand that anytime any religion, let alone Christianity, is brought up - esp in exclusivest language - traumatic memories are brought to light. Be assured that this isn't a post to convert anyone or to compare gods/faith systems/lack thereof. Please keep this in mind if you do read this article.

**The Beatles said happiness is a warm gun. But I prefer Dylan's less-post-ejaculation/more-cryptic take on it: Happy is a yuppie word

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eating Local - Present Solutions on the Path

We've talked about the problems inherent in the modern food machine - so much so that I don't want to focus on that here. And we know things have got to change. Many people believe that we need to plant gardens, and my argument is - largely - that we need to bring agrarianism back to our center and establish a localized food democracy. But in any case, such phenomenal changes will take a long time - perhaps generations.

So I would like for this place to be a discussion (please, in the comments here or on Facebook. Tweet replies back if you must) for how to go about living healthier, less polluting and wasteful lives through our food practices. Some of the following are mere suggestions. While some are painfully obvious, I would assume, for many of the readers, we should keep in mind that a food revolution needs to be a populist movement by and for the people and we want to be able to include everyone into our target audience.

Having said that, please share your suggestions, ideas and even stories and fears in the comments here and on Facebook or to twitter.

Eat locally. Buy from little, local stores. This not only shapens the connect between the worker and the owner, but also the process of eating and the process'of raising and transporting our food. If you don't think their food practices are'ethical, you may be able to suggest alternatives..

More veggies and fruits. Try to avoid bleached, enriched flours.

Cut out any product made with high fructose corn syrup.

Plant a garden in your property. If you can't because, say, you live in the city, find a community garden. If you can't find that, find the local community advocacy group and see who would like to start one (other avenues such as the local PTA may be good options). If no bite or if it turns out to be too expensive, no worries. Find an abandoned lot and start a peace garden and see what happens.The city or the owners might want to tear it down, but that's bad PR for them I the area isn't being used for anything else...

You got windows, a little ingenuity, some lights, water pumps, and a bunch of bottles? Try a hydro-window farm. It's year 'round, and you're reusing water.

Look at what others are doing. The People's Grocery runs a greenhouse enterprise program in a low-income housing development in the under-served area of West Oakland.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Tale of Two Visionaries

Two of the familiar, white computers are sitting across the coffee shop from me. Taunting me with their half-eaten glowing apples, durability, and accessible features. It's one of the legacies of the recently-deceased Steve Jobs, of course. Great audio and visual, pioneering in home-movie making tech, being an alternative and a complete package - hardware, operating system, web browser, music store and player - really only lacking in office software.

Of course, Jobs wasn't the only pioneer to pass this week. His revolution may have captured the hearts (and wallets) of millions of Americans, but the revolution that the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth helped to cull in his Birmingham captured the moral conscience of a nation.

While most (white) Americans only link King and Parks with the Civil Rights movement, there were many brilliant, determined people with less prominent roles in front of the cameras, but just as significant - if not more so - behind the scenes. Shuttlesworth hunkered down to get federal protection for the Freedom Riders and while his city was the base for anti-Black campaigns led by the action and sanctioning of Sheriff Bull Connor, Shuttlesworth was able to convince Dr. King that he could rekindle his troops in Bombingham.

The rest, as they say, is history that turned America's sympathies towards Southern recepients of the brutal Jim Crow violence. While children and teens (and then growing ranks of adults) were being hosed down, sicced on by police dogs and dragged off to jail, he was their sarge, their inspiration.

All we have to do is keep on marching... Do tomorrow what we did today, and do it the next day, and the next day we won't have to do it at all.

Steve had a hand in individualizing culture. Of making every person his own personal DJ and portable radio station. Personally, I'm more a fan of shared music, of innovative radio and streaming dj's. But I suppose it's hard to make a profit off of that, eh? Shuttlesworth's genius was in pushing for a confrontation, believing in the shared humanity of all of us - that if we could see the evil being propagated in our midst, maybe our souls would be stirred to do something about it...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Teachers Are Bad, M'kay?

There's a new PR battle going on in town (really, across the nation). It involves spoiled teachers and their thuggish unions and how lazy and selfish they are.

Or at least these are the facts as we're presented them via administrators who are in charge of education but don't have to deal with anything actually related to education - classrooms, learning, small wages for incredible amounts of work, students, parents, or first-hand appreciation for the adverse effects of poverty on the charges.

Rather, this group tries to remember what didn't work when they were in school (or really, what worked well for them, specifically, but left others marginalized and labeled 'special' and "stupid") and then amp that to eleven.

Finding out that they could put the onus of the responsibility of failing poor and minority students on the teachers while neglecting fundamental structural cracks and necessary changes, leaders and admins also found that they could score political points by portraying teachers as layabouts who are afraid of accountability. After all, if there's nothing to hide, then there's nothing to fear, amirite?

President Bush gave the best soundbite, of course. "If you're teaching to the test, at least you're teaching something, right?"

It's a shame very few really questioned the intents and inferred meaning of that phrase. While seeming to be helpful and concerned about the state of underserved st's, the teaching-to-the-test rhetoric proves the priority of the standardized test as both a means of production (something to profit from) and as an end- product itself. It further demonstrates how out of touch admins and pols are with how learning actually works.

Finally, it's an incendiary accusation against teachers: Teaching poorly is better than not teaching at all.

Which may not be a true assessment even if it were a true accusation. Teaching poorly has a poor reputation of discouraging further learning. Kids demand education. If they were to learn that it only added up to meaningless bubbles about some worthless and irrelevant questions that were drilled into them through most of the school year, then of course they'd find it all ridiculous and worthless.

Wouldn't you?

And that's exactly what's happening. Rather than find and apply meaningful and relevant curriculum, inner city grade schools are under enormous pressure to succeed according to the rubrics of test-makers and their arbitrary questions. Ironically, the more time spent trying to prepare students for these standardized tests, the less time is left to teach the students critical (and critical-thinking) skills.

Image from Off K Street blog
So, while the proposed idea is "no child (especially poor and minority) left behind", the reality is that the education gap is widening. Instead of equipping young black Americans to succeed in the business world,
we are only preparing them for a life of meaningless and humiliating bubble-filling and questions.

Meanwhile, politicians and their education 'czars' (who usually have no actual experience in education or the classroom) are leveraging the widening gap as a means of reigning in teachers and destroying whatever power they've been able to amass these last few decades.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Chicago. Mayors Daley and now Emanuel have been gutting the public schools for over a decade now, flying against the face of research and the frontline workers to make some quick bucks for friends while looking good, tough, challenging, and moral in the process.

But, as Ben Joravski notes at the Chicago Reader, it's largely an image battle. And that is one that the teachers - shockingly - are losing. As long as teachers remain shocked at the shift of public opinion against them, however, they'll continue to lose this front.