Thursday, December 22, 2011

The First 70

Grow your food stamps – Learn how

Grow your food stamps – Learn how

Snap gardens
By Hayley Currier
What’s the difference between food and nutrition?
The United States government is attempting to grapple with this question, as seen in the October 2008 renaming of the federal Food Stamp Program which is now SNAP—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The government is no longer, at least in name, just supplementing the purchase of food for low-income residents. They are supposed to be supplementing nutrition, somewhat of a different story.
A new wave of research and projects are questioning if all calories are created equal—enough food is not the same as enough nutrients. Processed and sugar-laden food—the cheapest option for many on food stamps—may be causing more problems than they are solving. Organizations like the Center for Weight and Health through the University of California, Berkeley are advocating for changes that encourage people to eat healthier. Globally, more people are suffering from obesity and related illnesses than undernourishment. Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, speaks strongly about the need to improve unhealthy diets on an international scale and calls for measures such as taxing unhealthy food and regulating food advertising. Evidence is mounting that we shouldn’t just talk about filling bellies any more, but what we are filling them with.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"My mommy -- Miss Bachmann, my mommy's gay but she doesn't need fixing,"

"My mommy -- Miss Bachmann, my mommy's gay but she doesn't need fixing," Elijah said to Bachmann, after some lighthearted coaxing. A dumbfounded Bachmann then shot the boy's mother an icy look before the pair walked away.

The Muppets Are Communist, Fox Business Network Says

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Era of Small and Many

Reversing the trend of generations

by Bill McKibben

Published in the November/December 2011 issue of Orion magazine

Painting: Suzanne Stryk

Earlier this year, my state’s governor asked if I’d give an after-lunch speech to some of his cabinet and other top officials who were in the middle of a retreat. It’s a useful discipline for writers and theorists to have to summarize books in half an hour, and to compete with excellent local ice cream. No use telling these guys how the world should be at some distant future moment when they’ll no longer be in office—instead, can you isolate themes broad enough to be of use to people working on subjects from food to energy to health care to banking to culture, and yet specific enough to help them choose among the options that politics daily throws up? Can you figure out a principle that might undergird a hundred different policies?
Or another way to say it: can you figure out which way history wants to head (since no politician can really fight the current) and suggest how we might surf that wave?
Here’s my answer: we’re moving, if we’re lucky, from the world of few and big to the world of small and many. We’ll either head there purposefully or we’ll be dragged kicking, but we’ve reached one of those moments when tides reverse.

Take agriculture. For 150 years the number of farms in America has inexorably declined. In my state—the most rural in the nation—the number of dairies fell from 11,000 at the end of World War II to 998 this summer. And of course the farms that remained grew ever larger—factory farms, we called them, growing commodity food. Here in Vermont most of the remaining dairies are big, but not big enough to compete with the behemoths in California or Arizona; they operate so close to the margin that they can’t afford to hire local workers and instead import illegal migrants from Mexico.
But last year the USDA reported that the number of farms in America had actually increased for the first time in a century and a half. The most defining American demographic trend—the shift that had taken us from a nation of 50 percent farmers to less than 1 percent—had bottomed out and reversed. Farms are on the increase—small farms, mostly growing food for their neighbors. They’re not yet a threat to the profits of the Cargills and the ADMs, but you can see the emerging structure of a new agriculture composed of CSAs and farmers’ markets, with fewer middlemen. Which is all for the good. Such farming uses less energy and produces better food; it’s easier on the land; it offers rural communities a way out of terminal decline. You could even imagine a farmscape that stands some chance of dealing with the flood, drought, and heat that will be our destiny in the globally warmed century to come. Instead of the too-big-to-fail agribusiness model, this will be a nimbler, more diversified, sturdier agriculture.

Democrats, Republicans trade blows on tax cuts

Reuters) - Democrats and Republicans in Congress on Monday exchanged their first blows in a battle over extending a payroll tax cut for workers, the latest in a series of polarizing fights that has worried investors.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that failure to continue the tax holiday would hurt U.S. economic growth and could, according to some economists, push the country back into recession.

The payroll tax cut for workers that went into effect at the beginning of 2011 has put about $1,000 in the average worker's pocket and helped to shore up consumer spending.
The Senate could vote on a measure extending and expanding it as early as Thursday, according to Democratic aides. The $255 billion cost of the legislation would be paid for with a new 3.25 percent tax on income over $1 million a year.
Republicans are expected to block it, in part because of the tax on the wealthy that they say will stifle job creation.

America is Not Broke

America Is Not Broke Cover 

How to pay for the crisis while making the country more equitable, green, and secure.

A misplaced obsession with our national debt and austerity has overtaken the national debate on the economy, with a resounding call to slash government spending to balance the budget. Some lawmakers are asserting that the country is broke, that we must tighten our belts, and that we lack the resources to pay for teachers, firefighters, and other vital public servants. They argue that we can't afford the government programs that help people in need, and claim we don't have the funds for urgently needed job-creating investments.

A congressional "supercommittee" has tried to identify $1.2 trillion in new cuts over the next decade that could have devastating consequences for our communities and our nation. There are many excellent proposals that should be “on the table” for debate.

This report challenges the premise that America is broke. In fact, we argue that the current fiscal challenge poses an opportunity to harness our country’s ample but misdirected resources in ways that will make us stronger.

We did not attempt to develop an exhaustive list of possible revenue-raisers or spending cuts. Rather, we focused on 24 fiscal reforms that we believe would go furthest to make the country more equitable, green, and secure. These reforms amount to an estimated $824 billion in potential revenue per year — seven times the total savings the supercommittee was tasked with