Posts Tagged 'Obama'

Independent Family Farmers Face Reprieve from Big Agribusiness – Take Action Today!

This just in from the fine folks at Food Democracy Now!


There’s been a lot of bad news out of Washington DC lately. In the past 3 weeks we’ve called on President Obama to retract his decisions on 3 newly approved genetically modified (GMO) crops. Incredibly, more than 110,000 American family farmers and citizens have signed a letter calling for a more comprehensive regulatory process that effectively and democratically investigates the impact that genetically engineered crops have on human health, the environment and farmer’s long-term ability to meet the challenges of 21st century agriculture.

At the same time, while GMOs pose a serious threat to farmers’ livelihoods, human health and the environment, they are not the only threat that farmers and our food supply face today. Of equal importance is the unparalleled control that corporations have over contract arrangements with family farmers.

Already in the last year, the USDA has written a set of proposed fair market contract rules under Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) that would make it illegal for packers and slaughter houses to unfairly discriminate against poultry, hog and cattle farmers. Unfortunately, those rules have not been finalized and giant agribusiness meat interests are pressuring Secretary Vilsack and the Obama administration to weaken these vital rules that would provide fair market contract protections for small and midsized farmers for the first time.

Please call the White House today and urge the Obama administration to stand up for family farmers to make sure they receive fair market contracts and no longer experience unfair price discrimination.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/348?akid=297.53115.hgAZSo&t=7

Today’s livestock producers are caught in an unfair system that traps them in debt and forces them to take whatever contracts Big Ag cartels offer them. And even though the Packers and Stockyards Act specifically prohibits price discrimination by meatpackers against small family farm and ranch operations, it has been a standard industry practice for decades.

According to our friends at the Center for Rural Affairs, it’s common for meatpackers to “routinely pay five or six cents more per pound, more in some cases, in purely volume-based premiums to the largest hog producers simply because they are large.” And while six cents doesn’t sound like much, for an independent family farmer operating with a 150 sows, it amounts to receiving $56,000 a year less at market for their livestock. And no one can afford that type of loss, especially America’s family farmers.1

These practices are not only unfair, but they are undemocratic and place family farmers at a serious disadvantage in the marketplace. At a time when the Obama administration and Washington DC are talking about creating jobs and improving economic opportunities for families everywhere, one of the simplest things they could do would be to improve opportunities for family farmers and rural America is to allow farmers to have access to fair markets. The best way to do this is to tell the Obama administration to finalize the fair market contract (GIPSA) rules today.

Click on the link below to tell President Obama it’s time to stand up for family farmers. Not only are they the backbone of our democracy, but they are the ones who provide us with the best, most sustainably raised food in the country.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/348?akid=297.53115.hgAZSo&t=9

Thanks for taking action — your support is greatly appreciated! We need your help to keep the pressure on! If you can, please consider chipping in as little as $10 to help us continue this fight.

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/donate/133?akid=297.53115.hgAZSo&t=12

We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thanks again for your support.

Thank you for participating in food democracy — your action today may save family livestock producers and help free our food supply from corporate control.

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

Sources:

1.”Corporate Farming: A Reasonable Hope for Fairness”, Center for Rural Affairs, August 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/349?akid=297.53115.hgAZSo&t=14

Call the White House today to Tell President Obama to enforce fair market GIPSA rules for farmers today!

 

Is White Conservative America Afraid of Barack Obama?

Racist Obama Sign 1This is a blog post I hoped I’d never had to write. It’s a post about ACORN, Van Jones, Barack Obama, and culture of fear that is festering in our nation during an age of Glenn Beck. Those very ‘key words’ I just used will practically guarantee healthy post views and a long search-engine life for this post, but that doesn’t make me happy. Because I know that many of my friends – and probably even family members – will become a little more agitated with me, a little more distant as time wears on and views clash.

Where is the kid who was scored as the single most conservative member of his AP European History class in high school? Where’s the student that accompanied an elder of his PCA church to John Birch Society meetings? Where the guy who voted for Harry Browne in the 2000 elections?

Buried in the rubble of 9/11. Come of age in a Bush administration era. Watching the dream of Hope being crushed by fear-mongering word-of-mouth media marketers, and their circles of influence. And as a fellow nu-media marketing jockey, I’m pissed. This post isn’t going to score me any points with some of my ‘Christian’ friends, or certain corners of CBA publishing…or with my radical Anabaptist/anarchist I’m-too-cool-to-vote friends either, for that matter. Screw it.

Here goes…what follows is taken from my recent Facebook wall almost verbatim, but it’s mostly my side of the conversation, summarizing certain comment-ers, when appropriate.

First I post The GOP’s Blame-ACORN Game article from The Nation, showing how ACORN community organizers have long been against the predatory lending practices of the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae types (who names these cabals, anyway? Sallie, Freddie, Fannie…it’s like Dick and Jane books on crack). What follows is some basically insightful back-and-forth commentary from folks of different points of view. But then someone says “The punchline is the same – the GOP has no stomach for Acorn, IAF, and other (Alinsky-style, people-powered) community organizing groups.” Racist Obama Sign 2

I think he’s right about the GOPs intolerance for rabble-rousing, truly populist movements. But I also agree with outrage expressed by many (on all sides of the aisle) about the human trafficking stuff – the Left (and all of us really – the Right too when it comes to gun-toting tea partyers and town hallers) need to realize that The People are messy – they can’t be boiled down an intrinsic, bucolic good. The People have issues, as do The Elite. God help us all…

That said, I continue to be 100% in support of community organizing, with the understanding that people need transformation and development as well as the lower functions on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A conservative friend of mine chimes in and says,

I like to think of myself as a gun-toting, tea partying, town haller!

And I say “Well there you go. And many progressives fear you, fair or not. Just like I’d say many conservatives fear power-to-the-people educated urban poor. Two sides of the same coin, really.”

Someone sounded off on this, saying that s/he found it incredulous that anyone could find value in community organizing organizations like ACORN.

Well, as someone else commented, “My spouse is a Realtor and has seen ACORN offer legitimate and much needed help to low income people. They have provided an important service.” Many other grateful low-income families would agree.  Another friend of mine – who I’m guessing is fairly conservative-leaning politically – conceded that “ACORN is…a good organization with a worthy purpose and great success, but is now being brought down by the actions of a few corrupt, high-profile individuals who were put in positions of power that the should not have occupied.” Probably true. But the overriding concern here is that of media literacy: If the first you’re hearing of ACORN is from ticked-off media pundits blasting it, you’re probably not getting the full story. (And yes, I agree this means balancing my lefty news sources with your fascist ones! Tee-hee.)

Racist Obama Sign 3Then someone brought up this 1999 New York Times story about President Clinton lowering the financial ceiling for eligible home-buyers. What do we make of this? My thinking is that one could construe the desire to make lending easier for poorer families a decade ago as being borne out of a genuine desire to help more low-income folks get into homes – just as one could see the GOP moves toward massive de-regulation as an idealistic move in keeping with conservative principles of minimal government.

Of course, one could also see both of these with a jaundiced eye – Clinton’s move to help Sallie & Freddie share-holders and GOP moves to further line all of their pockets with de-regulated flow. We have choices in how we interpret the motives of others – and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Ah, but polemics never stay in the middle, do they? Some people jumped on board hurling epithets like

“Not all poor people deserve to be able to own a home because they are too irresponsible.”

“In this country, if you are poor there’s a good chance it is because you’re too lazy to work.”

“The actual number of people who are poor for some reason other than it being their own fault is very low.”

“These people need to learn some personal responsibility.”

…and other insults. (I’ve got one question for ya’s: Ever read any Barbara Ehrenreich??)

Soo, then I launch into some heated words of my own – like poor people just don’t deserve a break, eh? Only those who earn favor (or are born into favored conditions) should get opportunities – the rest are ‘lazy’? I guess the Gospel we espouse and the Jesus we worship doesn’t apply so much to the real world, huh? Racist Obama Sign 4

Look, I’m pro personal responsibility. I’m a small business owner who comes from a low-middle class (or high lower-class) family background and all that jazz. Who knows – maybe what I’ve done is that gravity-defying feat of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps! And I’m not naive: In being friends with homeless people for a couple of years now, I know that some have the aptitude to get off the streets and some just don’t – they’ve been acculturated into the streets. But does that mean we de-friend, and give up? The way these things about the poor are said, I’m sorry – it sounds like un-loving, callous disregard. When an organization is trying to lift people up by bringing a community together – I just don’t see how anyone can be categorically against that. I’ve long supported Christians (and others) involved in community organizing, and will continue to do so. Long live the CCDA!

And when I say “I just don’t see how anyone can be categorically against that” – I’m not trying to set up a rosy, pollyanna-ish caricature of ACORN or any other group. I think we’ve established that community organizers are people just like everyone else, and subject to the same foibles as the rest of us. I’m not nearly as convinced about ACORN’s voter fraud as I am that Bush stole the 2000 election via Florida and 2004‘s via Ohio, but I am sickened that anyone – poor or rich, liberal or conservative, black or white – would have hypothetically helped a pimp set up a brothel slavery ring for underage girls. This bears a thorough-going investigation and house-cleaning. But this isn’t where you’re coming from at all – you seem to be saying that community organizers are by definition lazy-enablers. I know too many organizers to know that this is simply not the case.

What’s particularly painful for me is the broken fellowship and lost friendships that are hemorrhaging over all these issues. I think about how politically lock-step I would have been with all of this political-rhetorical haze even 10 years ago, with my Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal/charismatic, and house church sisters and brothers. Though the differences between these sects are many, politically their conservative/Evangelical variants are virtually indistinguishable. (There are many in all of these streams who are politically heterogeneous, but they often suffer in silence as their viewpoints are ridiculed – either from the pulpit or around the living room.) I guess I’m coming from such a different place these days. I’ve said (repeatedly) that ACORN itself should be held accountable for anything that’s substantiated that it’s done, but this needn’t tar all community organizing organizations with the same brush – nor should it stain the reputation of the vast majority of ACORN workers. I think the reason why Beck, et. al’s, hysteria is so ‘believable’ to many is white fear, plain and simple.

(Van Jones Let’s not get started on the Van Jones lynching! I’ve been a fan of Jones for years – we were even wanting to book him for a Christian festival I help organize (there’s that word again!), Soularize, but we couldn’t host it this year due to funding. No honest reading of his excellent book, The Green Collar Economy, could possibly support the claim that Jones is a communist – he’s quite capitalistic, but not in a naive way that gives big business carte blanche do do what they want without factoring in social and ecological costs. If you’re willing to consider another take on Jones, there are other perspectives. And for a clear-headed, factual refutation of Glenn Beck’s deliberate ratings-and-power-inducing spin job, you must read this article and this one.)

But what do I mean by ‘white fear’? I mean what Jimmy Carter meant when he said

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said. “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans.”

Carter continued, “And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

Racist Obama Sign 7I think that many of my fellow caucasian peeps are afraid of nonwhite people in power. Whether that’s the distributed power of communities organizing for better conditions, Latino workers’ unions, or a person of color occupying the highest office in the land – it’s terrifying many conservative whites.

Some balked at this assertion- was I calling them the dreaded ‘R-word’ – racist?

Not necessarily. I don’t know most people well enough to make such an assertion. I tend to believe that most people aren’t overt racists – not consciously, anyway. And that’s not a back-handed slam: I’ve been in a relationship with a black woman (now married) for over 12 years. Until I was dating her for a couple of years, I had no idea how unconsciously racist I was in so many tiny but cumulatively world-shaping ways.

But let me ask you something: Where were all the spontaneous white/conservative uprisings from 2008-2008. GW Bush, to use an epithet presently applied to Carter, was a complete idiot politically. And yet he surrounded himself with people (like Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld) who weren’t idiots at all – they were ideologues in service to a neoconservative agenda exemplified by the Project for a New American Century, which has as its stated aim to extend a new American imperialism over the entire planet. (Not very conservative if you ask me – hence the ‘neo’ I guess). So we get into a little war that ends the lives of over 100,000 women, children, men and soldiers, and costs $3 TRILLION dollars – money we didn’t and don’t have. Based on half-@$$ed ‘intelligence.’ Let me ask you this: Why was it only the hippie peacenik liberals who marched against the war efforts in 2002-2003? Where were the tea-baggers, and town-hallers then? Heck, where were they when Bush himself, in the waning days of his presidency, authorized the first bailouts?

Nowhere, that’s where.

Racist Obama Sign 5Barack Obama has been president for less than nine months. He inherited, by any sane estimate, a $#!tload of problems from the previous decade. And yet right out of the gates folks are foaming at the mouth to bring him and his associates (and any perceived associates) down, and for what? Trying to fix the economic situation (my conservative friends and I agree on this – I don’t think Wall Street should be bailed out. I’m with this economist David Korten. But tell that to Big Business, the ultimate expression of Late Capitalism – they’re sure as hell not complaining), and trying to provide affordable and effective health insurance to everyone? I can understand political disagreement (and intelligent dissent), but bringing weapons to town halls, holding up signs with Obama’s face and horrible racist screeds?

I’ll ask again: Where was all this anger, vitriol, hysteria and fear these past 8 years? Why is (yes, I’ll name it) conservative, white America literally up in arms now when it was pacified as a contented mewling lamb during the Bush years? Why was W tolerable, even laudable, whilst O is Obaminable?

I’m helping raise an interracial family in a multiethnic neighborhood, so it doesn’t please me to ‘play the race card.’ It doesn’t make me happy to consider the possibility that this current state of affairs is fueled by racial fears and tensions, because to acknowledge such a potential pits neighbor against neighbor in my community – the ideas involved pit my little girl’s own blended genetics against herself. I don’t toss ‘white fear’ out there lightly. Racist Obama Sign 6

But let’s compare the previous eight years with the past nine months, shall we? Did each administration…

  • Take polarizing stances on social issues? Check.
  • Increase the size and power of the Federal government? Check.
  • Earmark lots of money for an initiative unpopular with a sizeable chunk of America? Check.

So: What’s the difference between GWB & BHO that has made these very different spiritual climates to live in? I have to say, the color of our Leader-in-Chief’s skin – with all the historical, cultural, and power-related pain this entails – is the most glaring difference.

This reality isn’t up for debate in my mind when I look at the barely-contained rage of so many indignant whites. My question is: What are people of faith, hope, and love to do given this reality? Are friends and followers of Jesus – and people of goodwill everywhere – going to turn a blind eye to this steadily-creeping phenomenon, much like Europe did toward Jewish people in the 1920s and 30s? Or are we going to confront this head-on, name it with love but resolve, and seek to diffuse these tensions by polemic-free debate that focuses on policy and not identity politics, and that throws parties rather than keeping locked up behind barred doors and picket fences? Me and my house, we choose the latter – God help us.

Why We Need Government-Run Universal Socialized Health Insurance

The best under-five-minute argument for ‘socialized medicine’ I’ve yet encountered.

Obama’s First 100 Days – My Grade: B-

https://i0.wp.com/blog.reybango.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/barack-obama-bw1.pngSo CNN is running this 100 Day Report Card of the Obama administration dealie that showed up in my Facebook. I compulsorily graded Mr. President & was done with it. But 40 FB wall comments later, I thought I’d explain my grade a little bit, in a hopefully less-incendiary, more policy-based, space. (Facebook walls can be brutal when you have lots of friends who are conservatives, and lots who are progressives!)

Overall, I think Obama is doing a great job in overall leadership & visionary categories. He came down to earth a bit in progressives’ hearts & minds with his cabinet choices – they seemed rather Clintonian. Like many Slow Food enthusiasts, I was initially disappointed in his Ag Secretary choice, Tom Vilsack, but I have hope that he might be different on organic/local food policy than his predecessors & former Monsanto cronies. (Though I am disappointed in his pro-ethanol stance)

That said, Obama’s charting his own course with sweeping reform & the stimulus package. I have a lot of empathy with him on the stimulus package, as it’s almost a lose-lose proposal – conservatives shriek socialism, and actual socialists, labor movement folks, and other progressives fret about it being pro-big-corporations. I can understand both fears, but lets face it: in the wake of the previous administrations’ war-debt fest, what’s left to do?

The Stimulus Plan, like the New Deal, is ambitious, flawed, & probably will work. I also appreciate Obama’s presence in global relations & his reconciling tone – it’s not cowardice to be friendly with former & current national ‘enemies;’ one might even say it’s a Christian virtue of quiet strength. Oh, and I LOVE that the Obamas have a pesticide-free garden on the White House lawn. It’s only symbolic, but symbols are important – we desperately need a food system overhaul in America. Oh, and I applaud the administration for setting an Iraq withdrawal, better ecological standards, and working on a light rail.

Now for what I don’t like: While I appreciate the pragmatism (& believe the good intentions) of the abortion-reduction strategy, many of Obama’s moves have been huge concessions to the pro-choice camp, even when they’ve been (in my opinion) politically unnecessary – like with embryonic stem cell research. Even Al Gore is now pointing to the viability of skin stem cells for the same breakthroughs that embryonics promised. I think this is an opportunity for the new administration to step up to the post-partisan plate.

Secondly, I’m just not sure overall if Obama’s going to make good on his promises to reverse harmful Bush administration trends toward less transparency and greater executive power – his policies on rendition, wire tapping, etc., are pretty fuzzy. I wish the new Congress would just repeal the Patriot Act.

Finally, while I think that Obama’s a kinder & gentler hawk than the Bush-Cheney crew, he’s still hawkish. I wish he’d seriously consider nonviolent alternatives to full-scale war in Afghanistan. (See Rethinking Afghanistan)

So that’s it. Here are some websites, from progressive *and* Libertarian sources, that outline some of my praises/concerns:

Huffington Post

Paul Raushenbush

American Prospect

AlterNet

Texas Talking Secession – Really??

So apparently the Right is having some kind of ‘tea party‘ today, protesting excessive spending and big government. (Really? Where were you these past 8 years??)

So, um, Fox anchor Glenn Beck, a key organizer of this tea party, is also urging states’ secession from the union. Think states would be too crazy to try such a thing? Think again! Texas – or a faction within her – comes through for us in the form of Governor Rick Perry a few days ago:

[Concise version here.]

Forgive me if I feel like the SNL ‘Seth and Amy’ Really…Really?? skits – but really, arch-conservative friends? For eight years you stand silently by while your man is in office, eroding our freedoms through the Patriot Act, expanding executive and governmental powers exponentially, never saying no to a spending bill, particularly those involving his trillions-of-dollars Iraq war? You just sit that one out? Really?

And so now, when a new administration inherits this moral and economic mess, and wants to invest (what I’ll admit is an incomprehensible amount of) money into restoring some of our core infrastructures, creating green jobs, and keeping things from spiraling out of control, now you find your voice and principled fortitude? Really??

Ideals and Means

I love socio-political ideals, and I think variety is the spice of life. I’m not trying to pooh-pooh your ideas, but I am asking you, my libertarian friends: Is this the right way to go about introducing your ideas, in a way that will further polarize a tired nation? Is this good timing? Secession – really? Let’s examine this along conservative lines…is it good for national security for our enemies to see us a divided states of America, right when we’re over-invested in an exorbitant overseas war and riding an economic maelstrom? Is secession going to help the economy? Is it going to help your poor neighbors? Are you looking for civil war? What on earth could be motivating you, right now?

I don’t have much of a dog in this fight…I grew up basically libertarian, and these days have anarchist leanings. I appreciate certain underlying tenets of both the Republican and Democratic parties, and I’m as unsure as you of current government responses to our macro-economic problems. But I do think that the Obama administration spending is principled spending, I do think they have a plan, even if it’s not something I’d align with every jot-and-tittle on.

When I was a kid – and before I married a beautiful black woman – I romanticized the South’s side in the Civil War. (I was a fundamentalist homeschooled kid in the ’80s, after all! Civil War re-enactors were common in my churches and homeschool groups) The battle for states’ rights, local vs. impersonal; these all seemed like worthy fights. Now, as both a follower of Jesus and an anarchist wannabe, I have a different set of values – though there are some continuities. I’ll address the continuities first: I do favor decentralized, locally-organized community. I think it’s the most sustainable way to self-organize and live – for food production, economics, et al. In one sense, Texas’s taunts and threats could be seen as a stepping-stone to just such an anarchist dream – but I doubt it. The belligerent attitudes I saw on display in the Governor’s video show me that if Texas were to secede, it would be a “Mini-Me” version of everything they’re projecting onto the Federal government. Texas rule would be at least as autocratic and top-down as they’re claiming the Feds are being. Now, for the part of me that’s inspired and empowered by Jesus: I don’t have a dog in this fight because I won’t fight. Nonviolent direct action, yes. But violence – physical, verbal, or threatened – no. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword – it wasn’t just Tupac who said that.

Let me put all my cards on the table: I hope that, 100 years from now, statehood is a thing of the past. I hope that the United States of America goes the way of the dinosaur. I hope the same for China, Russia, Brazil, Cuba…you get the picture. And I plan to work for this goal – respectfully and nonviolently – in my lifetime, in my 2009. But my methods cannot be incongruent with my goals. I want to see generative local communities working together in whatever interdependent relationships with other local communities that they wish. I don’t want revolution – revolution is too costly, and the ROI sucks. I want to see an evolution, which begins with a transformation in consciousness – a transformation that, I believe, is rooted in the renewing of our minds in the mind of God in Christ. Others who are not apprentices of Jesus will see this transformation practiced in different ways – I welcome them as neighbors and friends. So for me, consciousness change + local action change + global meme change = the change we seek. I don’t place faith in secession or the status quo to be what we’re looking for – it will only perpetuate cycles of violence, regime change, and decline.

North American Union or Divided Nation-States of America?

Here’s what I see happening: For years now, many on the far right and in anti-globalization quarters alike have feared the formation of a proposed North American Union, a Canada-US-Mexico trifecta that would institute a common currency and eliminate borders, paving the way for a continental monolith. I think that fear of potentially negative dimensions of this scenario have created an anxiety-fueled counter-scenario in the ‘foresight imaginations’ of many. As I’ve learned in futures studies, images of the future are powerful social indicators, containing in themselves the seeds of a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s look at this counter-scenario a little bit, from the fringes to the halls of power other than our own.

John Petersen of The Arlington Institute talks about intra-national division in an interview with EnlightenNext about 1980s research on

remote viewing exercises. They asked twenty-five hundred people to envision the United States in the year 2030. About eighty-five percent of them reported the same thing: It’s a place with no government, divided politically into four quadrants, and everyone is living in small communities, some of which are very defensive and full of guns and others where people cooperate and work together. Then Stephan Schwartz, a man who was involved in the U.S. government’s remote viewing program developed during the Cold War to psychically spy on the Soviet Union, reported a very similar thing. In his remote viewing exercises, he asked thousands of people what North America would look like in the year 2050, and they said: “There’s no government; it’s split into four; there are these small communities.”

Weird? You bet. (Especially strange that the US hires both remote viewers and Peterson himself on occasion – hey, Minority Report isn’t the only place where precogs work – welcome to real life in the 21st century!) And speaking of those Russians, leading Russian political analyst and professor Igor Panarin has said since 1998 that the US will divide into separate parts. Last fall, he said he saw the signs of this happening in 2009…

six parts altogether. The first one is the Pacific Ocean coast of the USA. I can give you an example: 53% of San Francisco’s population is Chinese. The Governor of Washington state was an ethnic Chinese; its capital, Seattle, is called the gate of the Chinese emigration to the USA. It is obvious that the Pacific Ocean coast has been gradually influenced by China. The second part in the south is definitely the Mexicans. In some areas, Spanish has become the official language already. Then comes Texas which has been openly fighting for independence. The Atlantic coast has a totally different ethnos and mentality. It could be split into two parts as well. And we are left with two central depressive areas. May I remind you that five central states where the Indians live had announced their independence. It was perceived as a joke or a kind of a political show. But the fact remains the same. Canada is making a strong influence in the North. By the way, Russia may require returning Alaska, as it had been rented out… [Full interview here; HT Brittian Bullock]

What a fascinating psychographic, rooted in the unconcious minds of probably millions across the past several decades and now reaching a tipping point. My point is not to comment on the ultimate validity of such visions, but to say that we (I’m speaking to my tribe of foresight practicioners primarily and fellow USAmerican inhabitants secondarily) need to take these scenarios seriously, flesh them out vividly, explore their implications and then act, concsciously and creatively. And I hope that people of faith could embody life-giving practices in this coming shift, becoming leaves on the Tree of Life ‘for the healing of the nations.’

Don’t Mess With Michele Norris

Michele Norris Facts is pretty funny. A sampling: A sampling: “The last person to mis-pronounce Michele Norris’ first name was shot in the face by Dick Cheney.”

Thanks, Steve! We can all use a laugh right about now.

Sunday Devotional: Irish Edition

Want to devote some time to reading this one? It’s right here on my new blog – MikeMorrell.org. Please update your RSS feeds, bookmarks, and blog rolls. Thanks!

Obama’s Public Works & The New Secretary of Agriculture: Your Voice Matters!

As everyone not living under a rock knows, President-elect Obama has pledged a massive public works program to reinvigorate both US economy and national infrastructure. I am mostly all for this initiative, though my inner childhood libertarian still wonders where all the money will come from. There are some good suggestions out there for funding though, so we’ll save such a ponderances for another blog post.

For now, I’d like to look at the kinds of projects deemed ‘public’ and worthy of such sweeping systemic updating. We all know that roads, bridges, and schools are vitally important. And we’ve heard the administration’s support for the creation of ‘green jobs.’ It’s the latter I’d like to expound upon, suggesting two areas of public works support that ought to receive a lot of attention and funds.

Greenways

When I first traveled to Europe in 2003, I was struck by how many of my new friends, grown adults, did not have drivers licenses. Then I was struck by how many restaurants and businesses were not connected by roads and parking, but rather, massive walking spaces. The atmosphere in these vehicle-free zones was intoxicating; I had never experienced a Commons space without cars and traffic. One of the inadvertent consequences of our first public works program in the U.S. was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, both a blessing and a curse. On the curse side, it further nationalized our food systems (more on that in a sec), and it made business dependent on proximity to highway exits. In the 21st century, we’re now looking at the relative value of this differently, recognizing what Bill McKibben calls a deep economy with ‘multiple bottom-lines.’

Enter the Greenway. When last in Atlanta, Jasmin and I had dinner with Jannan Thomas, director of DOOR Atlanta, and her husband Jay. We learned about something I should’ve known about our once-and-future city, but didn’t: The BeltLine project. The idea is simple: Take 22 miles of old, unused railroad track connecting Atlanta’s oldest cities (some now affluent, some in serious disintegration) and turn this derelict space into greenspace for joggers, walkers, and bikers. Further, develop park space and sustainable business along this space, and maybe, some nice public transportation – something the Southeast has never, ever had. The BeltLine project already has some steam and it looks like they’ll be doing it…over the next 25 years. Now I’m all for the long view; long-term projects used to be the norm and not the exception (Cathedrals used to take centuries to complete!). All the same, I think that a project of this urgent importance shouldn’t have to wait decades to complete when for-profit builders can erect a massive new condominium complex in 8 months.

Whadaya say, Obama administration? Would the BeltLine project (and others like it) merit some of our Public Works apportionment?

Local Food Infrastructure

Department of AgricultureEqually critical as where we can walk is what we eat. For health reasons, of course, but also ecological reasons. Did you know that most of our food is fertilized by petroleum and that, combined with transporting it all over the country (and world), food is the second-largest guzzler of gas behind cars? And accessibility reasons: Why is it that in the poorest sections of towns across America, the only ‘food’ available is truly awful pre-packaged faux food from gas stations and ‘convenience’ stores? Well it’s partially because of how corn and soybeam subsidies were developed during the Nixon administration, laws that are allowing mega-corporations like Monsanto to patent food itself…but I’m getting ahead of myself. : )  If this is a whole new world to you, you’re not alone. While I’ve never really mentioned it in print, for several years now I’ve been working on a book on the intersection of God, meal-sharing, and mystical spirituality. While in the process of finishing this book, I came across – only in this past year – a trio of truly mind-blowing books: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (Two of these are widely available at libraries and all three of them can be purchased quite affordably, under $35 total; get yourself a paradigm-altering Christmas present!) My education was further deepened by attending a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders training this past July in Washington DC and joining Slow Food USA, recommended by my friend (and Foresight@Regent program director) Jay Gary.

What have I been learning? A ton. A distillation: At present, our food system is broken and in need of healing in order to offer healthy, affordable, and ecologically-sustainable nourishment for all people. Further, food done right can build community and help people grow in compassion, ethics, and spirituality.

The aforementioned Pollan penned – just prior the election – An Open Letter to the Next Farmer-in-Chief. An excellent distillation of the needed food renaissance. His opening:

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

I repeat: Pollan’s Open Letter is well-worth reading in its entirety. So go for it. I’ll wait for you.

Back? Okay. There’s some good news: Local food initiatives are springing up like new growth all across North America; famers’ markets are the fastest-growing segement of eating options out there these days. But there are ways government can help, just like they’ve presently favoring Big Agribusiness that’s responsible for a lot of this mess. A shift in sensibilities could reverse the damage, and bring food back home. It’s already happening in Canada: Nova Scotia’s government has just pledged a quite-affordable amount to support development of “local food” systems. In their own words:

The province will provide $2.3 million over three years to fund “strategic infrastructure” and development initiatives that “enhance industry competitiveness, market access and direct marketing methods.”

“This funding will develop the roots between rural and urban food systems, and support marketing initiatives,” Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor said in a release Friday.

The province said its investment “will make it easier and more convenient to buy local foods” and will “complement” its current food marketing programs, Select Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia.

Fortunately for all of us, there’s a really huge actionable step right on our horizon in the U.S. Here’s an email I recieved today from Slow Food Triangle:

In these final days before President Elect Obama makes his selection for Secretary of Agriculture, we urge you to spread the word to your members about a petition they can sign to express their support for dynamic and sustainable choices for the post.

The petition lists six suggestions, including Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Slow Food leader Neil Hamilton, the Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.

You can find the petition here.

Even if the new administration doesn’t pick one of the listed candidates, signing the petition sends a strong message that we want a good, clean and fair food system and that we expect our new administration to make choices that support that vision. More information is available here and here.

We stand at a crossroads, and our next decisions matter a great deal. There are a few things we can do, right now, to make the world a safer, nourished, more abundant place: it’s going to happen through agribusiness reform.

For my friends on the left, realize this: Agriculture is a key ecological and humanitarian matter. Agriculture done right helps the earth in her innate, life-giving rhythms; it conserves and even produces energy. Intelligent agriculture policy feeds hungry people so no one will have to go without.

Friends on the right, some things to consider: Just as much as Homeland Security, this cabinet-level position will help determine our future strength as a nation and our vulnerability to terrorist attack. Smaller, localized food systems are grassroots capitalism and small business at their best. They create jobs and bring important jobs back to America. They restore the farmer to a place of respect in our society.

For my Christian friends, let’s consider: Jesus lived and died by way of his food habits. (And was resurrected as an eikon of Living Food & Drink) The way he chose to eat, and with whom he chose to eat opened up new vistas of the Kingdom of God on earth. And it was large part of what got him executed by the powers-that-be. I personally feel Jesus’ spirit stirring in this day and age to look at how food and food systems need to be approached in the 21st century. And while I feel churches should never wait for government initiatives to make a difference locally, I think we’re at a golden moment to speak truth to power – power that, it seems, is open to hearing from us.

I’m Asking You to Please Do Three Things:

Call to action time!

  • One, read Michael Pollan’s Open Letter. It’s really, really long – no matter, do it now. Interrupt your regularly-scheduled web surfing and focus for the next few minutes. Your attention span is precious and the information in this letter is vital. It’s that important. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Two, sign this petition.
  • Finally, if you don’t mind, forward this post to others you think would care about these matters – email, Digg, Stumble, Facebook message and re-post on your own blog, that’s fine by me. Thanks for caring!

To Vote or Not to Vote? An Election Links Roundup

So I haven’t really posted much about electoral politics this season. (Deep inhale.) I tend to agree with Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw of Jesus For President and Ordinary Radicals notoriety that “It’s not what you do at the ballot box on November 4 that matters, but what you do with your life on November 3 and November 5 that really counts.” I started thinking this way after 9/11. I was radicalized, really, once I saw how quickly common grief over terrorist atrocities transmuted into virulent nationalism and war-drum beating. Before I knew it, I signed the Kingdom Now 95 Theses and began looking into Anabaptist and Quaker traditions of nonviolence and even anarchism. [A technical aside – how do you all feel about the Snap Previews feature? In general I like it but I don’t like how whenever I link to my main site, zoecarnate.com, it always shows the top of the page – I actually link to specific sub-sections, say, nonviolence and anarchism sections just now. Of course, this owes more to the ghetto-fabulous design of my site than Snap’s deficiencies…] I considered my friend Andy’s advice not to vote, seeing it as an act of violence against people and idolatry of the State against God (consider vote is the same root as votive, as in votive candle – or devotion. Casting the ballot as an act of worship) . But in 2004 I just couldn’t stand by – I had to vote (Andy help me).

But maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about voting. After all, respectable anarchists like Noam Chomsky vote, sometimes. And I have a difficult time getting all Hauerwasian when listening to people like Anthony Smith, aka the Postmodern Negro, share why it’s awfully convenient (and white) to eschew voting for an ideological high ground.

Sooo I’m voting. And I’m voting for Obama. This isn’t even controversial in some quarters, as Obama’s appeal to younger Christians such as myself is pretty well-documented. Nonetheless, even Don Miller catches heat for this from some quarters, as have I. (Not that I’m equating myself with Mr. Miller) Mostly on abortion. I get that. I hope that my friends – from far-left anarchists to center-right Republicans and Libertarians – can forgive me for making what they might see as a grievous mistake.

An Email

I hope my old college buddy, whom I’ll refer to here as Billy Bob, in particular can forgive me. He just emailed me the other day after we saw each other at a frolicking-on-the-hillside reunion my alma mater has every year. Billy Bob writes:

Hey Mike,

Perhaps I’m just itching for a debate, I don’t know. But I recently ran across this letter from Huntley Brown, a black man, on why HE isn’t supporting Obama.
So help me understand… why do you support him? What is it about this man that rallies support from Christians like yourself?
Billy Bob*
*Not actual name
Now by “Christians like yourself” I don’t know if BB means “otherwise upstanding exemplars of faith and practice” or “scum-sucking, devil-worshipping, soulless maggots.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Here’s some of what I replied:
Thanks for asking, Billy Bob! I guess I should say first off that I am disappointed by Obama‘s stance on abortion. Really and truly. I wish he were ‘consistently pro-life‘ like me – that is, like a growing number of followers of Jesus, being against abortion, war in all forms, and the death penalty, and for life in all its forms. And I’m not particularly jazzed up about national politics in general. I lean toward anarchism really, so any trip to the ballot box is with some ambivalence. That said, I’m a rather independent voter, certainly not a party-line kinda guy, whether that party has elephants or donkeys in it. I was raised Republican, voted for Libertarian Harry Browne in 2000 (after considering Nader), and Democrat Kerry in 2004.
So why Obama? I’m a firm believer in not restating things that others have said so much better, so I’m gonna direct you now to my friend Brian McLaren. Brian’s taken a lot of heat for being so darn particular in his national election endorsement this year, but I trust his integrity in this decision. He felt like he soft-pedaled things a bit in the 2004 election, and as a result the full range of values people of faith care about weren’t really represented at the ballot box. (Not just ’cause of Brian – but, y’know, him and others like him). So he’s done this great, concise job of talking about the reasons for his support of an Obama presidency.
When it comes down to it, when I’m choosing to participate in national electoral politics, I’m pretty much a pragmatist. Do I believe Obama is the Messiah? No, but I like the guy, and I think he will be good for the this land’s imagination, this land’s psyche. Untold damage has been done to American self-perception and perception abroad. Obama-the-Man can’t possibly undo all that damage, but Obama-the-Idea can certainly inspire others to do so. I think a heightened personal ethic and community sensibility would prevail in an Obama administration, and I think he’ll be a particularly good role model for children – especially minority children. Again, I hold this in tension – I believe citizenship in God’s Kingdom utterly supersedes national boundaries – to me, nations and boundaries don’t exist. But insofar as we’re in the process of being healing balm for the nations, we are in a state of becoming – as individual nations, as a global people. We need to avail ourselves of every peaceful tool in our toolshed to be the change we need – and this year, I feel voting for Obama is one of those tools.
There ya go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Check out these links, and write me back sometime.

Hogs and Quiches,

Mike

Since penning this email, I’ve come across Tim Keel’s very excellent thoughts in his post Election 2008: Some Perspective.

Pro-Life, from Womb to Tomb?

As I’ve reflected on the myriad of ‘values’ commitments I have, the trifecta of life, ecology, and economy keep coming into play – and really, the latter two are different ways of saying ‘life’ – life for our poor, our ecosystems, our sick, our children, and our great-great-grandchildren. Here are some significant blog posts that have helped me think and pray my way through the challenges of being for all life in an election year.

A Plea to Pro-Life Voters – Lively Dust

Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Will Samson

Pro-life, Womb to Tomb – Sensual Jesus

Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Huffington Post

‘I’m Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and support Obama – National Catholic Reporter

Obama, Abortion, and Friendship – Faith Dance

Where I Stand Today on Abortion – Steve Knight

…and of course there’s the Pro Life, Pro Obama website itself – which strikes me as a bit too politically schmaltzy for my tastes, but it has some helpful resources nonetheless.

Must-Reads in an Election Year or Any Year

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

click to enlarge

We the Purple by Marcia Ford

Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh

https://i1.wp.com/www.ratzingerfanclub.com/liberalism/torture_eucharist.jpg

Anything here

Israelis for Obama & The Market & Etc…

Okay, so I have some real posts coming this week, but for now I just wanna say goodness gracious re: the Global Economy. I’ll try and have some right proper futurist-like thoughts together later – for now read Kevin’s rant. (As well as a futurist-like reply to Tripp Fuller’s gambit!) Also anticipate some house church/emerging church thoughts, and if I can get around to it the apparent un-popularity of the term ’emerging/ent’ these days. Oh yes! And thoughts from Transmillennial 2008!

For now, check out this video, Israelis for Obama…


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    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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