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Archive for December, 2009

December 15th, 2009

Progressive Culture Tourism

I have these arguments online from time to time with nutcases who feel this world would be just peachy keen if everyone were made to live according to the dictates of their particular religion.  You get to a point where the argument becomes why do I want to trample all over their religious freedom.  Because for instance, I’d like to marry someday and their religion says homosexuality is an abomination, and if I can marry a same-sex partner then…somehow…that means I’m trampling on their religion and I need to respect their deeply held religious beliefs.  My argument is they need to respect American Cultural Values of liberty and justice for all because that is what is making it possible for them to practice their religion in the first place. 

But a lot of people who have absolutely no respect for the cultural values that make American religious freedom possible, just love appropriating little bits and pieces of it when it suits them, without any regard for the culture that made that which they find worthwhile possible. 

I’m working on a blog post about a column by Rod Dreher in the Dallas News, which has prompted me to scan his blog on BeliefNet, and I came across this…

"Whole Foods Republicans"? Er, wow.

Wherein Dreher quotes Michael J. Petrilli in the Wall Street Journal, thusly…

What’s needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate "Whole Foods Republicans"–independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)

What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There’s no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation.

…rides his bike to work…  Oh yes…let’s hear it for libertarian road rules, where everyone gets to decide for themselves what safe speeds are and what safety equipment needs to be on their cars and whether the bicycle has the right of way or they do because they’re in a bigger more powerful vehicle and placing limits on how automobiles behave in mixed traffic is just a way of Big Brother penalizing bigness and success.  Let the marketplace of traffic decide who the winners and losers are.  That’ll make all those Whole Foods Republican cyclists happy I’m sure. 

Yes…buying food made by companies who think selling people crap just because they can is immoral is so very nice isn’t it?  How wonderful it would be, if corporate America had to behave like that, if the law held them accountable for selling food that damaged people’s health…

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Make Popcorn

Two years ago, Orville Redenbacher soared from the graveyard and announced in weeks of TV ads that his popcorn was now free of diacetyl. That’s the chemical in artificial butter flavoring that has been blamed for sickening hundreds of workers, killing a handful and destroying the lungs of at least three microwave popcorn addicts.

Almost every other popcorn maker followed suit.

But now, government health investigators are reporting that the "new, safer, butter substitutes" used in popcorn and others foods are, in some cases, at least as toxic as what they replaced.

Even the top lawyer for the flavoring industry said his organization has told anyone who would listen that diacetyl substitutes are actually just another form of diacetyl.

So what is the Obama administration going to do about it? Nothing meaningful, at least for a year, it said this week, stunning unions, members of Congress, public health activists and physicians who have pleaded for government action to protect workers and consumers from the butter flavoring…

…When diacetyl trimmer is in the presence of heat and water, it will release diacetyl. And butter starter distillate is not a substitute for diacetyl because it contains high concentrations of diacetyl. However, it is considered a natural material, which is a boon to companies that wish market their food items with the "natural" label, Hallagan said in an interview from Colorado.

Hallagan said that his trade association discouraged using these materials and calling their products "diacetyl-free."

But he added that his group "is not a regulator and has no legal authority to prohibit their use. That’s up to the food manufacturers."

Let’s hear it for the invisible hand of the marketplace.  How the hell did we ever expect to get meaningful healthcare reform done when we can’t even make the food companies sell food that doesn’t kill people?  The alternative food marketplace evolved from an eminently liberal-progressive disgust with how big business treats its customers and is allowed to get away with it again and again by government that allows itself to be influenced by big business money.  If people who shop in that marketplace "view big government with great suspicion" it’s more likely because they can see how corrupted it’s become by corporate interests every day the current health care debate goes on, then that they’re all just waiting for someone to tell them they’re republicans. 

In fact, a lot of them probably aren’t shopping at Whole Foods anymore.  I know I’m not…

To John Mackey at Whole Foods

Since no one at Whole Foods Market Inc., can tell CEO and co-founder John Mackey just how bad he screwed up, I will. Mr. Mackey, your extremist views on employee benefits and unionization have, lucky for you, mostly flown under the progressive radar to date. Which is why pushing that luck with this screed on healthcare suggests you are either out of your flippin mind or have suffered a lapse in business acumen not seen since New Coke. And in the WSJ no less:

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment.

Mr. Mackey, I’m not sure if you understand who it is that shops at your organic grocery chain: a lot of progressives, vegetarians, professional and amateur athletes, and others who care so much about the environment and what they eat that they’re still willing to shell out three bucks for an organic orange, even in the midst of the worst recession in sixty years. I was proud WFMI was based in my hometown of Austin, and defended it against most of the conservatives I knew growing up there, many of whom still hold your entire business in utter contempt. Some of them ridiculed me for shopping at Whole Foods, with all the "tree huggers and granola eaters and hippies" who, incidentally, made you a millionaire.

Mr. Mackey, you just shat all over your best customers. Given the years of pseudonymous postings on Yahoo finance slamming a competitor you were quietly trying to acquire at the time, double talk and unethical behavior arguably seems to be becoming a habit for you. So I will never, ever, shop at your stores again, unless you retract that op-ed, apologize for stabbing us in the back, or resign. In this day and age, it’s just too easy to locate competitors. Until then, well, judging by the Whole Foods community forum, not to mention the discussion in Hopeful Skeptic’s and Aptoklas’ diaries, you’ve finally managed to universally piss off everyone. I predict the next few weeks of your life are going to suck, immensely.

Dreher here, and his pal at the Wall Street Journal, are trying to drum up support on the right for their union busting Randian friend, since he had the regrettable stupidity of telling his customer base that his store’s progressive facade is just that.  Not quite as deceptive as a box of microwave popcorn claiming to be diacetyl-free, but more like that doughnut shop in Pittsburgh with the name Peace, Love and Little Doughnuts with a hippy love peace theme that’s owned by a religious right nutcase who hates gays and liberals and democrats and writes on his blog that…

This crowd will not rest until Homosexuality is mainstream; until the Second Amendment is done away with; until abortion on demand is as common and accepted as going to the dentist; until sexual images and strip clubs line our streets and suburbs; until government education is started in the womb; until disagreement with their political party is “hate speech” and becomes a crime; until they pass the Fairness Doctrine and rid the county of Conservative talk radio; until they transfer our sovriegnty to the UN, etc. etc. etc… 

Right.  Whatever.  There is money to be made by marketing to urban progressives obviously, or the con artists wouldn’t bother with branding scams like Peace, Love and Little Doughnuts.  But at least they’re honest liars.  Mackey’s Whole Foods is to grocery stores, what a lot of high end native American trading posts are in the southwest.  He sells the best items he can find, without the slightest regard for the culture that brought them forth.  He is it for the money, not to cultivate the culture that made what he sells possible, knowing full well that enough of his customers won’t care as long as the goods keep coming. 

But what do you make of a bunch of free market republicans who would rather buy their food in the alternative food markets progressives created so they could have something fit to eat and feed their children, then buy from the big food factories they’ve set free, free at last from the chains of government oversight?  You call them practical.  A Whole Foods Republican is someone who doesn’t want to eat from the table they set for everyone else.  Ezra Klein writing in The Washington Post about Mackey’s Wall Street Journal said…

Food is more like health care than it is like cable television. We worry if people don’t have enough food to eat. We worry quite a lot, in fact. So we have a variety of programs meant to ensure that people have sufficient food. If you don’t have much money, you rely on these programs. As of September 2008, about 11 percent of the population was on food stamps. It’s probably somewhat higher now. Millions more rely on the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and reduced-price school lunches.

The insight that people need food has not led us to simply deregulate the agricultural sector (though that might be a good idea for other reasons) or change the tax treatment of food purchases or make it easier for rich people to donate to food banks, which is what Mackey recommends for health care. It’s led us to solve, or try and solve, the problem directly by giving people money to buy food. And that works. These programs, as every Whole Foods shopper knows, haven’t grown to encompass the whole population or set prices in grocery stores. If you have more money, you shop for food on your own. And if you have a lot of money, you shop at Mackey’s stores. That’s pretty much the model we’re looking at in this iteration of health care reform. We’re also laying down some rules so grocery stores — excuse me, health insurers — can’t simply refuse to sell you their product, or take it away after it’s already been purchased.

Mackey, playing to type, has offered a Whole Foods solution for health care: It makes the system even better for the rich and the young and the educated — the sort of people who shop at Whole Foods, in other words — and doesn’t do a lot for those who really need help. But the existence of a vibrant institution like Whole Foods within a broader system that considers it unacceptable — at least in theory — for the poor to go hungry, and so subsidizes their purchase of food, does have lessons for heath-care reform.

Emphasis mine.  If you think Mackey is simply suffering myopia you are not paying attention.  He’s a Randoid.  Me…I buy from Trader Joe’s these days.  It’s smaller then the Whole Foods down the street from me, but that Whole Foods used to be a Fresh Fields until Mackey gobbled our local natural food chain up.  A lot of folks here in Maryland had bad feelings about that when it happened, but Mackey put on a good show for us right up until the Wall Street Journal editorial.  Now we know what we’re dealing with.  Now I have another reason not to shop there.  I don’t want to be rubbing elbows with rich republican homophobes who support Proposition 8 but absolutely love the work their gay landscaper does around their house. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Progressive Culture Tourism

December 11th, 2009

Fresh Cartoon…

I’ve updated the cartoon page…

Copyright © December 4, 2009 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.


A bunch of stuff from OUTLoud, and a few others…all on the Political Cartoon Page.  I’m continuing work on A Coming Out Story as well…and hope to have more episodes up by the end of the year…


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fresh Cartoon…

December 10th, 2009

“Let us live by their example…”

So President Obama got his Nobel today.  And a lot of people, including myself, were feeling more then a tad cynical that he’s gone to Oslo to receive it, right at the very moment his justice department is vigorously defending John Yoo …an act that seems to gut the very heart and soul out of the Geneva Conventions, and makes a mockery of the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals.  Obama has greatly disappointed me in so many ways, and will probably keep on doing so. 

And yet I am so very, very glad he’s president.  The difference between him and the republican mob here at home was evident the moment he started speaking.  Reliably, over and over, this man speaks to our hopes and aspirations, and not our fears.

Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he’s outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protester awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school — because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child’s dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Of course, we need to hold him to the ideals he takes his stand upon.  But this is much, Much better then the alternative the republicans are offering. What kind of America do you want…one that’s constantly being jerked around by the things that frighten us, or one that is constantly being called home to its hopes and aspirations?

He does it, and not without being blunt about the kind of world we live in, and that our chances of complete success are slim. Oscar Wilde once said we are all living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.  I don’t for a minute think we are All living in the gutter.  But if you don’t look at the stars beyond it you will never find your way out.  Still, the gutter must be aknowledged.  Because it is going to put up a fight to keep you and I and everyone from leaving it…and time and again it will win.  The street-wise idealists are exactly the kind of leaders we need right now. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “Let us live by their example…”

December 9th, 2009

Heroes Of The Culture War #1062 – Collect The Entire Series!

Via SLOG, for your consideration…Rod Jetton, Missouri House Speaker (former):

Jetton explains why Lipke was removed

Wednesday, February 7, 2007
By Rod Jetton

There has been much discussion concerning my decision to replace state Rep. Scott Lipke of Jackson as a committee chair. Legislative leaders in our region have urged me to explain my actions and clarify the situation.

The problem centers on Jessica’s Law that we passed last year. As chairman of the Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety, Lipke sponsored and handled this bill as it moved through the legislature.

Jessica’s Law was a great bill, which we needed to pass to protect our children from sexual predators. Regrettably, Lipke chose to use the bill to delete 14 words from our laws in order to repeal the gay sex ban in Missouri.

Thanks to that deletion, it is now legal to engage in deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex here in Missouri. This law had been on our books for decades.

Well…yes…except the U.S. Supreme Court nullified all the state sodomy laws, so it’s not enforceable.   But Jetton holds out hope for a brighter tomorrow…

After being confronted about his actions, Lipke told us it was "no big deal" because the Missouri law was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it is a big deal, because now it is easier for gay couples to adopt children in our state.

Several members told Lipke how upset they were that he didn’t tell them about the gay sex ban and let them make up their own mind about repealing it.

Judges come and go, and Supreme Court decisions change back and forth. Who knows? These new judges may reverse that decision.

Yes…clearly Lipke had to go because now Missouri legislators would have to go to all the trouble to make it legal again to throw same sex couples into jail if the supreme court decides to let them start doing it again.  And besides…this is also an issue of profound Moral importance…

I’m disappointed nobody caught those 14 words. But I think I know why. We all trusted Lipke and Jessica’s Law was a good law we needed to pass. We all wanted to vote for a good bill that would protect our children. In our rush to make a positive difference, we didn’t look over the 46-page bill close enough because we trusted Lipke.

That’s why I had to make a change in the committee chairmanship. The members of our Republican caucus have lost their faith in Lipke. They expect me to appoint chairmen who will keep them informed of controversial details that could cause problems.

I have fought attempts by liberals to repeal the gay sex ban for years, and I am now embarrassed to say that I unknowingly voted for the very thing I have been fighting against.

Lipke was removed as chair because his fellow legislators no longer trusted him…

After all…we just wanted to do something good for the children.  And then we had to vote to treat the gay once decently too once they grew up and only liberals want to do crap like that and I’ve been fighting against gay loving liberals for years.  I am married with three children and attend Methodist church regularly.  I am a man of high moral values…

Except when I’m not…

Former Missouri House Speaker (R) Beats Up, Chokes Mistress During Sex

…former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton is facing assault charges for allegedly beating the shit out of his mistress while having sex. His ladyfriend had not uttered the “safe word,” probably because Jetton was beating her unconscious.

The Scott County court clerk confirms a felony complaint has been filed against former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton for an incident that allegedly took place Nov. 15 in Sikeston, Mo. […]

The complaint alleges Jetton “recklessly caused serious physical injury to ——- by hitting her on the head, and choking her resulting in unconsciousness and the loss of the function of part of her body.”

UPDATE, 3:50: The affidavit attached to the probably cause statement alleges Jetton went to the home of the victim Nov. 15, where he and the victim drank wine and watched a football game. The victim claims Jetton hit her on the face and choked her, leaving bruises that the police department photographed.

The affidavit claims the assault occurred during the night and into the morning of Nov. 16. It says Jetton and the victim agreed on a “safe word” “to use as a stop word during intercourse.”

The “safe word” is hard to utter when you’re being CHOKED TO DEATH.

Jetton and wife agreed earlier this year to a divorce settlement.  So I guess her safe word was "DIVORCE".  I have a hunch why…

Jetton in Probable Cause: "You Should’ve Said Green Balloons"

Jetton went to the woman’s residence in Sikeston, Mo. with two bottles of wine, according to the report.

"(The woman) said she did not see him pour the wine because she did not follow him into the kitchen, but he returned to the living room and handed her a glass of wine. (The woman) remembers watching a football game and said once she finished the glass of wine, she began ‘fading’ in and out and remembered losing consciousness several times during the evening," wrote Detective Bethany McDermott in her report.

McDermott reports that Jetton and the woman agreed on a safe word of "green balloons" to use as a stop word during intercourse.

"(The woman) recalls Jetton hitting her on the face very hard. She then remembers waking up, lying on the floor and Jetton was choking her. (The woman) said she did not know what happened with her memory because she had been drunk but had never had the blank spots in her memory," McDermott reported.

"(The woman) said Jetton stayed the night with her and when he woke up he gave her a kiss and said, ‘You should have said green balloons.’ Jetton left the woman’s residence and had not returned," McDermott added.

McDermott reported that a Sikeston police officer reported seeing bruises on the woman, including on the outside of both thighs and around her breast.

The police officer observed the bruises to the woman and took photographs for evidence on November 18th. 

Okay…all snarkiness aside…this is sick.  How completely twisted up inside do you have to be to want to beat up the sex you are attracted to?  How can you even think to take a fist to that which you desire?  Yes…yes…  I know that some folks are into S&M and B&D and all that.  But couples who do that sort of thing do it together and they’re both into it and they’re both getting off on it.  This wasn’t that.  It was an attack.  It was hate.  Hate toward the woman…maybe toward all women…and maybe even toward his own sexual desire for them.  The more he desired her, the more he hated her.

But among the culture warriors you see a lot of this sort of thing. The pathologies of hatred.  Hatred of sex.  Hatred of women.  Hatred of minorities…foreigners…any smaller, weaker, Other.  And fear.  Fear of loosing power.  And perhaps that is one reason why desire is the thing they hate most of all.  The object of your desire has power over you, and it frightens them to loose control…frightens and disgusts them how easily others are willing to share power, give and receive, take and be taken, in the dance of desire.  The author Mary Renault once said that politics like sex is a reflection of the person within.  If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your politics and it will come out in your sex life when what matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that.  Case in point: Jetton’s knuckle dragging prejudices against gay people are the least of his issues. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Heroes Of The Culture War #1062 – Collect The Entire Series!

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