Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Democracy Now

Tell the DOJ to stand up for farmers today. End the fear and intimidation in rural America!

Dear Kendall,

Today family farmers face some of their toughest times since the Great Depression. In the last 48 hours we drove more than 900 miles across the country to be here in Normal, Alabama because we believe it's important to stand up for farmers in the face of unfair contracts and corporate abuse.

Right now, the Department of Justice and USDA are holding their second listening session on anti-competition issues in the food industry. Today Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder are listening to farmers talk about the abuses in the poultry industry that are forcing family farmers deeply into debt and out of business.

Unfortunately, because of how the poultry industry works, there’s a lot that they won’t hear. Despite widespread reports of price manipulation and corporate intimidation, the Department of Justice has had a hard time finding any poultry farmers willing to testify publicly about these abuses.

In the past few days we’ve heard directly from chicken growers who were warned by the company that they contract with that if they even show up at this hearing they will face retaliation, possibly losing their contracts. There’s no place in America for these types of threats to our nation’s farmers.

Click here to stand up for family farmers across the country who bear the brunt of agribusiness’s corporate abuses in the Heartland. Tell Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack it’s time to put an end to this type of corruption.

Farmers are afraid to come forward because they know if they do they face the possibility of losing their jobs, their houses and their farms. This happens all the time in rural America. Last year America got a taste of what the chicken industry is all about when poultry grower Carole Morison, who starred in Food Inc., spoke out against the industry. After 23 years her company cut her contract! And the only way she could hold onto her farm was because both she and her husband had two off-farm jobs.

For decades, poultry growers have complained about the unfair contracts, price manipulation and loss of income due to corporate intimidation. Without competition, family farmers have no choice but to submit to company demands, however unreasonable.

Farmers no longer own the chickens, but raise them on contract, regularly going into debt more than $1 million to build highly specialized buildings, with only one or two companies to sell to under contract in their area. As a result, farmers have no competitive markets to sell to and companies like Tyson and Perdue dictate the terms of the contract, including costly modifications to their structures. Oftentimes these are demands that farmers are simply unable to sustain.

In these “take it or leave it” contracts, farmers live in constant fear of having their contracts canceled if they fail to comply with the demands of companies such as Tyson.

Now, as the Department of Justice is finally ready to investigate this deplorable situation, the Big Chicken companies have put the word out that they will retaliate if any grower testifies. On the way down to Alabama we spoke with one grower who actually said that farmers are afraid to even show up at the public hearing, lest they become “made an example of”.

This type of fear and intimidation has no place in America.

Here at Food Democracy Now! we believe that farmers should not have to live in fear of having their contracts pulled out from under them, forced into continuous debt and should be paid a fair wage for their labor.

Tell the Administration to stand up for family farmers like Carol Morison as they bravely share their stories and fight for justice. It’s time to Fight Big Food!

Thank you for participating in food democracy!

Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now Team

We need to keep the pressure on! Please donate to Food Democracy Now today – whether it’s $5 or $50. We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Full body scanners at KCI

My parents just informed me that full body scanners are now in use at the Kansas City airport. I predictably blew a gasket while they basically implied it was just another small price to pay to fly safer.

I really think they are over-the-top and a pretty sever invasion of privacy. The idea that some TSA fuckwad can look at my girlfriend or mother or sister naked is disturbing, to say the least. I would rather take my chances with metal detectors and than have to think about some random asshole from Raytown making regular deposits into his Spank Bank in the name of national security.

I really think we're not too far off from having to strip down completely naked behind a curtain, check our clothes and those pesky navigation disrupters (cell phones and iPods) with security and put on a TSA-issued robe for the flight. Then again, we'd only be one karate expert terrorist attacking a flight attendant away from having our hands and feet restrained throughout the flight.

I can't wait for the not-too-distant future where I'm paying $1,000 to sit naked and tied up in a cramped space for three hours, and no, I'm not talking about my plans to hang out with Charlie Sheen and Hugh Grant this Saturday night.

At this point, I don't think too many people would even object to the robe scenario. Anything for safety, right?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Learning to accept consequences

I just wanted to give everyone an update on the current state of my digestive track, as I went out for Szechuan hot pot for the first time last night. But first allow me to set the scene for you...

Picture me on the edge of a cheap, wooden chair in a small, brightly lit restaurant in Oakland's Chinatown. A few minutes after the waiter has finished asking the standard Are-you-sures, he sets down a junky, old burner with such an old connector to the gas can that it seems like it could explode at any minute. He soon brings out a huge bowl and sets it on the burner. Like a grunt on recon, I probe cautiously at first, picking out familiar pieces of beef, shrimp and mussels from a boiling cauldron of spicy broth. I like what I taste, so I start fumbling with the chopsticks more rapidly as I stop discriminating and start pulling out pig intestines, liver, and other unmentionables.

The heat begins at my lips as the numbing effect of the infamous peppercorns takes hold and doesn't stop until the heat of the chilis have warmed by whole throat and stomach. The sweat begins as beads on my forehead but quickly advances to a full-on flop sweat. My hair is naturally thin so as the sweat bonds my hairs together, you can clearly see my pink scalp. The spiciness is becoming hard to handle and I'm breathing so heavily that I'm almost grunting. The occasionally moan of pleasure dueling with pain emits from a deep-down place in my body I can't even control.

With each bite, my shirt is getting flecked with stains of red chili oil as the toxic substance drips through my beard and down my chin. My mouth is so numb from the peppercorns that I basically have a speech impediment, but I'm wide-eyed and rambling nonstop at Rachel because the pain has released so many endorphins that I'm practically delirious. She is saying almost nothing because she is starving and didn't really want to go this restaurant anyway and the food is too incendiary for her to eat. She tries in vain to mask her contempt for me, but who can blame her?

Eventually my belly is so full that I can eat no more and waive the white flag. The table and napkins are ruined. The aftermath must look like some deranged savage cut the throat of his own horse and scooped out the entrails with his bare hands. The restaurant is cash only, so I borrow some money from Rachel, throw down the cash on the table, and stumble out into the night, still drunk on heat.

Flash forward to today: My stomach is bubbling and gurgling like a volcano getting ready to erupt. I sit in my cubicle like a prisoner on death row who has exhausted his appeals, resigned to my fate and waiting for my inevitable date with destiny in what I hope will be my sanctuary: the least frequented restroom in the office.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Mexicans seem to care for this holiday about as much as Jews care for Hanukkah, but I thought I'd say a few words in honor of this pseudo-holiday.

1. I love our neighbors South of the Border. I have said numerous times that they will come to be as beloved to Americans as the Irish, but with better food.

2. Is the Arizona immigration racist and evil as written? I haven't read it and I doubt many have, but I would imagine a law like that would depend on how it's enforced. If brown people are getting pulled over for no reason and asked for their visas, then yes, it's a bad law. But what if it becomes clear from talking to a person in another circumstance that his immigration status is rather dubious?

- Beldar, you still haven't given me your social security number.
- My social security number... I--....I am sorry. I keep forgetting.
- I need that number. I got state payroll forms. You do have a number?
- Of course. I am a citizen.
- All right. Give me the numbers.
X... point...3...

In that case, it would be pretty clear that the person in question is an illegal alien. Believe it or not, you can sometimes figure out that someone has immigrated illegally without pulling them over for no reason other than to check their papers. I would imagine it sometimes just comes up in other contexts.

If the Arizona law is then directing law enforcement officials not to ignore the immigration status, is that a bad thing? Aren't the lawmakers just wanting the existing law to be enforced, sort of like how doctors are required by law to report parents to Social Services if there's evidence of child abuse? I personally don't really care for mandatory reporting because I think it takes away discretion and common sense, but that doesn't mean it's an evil or bad law.

Again, this very well might be a terrible law and I think immigrants (legal or illegal) from the South make this country a better place*. Just about every single immigrant I've ever met, I have wanted him or her living in this country a hell of a lot more than the average white trash American citizen I see yelling at and spanking his kid at theme marks or holding up grammatically incorrect signs at Tea Parties calling Obama a Nazi.

I think the most glaring failing of the law, from what I know, is that there is no exception for victims or witnesses of crimes. If this law discourages immigrants from coming forward in these situations, it should be obliterated from the books now and without question (or amended). But right now, I'm just wondering if the national reaction to Arizona's frustration over immigration policy is a little knee jerk at this point.

*Do illegal immigrants make this country a better place? Probably. Do they deserve to not be deported....probably not.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Genetically modified crops are creating new super weeds that are resistant to herbicides.

And in other news....

Our overreaction to skin cancer that led to a total aversion of the sun has led to Vitamin D deficiencies and a surprising return of rickets. Prepare to be surprised again when a sudden uptick in Vitamin D over-consumption leads to some equally worse problem.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Senators oppose Know Your Farmer Program

Pat Roberts, from my home state of Kansas, believes that small farmers are rich hobbyists and not worthy of our support. He would rather we continue to give billions to the large conventional corporations that are making us fatter by the minute.

I wrote Senator Roberts to tell him how much his letter upset me.