Sunday, December 30, 2007
San Luis Obispo County’s website | 12/28/2007 | Master Gardener: A gardener shouldn’t count on rain water
I ran across Dust Pan Alley today- and love the story on eating locally. Dustpan Alley This Oregonian packs over 500 lbs of tomatoes a year into cans. And she has a great desigern's eyer as well. Check out the Apron with a Peace sign pocket on it. Cool stuff you can find at Etsy -- home of all crafty coolness.;)
I like the ease and certain random surfing at etsy-- some of my favorite letter press work is on it-- from another artist. And I know a silversmith here in Seattle that sells quite a few earrings on Etsy.
Glad to share this resource.
Living this far north without sun is harder than the rains. The rains are here for the same reason we have big trees and salmon. And I can live with that gift. But the withdrawl of light and the chilly mornings, the snow-- even in warm Seattle next to the Sound-- that is "challenging."
I never thought I would say I look forward to a retail show-- but I actually enjoy being at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. It is such a signal of spring here.
Do you have a planting calendar to share? --TSC
San Jose Mercury News - Dig it: Your 2008 planting calendar
Red State Green writes about her problems ordering asparagus seed-- and in the process discovers the impersonal world of corporate support-- where it looks like three or for mid size nurseries are going in on one customer support phone service-- or maybe they are all owned by Home Despot and disguised as independent nurseries like Spring Hill, Gurney's?
I take the point away to shop locally for seeds as much as possible, or when you source your seeds somewhere else, look for an independent that is great at what they do.
Two customers of mine are American Meadows and Vermont Wildflower Farm
I love both places -- they have people who care about wildflower and other seed-- that's what they grow and love.
Somehow we have to balance out the botanical craving for the exotic color and cool plant with thoughtful purchases that signal your investment in small business, niche growers like Vermont Wildflower Farm and people who are right there on the phone to answer your questions.
Spring forth! Happy New Year.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
John Edwards has made America look at poverty in our country like no other D, and now he is challenging us to fight -- not make nice to the corporate powers that are jacking up our gas prices for billions in profit as the end all of society. Sorry -- it is not.
I am supporting Edwards just for speaking this truth so consistently over the past year.
Middle class in our country is getting gutted by the loan sharks in the housing market, the credit card and oil companies and persistent advertising that tells people they don't have enough stuff.
Time for a change.
I hope you support Edwards for President. If not -- then Obama or even Clinton's moderate Republican politics would be welcome.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Read Krugman's piece here to understand one of the reasons I support John Edwards and his clear as a fighter for middle class America against corporate pillaging of this country's working people.
More soon. Iowa being a caucus state, best organized and turning out friends wins.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Are you plotting next year's hummingbird garden?
Do you need ideas on what to plant for the perfect wildflower garden?
What if you got your planting tips in the form of beautiful art you could easily send to friends and fellow master gardeners?
I made a new series of Good Nature Greening Cards -- I call them "Greening Cards" because they're printed on fine certified forest papers (FSC for those who want the acronym) and feature art by the best realist artists in North America.
FSC certified papers are greener than some recycled content -- simply because recycled can mean anything from taking pulp that has fallen on the paper mill floor and putting it in the paper mix-- to super green 100% post consumer paper -- which is greener than certified.
So in a range of papers, we are printing on just about the greenest available for highest quality paper and green content.
To see posters of key plants and animals from Good Nature check out our Holiday art gift sale.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
“We are the people we have been waiting for.”
Tom Friedman had a good night's sleep and writes a funny, optimistically green cheerleading editorial.
I have a hard time keeping all the Tom Friedman's in my mind -- the Bush pimp my Iraq war Friedman is right there next to the green evangelist.
Well -- let's see what he says or doesn't say about Bush's belligerence with Iran. In the meantime, read on.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I wish my whole battened
heart were a property
like this, with swallows
in every room -- so at ease
they twitter and preen
from the picture frames
like an audience in the gods
before an opera
and in the mornings
wheel above my bed
in a mockery of pity
before winging it
up the stairwell
to stream out into light.
Thanks to John Hildebidle for sharing this with me.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
BBC NEWS | Africa | Displaced in Somalia: Faduma
There but for the grace of God go I.
Compassionate ones, why is this in our world?
What can be done?
I contribute to Doctors Without Borders
You? Feel free to add your favorite aid group.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I Used to Be but Now I Am
I used to be inexorable,
But now I am elusive.
I used to be the future of America,
But now I am America.
I used to be part of the problem,
But now I am the problem.
I used to be part of the solution, if not all of it,
But now I am not that person.
I used to be intense, & useful,
But now I am heavy, & boring.
I used to be sentimental about myself, & therefore ruthless,
But now I am, I think, a sympathetic person, although
I used to be a believer,
But now, alas, I believe.
Two Pigs - New York Times
One of America's best editorial writers -- Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about the pending slaughter of his pigs, and lifts the veil for us to see when an animal's life is taken - killed for meat. Klinkenborg manages to matter of factly write of the necessity of violence, witness, and sacred ritual.
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW: Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella
Julie is a friend and one of the best artists in America-- her playful intelligence informs all of her art, comforting us with an ancient art form -- connecting American common sense with Russian primitive beauty.
Friday, November 09, 2007
"A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned.
A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before anyone else backs him up.
If we believed that the whole car-full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never even be attempted. There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming....Faith in a fact can help create the fact."
-- William James, from "The Will to Believe" (c. 1896)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The (Warming) World Is Not Flat - Dot Earth - Climate Change and Sustainability - New York Times Blog
(Photo credit: Joao Silva for NYT)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
If only you knew
If only you knew
The tears I shed at night
The memories I remember when I cry
The pain I feel when im sad
The feeling of lose when im mad
Remembering you and how you used to be
Wishing you weren’t changed
And go back to being the friend I once had
I once loved
I once adored
And looked up to
But now that’s gone
If you only you knew
The pain I feel every night
The wetness of my pillow
The thoughts of you and me
The feeling of depression when I see what could have been
Watching what I have lost
Hoping one day it was all a dream
And not reality
The pain I feel
When I know that you are there
just not for me
Knowing that you still love me
Just not like it used to be
Knowing that I threw it away
And it wont come back
If only you knew
My reality behind my eyes
If only you saw
How im faking the smile everyday
How im hiding the pain of you inside
How im trying really hard to forget you
But I see you everyday
And this is reality
And life wont change for the benefit
And your not willing to change for me
And im willing for you
How I would be there till the end with a smile on my face
And how you would wander off somewhere
With the look of interest in something other than me
And the pain I feel when I follow
Knowing I cant give up
If only you knew
The pain I feel
Everyday of my life
The sadness behind my eyes
The lies that I say
The fake life that I live for you
The love that I have fading away
Hatred moving upon reality
And life ending slowly
And soul dying
And If only you knew
Here is new sketch-- rough draft art "Bummer, better, best!!" highlighting cartoons of the worst to best transport tools for people today. What do you think? Should we add some message or let the art speak for itself?
Bumpersticker? Card? small poster?
I would appreciate your editorial.
PS: I want to make a series of these -- next up an incadescent light bulb, compact fluorescent and the sun with bummer better best underneath.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Cell phone jammer: I want one. There. I said it. Arrest me for my pleasant thought of quieting a rude fellow traveler. I think cell phone jammers ought to be free and abundant. Sell them as Rudeness Jammers -- for all people who feel their conversations about groceries, work, and --oh honey I am almost at my bus stop merits anyone else's precious time.
Health care rationing of the worst kind is happening in America today. Herbert tells the story of a carpenter named Lonnie who doesn't have health insurance and won't go to the hospital until it is too late.
Dies at 45 of brain cancer. Totally unnecessary. Yet how many people do you know who have put off treatment or preventive exams just because they cost too much?
This rationing of health care -- not easy free access for preventive care like every other country -- is a moral and ethical noose around America's neck.
Health care delivery is polite lynching-- because poor white, black and brown people are being ganged up on by an inhumane health care system that insures wealthy doctors and insurance ocmpanies get paid, even as it denies coverage to those who need it most.
Grim reaper health care of the worst kind, Lonnie's story is America's story-- when you let a market and private enterprise insurance run health care-- the market -- by definition -- creates winners and losers. This is no way to be together. Publicly funded, single payer health care takes the profit out of health care and gives it to millions without.
And it would help those who are underinsured sleep better knowing that even if they got sick, they wouldn't go bankrupt trying to get better.
How many great little businesses and innovation haven't been started because someone working at a big company is afraid to make the leap into self employment because they can't afford to finance their own health care?
There are losses all over the place because of the high crimes being perpetuated with health care regime today.
The biggest one ( sounding too conservative for me here) is the lack of competitiveness created with American businesses and other countries -- all of which have subsidized health care.
This has to change. But you wonder how? When Congress, unions and other progressives have gold plated health care. These people pay lip service to single payer, but no one is in the streets yet.
People used to gather and watch lynchings all the time -- eventually enough people saw the horror behind it and stopped the madness. Maybe that day will come soon in our country where people organize and stop the health care deaths happening every day in America because people can't get decent preventive health care.
I hope so.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
BBC NEWS | Africa | 'Apocalyptic scene' after Chad raid
News from the African climate crisis war zone Darfur Sudan & Chad is so bleak, it is difficult to post after reading.
Yet there go I --- in my brothers and sisters who suffer. The least I can do is bear witness, write my congressional delegation AS IF IT MATTERED -- (it does) and contribute to groups like Doctors Without Borders
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Art of Primate Conservation - Dot Earth - Climate Change and Sustainability - New York Times Blog
The Art of Primate Conservation - Dot Earth - Climate Change and Sustainability - New York Times Blog
Illustration by John Nash-- the blog links to NYT Andrew Revkin's work-- which has a fine blogroll of other interesting sites for natural science, climate, green living, etc...
Revkin is one of my favorite newspaper writers-- and gets to take cool trips to far off lands -- like the Arctic-- reporting first hand from the scene of the crime.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Climate - Drought - Global Warming - American West - Arizona - Utah - Colorado - New Mexico - Nevada - New York Times
Read this story to understand water in the West. And read NYT reporter Jon Gertner's finely woven tale for the pleasure of compelling writing and editing.
You won't look at water the same way again-- no matter where you live.
Of course it goes without saying that water is a public not private right. But we are going to see pitched battles between capitalists trying to squeeze a buck out of a common good like water, and communities like Denver and Seattle that have invested for over 100 years to keep water public, clean and "cheap".
The "cheap water" part is ending-- climate crisis and the rapid drying out of the West will see to that-- but public utilities will have public mandates for socially just water distribution -- private enterprise only profits.
There is something about climate crisis that makes me think of that warning in a car's side view mirror - "objects in mirror may be closer than they look."
Sunday, October 21, 2007
New Game Good Nature is selling called Wildcraft -- great for learning about medicinal herbs-- for 4- adult. Wildcraft wholesale ordering
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Green collar jobs: old fashioned blue collar jobs with a green mission-- is the subject of Tom Friedman's editorial in today's NYT
Working class America has been gutted by Bush and Clinton trade policies. Jobs have gone overseas and are not coming back.
Green collar jobs offer us an opportunity to stop shipping all jobs overseas. What are these jobs? Insulating homes, installing solar panels, building wind farms, planting trees in cities to cool them off, and all kinds of re-use, recycle work.
How many millions of jobs can we create? Who are candidates pushing for these jobs? Who is standing up for investments in fresh air, clean water, and good green jobs?
Polar bears are dying, sure. Extinction looms large. But people have to eat, they have to work. Self respect and a full belly come before compassion for others-- and I mean polar bears as the Other.
We can change this world.
Instant resources for investing in green economy -- see Apollo Alliance
In Seattle, check out Sightline Institute
See Urban Habitat
Monday, October 15, 2007
Read on! One world-- our world, our responsibility, our opportunity to change it for better.
Imagine our economic and eoclogical systems alligned instead of current situation where our economy is killing us-- and lots of other animals and plants.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Art for the r/evolutionary friend of polar bears. Please tell your friends we have a "Buy 2 Get 2 Free offer in September on this new poster to grow awareness about global warming's threat to polar bears.
The fact that so many species are threatened should sound the alarm. So far everyone just looks busy.
Maybe art can help remind our brothers and sisters to remember those up norte who are dying now because of big changes in their home due to global warming.
Let's Cool It!
Timothy Colman, publisher
See art and offer online by clicking here: Let's Cool It!
Friday, August 10, 2007
Do you know Good Nature Publishing prints on recycled and Forest Stewardship Council papers.
What does that mean for green standards?
See FSC to get great info on greenest brand
FSC means that we aren't clearcutting British Columbia and Indonesian Rainforests to print our posters.
Let me know if I can help you with paper choices or printing.
800 631 3086
Photo by David Skernick copyright 2007
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Dyson's son George wrote a wonderful book on a boat he built by hand:
Can you say Baidarka? You might be surprised.
Some say there is a silent "a" at the end.
Anyway-- I always feel smarter after reading what a Dyson thinks--
Jean Emmons has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts, 1977. Though she initially trained as an abstract painter, an interest in plants and private study with Kevin Nicolay has led to botanical illustration.
Jean has worked for book and magazine publishers including Macmillan, Penguin, Sasquatch, Horticulture, Herb Companion, and Country Journal. She illustrated Good Nature Publishing's bestselling NW Woodland Wildflowers and Hummingbird Garden. She is a member of the American Society Botantic Artists and her work is included in the collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. She won Gold Medal at the Royal Horticultural Society for her botanicals in 2005.
Here is a sample of one of her gifts to the world:
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Thanks to Real Climate
I also recommend you check out the MIT Press for interesting reading -- titles including "The End of The Wild"
Friday, January 12, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Getting started, keeping going, getting started again -- in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm...
Seamus Heaney, poet.
"I dreamt -- marvelous error!-- / that I had a beehive here inside my heart./ And the golden bees/were making white combs/and sweet honey/ from my old failures."
How can they help potential customers find your website or blog?
Part of the routine guts of my small business is to fight invisibility. Keyword phrases can help.
I have used Wordtracker for Good Nature's pages and noticed immediate improvement in visibility online. This means a measure of success in getting unsolicited orders, inquiries about making new art.
One of the finest writers online -- Copyblogger -- has written a good summary for your review should you decide your blog or website needs a tune up.
Friday, January 05, 2007
By Bill Moyers
22 January 2007 Issue
The following is an adaptation of remarks made by Bill Moyers to a December 12 gathering in New York sponsored by The Nation, Demos, the Brennan Center for Justice and the New Democracy Project. - The Editors
You could not have chosen a better time to gather. Voters have provided a respite from a right-wing radicalism predicated on the philosophy that extremism in the pursuit of virtue is no vice. It seems only yesterday that the Trojan horse of conservatism was hauled into Washington to disgorge Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and their hearty band of ravenous predators masquerading as a political party of small government, fiscal restraint and moral piety and promising "to restore accountability to Congress...[and] make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves."
Well, the long night of the junta is over, and Democrats are ebullient as they prepare to take charge of the multitrillion-dollar influence racket that we used to call the US Congress. Let them rejoice while they can, as long as they remember that while they ran some good campaigns, they have arrived at this moment mainly because George W. Bush lost a war most people have come to believe should never have been fought in the first place. Let them remember, too, in this interim of sweet anticipation, that although they are reveling in the ruins of a Republican reign brought down by stupendous scandals, their own closet is stocked with skeletons from an era when they were routed from office following Abscam bribes and savings and loan swindles that plucked the pockets and purses of hard-working, tax-paying Americans.
As they rejoice, Democrats would be wise to be mindful of Shakespeare's counsel, "'Tis more by fortune ... than by merit." For they were delivered from the wilderness not by their own goodness and purity but by the grace of K Street corruption, DeLay Inc.'s duplicity, the pitiless exploitation of Terri Schiavo, the disgrace of Mark Foley and a shameful partisan cover-up, the shamelessness of Jack Abramoff and a partisan conspiracy, and neocon arrogance and amorality (yes, amoral: Apparently there is no end to the number of bodies Bill Kristol and Richard Perle are prepared to watch pile up on behalf of illusions that can't stand the test of reality even one Beltway block from the think tanks where they are hatched). The Democrats couldn't have been more favored by the gods if they had actually believed in one!
But whatever one might say about the election, the real story is one that our political and media elites are loath to acknowledge or address. I am not speaking of the lengthy list of priorities that progressives and liberals of every stripe are eager to put on the table now that Democrats hold the cards in Congress. Just the other day a message popped up on my computer from a progressive advocate whose work I greatly admire. Committed to movement-building from the ground up, he has results to show for his labors. His request was simple: "With changes in Congress and at our state capitol, we want your input on what top issues our lawmakers should tackle. Click here to submit your top priority."
I clicked. Sure enough, up came a list of thirty-four issues-an impressive list that began with "African-American" and ran alphabetically through "energy" and "higher education" to "guns," "transportation," "women's issues" and "workers' rights." It wasn't a list to be dismissed, by any means, for it came from an unrequited thirst for action after a long season of malignant opposition to every item on the agenda. I understand the mindset. Here's a fellow who values allies and appreciates what it takes to build coalitions; who knows that although our interests as citizens vary, each one is an artery to the heart that pumps life through the body politic, and each is important to the health of democracy. This is an activist who knows political success is the sum of many parts.
But America needs something more right now than a "must-do" list from liberals and progressives. America needs a different story. The very morning I read the message from the progressive activist, the New York Times reported on Carol Ann Reyes. Carol Ann Reyes is 63. She lives in Los Angeles, suffers from dementia and is homeless. Somehow she made her way to a hospital with serious, untreated needs. No details were provided as to what happened to her there, except that the hospital-which is part of Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the country-called a cab and sent her back to skid row. True, they phoned ahead to workers at a rescue shelter to let them know she was coming. But some hours later a surveillance camera picked her up "wandering around the streets in a hospital gown and slippers." Dumped in America.
Here is the real political story, the one most politicians won't even acknowledge: the reality of the anonymous, disquieting daily struggle of ordinary people, including the most marginalized and vulnerable Americans but also young workers and elders and parents, families and communities, searching for dignity and fairness against long odds in a cruel market world.
Everywhere you turn you'll find people who believe they have been written out of the story. Everywhere you turn there's a sense of insecurity grounded in a gnawing fear that freedom in America has come to mean the freedom of the rich to get richer even as millions of Americans are dumped from the Dream. So let me say what I think up front: The leaders and thinkers and activists who honestly tell that story and speak passionately of the moral and religious values it puts in play will be the first political generation since the New Deal to win power back for the people.
There's no mistaking that America is ready for change. One of our leading analysts of public opinion, Daniel Yankelovich, reports that a majority want social cohesion and common ground based on pragmatism and compromise, patriotism and diversity. But because of the great disparities in wealth, the "shining city on the hill" has become a gated community whose privileged occupants, surrounded by a moat of money and protected by a political system seduced with cash into subservience, are removed from the common life of the country. The wreckage of this abdication by elites is all around us.
Corporations are shredding the social compact, pensions are disappearing, median incomes are flattening and healthcare costs are soaring. In many ways, the average household is generally worse off today than it was thirty years ago, and the public sector that was a support system and safety net for millions of Americans across three generations is in tatters. For a time, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by more work and more personal debt. Both political parties craftily refashioned those major renovations of the average household as the new standard, shielding employers from responsibility for anything Wall Street didn't care about. Now, however, the more acute major risks workers have been forced to bear as employers reduce their health and retirement costs-on orders from Wall Street-have made it clear that our fortunes are being reversed. Polls show that a majority of US workers now believe their children will be worse off than they are. In one recent survey, only 14 percent of workers said that they have obtained the American Dream.
It is hard to believe that less than four decades ago a key architect of the antipoverty program, Robert Lampman, could argue that the "recent history of Western nations reveals an increasingly widespread adoption of the idea that substantial equality of social and economic conditions among individuals is a good thing." Economists call that postwar era "the Great Compression." Poverty and inequality had declined dramatically for the first time in our history. Here, as Paul Krugman recently recounted, is how Time's report on the national outlook in 1953 summed it up: "Even in the smallest towns and most isolated areas, the U.S. is wearing a very prosperous, middle-class suit of clothes, and an attitude of relaxation and confidence. People are not growing wealthy, but more of them than ever before are getting along." African-Americans were still written out of the story, but that was changing, too, as heroic resistance emerged across the South to awaken our national conscience. Within a decade, thanks to the civil rights movement and President Johnson, the racial cast of federal policy-including some New Deal programs-was aggressively repudiated, and shared prosperity began to breach the color line.
To this day I remember John F. Kennedy's landmark speech at the Yale commencement in 1962. Echoing Daniel Bell's cold war classic The End of Ideology, JFK proclaimed the triumph of "practical management of a modern economy" over the "grand warfare of rival ideologies." The problem with this-and still a major problem today-is that the purported ideological cease-fire ended only a few years later. But the Democrats never re-armed, and they kept pinning all their hopes on economic growth, which by its very nature is valueless and cannot alone provide answers to social and moral questions that arise in the face of resurgent crisis. While "practical management of a modern economy" had a kind of surrogate legitimacy as long as it worked, when it no longer worked, the nation faced a paralyzing moral void in deciding how the burdens should be borne. Well-organized conservative forces, firing on all ideological pistons, rushed to fill this void with a story corporate America wanted us to hear. Inspired by bumper-sticker abstractions of Milton Friedman's ideas, propelled by cascades of cash from corporate chieftans like Coors and Koch and "Neutron" Jack Welch, fortified by the pious prescriptions of fundamentalist political preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the conservative armies marched on Washington. And they succeeded brilliantly.
When Ronald Reagan addressed the Republican National Convention in 1980, he a told a simple story, one that had great impact. "The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership-in the White House and in Congress-for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us." He declared, "I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself." It was a speech of bold contrasts, of good private interest versus bad government, of course. More important, it personified these two forces in a larger narrative of freedom, reaching back across the Great Depression, the Civil War and the American Revolution, all the way back to the Mayflower Compact. It so dazzled and demoralized Democrats they could not muster a response to the moral abandonment and social costs that came with the Reagan revolution.
We too have a story of freedom to tell, and it too reaches back across the Great Depression, the Civil War and the American Revolution, all the way back to the Mayflower Compact. It's a story with clear and certain foundations, like Reagan's, but also a tumultuous and sometimes violent history of betrayal that he and other conservatives consistently and conveniently ignore.
Reagan's story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control-a Jeffersonian ideal at the root of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and the license to buy the political system right out from under everyone else, so that democracy no longer has the ability to hold capitalism accountable for the good of the whole.
And that is not how freedom was understood when our country was founded. At the heart of our experience as a nation is the proposition that each one of us has a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." As flawed in its reach as it was brilliant in its inspiration for times to come, that proposition carries an inherent imperative: "inasmuch as the members of a liberal society have a right to basic requirements of human development such as education and a minimum standard of security, they have obligations to each other, mutually and through their government, to ensure that conditions exist enabling every person to have the opportunity for success in life."
The quote comes directly from Paul Starr, one of our most formidable public thinkers, whose forthcoming book, Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism, is a profound and stirring call for liberals to reclaim the idea of America's greatness as their own. Starr's book is one of three new books that in a just world would be on every desk in the House and Senate when Congress convenes again.
John Schwarz, in Freedom Reclaimed: Rediscovering the American Vision, rescues the idea of freedom from market cultists whose "particular idea of freedom...has taken us down a terribly mistaken road" toward a political order where "government ends up servicing the powerful and taking from everyone else." The free-market view "cannot provide us with a philosophy we find compelling or meaningful," Schwarz writes. Nor does it assure the availability of economic opportunity "that is truly adequate to each individual and the status of full legal as well as political equality." Yet since the late nineteenth century it has been used to shield private power from democratic accountability, in no small part because conservative rhetoric has succeeded in denigrating government even as conservative politicians plunder it.
But government, Schwarz reminds us, "is not simply the way we express ourselves collectively but also often the only way we preserve our freedom from private power and its incursions." That is one reason the notion that every person has a right to meaningful opportunity "has assumed the position of a moral bottom line in the nation's popular culture ever since the beginning." Freedom, he says, is "considerably more than a private value." It is essentially a social idea, which explains why the worship of the free market "fails as a compelling idea in terms of the moral reasoning of freedom itself." Let's get back to basics, is Schwarz's message. Let's recapture our story.
Norton Garfinkle picks up on both Schwarz and Starr in The American Dream vs. the Gospel of Wealth, as he describes how America became the first nation on earth to offer an economic vision of opportunity for even the humblest beginner to advance, and then moved, in fits and starts-but always irrepressibly-to the invocation of positive government as the means to further that vision through politics. No one understood this more clearly, Garfinkle writes, than Abraham Lincoln, who called on the federal government to save the Union. He turned to large government expenditures for internal improvements-canals, bridges and railroads. He supported a strong national bank to stabilize the currency. He provided the first major federal funding for education, with the creation of land grant colleges. And he kept close to his heart an abiding concern for the fate of ordinary people, especially the ordinary worker but also the widow and orphan. Our greatest President kept his eye on the sparrow. He believed government should be not just "of the people" and "by the people" but "for the people." Including, we can imagine, Carol Ann Reyes.
The great leaders of our tradition-Jefferson, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts-understood the power of our story. In my time it was FDR, who exposed the false freedom of the aristocratic narrative. He made the simple but obvious point that where once political royalists stalked the land, now economic royalists owned everything standing. Mindful of Plutarch's warning that "an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics," Roosevelt famously told America, in 1936, that "the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man." He gathered together the remnants of the great reform movements of the Progressive Age-including those of his late-blooming cousin, Teddy-into a singular political cause that would be ratified again and again by people who categorically rejected the laissez-faire anarchy that had produced destructive, unfettered and ungovernable power. Now came collective bargaining and workplace rules, cash assistance for poor children, Social Security, the GI Bill, home mortgage subsidies, progressive taxation-democratic instruments that checked economic tyranny and helped secure America's great middle class. And these were only the beginning. The Marshall Plan, the civil rights revolution, reaching the moon, a huge leap in life expectancy-every one of these great outward achievements of the last century grew from shared goals and collaboration in the public interest.
So it is that contrary to what we have heard rhetorically for a generation now, the individualist, greed-driven, free-market ideology is at odds with our history and with what most Americans really care about. More and more people agree that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power, that money in politics is corrupting democracy and that working families and poor communities need and deserve help when the market system fails to generate shared prosperity. Indeed, the American public is committed to a set of values that almost perfectly contradicts the conservative agenda that has dominated politics for a generation now.
The question, then, is not about changing people; it's about reaching people. I'm not speaking simply of better information, a sharper and clearer factual presentation to disperse the thick fogs generated by today's spin machines. Of course, we always need stronger empirical arguments to back up our case. It would certainly help if at least as many people who believe, say, in a "literal devil" or that God sent George W. Bush to the White House also knew that the top 1 percent of households now have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. Yes, people need more information than they get from the media conglomerates with their obsession for nonsense, violence and pap. And we need, as we keep hearing, "new ideas." But we are at an extraordinary moment. The conservative movement stands intellectually and morally bankrupt while Democrats talk about a "new direction" without convincing us they know the difference between a weather vane and a compass. The right story will set our course for a generation to come.
Some stories doom us. In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond tells of the Viking colony that disappeared in the fifteenth century. The settlers had scratched a living on the sparse coast of Greenland for years, until they encountered a series of harsh winters. Their livestock, the staple of their diet, began to die off. Although the nearby waters teemed with haddock and cod, the colony's mythology prohibited the eating of fish. When their supply of hay ran out during a last terrible winter, the colony was finished. They had been doomed by their story.
Here in the first decade of the twenty-first century the story that becomes America's dominant narrative will shape our collective imagination and hence our politics. In the searching of our souls demanded by this challenge, those of us in this room and kindred spirits across the nation must confront the most fundamental progressive failure of the current era: the failure to embrace a moral vision of America based on the transcendent faith that human beings are more than the sum of their material appetites, our country is more than an economic machine, and freedom is not license but responsibility-the gift we have received and the legacy we must bequeath.
In our brief sojourn here we are on a great journey. For those who came before us and for those who follow, our moral, political and religious duty is to make sure that this nation, which was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that we are all created equal, is in good hands on our watch.
One story would return America to the days of radical laissez-faire, when there was no social contract and the strong took what they could and the weak were left to forage. The other story joins the memory of struggles that have been waged with the possibility of victories yet to be won, including healthcare for every American and a living wage for every worker. Like the mustard seed to which Jesus compared the Kingdom of God, nurtured from small beginnings in a soil thirsty for new roots, our story has been a long time unfolding. It reminds us that the freedoms and rights we treasure were not sent from heaven and did not grow on trees. They were, as John Powers has written, "born of centuries of struggle by untold millions who fought and bled and died to assure that the government can't just walk into our bedrooms and read our mail, to protect ordinary people from being overrun by massive corporations, to win a safety net against the often-cruel workings of the market, to guarantee that businessmen couldn't compel workers to work more than forty hours a week without extra compensation, to make us free to criticize our government without having our patriotism impugned, and to make sure that our leaders are answerable to the people when they choose to send our soldiers into war." The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources, free trade unions, old-age pensions, clean air and water, safe food-all these began with citizens and won the endorsement of the political class only after long struggles and bitter attacks. Democracy works when people claim it as their own.
It is only rarely remembered that the definition of democracy immortalized by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address had been inspired by Theodore Parker, the abolitionist prophet. Driven from his pulpit, Parker said, "I will go about and preach and lecture in the city and glen, by the roadside and field-side, and wherever men and women may be found." He became the Hound of Freedom and helped to change America through the power of the word. We have a story of equal power. It is that the promise of America leaves no one out. Go now, and tell it on the mountains. From the rooftops, tell it. From your laptops, tell it. From the street corners and from Starbucks, from delis and from diners, tell it. From the workplace and the bookstore, tell it. On campus and at the mall, tell it. Tell it at the synagogue, sanctuary and mosque. Tell it where you can, when you can and while you can-to every candidate for office, to every talk-show host and pundit, to corporate executives and schoolchildren. Tell it-for America's sake.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
From The Scientist
By Glenn McGee
Want Fish? Ethics First, Please
Why we should worry about the upcoming fish apocalypse.
The threat of the ocean's imminent collapse is a new kind of issue for bioethics.
"Eat first, then ethics" wrote German poet Bertolt Brecht. But even Brecht would be horrified by the "fish apocalypse" of 2048 that Boris Worm of Dalhousie University predicts in the November 3rd issue of Science. As far as fish are concerned, we appear to be eating not only first, but without forethought, and we never get around to the ethics.
The problem of diminishing saltwater fish populations is not a new one; the United Nations has reported consistently since the mid-1990s that all 17 of the world's major fishing areas have been fished to the point that sustainability is seriously in question for many if not most of the commercially harvested species there. The most famous fishing areas of North American lore, such as the Grand Banks and Georges Bank, have been closed and reopened with hardly any planning, as environmentalist and commercial political lobbies each win their way for a month, year, or decade, but never in a process that ends in stewardship of the oceans.
Those at the top of the fish business' food chain aren't doing so well financially, despite the appearance that industry prevails in matters of regulation of fishing. Both large commercial fisheries and small immigrant families with one boat in places like New Bedford, Mass., find themselves unable to eke out a living from tuna and swordfish and scallops. Fishing doesn't really make much money even for those who have become adept at vacuuming fish from the sea. In response, governments provide subsidies. That's not enough, however, to sustain fleets and shareholders, so companies turn from fishing cod and the like to fishing the sort of creatures that emerge from the sea so unpalatable that one knows immediately that they will have to be, as Wendell Berry put it, "prettified" until they no longer "resemble anything that ever lived."
Either way, as stocks of fish that were once commercially undesirable have plummeted, large fish, marine mammals, and even birds have been robbed of a big piece of their food chain. And that means we too are affected, as some of our most intimate ecosystems - those that protect and nourish our food and water supply - become, in collapsing, a toxic abyss. Fish species that live near coastlines, reducing the risk of red tide and providing detoxification to water supplies, are disappearing.
The threat of the ocean's imminent collapse is a new kind of issue for bioethics, which you might call "disaster ethics." The problem is that the public is simply uninterested in the catastrophic consequences of decimating fish stocks. Debates about ozone holes, stem cells, and the intelligence of the design of life simply pale in comparison to what is likely to happen to our oceans.
The most visible evidence of the ‘fish problem' is still invisible by comparison to Korean research fraud and votes on funding for stem cell research. But the fish story is more important by a long shot and requires actions far more simple than choosing a Senator: Stop eating creatures that are being fished to extinction, and tell your friends to stop, too.
Our species may not have crawled out of the oceans to build civilization, but our willingness to protect the oceans is a bulwark not just of the ethics of environmental stewardship but also of the responsibility to keep cities from being poisoned or falling into the ocean and millions from starving to death. It's a pretty high price to pay for sushi.
There's no time to do long-term studies of whether fish are disappearing. We can't eat before our ethics. The ethical decisions the human population makes in this decade about fishing will set into motion a way of thinking and acting about the earth and its ecosystems that will take ethics off the plate entirely for our grandchildren. They will live in a world where the decisions about fish and the oceans have less to do with whether to eat swordfish than about what kind of engineered fishcell they'd like with their chips. Our policy about fishing isn't just fishy; it's bad science coupled with bad ethics. And at the end of the day, that will mean empty nets.
Glenn McGee is the director of the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College, where he holds the John A. Balint Endowed Chair in Medical Ethics.