Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My little slices of the swamp

This week some vignettes from my time here in DC:

Socks
: I notice people’s socks, being a bit of a sock connoisseur myself. Back when I was in practice there was a Psychiatrist in our practice group who shared my passion for interesting socks. She had a pair of bright yellow socks that had little socks on them.  They were always my favorite!   Anyhow, I have noticed that the men here in DC are really stuck because of the need to always dress in suits. I mean if you’re not a bow tie or bolero type guy you have very few options for  expressing individuality. One way they do it is with socks. And there are some great ones out there.  I notice them walking downt the street, in hearing rooms and on the Metro.  I am not the only person in my family obsessed with socks. Check out my daughter-in-law’s podcast

The Frying Pan
: As the summer heat ramps up walking across in front of the Capitol has started to more and more resemble a trip across a frying pan. No shade and at noon the heat gets close to unbearable. However, there are always entertaining things occurring to keep your mind off the blaze. There’s the guy with the bullhorn. He pops up at various places around the plaza. I first heard him extorting the visitors in line for the Capitol Visitors Center. But have since seen him up on the lawn both on the House and Senate side. His ramblings are not always coherent. But sometimes they cut right to the chase and call out the hypocrisy and corruption of our government institutions. This week he has been supporting the disability rights groups who have camped out in front of the Russell Senate building in an attempt to save their access to healthcare and thereby their very lives. It is refreshing to hear someone one speaking real truth to power.    
On the frying pan this Tuesday the DNC contingent in the Senate had a pep rally after the disasterous vote on the Senate floor to open up the ACA for amendments from the floor. This floor debate will be a painful and shameful spectacle for us all. And for those of you who watched the vote I just have to tell you that the nurse in me wanted to run over there with a dressing to put over McCain’s wound. Talk about spectacles.  Maybe this is what was meant by “out of the frying pan…..”

Dogs
: Speaking of the frying pan I was walking across one day recently and noticed a very happy police dog running up to folks and sniffing their bags and backpacks. At the same time I saw a woman pulling a rolling suitcase across the plaza. When the dog alerted to this suitcase the woman stopped and took a tennis ball out of her pocket and tossed it for the dog. The pooch and his handler ran off to the grass for some play time. I was about to move off when I noticed another equally happy dog coming across the mall. And the scene was repeated. I stood on the lawn for several minutes watching this training exercise. My, oh my, they were happy dogs once they got their tennis ball. A few weeks later our intern, Allison, and I were walking back from a particularly horrendous hearing on “guest workers” for farms. We had noted a lot of dogs on The Hill that day but couldn’t figure out what was going on until we met Albie and his trainer. They were on The Hill, along with several other service organizations, lobbying service dogs for veterans with PTSD. So Allison and I got a little Albie time at a time that we both really needed a therapy dog. He rolled over and let us scratch his belly. It was soothing and nice for us all.

#rollingjesus
: So, not every day, most days, as you walk across the plaza sitting in the scant shade by the door to the House side of the capitol is an elderly couple and standing next to them is their rolling Jesus statute. Evidently this woman,Rita Warren, has been carrying this life-size statue of her lord and savior to the steps of the capitol for years. Trying to save the souls of the soul-less. Since her heart attack last year she has help and a dolly to carrying him on. Allison has a brief clip of them rolling the statue up the hill with the caption “another day on the hill.” I will try to embed it for you at a later date as soon as I figure out how. 



Explosions/Thunder
: The thunder bumpers have been fierce at times this month. I was standing out waiting for the circulator bus one afternoon and there was such a loud crack of thunder right over us that everyone jumped and speculated about explosions. On the way back from market two employees of the Library of Congress got on the bus and started talking about the truck that the police had “disrupted” that afternoon in front of the library and what they had done while they were sheltering in place. I checked with them and the bang that I experienced was not at the same time as the supposed “bang” of the truck explosion. I went home and watched the news thinking that surely it would make the evening broadcast if the capitol police had blown up a truck. Nothing. Then next morning in the Post Express was a small paragraph about a truck that had deliberately run over an officer injuring him. Here’s a news clip about it. Evidently they did “disrupt” the car’s trunk. And that is how the rumor mill works in the swamp. 

My House
: I found it. The house I will buy when I get elected to Congress. Here’s a picture (the one on the far left, where else?). Right on the hill. I’m sure it’s very affordable.



The Farm Bill
: And finally the Farm Bill, or as Michael Pollan suggest calling it the Food Bill, staggers along thru the multiple committee hearings that are required. We did see the final mark-ups on the House and Senate versions of the 2018 agriculture appropriations bills this week. Some funding has been saved. Senator Tester of Montana has made an attempt to save the Under Secretary for Rural Development position in the USDA. We are watching all the machinations and offering input where we can. We really, really need more people to realize how much this bill effects them every day, more than healthcare, more than defense spending. As I often say “We all eat, the lucky of us eat three times a day. And the people who produce that food are called farmers.” They need our support! Which makes me so happy that every podcast Marta does ends with a talk about food and farms. On a knitting podcast. How’s that for cross pollination?

Betsy’s Weird Week in Washington (Part Six of a continuing series)

So the continuing saga of my stay in the swamp. And what a week it has been. It has finally gotten swampy here weather-wise. But Tighe and Medea, bless their hearts, took pity on us and installed room air conditioners. We are trying to use them frugally but all the same it is a nice respite from the humidity outside. Guess I’m not as tough as I was 25 years ago living in the Marshall Islands without it.

Monday was another quiet day. We caught up on things in the NFFC office. Outside our office building we were greeted by this moving tribute to those lost to gun violence. Later in the week it became a bit ironic. 

On Tuesday we began our big event for the week. Over 20 farmers from around the country flew into DC to lobby congress about the proposed Bayer Monsanto merger. Tuesday evening we met with everyone and strategized about our meetings on The Hill. Friends of the Earth was the lead organization but here is the list of all the groups involved: Center for Food Safety, Farm Aid, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, National Family Farm Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Organic Farmers Association Organic Seed Alliance, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, Organization for Competitive Markets, Rural Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, SumOfUs. Honorary Cohosts: Representatives David N. Cicilline, John Conyers, Jr., Henry C. Hank Johnson, Jr., Chellie Pingree and Senator Jeff  Merkley.    

On Thursday we had a briefing in the Rayburn building that was so well attended that it was standing room only….in a big room! One of our teams met with the Department of Justice to discuss their investigation. All in all a great effort by the organizers and the farmers who, leaving their farms in the middle of the busy season, came talk to their congresspeople. Mike Weaver, the Executive Director of Organization for Competitive Markets, said this to me at the end of the second day, “I usually leave these things, and this place, and I frowning but today I am grinning. This was a well-organized, productive two days.”    Here is a picture of me and my team:


The Hill, however, was an armed camp for two days. As you have heard, unless you live in a cave, there was a shooting Wednesday morning. An unbalanced man with a lethal weapon decided to manifest the anger and resentment that many, many people are feeling in this current political climate and started shooting at the Republican Congressional Softball team as they practiced for a charity ballgame. There were several injuries including Congressman Steve Scalise and a Lobbyist for Tyson food, Matt Mika. Both were in critical condition at last report. That morning things were tense on the hill and we saw a lot of this:


By afternoon things had calmed down a bit as one of my lobbying team members pointed out. Next day, however, we were back in armed camp mode. Even the street by our office building was barricaded, which was a new one for me even though we are right across the street from the Supreme Court. We never figured out why. There were police BUSES! Lined up all around the capitol as if they were preparing for mass arrests. We saw no protesters anywhere. Not one.  And that in and of itself is a bit unusual.  When we asked one young police woman in front of the Supreme Court what was going on and she said “suspicious package”. Well, I want to know who had ESP and knew by 8 am that morning that there was going to be a suspicious package that afternoon. They should be paying that guy the big bucks!
Anyhow the shooting of the Congressman and the Lobbyist has opened the discussion, once again, about who should and shouldn’t have a gun. A friend of mine on the book of the face hoped that Congressman Scalise might have an epiphany. Maybe two, since one of the young officers who saved his butt is a married, black, gay woman. He’s against gay marriage, too.

So on it goes. We make two steps forward and one step back. I try to be cheerful and friendly to everyone I meet and am rewarded, 99% of the time, by cheerful friendliness in return. The only person who was curt and unfriendly to me all week was one of the guards outside the minority whip’s office. But I guess I’d be grumpy, too, if I was forced to carry a loaded automatic rifle and be suspicious of everyone.

And for those who know me, and know we had a HUGE victory in Maine this week, I am not forgetting it.   I will be doing a separate post about it.   Soon.   But congratulations to all the hard working food sovereignty advocates up home.   We won one!!!!

Ms. Garrold Goes to Washington Part 3

Third week in the swamp. Actually only a partial week as I had to fly home for a board meeting on Thursday (and the weather has not been that steamy.)   The good part of that hiatus being that I got to see my wonderful Child and his wonderful Fiancé and the progress they are making on their little cabin on the farm.

Otherwise a fairly uneventful week. Monday we talked with the intern who is coming into the office the beginning of June via Skype. Technology is a wonderful thing.
Tuesday we interviewed candidates for the Policy Director position at National Family Farm Coalition. More about that as it develops. The big deal on Tuesday was that the Maine Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Maine Senate’s request for an opinion on the constitutionality of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). The people of Maine passed a referendum question making RCV the law of the state last November but the two corporate parties are doing everything in their power to stymie that decision. You can go here to read the 40+ page decision and here to chime in and help the League of Women Voters defend the will of the Maine people. I will be doing what I can from down here.
Wednesday I was on a nationwide conference call about the impact of 45’s proposed budget. It ain’t pretty out there, let me tell you. Folks are worried. But also semi-confident that this budget is DOA in the Senate so we might be able to fix the most egregious, horrendous cuts.  Those that take an ax to the Farm Bill, the social safety net and everything else except the military industrial complex, of course.
Thursday I flew home to Maine for a board meeting I was dreading and it was every bit as awful as I thought it was going to be. Suffice it to say this is not a board that welcomes dissenting voices and I am nothing if not a dissenting voice.
Friday it rained in Maine. So I rested. But made a really nice supper for everyone who was at The Shire.


Saturday I planted the garden. How nice to dig in the soil with the help of my son and get the potatoes in so they have one less chore on their plates in this busy season.


Sunday I finished up by planting the cucurbits, peppers, basil, and tomatoes. The sauce plants I call them. That leaves only the beans and corn for the kids to get into the ground when they have the time. I arrived back at the Pink House and found the living room full of Veterans for Peace singing “We Shall Overcome.” I am so lucky to be living in this wonderful communal house!
And Monday was Memorial Day. But more about that later.

Ms. Garrold Goes to Washington Part One

Well, as some of you know (and many of you don’t) I am checking another box on the old bucket list. I am spending the summer as an “intern” in Washington DC. Well, not really an intern. I am going to be holding down the fort and doing the administrative work at the office of the National Family Farm Coalition, I am on the executive committee of NFFC and since the tragic loss of our long time Executive Director our acting ED has been staying in DC to run the office. It was time to give her a break and let her go on home, so here I am. I will scatter links throughout this post so you can fill in the background of all the events, people and places.
And here is my first week:
Monday: Came down on the train. I do love the train. Only had one incident of people being too loud in the quiet car and I think they may have been a little drunk. They quieted down eventually and I got some napping done and some work. Arrived at the Code Pink House where I will be staying at around 11pm. 


Tuesday: Hit the ground running getting oriented to the ins and outs of running the NFFC office.   Here is the view from my office window.  Yes, that is one of the Senate office buildings (Hart)!  Had lunch at Sweet Greens (thank you Lisa) and then dinner with my housemates and Medea Benjamin. Shrimp and Grits! [I promise not to give you the blow by blow of every meal but since my job/passion/activism is food oriented I am hitting the highlights of my first week as a foodie in DC.]


Wednesday: Took a call from a friend who is helping run a Green candidate’s campaign for Congress. Hope I gave him some good advice. Then took my lunch hour to join the Code Pink “Laugh-in” demonstration outside the Department of Justice. Great fun. Lots of cops, in fact I think at one point the cops outnumbered the protesters. What the hell are they so afraid of? Little old white haired ladies in pink t-shirts. Come on guys grow a pair!
Thursday: All day at the Friends of the Earth office participating in a Pollinator Protection Network meeting. Lots of great energy in that room and lots of interest in the current Farm Bill. Long day, however.
Friday: A somewhat lighter day. Had a call with a videographer who is going to film case studies with midwestern farmers around the bio-fuels issue. Had lunch at the Supreme Court (not that great). On my way back from the bank got stopped by a parade of cops on bikes. And cops on motorcycles. Impressive (and I don’t mean that in a good way.) Had dinner at a great little Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood.
Saturday: Farmer’s Market at Rhode Island Row. Staples shopping at the Yes market. Otherwise a quiet day. Oh, except for when I had to climb up into the attic to dig out Code Pink t-shirts for one of my housemates. That made my heart race a bit.
Sunday: To celebrate Mother’s Day I started the day by calling my Mom. In the afternoon, after a leisurely read of the Washington Post I watched a chick-flick and weeded the backyard garden. Then video called my wonderful Reason-I’m-a-Mother. He makes me prouder everyday. Now off to get some sleep and start again tomorrow with a farm credit crisis strategy luncheon.

Happy New Year (a bit late)

  So my 2015 New Year’s resolution was not successfully met.   How’s that for blurring the truth that I blew it.   Barely one post per month never mind one a week or one a day.   Ahhh!  Such ambition.   But I have been writing and politicking so here are the remarks I wrote and presented at the Rally for Unity this month at the statehouse in Augusta:

We are at the dawning of a new populist age. Just as the gilded age robber baron railroad tycoon’s misdeeds lead to the first populist movement in the United States. A movement lead largely by farmers and spawning such great egalitarian institutions as The Grange. So we stand now at the end of the Reagan/Clinton, Citizen’s United era of the oligarch about to take back our country from the plutocrats.  

What is my proof you ask? It is in the rising of groups like Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Family Farm Defenders and The New Economy Coalition. The expansion of cooperative business enterprises across this state and the nation. It is in the popularity of presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and, yes even, Donald Trump. People are pissed off, they are saying “Enough is enough.” They are standing together to take back their lives and their livelihoods from excessive government oversight.    

One of my favorite things about the local food movement is exactly that. People sitting around a table having a meaningful discussion about rebuilding the local food infrastructure. People who might not have ever dreamed they had anything in common with one another. But the thing is everyone eats. The lucky ones eat three times a day. What we put in our bodies matters and people from across the political spectrum get that. Food is a great uniter. When you can have a far left aging hippie liberal finding common ground with a far right tea bag libertarian on an issue then you know you have a good one. And the relationships built over those meals and conversations can translate to other less obvious issues.

  We must seek out these issues that unite us rather than divide us. It is in our best interest, and believe me it will piss off the plutocrats, if we can look beyond our skin color, social standing, economic bracket and find things we hold in common. If we listen to the concerns of people with whom we disagree and seek that space in which we can all agree we are getting equally abused then we can move forward together to fight the monopolies and the greedy rich.

One of those issues is that of local sovereignty over food and water. We are fortunate to live in a state that enshrined home rule in its very constitution. The governance of the people devolves to the lowest governmental body, the municipality. Local people taking back local control like they have in 16 towns across this state so far. Join us at Local Food RULES and Food for Maine’s Future to make it 50 towns by the end of 2017.
I’d like to quote one of my favorite people, Ben Pratt, former legislator and all around good guy. “When the rednecks and the hippies realize that they are both being screwed by the same people, then we’ll have a revolution.”

We are those people. We are that movement, standing on the cusp of history. Ready to take back our basic human rights. To eat what we want to eat sourced from where we wish to source it. To breath clean air and drink clean water. Let’s make it happen!

Greece Frightenin’ from the Free Press

I have been expressing these same sentiments about the whole Greek Crisis since I sat watching it on my friends Muffy and Bob’s couch in the UK.   Grayson Lookner says it so well in this column and throws in a nice history lesson to boot.   Enjoy.

7/30/2015 11:18:00 AM

Grayson Lookner: Greece Frightenin

  by Grayson Lookner

As I’ve watched events unfold in Greece, I can’t help but ask myself one question: “Who won the Second World War?”
Ancient Greece was where the seeds of modern democracy were planted. A system of democracy and free markets supposedly prevailed in the West following WWII. Following the collapse of the USSR, it seems as if the last 25 years have pitted the free market and democracy against each other instead of their being the two “hand maidens of liberty” as one person claimed in a response to my last column. 
By the time WWII came around, Greece was actually a monarchy. When the Axis forces occupied Greece in 1941, the king fled and proclaimed a government in exile. This vacuum of power set the stage for the Greek civil war that would erupt in the months directly following the war. 
During the war, and this was the case in much of the rest of Europe, including Spain, the left unified in Greece as an anti-fascist force. When Nazi Germany finally surrendered and the Allies occupied Greece, the leftist parties attempted to rise to power with the backing of Stalin and the USSR.
During the war, the USSR was our best friend by virtue of being the enemy of our mutual enemy. With the death of Hitler and the mad rush of the victors to claim the spoils of war for themselves in the forms of Nazi territory and scientific knowledge (and Nazi scientists themselves), the USSR immediately became the West’s primary existential threat and driving force of the cold war right up until 1989. Although, judging from his recent actions, it seems Putin may not accept this telling of history. 
Greece was the first theater of the cold war fought via proxy by the two world superpowers. Ultimately the Greek left – which had so valiantly fought against Hitler just a few years before -was defeated by the ally-backed centrist government. It seems that cooler heads prevailed, and Greece benefited greatly from the $13 billion of US aid that was allocated by the Marshall plan to rebuild Europe. Modern Germany and the entire Eurozone project would not have been possible were it not for this aid that was given by America, which in today’s dollars would amount to somewhere in the vicinity of $169 billion, indexed to inflation, by my sloppy calculations. (Incidentally, this amount is similar to the amount spent by the Federal Reserve in its own bailout to prop up global capitalism after the meltdown of 2008, according to a September 2011 Forbes article. That’s approximately $2,000 for every man, woman, and child on the planet to be spent on supporting banks across the world and hedging shady derivatives deals, etc.)
The societies of Western Europe that emerged post-war that were enabled by US assistance were remarkably civil, stable, and democratic. They all had a vital public sector characterized by socialized medicine, free or cheap education, public ownership of utilities, adequate pensions, extensive public transportation systems, etc. These public services were not viewed as privileges to be made available to a lazy and unmotivated population that didn’t want to nor was expected to work; but as the bedrock foundations of modern, civilized democracies that enabled a free market to exist.

In countries where these social services still exist, such as in France, the UK, the “social democracies” of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden – and ironically in Germany itself – the quality of life is high and civil unrest is low. In countries where these guarantees don’t exist, such as in much of the third world and increasingly in America itself, quality of life for most people is low and there is increasing social strife.
Why would anyone want anything other than to live in a stable, civil country with a high quality of life? What happened? What changed?
Naomi Klein, a Canadian author, brilliantly outlines the march of neoliberalism (i.e. “globalization”) from the 1960s onward in her 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” In the book she demonstrates how the explicit aim of globalization is to turn over infrastructure and social capital that was built by the public to private hands by creating and profiting from a series of mostly manufactured crises. 
Throughout the world, countries have been systematically forced to auction off their once publicly owned utility companies, hospitals, shipping ports, and other public resources for pennies on the dollar to wealthy foreign investors the likes of Goldman Sachs. These investors in turn use what were previously considered the bedrock foundations of a civilized state to extract more wealth from the general population without investing any of it back into the public. The rich get richer, and the poor get used up until they have nothing left to give. The globalists then move on to the next national project to exploit, and they inch closer and closer to home with each passing year. 
Greece will essentially become a third-world country because of the measures being imposed by the EU and the IMF. The British newspaper “The Guardian” said that with the austerity demands of its creditors Greece is essentially being forced to choose between being executed and committing suicide. In their recent emergency referendum, the people of Greece, in an uproar of democratic fervor, cried “No!” to the EU deal. Unfortunately, it was more of a symbolic vote than anything. Tsipras, the charismatic leader of Greece’s leftist Syriza party, has accepted another deal that requires draconian cuts and will reshape Greece for decades to come. He has said that he has no choice. He has a choice; Greece could leave the Eurozone. That is a frightening prospect for many as it harkens the impending demise of neoliberalism across the globe. 
Is there anything that can be done to stem the juggernaut of privatization? According to my respondent from last week’s column, a responsible critic is supposed to propose solutions and not just identify problems. Yes, fortunately, there is. The best thing we can do is to not fall for and be manipulated by the manufactured crises of the world’s disaster capitalists. The boy has cried wolf for too long now. Next time they sound the alarm, don’t listen, don’t react, don’t stoke the flames. It is easy to tell the difference between a real disaster and a media-manufactured one. 
Grayson Lookner grew up in Camden and now lives in Portland.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom Speaks

 

To all of you whom I pissed off with my last post, go to this site and read this woman’s story.  She talks about the other half of the solution:  improved mental  health care.

http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html