Of note

by zunguzungu

On how a Brazilian city declared food a citizenship right, and radically reduced hunger.

The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce-which often reached 100 percent-to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food…

Belo’s food security initiatives also include extensive community and school gardens as well as nutrition classes. Plus, money the federal government contributes toward school lunches, once spent on processed, corporate food, now buys whole food mostly from local growers.

“We’re fighting the concept that the state is a terrible, incompetent administrator,” Adriana explained. “We’re showing that the state doesn’t have to provide everything, it can facilitate. It can create channels for people to find solutions themselves.”

For instance, the city, in partnership with a local university, is working to “keep the market honest in part simply by providing information,” Adriana told us. They survey the price of 45 basic foods and household items at dozens of supermarkets, then post the results at bus stops, online, on television and radio, and in newspapers so people know where the cheapest prices are. The shift in frame to food as a right also led the Belo hunger-fighters to look for novel solutions. In one successful experiment, egg shells, manioc leaves, and other material normally thrown away were ground and mixed into flour for school kids’ daily bread. This enriched food also goes to nursery school children, who receive three meals a day courtesy of the city…

In just a decade Belo Horizonte cut its infant death rate—widely used as evidence of hunger—by more than half, and today these initiatives benefit almost 40 percent of the city’s 2.5 million population. One six-month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent. And between 1993 and 2002 Belo Horizonte was the only locality in which consumption of fruits and vegetables went up. The cost of these efforts? Around $10 million annually, or less than 2 percent of the city budget. That’s about a penny a day per Belo resident.

Glenn Greenwald on the great failing of the Obama presidency:

It was only in October, 2008 — when Bush was still President — that John McCain argued that the economic crisis was so severe that the presidential campaign should be suspended in order to attend to it.  That is the same crisis — which exploded during the Bush presidency — from which we still have not recovered, which has progressively worsened.

That crisis presented a huge opportunity for Obama and the Democrats to bring about real change in Washington — the central promise of his campaign — by capitalizing on (and becoming the voice of) populist anger and using it to wrestle away control from Wall Street and other financial and corporate elites who control Washington.  Had they done so, they would have been champions of populist rage rather than its prime targets.  But, as John Judis argues in his excellent New Republic piece, they completely squandered that opportunity.  Rather than emphatically stand up to the bankers and other oligarchical thieves, they coddled and served them, and thus became the face of the elite interests oppressing ordinary Americans rather than their foes.  How can an administration represented by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers — and which specializes in an endless stream of secret deals with corporate lobbyists and sustains itself with Wall Street funding — possibly maintain any pretense of populist support or changing how Washington works?  It can’t.

There are few more bitter ironies than watching the Republican Party — controlled at its core by the very business interests responsible for the country’s vast and growing inequality; responsible for massive transfers of wealth to the richest; and which presided over and enabled the economic collapse — now become the beneficiaries of middle-class and lower-middle-class economic insecurity.  But the Democratic Party’s failure/refusal/inability to be anything other than the Party of Tim Geithner — continuing America’s endless, draining Wars while plotting to cut Social Security, one of the few remaining guarantors of a humane standard of living — renders them unable to offer answers to angry, anxious, resentful Americans.

The dangerous mobility of the immigrant taxi-driver:

Each employed immigrant has his or her place of work. It is only the taxi driver, forever moving on wheels, who occupies no fixed space. He represents the immigrant condition. And yet, there is no one more adept than him at mapping our streets and cities. He is not an alien. The cabbie has made familiar, though not without faltering, nor without arduous, repeated labor, all that was strange and forbidding. Perhaps amongst us he is most American.

…The U.S. Department of Labor reports taxi drivers to be thirty times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers.On August 24 in New York City, around 6 p.m., a driver named Ahmed H. Sharif picked up a fare at East 24th Street and Second Avenue. The passenger was 21-year-old Michael Enright, who asked the cabbie a question that has now been heard around the world: “Are you a Muslim?“ When the driver said yes, the passenger first greeted him in Arabic and then said, “Consider this a checkpoint.” Enright pulled out a knife and, in the words of an assistant district attorney, slashed the cabbie’s “neck open halfway across his throat.” Sharif managed to lock his attacker in the car, but he soon escaped. Enright was later arrested; both he and his victim were taken to the same hospital.

How not to defend the PArk51:

…these efforts — to present the Community Center as ‘innocuous’ via its nomenclature — is just part of the problem; the very same rhetoric is being materially reproduced in the ‘proposed’ design for Park51. The structure, as one of the artistic renderings being circulated in the media suggests, is a 13-story glass and steel building that literally looks nothing like a mosque. In the place of minarets or a crescent moon, we are asked to imagine the possible materiality of an eyesore that screams of capitalist excess. There appears to be some ‘Islamic’ influence in the geometric art that ‘may’ be visible through its a glass exterior, but the aesthetics of this structure overwhelmingly suggest that its ‘imagined’ design is a carefully constructed attempt at attracting as little attention as possible. If such a structure ever becomes a reality, the gaze of those working and visiting the area will seamlessly move from Park51 to the plethora of glass monuments that line the financial district, but it appears that this is precisely the point.

In all of this, it is clear that the kindergarten logic of “hear no evil, see no evil” is being utilized in order to sway public opinion in favor of the Center, but while the success of these maneuvers remains to be seen, its damage is immediately apparent. The message being sent is loud and clear: if Park51 ‘sounds’ nothing like mosque, claims to ‘be’ nothing like a mosque, and, ‘looks’ nothing like a mosque, then, and only then, does it emerge a defensible endeavor within the United States.

Apart from the fact that these maneuvers do little by way of providing Americans with a reason to be self-reflexive – that is, to ponder the possibility of co-existence with Muslims without requiring, first, that those Muslims sanitize their identities and their places of worship – yet another danger exists in the fact that if these additives, this supplementary discourse (of community center and inter-faith dialogue) continues to be the basis upon which Park51 emerges worthy of defense, then on what grounds will other mosques – which do not claim to be anything more or (perhaps, in Park51’s case) ‘less’ than a mosque — be defended?

N+1 on how Apatow dicks us around:

The struggle between superficiality and emotional authenticity is a constant in Apatow’s work and is a function of the fact that all of his characters labor in the entertainment industry. The movies march in a progression up the entertainment food chain, as if no world existed outside the realm of pop cultural consumption and production…Apatow and his cohort, confident in their status as showbiz machers, have discovered self-consciousness but have little idea what to do with it.

Which is why they fall back on dick jokes. Generally dick jokes in Apatow’s films take on some form of self-deprecation. I found a gray hair on my balls, but I realized it made them look distinguished. My balls asked my dick if my dick was okay because they were worried I was hurting it. I don’t like blowjobs because I don’t know what to do with my hands. My dick is so small. Your dick is so small. Etc.Funny People adds women (Sarah Silverman and Aubrey Plaza) who make jokes about their vaginas. Heigl in Knocked Up is not so evolved; when the subject of her vagina comes up, she mostly seems distressed about the impending transformation to be wrought on it by childbirth.

There are three curious nods at the relentless genital gags in Funny People. Rogen asks James Taylor (playing himself) if he ever gets tired of singing “Fire and Rain,” then Taylor asks him “Do you ever get tired of talking about your dick?”—a defensive maneuver. Later, Sandler’s father tells him, “A man who’s funny doesn’t have to work blue”—how innocent, the elderly. Then there is the Randy character played by Aziz Ansari who brags that his act “fucked the crowd in the ass” and says “my standup’s my dick.” An explicitly aggressive libido gives away the game. (An exception is allowed black and South Asian characters in Virgin and Knocked Up, whose unbridled sexuality is treated as an ethnic quirk.) To admit to actual desire crosses a line of vulgarity that would repel the public (at least as voiced by a white hero); in other words, you’re allowed to talk about your dick if you stick to the facts—that it is small, doesn’t work right, and is inevitably embarrassing.