Mickey Z.

Get Ready for Locavore Liquor in 2010

When you raise a glass to mark the start of a new year and new decade, will you know where your drink was made? Well, according to Restaurants & Institutions magazine, one of the top menu trends in 2010 will be local liquor. Case in point: Two "moonshiners" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are planning to start making and selling double-distilled whiskey and bourbon.

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8 Reasons You Should Stop Drinking Milk Now

What could be more American than a glass of milk? Cow's milk, that is. In light of this common perception, the time is long overdue to add the milk mustache to that ever-growing list of American myths. Human beings are not designed to drink any milk except human milk (only during infancy, of course). As you'll see below, consuming dairy products -- milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc. -- is not green and it's not healthy.

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Tear Down That Wal-Mart

If any of you have connections to the folks who produce "The Simpsons," I have an idea for a great opening sequence. Marge hears that the local discount store is offering DVD players for $29 so she gets on line with a zillion others to wait for the store to open at 6:00 a.m. In fact, she's first in line. When the siren blares, Marge is trampled by the frenzied bargain-hunters behind her and is found lying unconscious on top of a DVD player. Marge is airlifted to the local hospital where, after she recovers from a seizure, she's told that the owner of the discount store has offered to put a DVD player on hold for her.

All right...so I didn't just make that scenario up. It actually happened to Patricia VanLester at an Orange City, Florida Wal-Mart SuperCenter on November 28, 2003.

"She got pushed down, and they walked over her like a herd of elephants," said VanLester's sister, Linda Ellzey. "I told them, `Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the ground!' All they cared about was a stupid DVD player."

Apparently, VanLester and her sister also cared enough about those stupid DVD players to be on line at 6:00 a.m. to buy one.

Wal-Mart is America's largest employer. General Motors used to be America's largest employer but GM is too busy being Mexico's largest employer now...so it's up Wal-Mart to keep consumerism alive and trampling.

Wal-Mart was founded by the late Sam Walton. Forget John-boy, these are the real Waltons and their story is a far more accurate illustration of the real American Dream. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based behemoth claims that more than 93 million Americans shop in at least one of its over 4,400 discount stores in the US. Those tens of millions have helped make Wal-Mart the single largest seller of pop music in America but you won't find anyone trampled during a sale of rap music with "explicit" lyrics because Wal-Mart doesn't sell that kind of CD. Rifles, knives, handcuffs, or handgun ammunition? No problem.

With roughly half of their employees -- I mean, "associates" -- eligible for food stamps, the Waltons remain steadfastly anti-union. As an internal Wal-Mart document explained: "Wal-Mart is opposed to the unionization of its associates. Any suggestion that the company is neutral on the subject or that it encourages associates to join labor organizations is not true." To drive this policy home, Wal-Mart has become the world's largest importer of Chinese-made products and the subsequent sweatshop-level prices have been known to cause a stampede or two.

"We are very disappointed this happened," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk said after the VanLester incident. "We want her to come back as a shopper."

Ms. Burk needn't worry. As Louis Uchitelle explains in The New York Times ("Why Americans Must Keep Spending," December 1, 2003), despite a tough economy, "Consumers will keep spending anyway, going deeper into debt to do so if they must. They have too many needs, some that were luxuries only yesterday." Doing his part to promote holiday shopping (and predatory capitalism), Uchitelle says, "Consumers in America spend because they feel they must spend."

Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet. He can be reached at: mzx2@earthlink.net.

Anarchy and the FBI

"What a waste of thumbs that are opposable/To make machines that are disposable/And sell them to seagulls flying in circles/Around one big right wing/Yes, the left wing was broken long ago/By the slingshot of COINTELPRO/And now it's so hard to have faith in anything/Especially your next bold move"
--"Your Next Bold Move," Ani DiFranco

In a November 23, 2003 piece entitled, "F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies," New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau broke the rather unsurprising news with this lead: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum."

Representing the land of the free, F.B.I. officials told Lichtblau the comforting news that the "intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and 'extremist elements' plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters."

If there was ever a fail-safe, catch-all band of villains, it's the anarchists. Evoke the term "anarchist" and everyday citizens look the other way when law enforcement (sic) agencies bend the rules. Whether it's the Palmer raids of 1918-21, the deportation of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the devastating impact of the FBI Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), it's nothing new. In fact, AK Press just re-issued Berkman's "What is Anarchism?"; over 70 years old, it could have been written yesterday.

"You have heard that Anarchists throw bombs, that they believe in violence, and that Anarchy means disorder and chaos," Berkman writes. "It is not surprising that you should think so. The press, the pulpit, and everyone in authority constantly din it into your ears." But he adds, "Most of them know better" and "have a reason for not telling you the truth."

Part of that truth involves the reality that, as Berkman explains, "it is capitalism and government which stand for disorder and violence," while anarchism "means order without government and peace without violence." The reason for not allowing those self-evident truths to be known is obvious. What self-perpetuating corporate culture wants a populace appreciating that the word "anarchy" comes from the Greek, meaning "without force, without violence or government"?

"Government is the very fountainhead of violence, constraint, and coercion," Berkman writes. "Anarchism teaches that we can live in a society where there is no compulsion of any kind. A life with compulsion naturally means liberty; it means freedom from being forced or coerced...You cannot lead such a life unless you do away with the institutions that curtail your liberty and interfere with your life, the conditions that compel you to act differently than you would really like to."

Institutions like the FBI and its "extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators." Conditions like the "war" on non-US-sponsored terror.

Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (Soft Skull Press) and can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

Not All Italians Love Columbus

America is a nation built upon myth (starting with its "discovery") but the greatest myth of all is that the land of the free is gonna last forever. Alas, my History Channel-watching brethren, all genocidal empires must fall -- just ask Italy. Once the proud birthplace of DaVinci, Verdi and my father, Italy must now bear the blame for producing Buttafuoco, Guiliani, and Janice Soprano. While the children of old Italia once rose up in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, today's paisan is busy trying to explain Fabio.

Indeed, when the mighty fall, they do tend to go for the gusto.

I ponder this irony as we come upon yet another Columbus Day -- 24 hours set aside to revere Italy's version of the Terminator. Upon encountering the Arawak people in 1492, Columbus noted that they "would make fine servants," adding, "with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Governor Arnold's got nothing on Chris "The Continent Cleanser" Columbus.

Below the elevated platform at the Astoria Boulevard N/W train station, my neighborhood plays host to Columbus Square...which is actually shaped like a warped triangle. Let Manhattan have its rather simplistic circle...we in Queens are far more geometrically sophisticated. It's a square triangle for us.

Naturally, a statue of Christopher Columbus adorns this triangular square. If one were to believe this sculptor's rendition, Chris the Capo spent plenty of time in the Santa Maria Tennis and Fitness Club. This statue is pumped. He's got biceps to die for and a set of pecs that are literally bursting out of his manly shirt.

Yes, Columbus is buffed and ready for genocide.

An engraved plate on the ground under the statue reads: "But not for Columbus, there would be no America." As I stomp on those intolerable words with my dirt-infested sneakers, I envision that first conversation:

COLUMBUS: Red man, we want your land and everything on it.
INDIAN: Okay, muscular paleface, but what will you offer in return?
COLUMBUS: Venereal disease, smallpox, the destruction of your culture, genocide, Christianity, and a really bad image in John Wayne flicks.
INDIAN: Can you toss in a few casinos?
COLUMBUS: Sure, but you'll have to wait about 500 years.
INDIAN: Okay, Chris, you've got a deal.

With that conversation in mind, I ascend the stairs to the train.

Happy Indigenous People's Day...

Mickey Z. is the author of "Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of 'The Good War.'" He can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

The Rules of Engagement

As July turns into August, the thoughts of repressed white men turn to ... marriage?

In Israel, the Knesset hurriedly passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship or residency. (Anyone else who marries an Israeli remains entitled to Israeli citizenship.) As reported by Justin Huggler of the Guardian, "Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip will either have to move to the occupied territories, or live apart from their husband or wife. Their children will be affected too: from the age of 12 they will be denied citizenship or residency and forced to move out of Israel."

The ostensible reason for this legislation is this: The Israeli Arab community, already 20 percent of the population, is growing faster than the Jewish population ... and, over the past 10 years, more than 100,000 Palestinians have become Israeli citizens through marriage (mostly to Israeli Arabs).

Those in favor of the law cloaked their bigotry in the garb of anti-terrorism. "We are in a state of war -- not with the English, or the Americans, or the Dutch, or the Slovaks -- we are at war with our neighbors, the Palestinians," Gideon Sa'ar, of the Likud Party, said before the vote. "It's a tragic reality."

"This law comes to address a security issue," said Gideon Ezra, a cabinet minister. "Since September 2000 we have seen a significant connection, in terror attacks, between Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli Arabs."

By "significant," Ezra apparently means the 20 (out of 100,000) Israeli Arabs who allegedly have been involved in "suicide bombings or other militant attacks."

Moving west to that other Holy Land, the Vatican issued a 12-page set of guidelines condemning same-sex marriage. The Vatican declared homosexual relationships to be "gravely immoral," equated the adoption of children by gay couples to "doing violence," and called on politicians to defend "the common good of society."

The ostensible reason for this document (released in seven languages) is this: "Only traditional marriage between men and women can fulfill God's plan for the reproduction of the human race." No mention was made of gravely immoral priests "doing violence" to the children they abuse and how that might impact upon "the common good of society."

Finally, crossing the pond to god's country, President Bush had this to say: "Marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. We've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."

Despite the fact that his predecessor, Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage in 1996, the apparent purpose of Bush's statement was to bring about "a definition of marriage."

Afterwards, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan helped clarify things: "The president doesn't believe in casting stones. He believes we ought to treat one another with dignity and respect."

The holy trinity of Bush, the Pope and the Knesset surely have lawyers looking at the best way to do that, too.

Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet, and an editor at Wide Angle. He can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

GM Food for Thought

Unless you've gone exclusively organic, the odds are you've eaten potatoes that are registered pesticides. Monsanto's New Leaf Superior potato is engineered to produce the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt kills the Colorado potato beetle but it is also in every one of the New Leaf Superior's cells. Thus, it is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a pesticide, not a food...and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot regulate the New Leaf Superior potato because the FDA does not have the authority to regulate pesticides.

This would be an interesting and important issue even if it began and ended with the New Leaf Superior but the concerns swirling around genetically modified (GM) food run far deeper than a baked bug killer. Among the countless GM projects in use or in development, we have trees engineered never to flower, potatoes mixed with jellyfish genes that glow in the dark when they need watering, and so-called "edible vaccines."

Is any of this safe? Is it even understood?

Corporate proponents and their flacks would like us to believe so, and they often go to great lengths to discredit critics. For example, the most recent GM defense paints agro-giants as saviors: altruistic entities trying to feed the world. As part of his bullying effort to force GM food on the EU, George W. Bush declared, "European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."

But hunger isn't a result of insufficient resources...it's more about the inequitable distribution of abundant resources. In a recent study of food production and hunger, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization concluded, "Globally, there is enough land, soil and water, and enough potential for future growth in yields, to make the necessary production feasible."

Hunger is a political problem that GM food will not and cannot solve. Roughly 150 million acres of farmland around the world are planted with GM crops; primarily soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. These four big moneymakers do little if anything to nourish hungry people in developing countries.

"The field is dominated by five very large multinational corporations," says Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. "For these corporations, there is no profit to investing in expensive research on new products that can only be purchased by subsistence African farmers with little money. So quite logically, these companies are not focused on improving the basic crops of the developing world such as millet, sorghum, cowpeas, yams or cassava."

What these companies are focused on is ignoring public sentiment and rigorous science. Early in 2001, the Royal Society of Canada -- the nation's foremost scientific body -- said there was insufficient research into the potential allergic effects and toxicity of genetically engineered foods. GM foods could cause "serious risks to human health," the society said. "Genetic engineering of food has far outrun the science that must be its first governing discipline," adds Ralph Nader. "Many unknowns attend the insertion of genes across species, from ecological risks to food allergies. These unknowns beg for investigation."

Long-term (and unbiased) research is needed to make anything approaching an accurate assessment. While such investigation does not appear forthcoming at this juncture, there is enough already known about GM food to put its safety in doubt:

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Ostrich Nation?

The June 20 New York Times offered readers a prime illustration of how those in power manipulate "science" to their needs. In an editorial entitled, "Censorship on Global Warming," the Times chastised the Bush administration for displaying "ostrichlike behavior," vis-à-vis the dangers of global warming and possible human contributions to climate changes. Lamenting the "heavy-handed censorship" of an Environmental Protection Agency draft report on global warming. The Bush administration, says the Times, "seems determined to bury its head in the sand and hope the problem will go away."

"A long section on the risks posed by rising global temperatures was reduced to a noncommittal paragraph," says the editorial. While such outrage is warranted, it's hardly credible when it comes from a corporate media outlet partially funded by petroleum and auto industry ad dollars...an outlet never shy about promoting a predatory corporate agenda.

That same edition of the Times contained an article ("Talks Collapse on U.S. Efforts to Open Europe to Biotech Food") in which reporter David Leonhardt detailed talks between the U.S. and EU over "opening up Europe to genetically modified (GM) foods."

The Bush administration, fresh off ignoring the existing science on global warming, declared that Europe's GM food policy ignores the fact that scientific research had shown "genetically altered crops to be safe." Hardly the radical sort, European officials do allow the use of some genetically modified foods, like soybeans, and merely view the long-term effects of altered food to be "uncertain."

Here's where the newspaper of record weighs in...big time.

"Genetically modified food -- which can grow more quickly than traditional crops and can be resistant to insects -- has caused scant controversy in the United States, where people eat it every day," writes Leonhardt. So what's different in Europe? Leonhardt explains that the environmental movement is "more powerful" there (ah, it's the Luddite tree-huggers again).

Leonhardt's ostrichlike behavior does not stop there. "Scientific research has generally shown that genetically modified foods do not cause health problems," he writes before quoting Don Lipton, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"Countries shouldn't be able to erect barriers for nonscientific reasons," says Lipton. "That's a very important principle in international trade."

Pushing his head ever further into the sand, Leonhardt also evokes the ever-useful "America as hero" tactic: "In a speech last month, President Bush escalated the dispute by saying that Europe's policy was undermining efforts to fight hunger in Africa." Bush's scriptwriters explain: "European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."

Africa swoons from the irony, Europe cringes at yet another public dispute with The World's Only Superpower, and here in the U.S., we chow down on GM food, secure in the knowledge that our un-elected leaders have that whole global warming thing under control.

If there were an ostrich in the room, I'd apologize...

Mickey Z. is the author of "The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet" and an editor at Wide Angle. He can be reached at: mzx2@earthlink.net.

December 7 Means More Than Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2001 will mark the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Between the recent Hollywood version of this event and the endless analogies with September 11th, the media focus that day will predictably be squarely on 1941.

While there are undoubtedly many other December Sevenths worth recalling, I'd like to reflect upon two in particular. The first is December 7, 1975 and it involves, among many others, former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. To commence that reflection requires a geography question: What nation has the largest Muslim population? It's not Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Egypt; it's Indonesia. With a populace more than 90 percent Islamic, this South East Asian island nation has conveniently avoided America's notorious anti-Muslim bent by holding claim to the South Pacific's largest supply of oil, the world's most abundant reserve of natural gas, and a bloody anti-communist history. Therefore, while Palestinian Muslims are labeled terrorists for having the audacity to revolt against fifty years of Israeli repression, Indonesian Muslims can get away with murder. Literally. Just ask former Pat Moynihan (dubbed "a gentle genius" by the New York Post when he announced his retirement a few years back).

Some more geography: East Timor is another island nation – a former Portuguese colony just above Australia – that became the target of a relentless and murderous assault by Indonesia since, you guessed it, December 7, 1975. That assault was made possible through the sale of U.S. arms to its loyal client-state, the silent complicity of the American press, and Pat Moynihan's skill at keeping the UN uninvolved at the request of his boss, Dr. Kissinger. Over one-third of the East Timorese population (more than 200,000 humans) lost their lives due to war-related starvation, disease, massacres, or atrocities. Proportionally, the depth of this slaughter is on par with the Nazi Holocaust.

Here's where the gentle genius fits in.

After having served as an advisor to Richard Nixon (an excellent venue for honing skills of genocide), Moynihan was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Gerald Ford. It was on his watch that the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor took place. Taking orders from his boss, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Moynihan bragged to the Australian ambassador to the UN that he was "under instructions from Kissinger personally not to involve himself in discussions on Timor with Indonesians."

In his book, "A Dangerous Place", the gentle genius further detailed his role in the East Timorese genocide: "The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success."

At that time, Moynihan told the Australian ambassador to the United Nations that he (Moynihan) was "under instructions from Kissinger personally not to involve himself in discussion with Timor with the Indonesians."

As Henry the K once noted (perhaps on the Seventh of December in another year), "Foreign policy should not be confused with missionary work."

The second December 7th I'd like to acknowledge here is 1926. On that date, Noam Chomsky was born. So, I'll take this opportunity to wish the professor many, many more.

For more information on the situation in East Timor, please visit www.etan.org.

Mickey Z. (Michael Zezima) is the author of "Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of 'The Good War'" (Soft Skull Press) and a contributor to "You Are Being Lied To" (Disinformation Books). He lives in New York City and can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

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