Archive for December, 2009

WATCH: Annie Leonard Presents: The Story of Cap and Trade

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

From Annie Leonard, creator of the popular animated documentary short The Story of Stuff, comes The Story of Cap and Trade, a cogent takedown of the flawed proposition that cap-and-trade is the solution to climate change.

Cap-and-trade, Leonard argues, rewards historic polluters and lines the pockets of corporate middlemen with billions, while doing nothing meaningful to address climate change. A much more sane approach would be the cap-and-dividend system proposed by Peter Barnes (Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide), in which the money from carbon permits flows back to us, the average citizens. But that’s only the beginning.

Visit The Story of Cap and Trade here.


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How I Spent My Christmas Holiday: Watching Foodies Confront the Emerging National Food Safety Regimen

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

By David E. Gumpert

From his blog, The Complete Patient

If you’re Jewish, Christmas tends to be a very quiet time. Without a Christmas tree, stockings over the fireplace, and presents to open, you tend to feel more apart from American culture than any other time of the year. On top of that, nearly everything you might do that day for entertainment, like shop, or go to a museum, or go out for brunch, is impossible, because nearly everything  is shut tight. If you live in a big city, there are usually two options: go to a movie and out to eat at a Chinese restaurant, since Chinese restaurants, for some reason, stay open. If you live in a small city or town, and you’re not near a ski area, you just stay home.

I had a special opportunity this year to have a different kind of Christmas by attending a food conference. Yes, a conference, beginning on Christmas Eve and continuing until Dec. 27. It was, not surprisingly, a Jewish conference, a Jewish foodie conference, to be precise, run by Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization. I was invited to participate on a panel with other writers and bloggers assessing how the media’s treatment of food issues is changing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend, since I’ve been traveling a fair amount, but when I learned it was being held at a resort overlooking the Pacific in Monterey, CA, well, that sealed the deal. 

So, anyway, I arrived last Thursday, and sure enough, it was as beautiful as advertised. Nor was I alone—there were more than 600 attendees. Asilomar is both a conference center and state park. It was built mostly in the early 1900s, and so has lots of interesting dark wood meeting places, as well as guest rooms with fireplaces and without televisions and telephones. It’s set amid sand dunes, and is a short walk down to the Pacific, with its huge roaring waves and rocky coast.

One of the first things I did after registering was read the conference schedule, and was surprised to find a two-page spread entitled, “Food At the 2009 Food Conference”. I was surprised because it was amazingly candid reading, capturing in microcosm the underlying issues of the food safety debate that’s been going on in Congress over the last few months, and will most likely conclude sometime in the next few weeks with new legislation that increasing numbers of people associated with local and sustainable food feel will be draconian. I decided the best way to present it here is simply to excerpt from it, since it is so well constructed; it makes for a longer-than-usual blog posting, but bear with me. It starts as follows:

“We would like the food we serve to reflect the highest values to which we aspire. So we would like to provide food that is delicious, consciously prepared, local, organic, healthy, ethical and kosher. We want to demonstrate—ideally—that these values can all be attained. If or when they can’t be, we want to explain why.

“Those of you who were at the first or second Hazon Food Conferences, in 2006 and 2007 (at an East Coast retreat center), got to experience the extraordinary food we were able to serve…In 2007 on Friday night we ate kosher meat from goats that were raised (at the retreat center) and that we schechted (slaughtered) that morning. It was an appropriately intense experience for those who were there, and entirely consonant with our desire to provide transparency and education in the food that we eat.

“Moving the Food Conference to Asilomar has been a blessing in many ways. We have traded the East Coast winter for the beautiful Pacific Ocean…Happily, we have been able to meet most of our standards, including the following:” It then lists and describes them—kosher, seasonal, organic, not processed. Now we get to the “but” phrase.

“But this year brought some specific challenges that we feel it is important to share. Asilomar is located within a California State Park, and the conference center is managed for the state by a private contractor. Between last year’s Food Conference and this year’s, the management contract changed hands, and in September a company called ARAMARK took over the management of Asilomar. In 2008 ARAMARK had sales of $13.5 billion and profits in excess of $1 billion. That a lot of food. And a company that size naturally has systems and procedures about how it sources the food that it serves.”

The piece then quotes from the Aramark web site about how, “We strive to offer clients and customers fresh whole foods that are raised, grown, harvested, and produced locally and in a sustainable manner whenever possible…” (I couldn’t find this actual segment online.)

The program guide continues: “That’s a pretty good policy. But in practice, we have had a series of problems in the period leading up to the Food Conference. The main ones are in relation to two other key values for us:

Conscious. We intended to source and serve local pasture-raised chickens from Green Oaks CreekFarm in Pescadero, about 80 miles north of Asilomar. Some of us had already visited the chickens that we would have served this Friday night, and were thus able to attest at first hand that they were well-tended chickens. They were to be schechted by…a young kosher slaughterer, under the supervision of (a rabbi) and plucked and kashered by conference participants…as we did last year. This year, ARAMARK’s regulations prevented us from doing that. Understanding that meat is an important part of many participants’ traditional Shabbat celebration, we decided instead to serve Empire kosher organic chickens on Friday night. Empire’s chickens are raised on small family farms and are fed vegetarian and organic diets. But they are killed in Mifflintown, PA, and obviously we know less about that than would have been the case at Green Oaks. The fish that we are serving is wild salmon from a sustainable fishery.

Local. ARAMARK requires that food suppliers meet particular documented safety standards—standards that smaller farms often don’t have the infrastructure to provide. As a result, although we are delighted to be able to serve foods from at least ten local organic farms, we were not able to accept produce from some of the farms that had offered to donate produce. The following donations that were offered to us were not acceptable according to ARAMARK’s food safety standards…” The program then lists nine suppliers that were prepared to donate 500 pounds of apples, 500 pounds of cabbage, 25 dozen eggs, 230 pounds of squash, and 325 pounds of trout, among other items.

“Last year our volunteers picked up donated food and delivered it directly to Asilomar. That way they were a living connection in the journey from farm to table. This year…that food will have to go via distributors…

“You could argue that these are small issues, and in some ways they are. And if these policies were not in place, and someone at our food conference got salmonella—for instance—ARAMARK as the operator would potentially expose themselves to liability by not having appropriate procedures in place…

“But Blue Greenberg, one of the leading orthodox Jewish feminists, once said, ‘where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.’ What she meant is that Jewish tradition is rooted in halacha, Jewish law, and people often think of it as unchangeable; but if and when the rabbis wanted to change the law, they very often found a way to do so.

“We think that’s a good analogy for the food sourcing procedures at Asilomar—and, by implication, in thousands of other ARAMARK facilities around the country…”

Ah, but it was not to be. As it turned out, ARAMARK did not bend. How was the food? Let’s just say that a good Jewish mother or grandmother would not have been happy about the unevenness of the meals. For example, ARAMARK ran out of main courses at the first dinner (an uninspired mix of tofu and green beans)—latecomers (I among them) wound up with an even less inspired plate of barley and canned mushrooms. Similarly, a breakfast of lox and bagels was missing the bagels—many attendees were clearly unhappy with the rice crackers that substituted…and the lox ran out after about 20 per cent of the guests had been served—the rest had to settle for smoked trout.

The chicken at the Friday evening Sabbath dinner was okay, but certainly not nearly as good as the local pastured chickens would have been. Interestingly, many of the chicken thighs and legs were undercooked, which is a great way to spread salmonella. And let’s just say the chocolate pudding dessert would have embarrassed moms of all religions—it was grainy and had attendees making some serious sour faces. Granted, making pudding without milk or cream is a challenge (no dairy products are allowed to be served with meat at kosher meals), but one can ask in response whether pudding was the best choice.

There were a few excellent meals. One lunch salad of wild salmon and greens was very well done, as was a breakfast of French toast stuffed with apples and blueberries.

But by and large, attendees were disappointed that a foodie conference’s food would be so ordinary and institutional. The last day’s lunch plate of a scoop of mashed potatoes next to a scoop of rice with lentils seemed to put an exclamation mark on the frustrations of trying to serve local produce when half your vendors are disqualified under arbitrary safety regs. As a rabbinical student put it to me: “It all had a very corporate feel to it.”

To Hazon’s credit, not only was it upfront in its program guide about the food mess, but it scheduled a special panel discussion that included organizers of the food component of the program to explain further what happened, and to answer questions. To ARAMARK’s credit, its manager at Asilomar showed up and took questions.

I inquired what the problems were with the disqualified donors, and it turns out the biggest issues were that they didn’t have HACCP plans and traceback procedures. These are among the big requirements of the new food safety laws pending in Congress (HR 2749, SB 510).

What happened at Asilomar is exactly what critics of the pending legislation have argued is going to happen nationally. Small food producers will have a very difficult time complying with the new law’s requirements. While those who were barred by ARAMARK have other options, once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration essentially takes over ARAMARK’s role, there will be no other options. You either comply, or go out of business.

What hasn’t been anticipated so widely yet is what happens after smaller producers are run out of business. I fear that what will happen is that our food options will diminish, and we’ll be forced into ever more of the institutional quality food that the ARAMARKs of the world would prefer we eat.

FDA, CDC, & USDA: Drug-resistant diseases stemming from antibiotic use in animals a “serious emerging concern”

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Industrial animal feedlots are becoming a breeding ground for drug-resistant bacteria, due mainly to the overuse of antibiotics, say researchers.

From the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo! News):

FRANKENSTEIN, Mo. – The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: “You pour the blood out of your boot and go on.”

But Kremer’s red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it’s 50 percent.

“This is a living breathing problem, it’s the big bad wolf and it’s knocking at our door,” said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. “It’s here. It’s arrived.”

Read the whole article here.

The Biochar Debate: From the Introduction

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The following is an excerpt from The Biochar Debate: Charcoal’s Potential to Reverse Climate Change and Build Soil Fertility by James Bruges. It has been adapted for the Web.

Charcoal is one of the oldest industrial technologies, perhaps the oldest. In the last decade there has been a growing wave of excitement engulfing it. Why?

Because some scientists are saying that we might be saved from the worst effects of global warming if we bury large quantities of it. Not only that: we can restore degraded land and get better harvests by mixing fine-grained charcoal—biochar—with soil. Others say that charcoal’s use could be just one of several technologies to mitigate climate change. Yet some maintain that it is an extremely dangerous technology. The jury is out on which is closest to reality. This Briefing aims to provide an overall view of the subject and describes the best way to encourage the appropriate use of biochar.

The theory is simple. Plants, through photosynthesis, capture carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas—from the air as they grow. The carbon of CO2 provides their structure and the oxygen is released for animals to breathe. If the plants are left to rot, the C and O combine again in a relatively short time to release carbon dioxide back into the air. However, if the plants are heated in the absence of oxygen—called pyrolysis—charcoal is formed. Charcoal is largely carbon. As anyone who has organized a barbecue knows, charcoal can be burned, in which case the carbon goes back up into the atmosphere. But if it is buried, the two elements take a long time to recombine as carbon dioxide. This means that some of the most abundant greenhouse gas can be taken out of the atmosphere and locked into the ground for a long time. Deep burial—rather like putting coal back where it belongs—is one way. But there is another option.

Additional excitement came with the discovery of deep dark areas of “terra preta do indio”—Indian black earth—in the Amazon rainforest where the soil generally is thin, red, acidic and infertile. The patches of terra preta are alkaline with a high carbon content, and contain potshards indicating that it was not natural: a pre-Columbian civilization had created it. It is extracted and widely used by garden contractors because it is so fertile. It has remained fertile and retained its carbon content through the centuries.

Terra preta is black because it contains large amounts of charcoal. Infertile land had been converted to fertile land that supported a thriving civilization through the wise use of the trees that had been felled. Could charcoal, therefore, not only be a vehicle for reducing global warming but also a means to increase the fertility of degraded land, and help feed the world?

Charcoal used for this purpose is referred to as biochar. Biochar is pulverised charcoal made from any organic material (not just wood) and, when mixed with soil, it enhances its fertility. It locks carbon into the soil and increases the yield of crops. To many, this appears the closest thing to a miracle.

The process of converting plant material to charcoal gives off heat together with gases and oils. Certain plants and certain processes produce a high proportion of charcoal, whereas others produce more gases and oils. This is where the problems start. These chemicals could become the main commercial attraction of biochar. As has been found with biofuel, growing crops to fuel cars can be more profitable than growing food to feed people. If left to the market, producers of biochar might buy up productive land, plant monocultures, and develop their equipment primarily to produce fuel and industrial chemicals.

Then there is the suggestion that the burial of charcoal should earn carbon credits. As above, the financial motive could lead to “growing carbon credits” in preference to growing food. And if widely adopted, as hoped, the carbon market would be flooded with credits; industry would buy them at fire-sale prices and carry on with business as usual to the detriment of the climate. A strong financial incentive to use biochar is desirable, but carbon credits may not be the best approach.

There are two prime objectives. It is essential to find ways to sequester greenhouse gases if we are to avoid the worst effects of global warming. It is essential also to enable farmers throughout the world to use biochar if it can bring degraded land back to fertility and increase yields. The process cannot be left to “the market,” which has been described as an out-of-control demolition ball swinging from a high crane.

In the final chapter I outline twin policies for reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The first policy would ensure a reduction in the use of fossil fuels. The second concerns our use of land. The requirements for the two are so different that separate regulations are necessary. The first is called cap-and-dividend (in the US). The second is the Irish proposal for a Carbon Maintenance Fee (CMF), which would provide a powerful incentive for every country, rich and poor, to enable its farmers, businesses and individuals to maintain land-based carbon.

Faster Trains Lead Amtrak’s List of Needs

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The future is looking a little brighter for Amtrak since our new rail-friendly administration took office. And, since improved passenger rail service is unquestionably a public good, what’s good for Amtrak is good for America.

From the New York Times:

Amtrak has been working hard to lure more business travelers to its trains, with advertisements highlighting its advantages over air travel — roomier seats, power outlets on its Acela trains and fewer annoyances.

And its efforts have borne some fruit: the number of riders on its Northeast corridor trains has been rising.

But faster trains are critical to its future. So while Amtrak got some desperately needed financing from the federal government this year, its forecasts suggest that speedier rail travel in the United States remains a daunting challenge.

For the Northeast corridor alone, Amtrak estimates that it will need almost $700 million annually for the next 15 years to maintain the system and to tackle a backlog of maintenance projects and upgrades. Reducing travel times between New York and Washington to two-and-a-half hours and times between New York and Boston to three hours — goals that were established in the 1970s — will require straighter track, improvements to bridges and tunnels, increased capacity through Manhattan and newer trains, among other investments.

Almost all of Amtrak’s lines fail to make money, with a total loss of $1.1 billion in 2008. Even technology enhancements seem to move at a slow pace: developing a new electronic reservation system is expected to take until 2015.

Still, Amtrak officials are more optimistic now than they have been in a long time. “We’re probably in the best position to move forward to get the things done we want to get done and that the government wants us to get done,” said David Lim, Amtrak’s chief marketing officer. “We have an administration that is supportive of rail.”

Read the whole article here.


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WATCH: Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi Talk Health Care Reform and Financial Regulation on Bill Moyers Journal

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Corporations, Wall Street, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry have way too much power and influence in Washington. In constructing his plans for financial and health care reform, President Obama made concessions to big business because he guessed—probably correctly—that he would need them if he was going to make any advances, as incremental as they might be, in the Democratic agenda.

The danger now, for Obama and the Democratic Party, is in coming off as totally beholden to corporate interests. The far right will harness populist anger and turn it against the Democrats in 2012. And as perverse and backwards as that sounds, it just might work.

Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi discuss the problems inherent in governing a dysfunctional country, the relative merits of health care reform, and the hope versus the reality of Barack Obama in this segment from Bill Moyers Journal.

Something’s not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you’re about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that’s just dandy with the White House.

Truth is, our capitol’s being looted, republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that’s pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It’s capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.

Watch It Now:


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Hope for a Climate Change Solution in the Wake of Copenhagen

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Question: How do you get world leaders to commit to lowering and stabilizing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm by 2020? Answer: you probably can’t. Which means you’ll have to do it yourself.

David Gershon doesn’t want to wait for governments to get their act together. Not when the collective will of billions of people, properly harnessed, could do the job better and faster. The only question remaining is: how do you mobilize them?

From The Huffington Post:

The political leaders of the world that gathered in Copenhagen had the unenviable responsibility of forging a strategy to pull humankind back from the brink of a dire future. What ultimately will come from this meeting is uncertain, but whatever occurs, the challenge ahead is immense. According to conservative climate change science, we need to stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide at 400 ppm and then begin reducing it to 350 ppm to avoid triggering a cascading set of irreversible tipping points. To be successful in this task requires us to develop a solution to achieve by 2020 what the current treaty being negotiated hopes to achieve by 2050 — an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions.

The scale and speed of change required goes well beyond anything political leaders have ever had to contemplate, much less achieve. And even if the political will were there to achieve this level and speed of carbon reduction, the social change 1.0 tools at their disposal — command and control, and financial incentives — are not designed for this type of rapid, transformative change. They were purposely designed over two centuries ago for gradual, incremental change.

Putting aside the issues of speed and magnitude of change for the moment, passing a law that commands us to adopt new behaviors, and then penalizes us if we don’t, is not politically feasible. And although offering us financial incentives to change is sending the right signal, we are still free not to avail ourselves of these incentives. When we are not already predisposed to changing, financial incentives have a limited effect. Even when we are amenable to changing, financial incentives are very slow moving and cumbersome to implement.

If command and control and financial incentives are not enough to turn the tide in the necessary timeframe, can renewable energy and new breakthrough technologies come to the rescue of humankind? While a low-carbon future critically depends on new technologies, there is no credible scenario by which they can be brought to scale in the ten-year window within which our scientists tell us we must make major carbon reductions.

The dilemma we face is what systems theory calls second order change — or change that requires a system to transform and reorganize at a higher level of performance. When the easier-to-implement solutions prove inadequate for the speed and magnitude of change required, the system goes into stress and must evolve, or it will break down.

Read the whole article here.


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Where Do We Go From Here? Drawing Conclusions from The End of Money

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Reality Sandwich considers the broader implications of Thomas Greco‘s The End of Money and the Future of Civilization in this article:

Thomas Greco is the most radical writer on money today. The very title of the book suggests that the future of civilization depends on abandoning money-as-we-know-it. What could be more radical and revolutionary than that? Yet on reading this book Tom Greco does not come across as some wild revolutionary wanting to turn the world upside down. His style is calm, thorough and systematic. He talks us through the historical record and shows how the current financial system has shaped and governs our world. The entire argument of the book is that if we are to tackle the gigantic issues of our time we have to understand how money works and adopt a new way of doing money. We do not have to re-invent it entirely for it has evolved over the centuries and we are now entering a new era where modern technologies allow us to move away from the existing centralised, globalised, monopolised and privatised money system that is a tragic relic of history to a truly modern, democratic money system that belongs to the commons.

Greco is brilliant at exposing the workings of our current money system and explaining how this can evolve into a new system. But all the time there is this feeling that he is holding back, that he is not following his own arguments to their logical conclusion. “Prognostication is a hazardous business – something that is best avoided”, he tells us. He does hint at where new monetary trends might take us but leaves most of it to our imaginations. So if you are hoping to find out what lies in store for civilization or what the future of civilization will look like you will be disappointed. It is only in the epilogue that he touches on the prospects for civilization, and then in only two pages.

This review is neither a critique nor a summary of the book; it is about what it says between the lines and what would result if we were to follow the logic of Greco’s arguments. In the same way as he wants to ‘liberate the exchange process’, this is an attempt to ‘liberate’ some of his ideas to ensure that their full potential is realised. This will be achieved by looking at some of the monetary concepts used by Greco and by following through what might ensue if his proposals were adopted.

Read the whole article here.


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Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

By Deirdre Heekin

From fuoricitta

For the past several years we have walked down our dirt road about one hundred yards in the dark of Christmas Eve for a traditional feast. Sometimes it is snowing, other times it has rained, and often it is very, very cold. This Christmas Eve, a fog rolled in, making the air damp and rather bone chilling chasing up the sleeves of our coats and underneath our Christmas finery. We came with a basket of gifts and a large bowl of freshly cut greens from the green house—jewel-toned radicchio, frisee, and escarole.

To start there was pink champage and a smoked salmon from New Foundland brought by our host Edie’s father. It was hearty and smokey while being delicate and silky at the same time. A half wheel of a runny French cheese went well with the clean scrub of the champagne. Our other host, Edie’s husband Robert, went all out on a buffet of traditional dishes: a roast local turkey, brussel sprouts, fat beets roasted with ginger, stuffing made with sausage produced right down the road, a gratin of potatoes, creamed spinach, and the salad with the slightly bitter greens to finish.

We drank a jewel-toned wine with the meal, a Barbera d’Alba made by a small producer in the Piemonte with the last name of Correggio. It glimmered true claret in the decanter and was cozy and slightly inky to drink. At the restaurant, I serve another of the same gentleman’s wines, a rarity of still Bracchetto which smells more like a handful of roses and violets. Dessert was peppermint ice cream dressed in warm chocolate sauce.

In the tradition of a holiday, and the tradition of bringing our two families together, and the tradition of a classic meal we sat around the lace-covered table set with Edie’s family china and glassware (the old Venetian goblets painted lightly with gold that I covet so!) talking of family histories, exams at school, plans for anniversaries, exchanging books we’d recently read, and bringing out the wine Atlas to follow a route on the Massif Centrale in France. Somehow, lengthy celebratory meals always end up needing a map.

Then, Edie with a deft sleight of hand, produced a bottle of rum to finish our meal. And not just any rum. This was a family rum. A famous rum belonging to Edie’s father and dated 1875. Medford Rum, which had belonged to the family all those years ago when Gen. George L. Batchelder inherited it. A stash of which had just been found while clearing out someone’s old cellar. The bottle was clear and portly, we suspected the original, but the label had been replaced at some point along the line as you could see the remnants of glue dried on the surface. This did nothing to detract from the deep caramel hue of the liqueur. Caleb did the honors of opening the bottle with the cork breaking along the way, and a little sigh escaped went the last bit of plug was removed as if the spirit in “spirit” has released out into the evening.

Edie poured a dram into one of the Venetian goblets and starting with Edgar, we passed around the glass to taste this particular history until the glass was finished. I have never tasted anything so venerable and so old. Who knew a rum well over a hundred years old would taste and smell so powerfully and elegantly of molasses, orange peel, smoked hickory, vanilla, and clove? When you held up a fresh orange studded with cloves plucked from the table decorations, then smelled the rum, the orange and the clove bloomed into the clarity of olfactory vision. Edgar’s lady friend suggested we bottled the rest into little vials of perfume, and she was right, in smelling and tasting such a liquid gem, one can experience how hair-line the boundary is between perfume and drink.

Medford Rum has a long and famous history dating back to Paul Revere and his fatefull visit to his favorite tavern The Green Dragon, and was the product of a seafaring family that delighted in the treasures of the West Indies and the China Seas. The talk winds down to the magic of tasting something made by people who knew people during our country’s own revolution, of thinking about all the hands that went into producing something so sublime, and while we can’t imagine those particular faces or names or personal histories, one feels compelled to thank and honor them anyway.

We walk home wrapped back up into our coats and already reminiscing about the rum, the meal, and the good company. The fog blankets our meadows, and mists over a quarter moon looking like the view from the prow of pirate’s ship.


Hervé Kempf: A Copenhagen Dictionary

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Wikipedia defines a dictionary as: “a collection of words in a specific language, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another.” And as this is a Wikipedia entry, we can expect that definition to change within hours. Hopefully whatever new definition is added by the site’s collection of wordsmiths and nerds sees fit to include Hervé Kempf’s recent article on In the tradition of Ambrose Bierce, Kempf skewers the Copenhagen climate conference with A Copenhagen Dictionary.

Activists: the word sounds better than “militants.”

Africa: is unsure of itself.American way of life: outmoded, disgusting or decadent?

Banks: are doing very well, thank you.

Bike Bloc: funny, nonviolent, fine, insurrectionary. Long live the Cyclution!

Camel: “passes more easily through the eye of a needle than does a rich man enter Heaven,” according to Jesus Christ as reported by Hugo Chavez, reader of books.

Capitalism: designated by some as the cause of climate change.

Carbon Market: has lead in its wings.

China: hurtling down a course with no outlet. To brake before the catastrophe.

Christmas: Merry Christmas to all, from the bottom of my heart.

Read the whole article here.Related Articles:

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