Archive for February, 2011


Watch: Bruce Levine on Get Up, Stand Up

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. In his new book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, psychologist Bruce E. Levine offers an original and convincing explanation for this passivity.

Many Americans are deeply demoralized by decades of oppressive elitism, and they have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible. Drawing on phenomena such as learned helplessness, the abuse syndrome, and other psychological principles and techniques for pacifying a population, Levine explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism set in, truths about social and economic injustices are not enough to set people free.

Watch a video, below, of Bruce Levine discussing his life story and the observations that lead him to write Get Up, Stand Up.

Learn more about Get Up, Stand Up, available for pre-order now and shipping in late March.

Brassicaceae: The Cabbage Family

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

“Almost everyone who has ever grown a vegetable has grown brassicas”, writes Eric Toensmeier in his latest book, Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles.

“This outstanding group of plants contains many of our most beloved vegetables, such easy-care, cold-tolerant plants as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and collards.”

With gardening season right around the corner, here’s some inspiration for perennial brassicas varieties to experiment with this year.

Check out Perennial Vegetables in our bookstore now.

Help Us Help Christchurch!

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Christchurch, New Zealand, home to author Tomm Stanley, has been badly damaged by the February 22nd earthquake.  Tomm’s stone house has withstood the quake without structural damage but tens of thousands of homes in Christchurch are now condemned, and recovery crews are working 24 hours a day to bring order back to the city.

In an effort to assist, all three of Tomm’s books will be available at 50% off with 50% of the proceeds going to the Christchurch Red Cross.  To take advantage of this offer and help us to help Christchurch during this terrible time, please consider purchasing one or more of Tomm’s books. Check out The Stone House, Going Solar, and The Big Tree at George and Charlotte’s House in our bookstore now.  Thank you for your support!

Finding The Wildness Of Chiles In Sonora

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

The following is excerpted from the forthcoming book Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gary Paul Nabhan. It appeared originally online at Edible Phoenix. Chasing Chiles will be available in early March.

When we crossed the US–Mexico border into the estado de Sonora, we could feel something different in the landscape. It was especially visible along the roadsides, a feeling that was palpable in the dusty air. Less than half an hour south of Nogales, Arizona, we began to see dozens of street vendors on the edge of the highway, hawking their wares. There were fruit stands, ceviche and fish tacos in seafood carts, tin-roofed barbacoa huts, and all sorts of garish concrete and soapstone lawn ornaments clumped together. Amid all the runof-the-mill street food and tourist kitsch, we sensed that we might just discover something truly Sonoran.

Dozens of long strings of dried crimson peppers called chiles de sarta hung from the beams of the roadside stands, ready for making moles and enchilada sauces. Hidden among them were “recycled” containers used to harbor smaller but more potent peppers: old Coronita beer bottles and the familiar curvy Coca-Cola silhouette filled with homemade pickled wild green chiltepines.  These were what we sought—little incendiary wild chiles, stuffed into old bottles like a chile Molotov cocktail and sold on the street.

They signaled to us that we had come into what the likes of Graham Greene and Carlos Fuentes have described as a truly different country—the Mexican borderlands. It is as distinct from the rest of Mexico as it is from the United States, for the borderlands have their own particular food, folklore and musical traditions. This is a country where a beef frank wrapped in bacon can become a “Sonoran hot dog”—with jalapeños, refried beans, crema and fiery-hot salsa soaked into a soft-textured roll—and where ballads are sung about rebels and renegades, both those of the past like Pancho Villa and those of the present like the narcotraficantes of the Sinaloan drug cartel. It is place where preservative-laden ketchup is frowned upon, and where freshly mashed salsas are nearly as common as water.

We were after the first and most curious of all the North American chile peppers, the chiltepin—the wild chile pepper of the arid subtropical sierras. It remains one of the true cultural icons of the desert borderlands, a quintessential place-based food, for it is still hand-harvested from the wild. Chiltepines are associated with human behaviors that are considered both sacred and profane. On the one hand, they are deified in an ancient Cora Indian creation story, and relied upon in Yaqui and Opata healing and purification rituals. On the other hand, they remain the favored spice in Sonoran cantinas and cathouses.

Continue reading this excerpt at Edible Phoenix. Photo above left courtesy of Edible Phoenix.

Learn more about Chasing Chiles in our bookstore now.

Howard Frank Mosher Interviews Edward Hoagland

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The following interview between Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher and acclaimed essayist Edward Hoagland, whose new book is Sex and the River Styx, appeared originally on Amazon.com

Howard Frank Mosher is the author of Walking to Gatlinburg and many other novels, three of which, Disappearances, A Stranger in the Kingdom, and Where the Rivers Run North, have been made into acclaimed feature films. He has lived in Vermont’s fabled Northeast Kingdom since 1964.

Mosher: Some of the essays in Sex and the River Styx are set in Africa, which you’ve visited five times. How has the continent changed since you first began going there?

Hoagland: In the seventies I could stay in a hotel in Nairobi that was for Africans, not expats or tourists, and walk the streets at night without fear of being mugged. Now that would not be possible in Nairobi. On the other hand, at the same time in the seventies, Idi Amin ruled Uganda and in fact used one of the international hotels there as a torture chamber. So while westerners could stay there on business, they would be kept awake all night by the screams of Ugandans being tortured by secret police. Now, though, Kenya is on the verge of civil strife, and Kampala, Uganda, is an extremely pleasant city to visit–and for most of its people also, as long as they are not dissidents.

At that time, in 1977, I was living within 17 miles by footpath from the northern border of Uganda and the Acholi tribal people there, who lived on both sides, were extremely frightened if they lived in Uganda, but relatively at peace in the southern Sudan. I still remember how Sudan seemed at that time. It was ruled by Arabs from Khartoum and an Arab policeman in the village of Gilo told me I would be shot because there had been a coup attempt in Khartoum and he assumed that I was in the village to scout out a landing field for paratroopers to come down and aid the coup (which was actually foiled). The local people said, “Don’t shoot our white man.” (These are the people who voted for independence just recently.) After I got to the nearest airport I was held up by security there and wouldn’t have been allowed on the plane except that when they examined my notebooks they asked if I was CIA and I said yes–so that they would let me on.

Mosher:
For many decades, you divided your time between New York City and the remote mountain in northern Vermont where you still spend a third of the year. How have the places you’ve called home shaped your work?

Hoagland:
I got my locus and focus in Vermont, and I got my energy and ambition in New York. If I were a full-time Vermonter I would have published half as many books. But if I were a full-time New Yorker they would not have been as good.

Mosher: Over the course of your writing career, you’ve also taught at many of America’s best colleges, including Bennington, Iowa, the University of California system, Brown, and Columbia. What kind of general advice do you give aspiring writers of fiction and nonfiction?

Hoagland:
To pick out models and mentors. (In my own case I had lunch with John Steinbeck when I was 17 and met Saul Bellow, who I equally admired, soon after leaving college, after working closely with his friend, John Berryman.) Also, it’s important to pick and be loyal to editors who will understand and help you, without arguing with them about money or the like. For example, some of my best essays were published in the Village Voice when I was young, where I was paid only $35 for each, but one of these essays, since then, has earned me a thousand times as much as that in anthology fees. The encouragement of the editors you work with is of primary importance when you are starting out.

Mosher: How has the writing profession changed since you published your first book, Cat Man?

Hoagland: It’s become more mercenary, cynical, and attention-defict-disordered. I feel sorry for young writers starting out today but all the writers one admires worked from love of the genre or their own obsessions. That will continue to be the case.

Mosher: Many writers, including John Updike, have called you our best living essayist. The Washington Post once referred to you as the finest since Thoreau. What distinguishes an essay from other types of nonfiction like memoirs or journalism? Is the essay an endangered species in 21st-century America?

Hoagland: Essays are an even older genre than novels. Montaigne’s were published 25 years before Don Quixote, for example. So their resilience has a long history. I think novels because of their length are endangered. Essays are where a writer speaks directly to the reader not as a storyteller or in reportage but as him- or herself. The popularity of their poor relation, blogs, may prove peoples’ hunger for personal observation. (I spend an average of an hour for every 20 words in an essay when you count the separate drafts. A blog by nature is a quicker process.)

Mosher: At one point in Sex and the River Styx, you write that heaven is on earth. Could you expand on that?

Hoagland:
This is what Emerson also thought: that the seethe of life “is an ecstasy,” and the only ecstasy we will ever know. Like Emerson, I don’t believe that god created man in His own image or vice versa, but that life itself and its energies are our heaven.

Mosher:
In its focus on aging, on our assault on nature, and on what appears to be a world-wide shift from family- and community-based societies to a much more materialistic, solipsistic, “electronic” era, Sex and the River Styx seems thematically different from your earlier essay collections such as The Courage of Turtles, Red Wolves and Black Bears, and Walking the Dead Diamond River. You once wrote that what people want to read is something they haven’t read before. Sex and the River Styx seems to fit that description. Do you regard it as different, in theme and tone, from your earlier work?

Hoagland:
The environmental emergencies we face are much clearer and more drastic and therefore my emphasis has changed but also I have been changed by old age. One of the comforts of old age used to be that people knew the world would remain as they had loved it when they were gone, but that is no longer the case. However, much of my work in the past, going all the way back to exulting in the circus 60 years ago, has been an elegy.

Mosher: You have written about Africa, India, China, Antarctica, Alaska, British Columbia, the American West, Deep South, and New England–the list goes on and on. Where in the world that you haven’t been would you like to visit and write about?

Hoagland: The Amazon. I’ve been on the Nile five times, but never the Amazon, and that is because my very bad stutter years ago prevented me from learning foreign languages. So I have limited myself to areas of the former British Empire like India and the Nile; and that is not simply cowardice. A friend of mine, the writer Alex Shoumatoff, once saved his own life on a tributary of the Amazon because he could understand Portuguese and heard his guides plotting to kill him for his money. Indeed on the Nile I once heard two guides plotting a cruel joke on me but it was in English, so I could clear out.

Mosher:
What books or writers have most influenced you?

Hoagland:
Besides The Iliad, War and Peace, and Moby-Dick, there was Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook and Thomas Mann’s Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man.

Mosher:
Word is that you’ve just finished an African novel and a Yukon River memoir quite different from anything else you’ve written. What’s next on the agenda?

Hoagland:
I’ve been working for several months on an essay on what’s happening to America and I have a Vermont novel I would like to figure out. I don’t know how it ends.

Read the original interview at Amazon.com.

Check out Sex and the River Styx by Edward Hoagland, available in both hardcover and paperback formats in our bookstore now.

Q&A: Maggie Kozel On Leaving Medicine

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The following post written by Lisa Quast of Career Woman Inc. appeared originally at Forbes.com.

While riding the school bus in high school, Maggie Kozel had an epiphany.  She decided she wanted to become a doctor and save lives.  She envisioned herself wearing a white lab coat, handily diagnosing illnesses, ordering tests, and writing prescriptions.  She saw herself happy, successful, and respected.

This was a pretty lofty goal for the child of an alcoholic family whose key to childhood survival had been to fly below the radar of her parent’s bouts of drunken rage.  But that’s exactly what she did; she studied hard, worked several part-time jobs, and was eventually accepted into an elite medical school.

While completing an internship at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Maggie found her passion as a pediatrician.  “By the end of that pediatric internship rotation I had acquired an army of puppets and toys for my own amusement and that of my patients and came to realize that I felt more at home in my doctor skin than I ever had.”

She went on to experience universal medicine while working as a navy pediatrician and then felt culture shock when she went into private practice and encountered the complexities of the U.S. health care system: from confronting HMOs and managed care, to dealing with the litigation anxiety that characterizes the life of an American doctor.  The modern health-care system she experienced upended her idealistic view of medicine.  And she watched as the method of paying for health care reached its way into the exam room, putting a stranglehold on how doctors practice, and profoundly influencing the doctor-patient relationship.

Ultimately, Maggie made a heart-wrenching decision to leave medicine to teach high school chemistry and tells about her experiences in the newly released book, The Color of Atmosphere.  I spoke with Maggie to find out why she and other doctors are increasingly walking away from a profession they love and to find out her advice to other women who are considering a career change.

Q&A with Maggie Kozel, MD

Question:  How does a girl from Point Lookout, Long Island, wind up at Georgetown Medical School? 

Maggie:  I was fortunate to find something I was passionate about at a pretty young age.  I was fifteen years old when I started studying biology, and I really became infatuated with it.  Everything else paled in comparison. It’s what I wanted to do with my life.  Being a doctor was the only career I was aware of in the life sciences, so it seemed the obvious choice. And the beauty of being a naïve fifteen year old was that it never occurred to me that it might be too hard or that I might not get into med school.  I just assumed that if I wanted it badly enough, I could do it.

I think that’s a real advantage for a young person – to be a little oblivious to all the reasons a plan might not work.  The other significant piece was that I saw a medical career as my ticket out of what was a pretty miserable home life.  I needed to know that there was something much better out there waiting for me.

Question:  With so many doctors interested in lucrative specializations, why were you interested in becoming a pediatrician?

Maggie:  When I was 25 years old, I didn’t think money mattered.  And truth be told, when you work 100 hours a week or more in the hospital, money doesn’t matter all that much.  Also, I think we were all more naïve about income than today’s young doctors are.  Most of the established doctors we worked with all made extremely good incomes without a lot of hassle.  We didn’t see what was coming down the road

It was also a very idealistic age – I wanted to do direct patient care.  I loved the personal interaction and the holistic approach to health that you see in primary care.  And most of all I loved how healthy children are; they don’t come in with the self-inflicted lifestyle ailments that plague so many adults in our society, and the restorative abilities of their bodies when they do become ill is practically miraculous.  Pediatric medicine is an amazing field. Unfortunately, the way I earned a living came to be a far cry from what I was actually skilled in.

Continue reading this interview at Forbes.com.

Maggie Kozel’s book, The Color of Atmosphere: One Doctor’s Journey In and Out of Medicine, is available now.

Katherine Leiner: Growing Roots

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

There are all kinds of wonderful things happening in the world of farming and food, but this latest decision by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak approving Monsanto’s GMO Alfalfa, a move that fundamentally undermines all of the organic feed crop, is not one of them.

The night this decision was made I sat at the 92nd Street Y listening to Joan Dye Gussow (former Chair of the Nutrition Program at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of “This Organic Life” and most recently “Growing, Older,” Chelsea Green Publishers). She was talking about her early environmental essays, saying that she could take thirty years worth of topics covering ozone depletion, climate change, the rise of processed food, food safety, and add a few sentences to bring us up to date, and we’d see that sadly nothing much has changed. Gussow, who calls herself an optimist, is dubious that the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movement, which has grown 50-80% in number nationwide both in urban and rural areas, will not feed us all, at least not in this country.

Gussow also claims, as does Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Eric Schlosser and others, that bio-tech is not the answer to feeding poor people, that there is no evidence (according to Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute) that there is any increase in crop yield with GMOs; and that organic crops are just as efficient as conventional, if not more so, when one looks at the questions and answers of soil preservation (read Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels).

But the good news is that Joan Gussow is encouraged by the number of young farmers, cooks and food activists who are actively involved with good food and spreading the word of that food in their lives and their work. I agree with her whole-heartedly. In fact, I have spent the last four years traveling from coast-to-coast interviewing over 150 young people in the food world. My newest book, Growing Roots: The New Generation of Farmers, Cooks and Food Activists (Chelsea Green Publishers), highlights the lives of over 50 of these young people who are deeply rooted and represent thousands of others around the country who are involved in healthy agriculture. They are urban beekeepers like Andrew Coté in Connecticut, intent on raising bees without antibiotics or pesticides. They are heritage pig, cow, lamb, and goat farmers like, Mike Yezzi in Shusan, New York, Becca and Dan James in Durango, Colorado, and Eliza Jamison from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. There are food activists taking issues of child nutrition and better school lunches to Washington, like Josh Viertel (his about for President Obama about government supporting processed food rather than the real food, can be seen on YouTube). Anna Lappé (her latest book is Diet for a Hot Climate), Bryant Terry in Oakland, California, Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney filmmakers who are taking their latest film and farm truck around the nation introducing children to farming and healthy eating -naming only a few who are profiled in the book.

The photos in Growing Roots are beautiful and the 150 recipes from all the profiles are simple and delicious.

Mark Bittman’s “Food Manifesto For the Future” states at a glance what we all need to know:

  • End subsidies to processed food
  • Start subsizing small farmers who sell actual food for direct consumption
  • Break up the bureaucracies at the USDA and the FDA
  • Ban factory-farm style animal feeding
  • Encourage and subsidize home cooking
  • Institute a junk food sales and marketing tax
  • Encourage recycling while reducing waste
  • Require truth in labeling
  • Invest in sustainable agriculture research

It is crystal clear that we all need to choose ways in which we can help. Go into your children’s school, see what they are eating. Help start a farm-to-school program. There are 50% more farm markets in towns across the nation than there were five years ago, shop at one near you and get to know your farmers. If you don’t already know the terms local, sustainable, free-range, grass-fed, organic and biodynamic, familiarize yourself with them.

Every day the newspaper is filled with what’s happening in the world of local and sustainable food and the healthy possibilities and choices out there for you and your family. It’s not just a fad, eating healthy is here to stay.

Be a voice in your community.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

Katherine Leiner is the author of Growing Roots, available now.

Want to Stop Overeating? Play With Your Food!

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

by Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

Why is it that when you are the person who prepares the Thanksgiving feast, it doesn’t taste nearly as good as when someone else prepares exactly the same thing? Whenever I spend all day preparing food, I am just not very hungry when dinner comes, even if I have eaten nothing all day.

Then there are those times I find myself heading into the kitchen with a strong drive for…well…nothing in particular. And I’m not even hungry. I just want to prepare some food. That’s all. I want to mess with food. And that can lead to an extra unneeded meal.

We humans do more and more complex food manipulation and preparation than any other creature. I speculate that the drive to play with our food — to handle, shell, peel, pound, grind, cut, cook, and carry food — is now built into our genes. A couple of decades ago, it would have been thought that there has not been enough time since we began complex manipulation of food for evolution to act on our behavior. Now, however, we realize that the apparently relatively slow rates of evolution displayed in the fossil record actually often represent long periods in which nothing much was happening interspersed with periods of rapid evolutionary change. In fact, serious evolutionary change can occur in just a single generation or two, as is graphically demonstrated in Jonathan Weiner’s The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. In addition, from archeological evidence we now realize that we have been seriously playing with our food for lots longer than we initially imagined.

We have have been leaving our cutting-tool marks on the bones of other animals for about 2.5 million years or more. We have controlled fire for more than 300,000 years. We’ve had ovens for at least 250,000 years. And for more than 12,000 years we have been breeding and using agricultural crops, many of which are inedible without cooking. (See the discussion by Richard W. Wrangham on the impact of cooking on human evolution in “Out of the Pan, Into the Fire: How Our Ancestors’ Evolution Depended on What They Ate,” in Tree of Origin (edited by Frans B. M. de Waal)). We have obviously had plenty of time to evolve a drive to play with our food. Maybe when, as kids, we take a piece of bread (food preplayed with by someone else) and we press and roll and play with that bread ourselves until it is a tiny marble-shaped ball, we are following our deepest and most honorable of instincts. Maybe playing with our food is what made us human.

We have sophisticated biochemical and hormonal “satiety” mechanisms that help us determine how much and what to eat. But are they the whole story? Based upon my own reactions, I think some of our satiety mechanisms are more simple-minded. I seem to want variety, for example. A one-pot meal is not as satisfying to me as the same amount of calories spread over several courses. This is true even when the “courses” are big chunks of meat and vegetables dipped out of that same stew.

For me, jaw exercise also matters. A crunchy carrot or two with a meal seems to contribute to my satisfaction all out of proportion to the calories or stomach space involved. A chunk of chuck roast cut and cooked steak style is tough and takes serious chewing work. But it is much more satisfying to me than a much larger piece of tender sirloin. I’ll overeat the sirloin. But I can be satisfied by a much more modest piece of the chuck. If my meals for any given day have included nothing crunchy, by evening I find myself craving crackers or potato chips. My “crunch drive” seems to think in terms of potato chips or crackers. But it is satisfied just as well by an apple or some carrots.

I also tend to overeat the delicious bean soup on that day I effortlessly thawed a portion from the freezer compared with the day that I made the soup from scratch myself. The act of preparing food seems to actually be one of my satiety mechanisms. That is, to avoid overeating, to feel satisfied with normal, healthful amounts of food, I have to play with my food.

Today, however, many people are being deprived of the opportunity to play with their food. Once upon a time, everyone would have picked and peeled their own bananas and fished for their own termites. These days, one person usually cooks the meal. In addition, because of the widespread use of processed, low-labor foods, cooking is also often minimized, even for the “cook.” And increasingly, we eat out, order take-out, or go to fast-food restaurants. Perhaps we tend to overeat fast food not just because of the portion sizes or contents, but also because we didn’t fix it.

Meanwhile, back in my home on the weight-control front, I prepare all my food myself from scratch. I serve the occasional handful of nuts in the shell along with pliers to open them. And whenever I find myself heading for the kitchen when I am not actually hungry, I don’t let my drive to play with my food sabotage me into extra meals. Instead I prepare something that’s going to take a while. Beans. A complex stew. Baked potatoes. Polenta or cornbread made from scratch (starting by grinding the corn). I indulge my desire to play with my food by fixing a meal that won’t be ready until much later when I am actually hungry.

Read the original article on Alternet.

The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe is available now.

Jamie Court: We Need to Start Marching Together in America Again

Monday, February 21st, 2011

As we honor our nation’s presidents with a holiday today, Jamie Court argues that we are in desperate need of a people-powered movement – not the business-as-usual rhetoric of huge corporations and our elected leaders – to bring about true change. Jamie is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell, available now. This article appeared originally on The Huffington Post.

The largely peaceful revolution in Cairo and Americans’ celebration of it raises the question:

What would it take to mount a peaceful revolution in America against the Wall Street and corporate powerhouses that have turned the government against the best interests of our people?”

In America, the corporation is king and the abuses of corporate power are the subject of our people’s greatest grievances.

The 2008 election was supposed to settle the score with Wall Street and the corporate elite that have ransomed, ransacked and run over the average American. The change never came, and it’s even less likely in 2012.

At Consumer Watchdog we build populist revolutions one spark at a time where the public has spoken but the rich and powerful won’t listen. While our work cannot compare to the heroism of the Egyptian people, we are inspired by their example.

The revolution in Cairo showed the power of online platforms like Twitter and Facebook to authentically air outrage and connect change makers. In Washington, DC, Consumer Watchdog is fighting to protect individuals’ freedom online, which is being threatened in the name of greater profit, by some of the very corporate innovators that created these platforms.

On Friday, the “Do Not Track Me Online” revolution began with the introduction of legislation by Congressional Rep. Jackie Speier (HR 654) to force corporations to respect our right to keep personal information and online habits private. You can weigh in with your Congressional Representative to pass the legislation here.

Our freedom to be revolutionaries in America depends on how well we can maintain the online commons as free, open, and in the service of the individual, and our privacy needs, rather than the corporation and its commercial needs. This is an American battlefield that begins with online privacy, the right not to tracked online, extends to net neutrality and evolves to the greater notion that online technology should be in the service of individuals not corporate robots (in spirit of the teaching of Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget.

If there is a nonpartisan street revolt brewing in America today it is against the staggering health insurance premium increases that insurance companies are foisting on Americans. I was in the streets against Blue Shield’s 59% rate hike two weeks ago with angry patients and the California Nurses Association. Blue Shield actually agreed to delay the hike when we showed up.

Consistent premium hikes and the pending mandatory health insurance law to take effect in 2014 are bound to continue a growing rebellion.

Health insurance companies like Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross thumb their noses at our democracy daily. They hijacked health reform to give themselves a guaranteed market, even as they fight daily to erode the consumer protections in the new federal law. Consumer Watchdog is working with regulators to force the health insurance companies to live by the new rules and with California legislators for “Do Not Gouge Me” legislation — giving government the right to stop unnecessary premium hikes. (You can weigh in for AB 52, if you have not already, here. )

Ultimately, the 24 states with ballot initiative processes will be a vehicle to get the people what Congress will not deliver – a public insurance alternative to the private market. Consumer Watchdog is already drafting such a ballot measure for California.

What happens after a revolt is as important as the uprising itself. Insurance companies like Mercury Insurance, Allstate and Farmers have been fighting for two decades against the ballot box revolution of insurance reform Proposition 103. Consumer Watchdog’s lawyers fight back daily to protect and further that voter revolt, which has saved motorists $62 billion on their auto insurance, and to show that even the biggest and most powerful companies have to respect the people’s will.

Revolutions in America today take place in the corporate suites, not the streets. CEOs are generally the ones deposed, not presidents, which is the first clue to who really holds the power in our nation… But if a governmental revolution were to come, how would it unfold?

Bob Herbert in his New York Times column Saturday artfully makes the case of the price we have paid for the sins of Wall Street and self-serving interest of those at the very top of the economy. America will never be the same, nor will our schools, parks, colleges, social programs and deficit, without a major re-rewrite of how our government works to divorce it from the state of corporate capture that is its numbing existence.

Elections are not tools of revolutions in America anymore. What will it take to get Americans in the streets?

Higher prices for everything coming with growing inflation, higher unemployment, no jobs for our youth, the closing down of public services and public assistance?

The powerful in America have too much to lose and usually buckle when they smell the whiff of a revolution. That’s why it’s worth putting that smell in the air and in the streets again when the moment calls for it.

Dramatic changes in ideas and practices are the results of long, hard marches toward freedom and accountability. We need to start marching together in America again.

Read the original article at The Huffington Post.

Jamie Court’s The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell is available in our bookstore.

Chelsea Green Sponsors Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 20th Anniversary Conference

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Chelsea Green is a proud sponsor of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 20th Anniversary Conference which will take place March 3-4 in Denver, Colorado.

Celebrated environmental activist and writer Rick Bass will be a keynote speaker (check out his glowing praise for Diane Wilson’s forthcoming Diary of An Eco-Outlaw, by the way), and lucky participants will be able to take advantage of workshops on everything from medical marijuana and transportation to sustainable communities and land conservation in the West.

Most conference events are scheduled to take place at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. More information about the event can be found on the conference page here.

About the Conference:

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 20 Anniversary presents a singular opportunity to explore both change and continuity in the region’s communities and landscapes over the past two decades while beginning to look ahead to the next twenty years, to the Next West.An extraordinary confluence of forces is changing the way communities across the West and the nation plan, grow and define their success. Climate change, technology, globalization, urbanization and a new wave of immigration are challenging old rules and patterns of development – both physical and economic.As the region begins to emerge from the current economic crisis, professionals and citizens alike will need to understand the forces driving our land use and development patterns, forces that cut across geography, disciplines, fields and sectors. Like never before, they will be called upon to design new models that join prosperity, community and ecology in a bold vision tailored to the needs of a rapidly changing region in a radically changing world.

About the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute:

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute seeks to elevate the law, policy and practice of sustainable development in the West to promote nature-friendly, prosperous and equitable communities. Through innovative research, education and professional development programs and its renowned annual conference, the Institute trains and connects students and professionals across disciplines, sectors and regions to build the sustainable development field while creating new possibilities for the future of the West’s landscapes and livelihoods.


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