Monday, October 26, 2009


Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Recently we posted excerpts from a new report arguing that livestock and related land use contribute to global warming more than all other factors combined. That's staggering, but don't expect the U.S. government to even think about addressing it.

"Farm Bureau" may sound rural and heartlandish, but in reality it's a multibillion-dollar trade association cum insurance company with branches in all 50 states and close ties to agribusiness giants like Archer Daniels Midland and Novartis, not to mention a few dozen farm-state senators. With clout like that, shared sacrifice clearly isn't an acceptable option, even in the service of fixing a problem that poses an enormous threat to farmers. (Global warming is projected to hit heartland states the hardest—and even small shifts in temperature can have disastrous consequences for crop yields.) And so, the lobby demanded compensation for those higher energy and chemical prices, even though they would mean only a tiny hit to farm incomes — 1 percent at most for the next nine years, according to the USDA.

And that's nothing compared to the Farm Bureau's stand on ethanol, which is equal parts non-rational and non-negotiable. Read the whole article (Mother Jones). Incidentally, the Ohio Farm Bureau is pushing Issue 2. Consider that the next time you see a commercial claiming that it's just about health and safety and crazy vegans. — Frank Lewis

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Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 10:11 AM

The organizers of Cleveland’s first (and hopefully not last) Beer Week deserve a round of applause. Beginning Friday, October 16, and ending this past Saturday, bars and restaurants around the city came together to celebrate ales, lagers, stouts, barley wines and everything in between. The week showcased our favorite alcoholic beverages with events ranging from rare brewery tastings to multi-course dinners paired with exotic brews at some of the city’s most popular restaurants. The final event of the week was the organizers’ crown jewel: Brewzilla featured over 50 beers for the sampling. For $50 each attendee received a mini three ounce mug for tastings, 20 taste tickets, and three food tickets.

Stands were located throughout the first floor of the Arcade, with volunteers generously providing samples to the several hundred beer aficionados making their way around. All of Cleveland’s breweries were represented, including Great Lakes, Buckeye Brewing, Brew Kettle, and the city’s newest gem, Indigo Imp.

Two of my personal favorites were the beers from Traverse City, Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin and Chicago’s Goose Island. Jolly Pumpkin brews sour beers, which is a very polarizing technique. Either you love it or hate it, but if you like sour pickles chances are you’ll like Jolly Pumpkin’s beers. Normally Goose Island wouldn’t be in my list of favorites at a beer tasting, but the brewery brought some reserve bottles of Maltida and Sofie to the tasting, and both were outstanding.

As the night wore on the crowd and Arcade did start to get a bit sloppy. The ground got sticky, and there really wasn’t anywhere for people to sit and relax. The little bit of food that was available didn’t do enough to cut the alcohol, although Heinen’s soups and cheeses, and the Winking Lizard’s hot pretzels and bratwursts certainly helped. Bottles of water were also freely available. Overall, though, Brewzilla, and all of Cleveland Beer Week, proved to be a welcome event, and hopefully Beer Week can continue on annually. — Aaron Mendelsohn

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Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 8:00 AM

A writer from another Rust Belt alt-weekly, Buffalo's Art Voice, reports that in some parts of the country, regionalism is more than just a buzz word.

At a think-tank forum in Washington last week, a California bureaucrat described how a couple dozen local governments in his state have figured out how to control local property taxes, grow their economies, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, stop wasting federal highway funds, and do it all without downsizing a town board or merging one government into another. …

Here’s the formula, as described by the guy from the Sacramento Council of Governments. Instead of letting highway engineers do all the thinking and planning for the region, Sacramento-area elected officials got together. They started opening the highway planning meetings to citizens as well as to the housing people, the budget people, and the people who do water, sewers, parks, and other infrastructure. The Sacramento Council of Governments includes 22 cities and six counties. (Their poor executive director has a 31-member board.) Neither merger, consolidation, nor downsizing of city councils is at issue there—but they figured out that by talking to each other, they got what he calls his “business-oriented and developer-oriented political constituency” to create a functional regional plan. The result: They are collectively saving hundreds of millions of dollars by shutting down sprawl. They’re saving agricultural land. They’re saving water, which is a huge issue in California. They’re doing so by preventing sprawl, redeveloping older city centers and old suburbs, and re-directing developers to where they can make money and bring new product on-line but do so without making the region unsustainable.

One doubts that such a policy innovation is a unique act of genius, because similar acts of genius seem to be happening in Minneapolis, which is a pretty liberal area, and in Salt Lake City, too, which certainly is not. What the three regions have in common, besides genuinely empowered Metropolitan Planning Organizations, is an ability to count up the costs of doing things the way Rust Belt towns do things—and then saying no.

Not so curiously, no speaker at the Brookings Institution forum hailed from Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, or any of the other freshwater metros that is sprawling, losing population, and yet still spending many hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus money on old, greenhouse-gas-creating, sprawl-inducing projects.

Read the rest here.

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Friday, October 23, 2009


Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 4:34 PM

GOP shenanigans in Connecticut:

Twitter, Inc., shut down 33 fake Twitter accounts created by Republicans using the names of Democratic state representatives. The Republican scheme was to send out posts under the Democrats' names mocking the liberal tax-and-spend bastards.

"That's unfortunate," was state Republican Chairman Chris Healy's response when told of Twitter, Inc.'s decision. "I'm not quite sure what the issue is, other than that the Democrats were successful in stopping free speech."

Yeah, because surely if the founders could have foreseen the Internet the First Amendment would read: "Congress shall make no law abridging the right of political operatives to masquerade online as opponents for purposes of deceiving voters."

Fortunately for these resourceful scumbags, they still have the 33 web sites they created using the same Democratic officials' names. Unbelieveable. If Democrats had done this, it would be the top story on Fox News and CNN for a week, and we'd still be hearing about it years later. — Frank Lewis

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Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Everyone knows that metalheads love scary, threatening things — loud guitars, lyrics about monsters and killing, chains and spikes on their leather jackets, T-shirts with illegible death-metal logos. So getting involved with the Haunted Yard — a Halloween-season attraction started by a group of Parma kids in their backyard in 1988 — was a natural. Each year, a gang of metalheads from Cleveland (well, Parma really — everyone knows Parma is the metal capital of Ohio) get together to dress and act really scary to raise money for charity. Organizer Shaun Vanek — who plays guitar with Eternal Legacy and Cellbound — rounds up friends to construct a haunted attraction in several adjacent Parma backyards. That might sound cheesy, but it’s not — the group assembles elaborate props, costumes and masks, and prepares scripts for their amateur actors, drawn from their circle of local metal musicians and others. The group has garnered a reputation for being totally dedicated to scaring the pants off people. The event has grown to the point where it now attracts hundreds of people each night (luckily, the neighbors are supportive!) and takes place for two weekends. This weekend is the second. The Haunted Yard will be open from 7:30-10 p.m. tonight through Sunday. It’s located at 5900 Rousseau Drive, just south of Parmatown off Ridge Road. A donation of $3 (or more if you can) will benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. More info and a photo here. — Anastasia Pantsios

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Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 10:00 AM

More health care is not necessarily better for you — in fact it could be worse. It certainly drives up costs for insurance companies, who are neither as malevolent nor powerful as you might think. And the whole staggeringly complex system is the accidental product of a series of discoveries and decisions made over decades, each well-intentioned and positive, and each only tangentially related to the other.

No matter where you stand on the issue of healthcare reform, no matter how much you think you know about it, you will learn something — probably a lot of things — from This American Life and NPR's two-part report. It should be required listening for ever member of Congress, indeed, every American. We're all victims of this dysfunctional and unsustainable monstrosity, and we're all helping, most of us unwittingly, to keep it alive.

Part one, More Is Less, explores the counterintuitive but compelling argument that we get too much care. Part two: Someone Else's Money, explains why there's a kernel of truth behind the seemingly callous assertion that patients don't have enough "skin in the game." Both hour-long episodes are available for streaming or download. — Frank Lewis

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Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 8:00 AM

When I read the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer, which have garnered staggering sales, it wasn't just for sweet vampire love. I tried to figure out how the author has drawn in so many readers — many of them girls aged 11 to 14, who are particularly difficult to engage.

It didn't take me long to unlock the secrets of Twilight. Meyer, who hails straight from the bosom of the Mormon Church, has pulled a playbook from the formidable hands of Walt Disney and Co. Bella Swan and her vampire beaux Edward Cullen are a sophisticated version of a damsel in distress and a shimmering prince. There are whispers from Cinderella, Snow White and even Beauty and the Beast in each of these books. Bella and Edward are just more darkly complex than your average fairy tale denizens. Their relationship is obsessively unhealthy and even culminates in an intimate physical encounter that leaves Bella covered in bruises and begging for more.

But Meyer also weaves contrast, irony, symbolism and literary references into the Forks saga. She does it with subtlety and skill. The arc of the series as represented in the celestial bodies of the titles is no less than breathtaking.

Through November 18 at locations throughout the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, I'll be presenting "Illuminating Twilight," during which I'll reveal exactly how the blood pumps through the pages of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. I invite all Twi-hards from Team Edward as well as Team Jacob to join me and energize the discussions. This event is free and open to everyone from grade six through adult. Discussions are age-appropriate. Visit my blog for a complete list of dates and locations. — Erin O'Brien

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