Archive for October, 2008

The One Thing You Need to Know

Sharon October 27th, 2008

I’m a bit under the weather today.  I’m tired and overwhelmed and behind on six million things, approximately.  Frankly, I’m also a little bored (not to mention nauseated)  watching the financial crisis – clearly there’s a reason why zombie movies are more fun than watching Zombie Treasury Secretaries dismantle the economy. And just in case I’m not the only person out there having a bad day, I thought it would be worth reminding everyone of the things that give me hope for the future.

The best articulation of my hope comes from Annie LaMott’s gorgeous book _Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.”  And it is simply this..

“…one of the immutable laws of being human is that the people who show up are the right people.” 

Think about that – how unlikely, and just possibly how true.  If I’m to have faith in something, I think that’s a thing worth believing in – for all of us.

Without that, I might be tempted to spend the day in a fetal position – of course, since my kids would promptly come and jump on my head, self-indulgence might not be my best strategy.  But maybe they are the right people too ;-) .

That’s what I need – faith that we can go forward, and someone to jump on my head. 

 Sharon

Independence Days Update: Focus on End of Season Food Preservation

Sharon October 26th, 2008

It has been a while since I’ve done an Independence Days update – seems like a good time.  For those of you who are new readers and don’t know what this is, you might check out the “Independence Days” topic on the sidebar of the blog.  We’re working on doing just a little bit every day to grow and preserve food, and also preserve our security.

I thought we’d focus on food preservation late in the season a bit here.  For those of us heading into winter, planting is winding down and it may feel like food preservation is done.  And there’s some truth there – although we’re still adding food to our root cellars and I still have a few projects left to do, including starting the sauerkraut and other lactofermented stuff on a large scale.  I write more here about the cycle of the food preservation year here http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/08/the-food-preservers-year/- but remember, like everything in my life, it sounds impressive all written down, but shouldn’t intimidate you. A. I never get it all right and b. that’s part of the point of the Independence Day challenge – when you write down your accomplishments, without all the caveats “but I forgot too…” or “but I didn’t…” it always looks impressive.  And that’s how we get to some kind of self-assurance here – we have to find a way to let go of our mistakes and limitations and sometimes just be proud of what we have done. 

Anyway, I’m seeing the benefits of the IDC every day here – my shelves are fuller than they’ve ever been, and breaking it down into little bits has made me less stressed about food preservation.  There were definitely failures – tomatoes didn’t ripen because of cold, rainy weather, and I put up fewer than I have in years – but successes as well – the same weather lead to a bumper crop of cucumbers, so I’ve got 3 years worth of pickles.

For me, the preservation year is definitely settling down, but I do want to remind people that now, when the heat of a stove or dehydrator is welcome and a lot of us are indoors more, is a good time for certain kinds of preservation.  Some of these that we do include:

1. It is butchering time, and a good time for canning meats, if you do so.  Even if you don’t have animals, you might consider buying some meat – or animal parts that sell cheaply like chicken feet (which, if you get over the weirdness, make a fabulous chicken stock) and consider canning that.  Make sure you are pressuring canning, and that you understand how to do so safely.

2. It is a good time to make a few cold frames out of hay or straw bales and an old window.  You can put these over your existing kale, spinach or other cold hardy crops.

3. Now is a good time to start keeping a close eye on root cellared stores – an apple that gets bruised or a bad spot can be dehydrated (you can slice them into rings and hang them on thread to dry in most houses that have low humidity with winter heating), or sauced.  A squash or sweet potato that isn’t keeping well can be canned up or made into a leather.

4. I sometimes throw tomatoes or fruit sauces in the freezer if I have space and no time to preserve them – these can be defrosted and the tomatoes chopped up for sauce, the fruit sauces canned.

5. If you are prone to or concerned about extended power outages (and these happen in wintery and icy places in the country), it might not be a bad idea to get your canning skills honed just in case you lose your freezer for a while.  Many of the things we freeze can also be canned, if you have a source of non-electric cooking energy.  Some things you’ll want to dump -  I wouldn’t eat frozen green beans that were then canned unless Iwas really hungry – give them to the dogs, chickens or compost.  But your hard spent money shouldn’t be all lost.

6. Now is a great time to get good deals on large quantities of root vegetables – and it is getting cold enough to store them well.  There’s a lot of information about root cellaring here: http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/12/growing-or-buying-fresh-food-for-root-cellaring/

7. Cold weather is the ideal time for fermentation – cole crops are at their best, and whether fermented beets for borscht (yeah, yeah, I know, the poor maligned beet!), kimchi, sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables – you have no idea how good fermented turnips are – they are worth trying.  Fermented foods have more accessible B vitamins, natural antibiotics and better digestibility than unfermented vegetables – and they are delicious.  More on this here: http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/17/lactofermentation/

 Ok on to the update:

1. Planted something: Garlic, winter wheat

2. Harvested something: Quinces, apples, popcorn, dried corn, herbs.

3. Preserved something: Made sauerkraut, applesauce, dried apples, pickled beets, dilled carrots, pickled onions, dehydrated garlic, quince jam.  Froze the last of the garden broccoli. 

4. Stored something: Added some pasta, matches and peanuts to our storage.  Ordered some more dried cranberries and flaxseeds.  Bought

5. Prepped something: Still plugging away at moving the office up to our bedroom, began serious firewood stacking and moving.  Bought three led headlamps for night milking in winter.  Bought sunflower seeds to use as a goat and chicken feed supplement.  Got chickens butchered and delivered to the people we sold them to, which frees up the freezer again – now for a serious organizing of the freezer.

6. Cooked something new: I’ve been making various new versions of labneh with our goat’s milk and herbs, made sweet-potato peanut stew.

7.  Worked on community food systems – worked on getting the local foods luncheon at our synagogue going, talked about a local foods cookbook with someone who might be able to get it done, planned a food pantry garden for a local group.

8. Managed my reserves – sorted out the early apples for sauce.

9. Learned a new skill – Can’t think of any.

 How about y’all?

 Sharon

Friday Food Storage Quickie: Now’s the Time to Take Inventory

Sharon October 24th, 2008

Ok, I have no idea whether the fact that world markets are falling like stones and Karl Denninger started drinking at 5:30 am means anything.  Could be a big deal, could not be – my bet would tend to be on “big deal” but y’all know I have predilictions in that regard. But now is as good a time as any to call for an inventory – how are you situated?  What’s missing?

Now let me be clear – I’m not suggesting you should panic at all.  Even if we are having a stock market crash, the reality is that the present economic model of “a rising tide swamps all boats” will probably take a while to trickle down to most of us.  If you’ve already lost your job or are in crisis, you may not be able to do much – but inventory of your resources is valuable even then.  What I’d suggest for those already in crisis is to begin to consider your options – could you consolidate housing?  Take in a boarder?  Take a job outside your field?  There are a lot of things you can’t control right now, but you might as well take control of the ones you can.

 If you are just beginning to store food, look at these posts:  The first explores the very basics, for people on a low income.  The second covers things in more depth, and the third explores other cheap ways to get food.  I’ve also included my suggestions for food storage shopping if you ever have to do it in an already developed crisis, as the last piece here.  Note, that I really recommend you *not* wait that long.

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/10/17/friday-food-storage-not-quite-so-quickie-5-week-beginner-food-storage/

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/04/food-storage-101-part-i/ 

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/15/food-storage-on-no-budget/

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/10/02/crisis-shopping-food-storage-when-you-havent-been-storing-food/

If you’ve been working on this, but you don’t feel you are ready, here are some questions to ask yourself, and some possible remedies.

1. Do I have staple foods that I can rely on as the basis of my meals?  A staple is a nutritious starch that contains some protein as well, and that can meet most of your needs.  It could be a grain – most Americans rely on bread for our staple starch.  But it can also be oatmeal, corn (if you are primarily relying on corn, it must be corn that is nixtamalized, so that you won’t get a major nutritional deficiency – you only have to worry about this if you are mostly eating corn, not if you eat an occasional meal of tortillas – so if you are storing whole corn, know how to process it, and if you are buying cornmeal, buy masa, not plain corn meal), barley, quinoa – or root crops.  You can also rely primarily on potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and other roots, or a combination of those.

You can order bulk grains online or through a coop or whole foods.  This time of year, you can often get a 50lb sack of potatoes or sweet potatoes quite cheaply.  Ethnic markets often have good deals on grains as well.  Don’t forget popcorn and pasta.

 Here are a couple of posts about staple foods: http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/17/the-storage-life-of-grains-major-and-minor/

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/11/living-the-staple-diet/

2. Do I have protein foods that can supplement my staples?  This is not as important as the staples – if you had to, you could get along quite well with just a starch for some time, but you wouldn’t enjoy it.  And diabetics, hypoglycemics and others would struggle with this.  For most people with normal diets, you need about 1/3 to 1/4 protein dense foods.

What are some choices here? The traditional choice is some kind of legume – beans, split peas, lentils, cowpeas.  You could buy dry milk – mixed with oatmeal, or into flour in a dairy bread recipe, that would be enough to sustain you, but it gets kind of boring.  You could can your own meats and fish, or buy pre canned meat and fish that your family likes if you like meat.  You could also add seeds – sunflower, flax, pumpkin seeds, or nuts like almonds or filberts.  Powdered eggs don’t taste very good, but they will allow you to bake, and add necessary protein.  Or perhaps you have eggs, if you just store enough chicken feed.  What you do is up to you and your budget.  Think about foods you know your family will eat and that they like.

 3. Do I have some fruits and vegetables to add flavor, fiber and nutrition?  The two hardest to cover vitamins are vitamin C and A.  So choosing C and A rich fruits and vegetables to add to your storage reduces the danger of both nutritional deficiency and constipation.  For vitamin A, canned pumpkin, squash or sweet potatoes, or fresh stored orange vegetables are the best option.  For vitamin C, dried elderberries or rose hips are an excellent source.  You can and should also have some seed that can be sprouted for fresh green vegetables if you live in a place where you can’t easily go out and forage a safe, unsprayed supply of greens (dandelions, plantain, chicory, etc…) all year ’round.  Or you should have them if you don’t know how to recognize those foods.  Wheat seeds are easy to sprout, but you might prefer broccoli, radish or others.  These can be bought online or at a supermarket or health food store.  I would recommend more vegetables and fruits as well – either dried, canned or kept in cold storage.

4. Fat.  You need some cooking oil.  You probably already have preferences on this, but most oils will keep a couple of years in a cool dark place.  Oh, and everyone will probably want some salt (salt is necessary for life, so buy a few boxes) and sweetener.  These are cheap and useful at making food palatable.  Add in as many inexpensive spices as you can afford, or as many home-dried herbs as you can gather.  These make the difference between survival and misery.

4.  Do I have the basic ingredients of making meals we eat?  Think about what you actually eat for breakfast, lunch and dinnner.  Do you like granola?  Well, then you need some oats, nuts, maybe a bit of honey and oil.  Can you not imagine a meal without bread?  Make sure you have yeast and salt.  Think about what you need in terms of the things that make you happy. 

5. Do I have water stored?  This is an easy one – go raid your neighbor’s recycling bins and fill the bottles with water.  If you don’t plan to rotate them every few months, add a drop of bleach to each one.  All done.  Now make sure you have something to flavor the water, because stored water tastes a little icky – you can get tang, which has vitamin C, tea, coffee, or just go pick some mint to add to your water.  Think again about what you need to feel good.

6. Do I have multivitamins at a minimum?  What about other supplements that I might need?  Our family keeps not only multivitamins for kids and adults, but also vitamins C, E and fish oil capsules (the latter don’t keep long).  Do I have a reliable way of getting necessary medications?

7. What about basic hygeine items?  Think soap, shampoo, toothpaste and tooth brushes, vinegar or some other cleaner, laundry detergent or borax, as well as toilet paper.  You can substitute for some of these – you can use diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap for almost all these needs, baking soda in place of tooth paste and deoderant, and use cloth for toilet paper if need be, but if these items will make you happier and more comfortable, store them.  Make sure you have plenty of soap!  Washing hands will be essential.

8. If my basics are covered, are there luxury items I’d like to add?  Are there things my family needs or wants that would be useful? If the crisis overlaps holidays or festivals that are important to me, are there ways of storing items to allow us familiar treats or special foods?

Have I prepared for household pets and livestock?  Do I have adequate food for them, or ways of making a nutritious diet for them out of my stored staples? 

9. Do I have warm clothes, blankets, a way of heating myself, my home and/or food?  Do I have flashlights and batteries, a cell phone charger? How will I cook, bathe and do laundry without power?  That is, am I ready for an emergency?  My claim is not that we are facing an immanent one, but that we’ve already seen an increase in emergencies, and a slow down in our response to them – being able to take care of your own needs.

Am I prepared to deal with basic medical needs, or to handle an acute situation when I cannot reach a hospital or when they are overflowing?  Do I have a book on first aid, or better yet, have I taken basic first aid, CPR and medical response classes?  Do I have a good first aid kit?  Does my household have a supply of basic OTC medications, and perhaps a broad-spectrum antibiotic (and the wisdom to use it only when truly necessary?)  Do I know how to handle the range of basic injuries?  Check out Chile’s first aid kit info:  http://chilechews.blogspot.com/2008/10/building-first-aid-kit.html

10. Do I have mental health needs met?  That is, can I handle the stress of a difficult period – a job loss, service loss or other crisis?  Do I have ways to keep busy, to feel productive?  Do we have games and educational materials to keep kids entertained and learning?  Does my family have the habit of supporting each other through difficult times – do I have a strategy for dealing with stress productively?  Do we have ways to have fun – music, games, sports equipment, books whatever our family likes to do?  Can I not panic, and keep a sense of perspective

Again, none of this should panic you.  Answering “not yet” to some of these is not the end of the world. It should simply move you towards the next step, and the next.

Shalom,

Sharon

You Can Go Home Again: What I’d Like To Have Been Able to Say to New York Times Readers

Sharon October 23rd, 2008

Just for one moment, I’m going to pretend that instead of a silly article diagnosing a pretend disease in the New York Times, I was given a chance to speak on the Op Ed Pages of the Times, that this is my one shot at the huge audience that the Sunday Times has.  Ignoring, for a moment, how unlikely that is, here’s what I would have said.

Last weekend my family and I appeared in the New York Times as victims (or perhaps purveyors) of a new mental illness, “carborexia.”  Apparently this is the pathological inability to produce sufficicient carbon, an environmental mania so extreme that it transforms ordinary lives into obsessive madness.  

The article began with the fact that my son Simon is deprived of the great American pasttime because it is a half-hour drive to a league that doesn’t have games on the Jewish Sabbath (poor kid, he has to play catch with his parents and pick up games with his friends and brothers – in fact, he and one of his friends actually broke one of our front windows yesterday with a particularly nice hit).  The language of the article included the term “huddle together for warmth” to describe the fact that my young kids sleep together in both warm and cold weather.  All of this operated to implicitly imply that I’m abusing my kids in my pursuit of a lower energy life.  And since even implied accusations of child abuse and mental illness are a potent weapon in this society, I wouldn’t be shocked if you did think I was crazy and a bad Mom.

My first inclination was to fire back with the accusation that instead, most Americans may be suffering from a pathology called “carbulimia” in which they gorge themselves on energy – twice as much as Europeans, who often have a similar or higher standard of living and level of happiness – and then effectively vomit up the excess, deriving no benefit and often actual harm to their health and hope for the future.  But this doesn’t quite get at the issue either – it just continues the Times’s trivializing of real eating disorders and their sufferers, and adds another dumb and uneuphonious faux-disease to the cultural lexicon.  Definitely not what is most needed.  Moreover, most of us don’t take in huge quantities of energy for its own sake, we use it because that’s how our society is structured, and how we’ve been taught to meet our needs.  We use most of our energy because we’re not sure how to do anything else.

Debating which extreme is pathological doesn’t help us find a functional way of life.  And that is what is desperately needed.  And quickly.  NASA’s chief climate scientist James Hansen has argued that we need to reach 350ppm very rapidly – within a decade.  We’re already past at nearly 390ppm - the arctic ice is already in the danger zone, Greenland is showing increasing melting signs and most disturbing, methane is being released from upper levels of arctic permafrost.  Meanwhile, there are signs that we may have passed the world peak in crude oil production, and the volatile price of energy has helped drive us into a recession.

Meanwhile, the governments of China, India and Russia have all announced that they have no intention of taking major steps to reduce their climate impact while wealthy Americans, Canadians and Australians consume all they want.  They argue that they are trying to bring their populace out of poverty, and that we who produce the largest per capita emissions need to make our reductions first.  We argue with them that we won’t reduce our standard of living, that “the American way of life is non-negotiable,” in part because we are frightened by the idea of changing our way of life into something unfamiliar.  And thus we enter a global game of chicken – they won’t change until we do, and we won’t change because we don’t want to be like poorer people.  Never mind that we are condemning our own children – and theirs - to greater poverty as larger and larger parts of their income will be required to mitigate unfettered climate change.  This is known as “cutting off your nose to spite your face” and it is pretty much our climate policy.

The only hope we have to make rapid changes, on the scale necessary to achieve the 350 goal, is to put every tool we have on the table.  We need to invest as much as we can in things like massive reinsulation, renewable energy and public resources.  We need to use sustainable agriculture, reforestation and the preservation of existing rainforests forests to pull carbon out of the atmosphere.  But these will not be enough – we cannot make this sort of shift in 8-10 years on renewable energy development alone.  It would be nice if we could – or if we had 50 years to do this, but we don’t have the time and resources, and there is no point in mourning the time we wasted.  We have better things to do.

What is going to be needed is a rapid shift in the American dream and the American way of life.  Without that shift, there is no hope that China, India and Russia will forswear coal or make other changes.  Unless we can look poorer nations in the eye and say we’ve met our targets, we’ll all pay the price together.  Without a model for a good, sustainable and happy American life that produces 50-90% less carbon, not from costly technologies that simply can’t be put in place in time, but from ordinary practices of daily life that can – we’re doomed.  If we believe that living a sustainable life makes us crazy, or forces us to live in misery and poverty, we face misery and poverty for future generations all over the world.

The good thing is that the good American life isn’t so very far away.  In 1945 we used 80% less energy per household than we do now.  Your parents and grandparents lived that way – they heated the rooms they used most often and closed off the other ones, wore sweaters and walked more than they drove.  They took the bus.  They ate less meat.  They grew Victory gardens and ate food grown near them.  They shared with their neighbors more and they worked together on what was then the greatest challenge facing the world – the rise of fascism.  What is most needed isn’t a move to the third world – it is a return to a familiar past.

There are plenty of Americans living right now who grew up like my kids do – instead of being driven to ball practice, they played baseball with other kids in their yard, and helped their parents weed the Victory garden.  They wore warm clothes in the winter and slept outside in the yard in a tent when it got too hot inside instead of clicking on the a/c.  Many grew up like my kids on farms, or spent their afternoons playing outside on the sidewalk or among the trees, rather than inside watching tv or playing video games.  They walked or biked places.  They mostly ate food from their family gardens or from local truck farms near their homes rather than processed foods and take out.  Maybe a few of you even remember that kind of childhood.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a perfect Mom, and my kids don’t live in fairy land.  We too struggle to find balance between the good in our energy use and the things we can afford to discard without doing harm.  We don’t always get everything right.  But we’re trying.  The reason I agreed to allow a photographer to come to our farm was that I believe that the very first step to going forward to a sustainable life is being able to imagine ways of getting there without the fear that this means unimaginable hardship.  I hoped that they might even show that we’re having fun – and we are.

We’ve come so far away from our lower energy life that we now think that the past is uninhabitable, that we can’t go home again.  And it certainly isn’t as simple as flipping on the way-back machine.  It requires thought and practice and time, small steps and failures, experiments and discussions with friends who care about the same things.  It requires an investment of time and energy.  But the past isn’t so very far way, either.  It would be a mistake to think that a life with less energy is so distant, so unimaginable that we cannot conceive of inhabiting that space.  Instead, it is something we can get to with a bit of commitment ane energy, with allies and imagination and creativity. 

Maybe my way isn’t right, I don’t know.  I know doing it exactly my way isn’t for everyone- we need city models of the sustainable life, and suburban ons as much as we need me and my garden and our goats.  We need versions that adapted to different ethnicities, faiths and cultures.  But we need all of these, and we need them badly.  Because as much of our future depends on our creating renewable energies or reinsulating homes, it depends at least as much on ordinary people transforming their lives into something that the whole world can live with.  It is a pity that we’ve heard so much about one half of the equation (the electric cars and renewable grid) and so little about this very basic question – how will we live?  How will we go on in a way that sustains us and creates a sustainable future for our posterity?  How will we find a way home to our past and our future simultaneously?  How will we (and here I mean all of us, across the world) find an equitable way out of our terrible dilemma?

 I don’t claim to have all the answers – heck maybe I am crazy, because I truly think that this could be accomplished, and I’m enjoying the process of making it happen. I do think that there are some available here for those (and I think there are many out there) who care enough to try: www.riot4austerity.org and www.350.org.

Shalom,

Sharon

Sharon’s Covert Ops Gets You a Look Inside the New Stimulus Package

Sharon October 22nd, 2008

There’s been a lot of speculation since Bernanke’s testimony before congress and Bush’s flip on the subject about what the next economic stimulus package might actually look like.  The assumption is that no such thing has been put together by congress or anyone else yet.  But in their tireless attempt to subvert what’s left of our democracy and shred the economy, the singing duo of Bernanke and Paulson have a plan – they never rest.

Or rather, they do, and this is how one of Sharon’s Washington Division operatives managed to get a hold of an advance copy of the new Economic Stimulus plan. Hank and Ben, exhausted from their work felt they were entitled to a little attention.  Ben lamented that despite their generosity and service, most of the country just takes, takes, takes, coming to them for salvation, cash infusions and those little attentions that a skilled banker can provide to slake a gigantic corporation’s needs.

Who then, cares for the needs of our tireless guardians of fascism?  Well, after tuneless choruses of their own rewrite of a Cass Eliot song,  ”Bernanke and Paulson/They’re gonna get it all, Son/And Wall Street, you know where that’s at/ and no one’s getting fat, ’cept Goldman Sachs” the party broke up.  Paulson retired to a room with a cadre of recently arrived Ukranian hookers and Mrs. Bernanke, and Ben took himself off with a bucket of scotch, one of the lewder volumes of Neitzche’s writing and  his “valet,” and the two enjoyed their preferred delights, leaving their stimulus plan briefly unattended with a professional lady not presently required for the acrobatics in progress in what was colloquially known as “Hank’s Grotto.”  Fortunately,  this woman was one of my operatives, willing to throw herself on Hank Paulson’s body (perhaps the greatest of all personal sacrifices) in order to find out what the next step in the rape and pillage of America is and expose it to public scrutiny on the blog.

The plan includes a full justification for the expenditure of 300 billion additional dollars to stimulate the economy in the economy’s special places.  Among the justifications likely to appeal to congress are “Future generations won’t be voting for you anyway since you’ll have dropped dead from a coronary long before they reach 18, so why not hose them” and “What’s a few more billion when we aren’t going to pay it back anyway” and “Your constituents are so dumb that they will be delighted to short themselves on another year’s tax return and then pay interest on it!”

Ok, onto the contents of this fascinating plan.  We feel here that full disclosure of all the details is central to understanding that the plan will contain elements that suggest that their goal is to relieve the pressures on ordinary consumers, but in fact, focuses primarily on stripping them of their assets, enforcing the status quo, reallocating what wealth is left upwards and  ensuring the Iceland does not go alone into that good night.  Of course, there are a few special gifts to the deserving as well.

Included in the stimulus package:

1. Underwater homeowners with large mortgages will be given the option of refinancing based on the national debt – instead of basing their payments on the fluctuating value of housing, they will be given the option of purchasing a portion of the national debt obligations, and making payment on them.  Their reward for this investment in society will be the right to live in their homes as long as they keep making payments until the federal budget is balanced, or until the sun burns out, whichever comes first.

2. In order to prevent China, the major lender to the US, from taking its money and going home, stimulus will be needed for China’s shaky toy industry.  Thus, every single American, regardless of age, will be given four Tickle-Me Elmos for their own private, personal use. (Ok, you do realize that I can hear your thoughts through the internet right now(courtesy of Google’s new feature “google brainwave”), and I’m shocked, shocked and appalled at the crude and immature level of thought occurring at this blog.  Especially you, Edson!)

3. Van Jones’s “Green Jobs” program title will be kept, but the program will be slightly revised, to provide jobs in environmentally friendly domestic service for poor urban dwellers.  Thus, black and hispanic urban workers will be given the chance to replace fossil fuel powered cars with rickshaws (participating white families will be given green leather riding crops to signal their participation and concern for the planet), dishwashers and vacuum cleaners will be replaced with servants and solar panels replaced with “guys running on treadmills to sustainably power rotating tie racks.”  Liberal incentives in the form of tax rebates, will be available to wealthy households who wish to cut their fossil fuel usage by participating in this ennobling program.

4. In order to increase access to credit for a populace increasingly indebted, in which one in six is already struggling with a mortgage or credit card payments, new “Liquidity, Sicilian Style” programs will be enacted to force consumers to take on more debt.  First, the prices of basic commodities like food and housing will be raised further to ensure that no American can actually live on their income alone, thus pushing into credit markets those selfish consumers who elected to live within their means.  Meanwhile, large men with “motivating tools” will accompany small business owners and ordinary Americans to their local banks where they will offer their children, elderly parents or salable organs as collateral for further loans.

5. Because, shockingly, previous economic stimulus failed to prime the pump of consumerism adequately (far too many elected to pay down debt), instead of offering tax rebates to be spent as citizens prefer, each American will receive coupons and gift cards, good only at participating retailers.  Walmart and McDonalds (who is offer an extra large fry with the redemption of any economic stimulus package) will specifically black out any nutritious food or high quality goods.

 6. Meanwhile, to revive the flagging housing starts, Toll Brothers will be commissioned to build another 90 million units of 3000 square foot single family housing on prime farmland - and to immediately demolish each one.

7. The growing number of Americans who are now homeless and living in their cars will each be issued a large red star (yellow was considered but deemed to come with inconvenient historical baggage) which must be publically displayed at all times.  This will aid police in removing them from Walmart parking lots, which economists believe been the primary force in retarding consumer spending.

8. To bail out the troubled airline industry, it will be consolidated with the growing market for cattle and hog feedlots so as to receive a full share of agricultural subsidies.  Between flights, planes, which are already designed to move people much as they do cattle, will be used as squeeze chutes for hog and cattle butchering.  The airline industry then will institute a policy of handing out courtesy wet-wipes to allow passengers clean the brains, manure and blood from their seats.

9. The entire remaining capitalization of social security and medicare will be placed on lucky sevens at a craps game with the Devil.  Sarah Palin will shoot for America’s senior citizens and Joe Plumber’s hopes of not spending his last years tied to a chair in his own excrement in an industrial nursing home.  Palin seemed unconcerned that the Devil plays with loaded dice, since she believes her moose-dressing skills and faith in God will serve her well.

10. In preparation for its eventual sale to oil rich nations – now the only people left with cash on the barrelhead – America will be given a paint job, thoroughly cleaned by legions of “green job” minions and each of the midwestern states will be turned into one, giant corporate farm, ready to contract its total agricultural production to a nation without food or water, but with plenty of oil. 

No wonder Ben and Hank are exhausted.  Poor guys – just let them sleep.

Sharon

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