“If We Actually Want to Change Anything–Dedicate Our Lives to It–We Need to Make Money Doing It”

DavidsonNeilUndergroundFood2011-04-22.jpg “The underground market seeks to encourage food entrepreneurship by helping young vendors avoid the costs — including for health permits and liability insurance — required by legitimate farmers’ markets. Neil Davidson prepared part of a Hawaiian breakfast dish for a customer.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) SAN FRANCISCO — . . .
. . .
At midnight, the smell of stir-fried pork bellies was wafting through the Mission district. There was live music, liquor, bouncers, a disco ball — and a line waiting to sample hundreds of delicacies made mostly on location, among them bacon-wrapped mochi (a Japanese rice paste) and ice cream made from red beets, Guinness and chocolate cake.
In a sense it is civil disobedience on a paper plate.
The underground market seeks to encourage food entrepreneurship by helping young vendors avoid roughly $1,000 a year in fees — including those for health permits and liability insurance — required by legitimate farmers markets. Here, where the food rave — call it a crave — was born, the market organizers sidestep city health inspections by operating as a private club, requiring that participants become “members” (free) and sign a disclaimer noting that food might not be prepared in a space that has been inspected.
. . .
(p. A12) Where psychedelic drugs famously transported another self-conscious San Francisco generation, the rebel act of choice by Valerie Luu, 23, a first-generation Vietnamese chef, is deep-frying string cheese in a cast-iron pan.
“When I was their age I was doing drugs and going to rock shows,” said Novella Carpenter, an urban farmer and author who recently got into a spat with the City of Oakland for selling chard and other produce at a pop-up farm stand without a permit. “That’s not their culture,” she continued. “Their culture is food — incredible yummy-tasting food.”
. . .
The underground market here, which also has a less chic daytime component, was started by Iso Rabins, 30, the founder of ForageSF, a company that began with foraging walks and dinners featuring dishes like wild nettle soup with crème fraiche.
He started in 2009 from a private home after observing that many friends could not afford to sell at farmers markets, which requires business and product liability insurance (around $250), space rental ($40 to $55 a day), yearly member fees (around $110), and a health and safety permit (about $500). The use of commercial kitchens would cost an additional $45 to $75 an hour, Mr. Rabins noted, and making jam can take eight hours or more. “The small-batch economics just don’t work,” he said.
The goal is to be an incubator for culinary start-ups, and be a profit-making venture. Vendors pay $50 to reserve a cooking space and return 10 percent of sales over $500 to ForageSF. “The feeling in the food community is that if you’re making money, it’s not something you’re passionate about,” Mr. Rabins said. “But if we actually want to change anything — dedicate our lives to it — we need to make money doing it,” he said.
Amateur cooks around the country are pushing to have the right to sell unlicensed goods directly to consumers. So-called “cottage food” laws that allow products considered nonhazardous, like pies and cookies, exist in 18 states, with five more considering similar legislation.

For the full story, see:
PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN. “They Gather Secretly at Night, and Then They (Shhh!) Eat.” The New York Times (Weds., April 15, 2011): A1 & A12.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 14, 2011.)

Today Is Eleventh Anniversary of Democrats’ Infamous Betrayal of Elián González

GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg“In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.

Today (April 22, 2011) is the eleventh anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history—when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.

(p. 7A) MIAMI (AP) – When federal agents stormed a home in the Little Havana community, snatched Elian Gonzalez from his father’s relatives and put him on a path back to his father in Cuba, thousands of Cuban-Americans took to Miami’s streets. Their anger helped give George W. Bush the White House months later and simmered long after that.

. . .
Elian was just shy of his sixth birthday when a fisherman found him floating in an inner tube in the waters off Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving 1999. His mother and others drowned trying to reach the U.S.
Elian’s father, who was separated from his mother, remained in Cuba, where he and Fidel Castro’s communist government demanded the boy’s return.
Elian was placed in the home of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, while the Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles went to court to fight an order by U.S. immigration officials to return him to Cuba. Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton’s attorney general and a Miami native, insisted the boy belonged with his father.
When talks broke down, she ordered the raid carried out April 22, 2000, the day before Easter. Her then-deputy, current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, has said she wept after giving the order.
Associated Press photographer Alan Diaz captured Donato Dalrymple, the fisherman who had found the boy, backing into a bedroom closet with a terrified Elian in his arms as an immigration agent in tactical gear inches away aimed his gun toward them. The image won the Pulitzer Prize and brought criticism of the Justice Department to a frenzy.
. . .
The Cuban government, which tightly controls media access to Elian and his father, said neither is willing to give an interview. A government representative agreed to forward written questions from the AP to Elian, but there has been no response.
Pepe Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said his group predicted in 2000 that Elian would become a prop for the Castro government if he were returned. It was one reason, he said, the group fought for him to be kept in the U.S. and would do it again today, although behind the scenes to avoid negative publicity for the Cuban-American community.
“We knew what this kid was going to be subjected to,” Hernandez said. “And time has proven us right.”

For the full story, see:
JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. “10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title “10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.”)

To “Rejuvenate” Communist Party, Castros Pick New Number Two

MachadoJoseRamonNewCubanNumberTwo2011-04-20.jpg“A Cuban Leader Not Named Castro. After talk about the need for rejuvenation, President Raúl Castro of Cuba selected José Ramón Machado, left, 80, for the party’s second-highest post.” Source of caption: p. A1 of the print version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (The photo appeared at the top of p. A1 and referred the reader to the related article on p. A11.)

(p. A11) HAVANA — Cuba on Tuesday made the most significant change to its leadership since the 1959 revolution, naming someone other than the Castro brothers for the first time to fill the second-highest position in the Communist Party and possibly setting the stage for their eventual successor.

The appointment, at the party’s first congress in 14 years, coincided with a blizzard of changes opening the way for more private enterprise. Taken together, the actions were meant to pull the revolution, at 53, out of a midlife crisis that has led to a sinking economy and, even in the estimation of President Raúl Castro, stagnant thinking.
But Mr. Castro, for all his talk about the need to rejuvenate the system, in the end stuck with the old guard, many of them fellow military officers, for now.
“The rebel army is the soul of the revolution,” he said, quoting Fidel Castro, his brother.
President Castro, 79, had hinted that he might select a young up-and-comer to guide a post-Castro era. Instead, he tapped a party stalwart, José Ramón Machado, 80, who fought at his side in the mountains during the rebellion.

For the full story, see:
RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD. “Cuba Lays Foundation for a Post-Castro Leader.” The New York Times (Weds., April 19, 2011): A11.
(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 19, 2011 and has the title “‘Cuba Lays Foundation for a New Leader.”)

Impressions of the Movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was the most important book of my youth. I still believe that it is an important, and mainly good, novel.
My brother Eric asked me what I thought of the Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 movie that my family went to see on Saturday afternoon (4/16/11). I sent him these first impressions:

I think some of the people making the movie probably meant well—but it turned out pretty wooden.

Rearden is the main male character in the movie, and the range of his facial expressions is between mildly annoyed and mildly amused.
There isn’t anger or passion or joy or fear in the movie, although all of those were in the first part of the book. Watching the movie is like watching a set of dramatized homilies.
The hokey scenes of a shadowy John Galt, kill some of the suspense. (And dressing him in a 1940s fedora seems awkwardly atavistic, given that the movie is supposed to be taking place in 2016.)
It wasn’t all bad. There are some nice scenes of a fast train traveling through Colorado and over a sleek bridge of Rearden metal. And I agree with many of the homilies.
Overall, I wasn’t appalled, but I was disappointed.

To Do Business in India, Bureaucrats Still Must Be Bribed

TataRatan2011-04-18.jpg “In the twilight of his career heading Tata Group, Ratan Tata says he was thwarted in his homeland by arbitrary regulatory decisions and corruption.”

(p. B1) NEW DELHI–Ratan Tata has transformed Tata Group into the world’s best-known Indian company, the owner of Jaguar cars, the Pierre Hotel in New York and Tetley tea.

But in the twilight of his career as chairman of the $67.4 billion conglomerate, Mr. Tata, 73 years old, is frustrated that he hasn’t been able to expand more in his native India. He says bureaucratic delays, arbitrary regulatory decisions and widespread corruption have thwarted his domestic ambitions in such sectors as steel, power, aviation and telecommunications.
. . .
. . . 20 years after . . . reforms began, New Delhi still exerts tight control over large swaths of the economy. All too often, Mr. Tata and other critics say, regulators are picking winners and losers through their decisions, either by delaying certain projects and green-lighting others or by freeing up natural resources for some companies at the expense of others.
“Economically it is a much more open environment. It’s one that fosters a fair amount of free enterprise until you need approvals or some kind of sanction to get something done,” Mr. Tata said during an interview at the Tata-owned Taj Mahal hotel in New Delhi. “Then you still have problems, and maybe more acute then you did before.”
. . .
As chairman, one of Mr. Tata’s first goals was to get Tata back into the airline business. The company’s former airline had been nationalized to form Air India. He planned a venture with Singapore Airlines. But, he says, aviation ministry bureaucrats held up his application for years despite his constant prodding. An aviation ministry spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In 1998, after seven years of government inaction, Mr. Tata withdrew the application. “We went through three governments, three prime ministers, and each time there was a particular individual that thwarted our efforts,” he said in a TV interview last fall. He recalled a conversation with a fellow industrialist several years ago. “He said, ‘I don’t understand. You people are very stupid…. Why don’t you just pay?'”
Paying bribes isn’t his style, Mr. Tata says. “Maybe I’m stupid or old fashioned, but I really want to go to bed at night saying I haven’t succumbed to this.”

For the full story, see:
AMOL SHARMA. “India’s Tata Finds Home Hostile; Chair of Nation’s Best-Known Company Says Bureaucracy Slows Domestic Growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 13, 2011): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipses added, except for the one after the word “stupid” which appears in the original.)
(Note: in the online version of the article, the final paragraph quoted above reads: “Mr. Tata says paying bribes isn’t his style. “Maybe I’m stupid or old fashioned, but I really want to go to bed at night saying I haven’t succumbed to this,” he says.”

“Elites Like Bad News”

(p. 101) Many elites love writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, who viewed all human action as meaningless, or Thomas Pynchon, whose novels, such as Gravity’s Rainbow purport to present hard-science arguments that ours is a pointless universe doomed to meaningless demise. Pynchon’s grasp of physics is debatable; what matters is that when he claimed to have found scientific proof the universe is pointless, many of a certain ilk were eager to believe him. Eighty years ago, elites of the United Stares and Europe gushed in praise over the social historian Oswald Spen-(p. 102)gler’s work The Decline of the West, which argued not only that American and European civilization “one day will lie in fragments, forgotten” but that the downfall of Western civilization was imminently at hand. Similarly, William Butler Yeats in the early twentieth century was praised by Western intellectuals for predicting pending social disintegration through his famed phrase, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Spengler even maintained that the collapse of Western civilization would be a beneficial development, because America and Europe were contemptible. Eight decades later, the West is far stronger, richer, more secure, more diverse, and more free than when Spengler declared it a decaying relic about to vanish. Nevertheless, his work and similar predictions of impending Western collapse are still spoken of reverentially among intellectual elites, a portion of whom delight to hear anything American and European called bad.

If elites like bad news, then the eagerness of intellectuals, artists, and tastemakers to embrace claims of ecological doomsday, population crash, coming global plagues, economic down fall, cultural wars, or the end of this or that become, at least, comprehensible.

Source:
Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Paperback ed. New York: Random House, 2004.
(Note: italics in original.)

Monster Mao

RealMaoBK2011-03-11.jpg

Source of book image: http://www.wellesley.edu/Polisci/wj/chinesepolitics/chang-halliday_files/changUS.jpg

(p. 11) After Mao comes to power, Chang and Halliday show him continuing his thuggery. This is more familiar ground, but still there are revelations. Mao used the Korean War as a chance to slaughter former Nationalist soldiers. And Mao says some remarkable things about the peasants he was supposed to be championing. When they were starving in the 1950’s, he instructed: “Educate peasants to eat less, and have more thin gruel. The State should try its hardest . . . to prevent peasants eating too much.” In Moscow, he offered to sacrifice the lives of 300 million Chinese, half the population at the time, and in 1958 he blithely declared of the overworked population: “Working like this, with all these projects, half of China may well have to die.”

At times, Mao seems nuts. He toyed with getting rid of people’s names and replacing them with numbers. And discussing the possible destruction of the earth with nuclear weapons, he mused that “this might be a big thing for the solar system, but it would still be an insignificant matter as far as the universe as a whole is concerned.”
Chang and Halliday recount how the Great Leap Forward led to the worst famine in world history in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and how in 1966 Mao clawed his way back to supreme power in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Some of the most fascinating material involves Zhou Enlai, the longtime prime minister, who comes across as a complete toady of Mao, even though Mao tormented him by forcing him to make self-criticisms and by seating him in third-rate seats during meetings. In the mid-1970’s, Zhou was suffering from cancer and yet Mao refused to allow him to get treatment – wanting Zhou to be the one to die first. “Operations are ruled out for now” for Zhou, Mao declared on May 9, 1974. “Absolutely no room for argument.” And so, sure enough, Zhou died in early 1976, and Mao in September that year.
This is an extraordinary portrait of a monster, who the authors say was responsible for more than 70 million deaths.

For the full review, see:
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF. “The Real Mao.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., October 23, 2005): 22.
(Note: ellipsis in original.)
(Norte: the online version of the review has the title “‘Mao’: The Real Mao.”)

Book reviewed:
Chang, Jung , and Jon Halliday. Mao: The Unknown Story. New York: Knopf, 2005.