Archived Jul 8 2009
United States - July 8
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In Mother Russia, She's 1st Lady of Gardening
Robin Givhan, Washington Post
First lady Michelle Obama arrived here Monday afternoon to an audience more intrigued by and enamored of her gardening skills than of anything else on her résumé. If she effected any kind of charm offensive leading up to this official visit -- at least one with a message that seems to have resonated down to the streets of this city filled with grand czarist architecture -- it has been one based on lettuce and compost.
... Gardening has special significance here. During the Soviet era, in particular, people were enthusiastic gardeners, raising vegetables for their family for the winter on small patches of land in the country. So many people here still have dachas and spend part of their time at those country homes raising vegetables as well as flowers. But it's not merely that the White House has a garden, it's that the first lady herself tends it -- at least occasionally.
Women here have long stood equal to men on a variety of fronts -- one of the lasting aspects of the Soviet era -- but they are also expected to tend the hearth, raise the children and maintain the family. Obama, a lawyer and former hospital executive, has described her White House role as mom in chief. That title, as well as her very public sowing and planting, speaks volumes in a culture where men and women relate in very traditional ways and women struggle to balance independence with homemaking.
(6 July 2009)
Why Jimmy Carter's Malaise Speech Is More Relevant than Ever
Kevin Mattson, History News Network (HNN)
Thirty years ago, on July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter went on national television and gave a shocking speech. He looked straight at the American people and said: “Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.” He decried a “growing disrespect for government” and “fragmentation and self-interest” that prevented Americans from tackling the energy crisis they confronted – the result of their over-reliance upon fossil fuels. Americans, he warned, now faced a “crisis of confidence.”
Why does the speech matter today and warrant revisiting? Well first off, and strange as it might sound, the speech was a glowing success for the president. Many would think that being tough on the American people would have resulted in bad stuff for the president. But that’s not the case. Carter’s poll numbers shot up 11% in the wake of the speech, something that rarely happened during his presidency. Americans wrote him letters in copious amounts, almost all of them positive. Many pledged that they would join him in fighting the energy crisis facing America (for instance, walking or biking to work). And somehow, just somehow, the American people appeared fine with hearing that the country – meaning: themselves – had grown selfish, corrupt, and soft. They wanted a leader who confronted truths about the country’s state of being and who tried to confront the energy crisis as a deeper moral and civic crisis.
What’s this say about America and our political culture today, now that we look back after thirty years?
Kevin Mattson teaches history at Ohio University and is author of What the Heck are you Up to Mr. President?: Jimmy Carter, America’s “Malaise,” and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country.
(6 July 2009)
Dr. Larry Hughes points to the YouTube of Carter's speech:
The Film Big Coal Does Not Want You to See
Jeff Biggers, Common Dreams
As a groundbreaking clean energy counterpart to this summer's extraordinary Food, Inc. documentary on the agribusiness, the long-awaited "Coal Country" film on the cradle-to-grave process of generating our coal-fired electricity will be hitting the theatres next week with the big bang of an ammonium nitrate/fuel oil explosive.
And Big Coal ain't happy.
Here's the trailer: [YouTube]
After a year-long campaign of threats and intimidation, the Big Coal lobby plans to have its Friends of Coal sycophants out in force to picket the premiere of the film on July 11, 7pm, at La Belle Theater in the South Charleston Museum in Charleston, West Virginia.
Why is Big Coal so afeared of this documentary film by native Appalachian daughters Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, producer and director of three-part award-winning landmark PBS series, "The Appalachians"?
If anything, Coal Country goes out of its way to include the views and voices of the Big Coal lobby and its executives, engineers and miners. This, in fact, might be why Coal Country is so compelling; far from any hackneyed agenda, Coal Country simply allows the coal industry and those affected by its mountaintop removal operations and coal-fired plants to tell their personal stories. The end result is devastating. In a methodical and deliberate fashion, Coal Country brilliantly takes viewers on a rare journey through our nation's coal-fired electricity, from the extraction, processing, transport, and burning of coal.
Once you see the breathtaking footage by cameraman Jordan Freeman, and the unaffected and heart-rending portraits of coal mining families, you will never flick on your light switch again without thinking about Coal Country.
(3 July 2009)