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Crunchy Cons!

posted by awelborn

Pete Vere’s got a piece on Catholic Exchange:

Dreher chronicles how many families are living out their crunchy con convictions. From homeschooling to organic and family farming, from turning off the television to turning on the oven and enjoying a good home-cooked meal, crunchy cons are doing little things to restore a more natural pace within the family. For at its essence the crunchy con philosophy is about living in harmony with the natural world as wise stewards entrusted by God with the care of His creation.

This last point has escaped Dreher’s critics in my opinion. Their most common complaint is that Dreher never gets around to presenting a plan for moving the crunchy con ideology forward. He does not have to present some grand plan; rather it is the little things that move crunchy conservatism forward. As Dreher repeatedly points out in his book, big things happen when enough people look after the little things.



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Maureen

posted March 31, 2006 at 12:12 pm


First off — Amy, for the love of God Himself, will you PLEASE get rid of that moving flickr.com thing! It’s making my computer crazy! It paused one of my programs for half an hour!
Anyway…
I haven’t seen any critics concerned with a large unified “crunchy con” program not being there. I don’t think most people really care if Dreher loves his Birkenstocks; most conservatives are quirky about something.
If anything, people have gotten mad for Dreher’s apparently putting some kinds of conservative concern for the environment, aesthetics, and the “good life”, ahead of other, perfectly valid interpretations of the same things.
For instance, I don’t really see where organic foods are “better”, in a moral or ideological sense, than foods grown with chemicals or even with genetic engineering standing in for breeding. Any food that’s babied along is probably going to taste better, sure. (If the bugs and worms don’t get at it.) But that is better in appearance, not better morally.
People who have the money to eat organic food can do it if they please, or can not to do it if they don’t please. People who have the time can grow organic food. (Which actually might give one some character-building points.) But here in the world of non-rich conservatives without any time (which is most of us), organic foods are luxury foods. We eat what’s cheap.
So basically, Dreher is saying, “If you have money and choose to support this particular segment of this industry, you are automatically a better person in every way.” Which, of course, gives the impression of being a snooty and unreflective person.
I don’t mind if people admit they prefer buying and using luxury goods, like Craftsman houses and Birkenstocks and organic foods — or mink, for that matter. A mink coat does have superior warmth in the winter, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. All these things wouldn’t be so expensive if they weren’t better or cooler in some way than what most people have. What I mind is being told that luxuries are some sort of secular sacramental. Mink doesn’t make you a nicer person — just furrier.



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Christine

posted March 31, 2006 at 12:33 pm


Hmm. But I’ll bet you that organic farmers, if they are true to their philosophy won’t feed animal waste to their cattle resulting in (drum roll please) mad cow disease. Now, there’s a real good example of poor stewardship.
I understand with the financial pressures of life today that for many families eating cheap is an important issue. But we still need to address the greed and abuse that Agribusiness imposes on human beings and the environment. There are heavy consequences, not least to the workers exploited by what are basically three agricultural giants in the U.S.
More power to Rod and his companions. I would feel entirely at home in their world.
By the way, article mentions that Rod is an “Eastern” Catholic — sounds like he’s found a spiritual home that feeds him.
Great news, more power to him.



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Mike

posted March 31, 2006 at 12:45 pm


Maureen,
IMHO, this focus on defining people by what they choose to buy, or don’t buy, is proof that the culture of marketing and consumerism is out of control. It just dominates everything. I think the whole point of ‘crunchy conservatism’, or whatever you want to call it, should be to get beyond thinking this way. It needs to be pushed to the periphery, rather than being the central driving force in the culture.



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Scherza

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:02 pm


If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.
—Scottish Blessing
I heard an interview with Dreher on the radio — although I’ve not read the book yet, it didn’t seem like he was saying that if you eat organic food, it makes you a better person. I think he was trying to make the point that environmental and health concerns (two issues that often draw people to choose organic foods) are not inherently leftist, yet the stores that sell those products frequently cater to a leftist audience.
I’ve seen way more ads for gay-marriage rallies at Sevananda than I have at Publix.



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Christine

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:06 pm


It’s interesting to me how Christians are always being forced to justify care for creation as being Biblical.
It was always an integral part of Jewish belief. Just go read the Old Testament passages that deal with care for the land. Jews always recognized it (and for that matter all creation) belongs to God and is ours on loan and trust only.



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Maclin Horton

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:18 pm


t didn’t seem like he was saying that if you eat organic food, it makes you a better person
No kidding! Poor Rod–people keep accusing him of this, often raking him over the coals with great hostility, and I suppose you can misread him to think that this is what he means. But it isn’t. Really. It just isn’t. I think he might agree with this very broad one-sentence overview: we as a society are dangerously out of touch with reality, and we need to get back in touch.



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Cornelius

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:34 pm


Crunchy cons. Who cares about any of this?



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Mark Adams

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:58 pm


First off — Amy, for the love of God Himself, will you PLEASE get rid of that moving flickr.com thing!
Yes Amy, do what I tell you to do with YOUR OWN website.



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JP

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:10 pm


I read Drehers books several weeks ago, and found most of it quite boring. His main beef with most Americans who live in the large Middle Class, is thier life style. Dreher’s thesis contends that modern capitalistic life as we practice it smacks firmly against the traditional life properly understood. Men like Burke, Nock, Burnham, Chesterton, and Tolkien hated what unfettered capitalism brought to society. Twenty years ago, George Will printed a book, Statescraft as Soulcraft. In it, Will articulated the theoretical problems within the Conservative Movement. Dreher expands on Will’s foegotten project.
Rousseau was the first person who saw what Reason, Democracy, and Capitalism produced. He was the first to coin the word, Bourgeoises. Since Rousseau, most of the Western Intellegentsia tried mightily to find a correction to the Bourgeois. Dreher is just the most recent crtiic. Hatred or disgust of the Bourgeois really had its beginnings with the Religious, Artistic, and Poltical Left. Marx had to get in line.
Now Rod is no Gustav Flaubert or Karl Marx; but his gentle critisim of Bourgeois Life is revealing. Many of his points while not orginal, cut very deep – especially when dealing with Social Justice, and the disintergration of the genteel civic life once common in America.



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Fortiterinre

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:24 pm


Interesting, I definitely agree that Big Business needs to be greeted with as much skepticism as Big Government. A family cooking a meal together and recreating together is a big part of what it means to be family–the multiple TV’s and computers in all the kids’ rooms is terrifying to me.



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Mark Windsor

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:25 pm


With respect, Maureen, you’re misreading the intention.
I think there are two elements to the idea of going organic in Rod’s book. First, it supports the agrarian life of the small farmer in a way that used to be common in this country. Second, is an environmental context where less chemicals are VERY GENERALLY better for the environment.
To say that his contention is: if you buy organic you’re a better person, is simply to misread the obvious in the second chapter.



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JP

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:40 pm


Of course, going totally organic harkens back to the days of subsistance farming, low yields, insect infestation, crop failures, and famines.
Less than 100 years ago, our nation had tens of thousands of “organic farmers” from Oklahoma to Montana. The organic farmer had a life filled with locust swarms, heatwaves, devastating blizzards (One Blizzard in 1888 took killed over 1000 children alone), poverty, and an early death. The farmers also had to contend with crop failures due to overfarming, and plant disease.
Only in a nation blessed with so much, do we look on the old days with such nostalgia. You can find many of the early plains farmsteads long abandoned in empty fields. I imagine many of those famers would have given thier right arm for a little pesticide and hybrid seed.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:45 pm


Corny: Crunchy cons. Who cares about any of this?
Evidently more than a few people. The book has gone into its third printing.



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kat

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:52 pm


As someone who is getting prepared to do the organic farming thing (5 years, as soon as dh retires from the military), its a little scary, even without having to worry about blizzards. (by the way, that period of history just happened to have a lot of difficulties with the weather, not that the organic farming contributed)
Where is the income going to come from to sustain our 5 children (so far)? Can a small farmer make it these days? Its all well and good to dream and plan, but is it sustainable? Any thoughts? Great books?
I think the only cruncy thing we do is homeschool and not have cable, but we are hard workers and are willing to give it all we have to live in the country.



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steve

posted March 31, 2006 at 3:56 pm


Just as I suppose there are warmonger lefties, I think the crunch con idea is not any great movement or philosophy, but just proof that for every bell curve there is a standard deviation from the norm.



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Philip

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:05 pm


Thank you JP. Finally somebody pointing out that organic farming is an unrealistic ideology. Interestingly, large numbers of people that buy “organic” are also strongly anti-population growth. I guess that’s necessary because “organic” farming at its best has only a minute fraction of ag yields as “non-organic” and thus can’t support the same number of people.
Another question, what is “organic”? It is a very subjective term, nations and even states have different definitions for what can be labelled “organic”. Besides, “organic” farmers do use pesticides and fertilizers. Often, they use the exact same pesticides and fertilizers, just delivered to the plants/soil differently (sometimes its all exactly the same).
The truly “in touch with reality” farming methods need to realize that God gave us brains, and that we can use ag technology to sustainably benefit both the Earth and humanity. As with anything, technology can be used for good or for evil. Just because people use something for evil doesn’t mean we need to abandon it altogether.



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Maureen O'Brien

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:08 pm


Re: supporting local farmers
But… if organic food was really popular, wouldn’t there just be lots more factory farming of organic food? I suppose shipping would have to be either faster — using more energy resources — or you’d have to have more local factory farm employees. I guess that would spread around the chicken farm waste rivers a bit more.
And yes, fewer chemicals is a good thing. But it also means lower yields, and potentially more hunger in the world. There’s no black and white on these topics. It’s not what you do, but when and where.
I believe that Rod really means to take back certain neutral or conservative issues for the right. That’s a good thing. But he’s not coming across that way.
I suspect that is because, today, very few people concerned about the environment come across that way. They don’t offer people a tasty treat and a happy coincidence with a good cause, as if organic food was on the same level of morality as buying cake at the church bake sale fundraiser. You don’t think, “Wow, this person loves tasty strawberries grown close, and supporting a farmer he knows!” You think, “I buy strawberries from the farmer down the road, too, and I don’t make a big deal about how much better I’m making the world. I just pay the man and eat the dang strawberries.”
It’s no good reclaiming issues from the left if you’re going to put people’s backs up just like the arrogant folks of the left. If these are everybody’s issues, give everybody some ownership — and a way to do those little things that doesn’t require a big checkbook.
Re: my cri de coeur
Well, it is definitely Amy’s website (thus the PLEASE). But it is everybody’s Web. High bandwidth use as an element of design doesn’t usually bother folks nowadays, but when it does, it’s a doozy. And I hold by the old traditional Internet right — even duty — to say something when a website is jamming up my computer on a frequent basis.
Which the Flickr thing has been. It keeps sending and sending and sending for as long as the page is open, even after you press the Stop button. So my computer keeps downloading and downloading and downloading, using up huge amounts of processor and memory and hard drive space, and slowing or stopping everything else I’m doing, including looking at the things Amy links to. Much worse than a pop-up, although done with infinitely nicer appearance and intent.
Definitely something a webpage’s owner would like to know is a problem, especially if it’s a website trying to send people to say, Amazon. Since Amazon often won’t load for me until Amy’s Flickr-ridden page is closed.



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Philip

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:11 pm


Kat, I don’t think JP was blaming weather problems on “organic farming”. He was pointing out that during those times, crops had lower yields, and that the varieties grown then were more susceptible not only to temperature/precipitation/salinity extremes, but also there was less technology to forecast weather/growing seasons as accurately (it was even worse back then). Also, farming practices back then were actually MORE taxing on the land than what we have today. Anybody remember the dust bowl?



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Christine

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:12 pm


JP, one of the things I loved about Europe and still miss were all the local farmers’ markets, the local dairy shops and bakeries. I’ve yet to taste anything similar that’s mass produced these days.
Local farms not only produced healthier foods but they were healthier for the environment. The way we’re cutting down huge swaths of forested land for yet more cheap, mass-produced fast food is going to have an impact on our air, land and water down the road. The huge factory farms are already polluting waterways and killing fish with the all the chemical messes they spew out. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Remember the damage that DDT did in the 60′s?
If our lifestyles are so darn good these days, why are so many people worn out, burnt out, stressed out and in spite of all the toys we buy so unhappy?
I’m so glad I grew up in a time when my mom still sat me in her lap and read to me. I couldn’t have cared less at that stage if I ever had a television to watch.
I think I’m going to need to read Rod’s book.



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JP

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:20 pm


Nothing worng with living in the country and homeschooling. But I think Rod evangelical zeal when it comes to the organic food thing is a little odd. It does make a potentially great book a bit boring.
I have nothing against organic farming. However, organic farming entails the use of no chemical fertilizers, no pesticdes, and hybird seeds. Therefore, organic farmers are almost in the same state as the pre World War I farmers. My previous post just emphasized the reality of this closer to nature farming. The only differnce being is the use of mechanical devices such as tractors, combines etc…
I worked on farms during my teen years, I had a large garden, and my grandfather lost his farm during the Great Depression. Anyone who had an entire crop of vegtables ruined by incest infestation, and didn’t buy a little Ortho to prevent it in the future is foolish. Why spend all that time and effort growing food just have some pests destroy it within a week of harvest.
I get the same benefits with garden grown vegtables as compared to “organic farming” without being ripped off. Organic food is for the yuppies. I have 6 children to feed and could never afford to feed them on that stuff.
If our nation depended on organic farming for its food there would be alot of starving people.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:29 pm


I think it’s far more important that one buys one’s vegetables and meat from local farmers. Better to buy a conventionally grown vegetable straight from the farmer than an organically grown one from the supermarket. I wish I could figure out why people get so bent out of shape over the word “organic.”



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Nick

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:30 pm


The issue about organic farming is but one part of the equation. I’m more rattled by the unethical practices of the factory-farming industry when it comes to raising meat. If people feel comfortable eating hormone injected, beak clipped, wing clipped, toe-clipped, feces fed chickens that have only known a life of overcrowding cages and no sunlight, and can reconcile that with the Catechism’s teaching on treating every creature with dignity, then more power to them.
For those who think free-range cage-free chickens are a luxury for the rich, know that if there is always a way to be ethical in your spending habits, supporting the little guy, being faithful to the teaching of the Catechism and eating healthier to boot.
Rod, thanks for the book. We need more writings like yours.



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Christine

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:34 pm


I realize that in a country as large as the U.S. totally organic farming is not a realistic avenue, but really, look at what we produce. All those “Kreme Kakes” and other foods that have a zillion chemicals in them in order to truck them long distances because — again — agribusiness has been consolidated into a few giant corporations. Is this what we really want to feed our kids?
Some of the other points Rod makes are all to salient. I see what he is talking about in the corporate world where everyone is in a big frenzy to make more money, buy bigger houses anda farm the kids out because forbid these people should raise them themselves.
My grandmother and several siblings grew up on a farm and raised their own food. To the end of her life she was very fussy about the quality of the ingredients used in her cooking.



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JP

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:34 pm


Christine,
You should read his book. As I said earlier, Rod made some valid points, and his critique of the modern Republican Party (Money uber alles) is dead on.
The problem I had was having to contend with his penchant to Evangelize for the Organic Food Industry.
Yes, country living, and its counterpart, civilized urban lving is much healthier than life in the ‘burbs. Like I said, I have nothing against Organic Food -who would- accept for the price and at times its poor quality.
Peace



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Anonymous Teacher Person

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:35 pm


I believe that Rod really means to take back certain neutral or conservative issues for the right. That’s a good thing. But he’s not coming across that way
Maureen, I’m not trying to be snide, but have you read Rod’s book? I actually haven’t, myself (though I do plan to). I can’t tell if you’re talking about ideas Rod actually expresses in the book, or about how he and his book are being perceived by people who haven’t read it.



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Christine

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:42 pm


Nick, hey, thanks. The very same issues of humane treatment have been addressed by Pope Benedict.
If I still ate meat I would definitely not buy anything from the agribiggies.
It also should be taken very seriously when even USDA inspectors admit that there are not enough of them to go around and make sure that the nation’s meat supply is safe.



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Mark Windsor

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:48 pm


Um, guys, why don’t you remove the word “organic” and replace it with something like “smaller, more local”. It’s the way of life as much as anything else.
I don’t see why the crop yields even figure into this, unless the person bringing it up hasn’t read the book.
Look at it this way: What do conservatives conserve? The right of ConAgra to be an $11,000,000,000 company? I don’t think the modern world would survive without the likes of ConAgra, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best place on earth to get your carrots.
I grew up in dairy country. The smaller dairies always had the best cheese. That doesn’t mean that I never ate Kraft Longhorn Colby as a kid. It just meant that I had an option. Modern conservatism might well decide that the small dairy is so worthless as to consumed by ConAgra in order to make more Kraft cheese available to people in Puerto Rico (not really a land of dairy cows).
BIGGER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER!
Besides, I don’t think there’s a policy element in this whole debate. Nobody is saying that the GOP must give back ConAgra’s contributions. Just let conservatism mean something more akin to what it meant in the old days.
And to be honest, all this is a minute part of a greater whole. If you want a better view of Rod’s message, try turning off your TV sets for two consecutive nights every week…sit down and talk to your family…read a book…a newspaper (>gasp



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Mark Windsor

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:51 pm


JP,
My guess is you didn’t mean this the way it came out: “vegtables ruined by incest infestation”
If you did, I think an explanation is in order. We are still social conservative, you know…



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Beavis

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:04 pm


try turning off your TV sets for two consecutive nights every week…
No way dude. I might miss something.
sit down and talk to your family…
That’s gay. Stewart does that. He’s a dork.
read a book…
If I wanted to do that, I’d go to school.
a newspaper (>gasp
My newspaper’s already been used … hehehehehe
play with your kids.
No way … that’ll get you sent to the principal.



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Mark Adams

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:08 pm


Beavis, Even before I saw your name or hovered my mouse above it I knew who you were . . .



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Maclin Horton

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:20 pm


Me too, Mark A. Well, I wouldn’t say “knew,” but guessed. Correctly.



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Butthead

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:24 pm


Maclin said “wood.” Hehehehe.
And go back to hovering your mouse, Adams.



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Anonymous Teacher Person

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:24 pm


Me, three!
Well, I knew your *first* name. I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance between you and the one who gave us “Farmer Joe.”
Which begs the question: Can pesticide-free corn grown by a robot farmer still be termed, “organic?”



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Maclin Horton

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:32 pm


Speaking of Mike Judge, may I interject the off-topic observation that Hank Hill is a great American?



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SiliconValleySteve

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:09 pm


I live in the SF bay area where much of this food culture started in the US with Alice Waters, Greens, and Chez Panisse. And it’s true that it is very nice and pleasant. I can afford these luxuries and I do. I do most of the crunchy food stuff like shop at my neighborhood farmers market, buy my bread from the local bakery, and visit the local rare fruit orchard for tastings and pickings. All very nice. I even live in cute neighborhood with lots of bungalows built in the 20′s and 30′s.
But really, I hardly consider my “taste” in these finer things to be a virtue. It’s just my choices of where to spend my money. When I got mugged and had kids and became a conservative, I didn’t suddenly develop a taste for NASCAR, the nashville sound, or hostess hohos.
What really starts to bug me is a kind of nativist superiority that really permeated the crunch blog. The smallness of it all. The Church for me has always been a big place where I encounter the big world of the universal Church. Where I attend, the congregation contains Africans, Asians, and assorted Latin Americans. Worshipping and holding a parish together with such a diverse group isn’t always easy but I think it forces all of us to understand each other as people for both our particular and universal qualities. It stretches us and forces our family to confront our predjudices and one-by-one decide the validity of them.
The crunchies seem to want to retreat to a little world with “people like me.” While by nature in more ethnically homogenous countries, this is natural, in the US it can reflect a retreat and desire for exclusiveness. It’s a valid choice in a free country, but one that reflects more fear than I feel comfortable living with.



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inhocsig

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:23 pm


JP,
Your first post was excellent. (referencing Burke, Nock, Burnham, Chesterton, & Tolkien…..)
Sort of like the cop at the accident scene saying “Move on people. Nothing to see here.”.



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thomps

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:24 pm


Haven’t read this book yet, but am definitely intrigued. Might buy it to read on my flight to Rome in May. You don’t have to be either a reactionary or a revolutionary to realize that life today is definitely out of whack. The trick is to find some middle ground between our uber-consumer-materialism and individualism with some spiritually based return back to nature. We’ve become so divorced from nature that we don’t know how to survive without the big agribusinesses. I wouldn’t know diddly about growing a garden because I don’t know how to grow one! I know that’s pathetic but it’s also the truth and I don’t think I’m alone in this predicament. The thing is I know that this ignorance is something I should be ashamed of. There is a desire for a lot of folks to be less dependent on big businesses whether it’s for food,oil, gasoline, or whatever; but it’s almost impossible to survive without the big corporations, Maybe the “crunchy con” movement is start in the right direction. Don’t know yet, but maybe I should try and plant a couple of tomato plants this spring and see if they survive.



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Sandra Miesel

posted March 31, 2006 at 8:12 pm


I actually grew up on a subistence level organic chicken farm but my husband was a research chemist for Dow AgroSciences. I hate to break the illusion, but even back in the 1940s broiler chickens were raised in packed cages in a dark building with red cloth over the windows to discourage them from pecking each other to death. The difference in taste from then until now also reflects the longer time it took them to put on weight.
I wouldn’t buy ears of corn at a grocery store. The garden shop down the road sells corn, tomatoes, and Decker melons from local growers in season that are superior. (Heh heh, you Auslanders don’t know about Decker melons.) I doubt anything there is organic but it’s good. If I were more ambitious I’d go to a farmer’s market. Locally made organic yougurt and cheese are also available at the loaclly owned supermarket chain.
But for commodity crops such as grains, the farmers need the most advanced ag techniques they can get as well as lots of acreage. (And the trend is to use the least amount of pesticide and hericide possible.) Or as my husband likes to say, “Which 100 million Americans would you like to see starve?”



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Andrea Harris

posted March 31, 2006 at 8:28 pm


My take on the crunchycons is: bragging about where you buy your food and clothes and what a wonderful lifestyle you lead (as opposed to the benighted masses who don’t live as you do) is low-class, and reeks of the stereotypically bourgeois obsession with status-seeking that crunchycons and their philosophical heroes claim to decry.
By the way, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss “thomps” — you have no reason to be “ashamed” because you don’t know how to grow a garden. It’s not rocket science, and there are many books available on the subject. You may find that you have neither aptitude nor interest in the activity, and that is also nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone can’t do everything.
(I will consider your “Andrea, you have misunderstood Rod’s point completely!” and “Andrea, you really should read the book!” rejoinders as having been said. There, you don’t have to type them.)



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Brian Day

posted March 31, 2006 at 11:12 pm


Sorry to start in late.
I’ve read the book. A lot of people are reading too much into this.
His lament of lost family life is spot-on.
The “organic” foods (chapter 2) argument has some validity in that in striving for mass-produced goods, something is lost, be it taste, nutrition, or the ‘total’ experience of cooking. It’s greatest point though ties into the main thesis of the book which is our pursuit of what the Church used to call “materialism”.
(Rod, did you use that term in the book?)
I really enjoyed the phrase that our goal in life should not be a satisfied shopper.
Another theme that was an undercurrent of the book was that of subsidiarity. Do things on a personal level. If you can’t do it, then look to your Church or community. If not there, then to the state or federal level. There were a couple of places where Rod went to the government well, but nobody is perfect. :)
Overall, it is a good book, and I am glad that people are discussing it.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted March 31, 2006 at 11:36 pm


I’ve lived in rural Illinois all my life. I did farm labor as a teen-ager and I have many farmers as clients. My family and neighbors always had extensive vegetable gardens. The desire for organic crops straight from the ground has always bemused me. I grew up eating such crops, usually washing the dirt and insects off them before my mother prepared them. We ate them because they were cheap. I could not then, and I cannot now, taste any difference in the quality of home grown vegetables and supermarket produce. As for the supposed baneful effects of chemicals on the food, the ever-increasing life expectancy causes me to doubt that there is any harmful effect. I have no objection to people who wish to spend more money to eat organic food, taste is subjective, but I don’t see such a choice making any profound political statement.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 3:36 am


When I hear “crunchy cons,” I think: “smug conservative.” Tell me, if anyone here saw the most recent South Park episode about Hybrid Cars and San Francisco: WHAT is the difference between the liberals in SanFran and crunchy cons?
The reason why people react to something like “organic food” is because there’s an inherent smugness and judgmentalism at work, over nothing but fricking vegetables. Vegetables! Someone’s going to judge me over the stupid celery that I buy!?! It’s INSANE.
Sorry, but there are more important things than that. But all that I’ve heard about Crunchy Cons seems to suggest, despite claims to the contrary, that people who do eat organic, or drive hybrid cars, are seen as better people. Reading the blog on NRO was a nauseating experience, partly because I thought I’d be sympathetic to the crunchy conservativism.
I’m sure the book could be much longer. What OTHER activities can we denounce as un-wholesome? Gee, is living in a high-rise apartment building bad too? Because that’s what I do, and I know that Rod fameously left NYC for Texas because he didn’t like it here. Well, chaulk up another strike against me. I love high-rises. I hate lawns, hate mowing grass, and hate raking leaves in the fall. I couldn’t wait to move to NYC as soon as I graduated college. I love it here. If I want to see a tree, I have Central Park. Mowing grass is for suckers. Oh, and I’m very private and don’t want to have to get to know my neighbors. I like the fact that I can avoid having “neighbors” who I have to deal with here in the City. In the suburbs, all my neighbors were my childhood bullies, and their parents were jerks too. Neighbors aren’t a de-facto good thing, and I’m glad I don’t have to put up with them.
Count me in as against the “family farm” too, because I love cities. As great as the Clark Kent farm lifestyle sounds – it’s just not happening these days for simple economic realities. I can attest to that from my own family. My mother grew up on a farm in Kansas. She told me stories of how she was DIRT POOR. They were ALWAYS in debt. Their crops FAILED all the time, and they lived from hand to mouth EVERY DAY. And they ate the SAME FOOD over and over and over and over, so much that she grew SICK of it. Getting a factory job when she graduated high school was the best thing she ever did, and she has more fond memories of working in a factory than she did living on a farm.
Smug people telling me I should return to a family farm where I have to work backbreaking physical labor, to grow a measily crop that will probably fail and leave me in debt, forcing me to eat gruel 3 times a day, next to neighbors who hate me? Again, what INSANITY is this? The day that robots grow all our crops will be one of the greatest days in the history of mankind.
I’m a big admirer of Tolkien’s writings, but HE knew that they were a fantasy. Samwise Gamgee’s little garden, obviously, is an ideal that’s worth something. But it’s no way to live. He’d be dirt poor (and he was, if you read carefully enough) and would be living hand to mouth every day. Tolkien might’ve complained about factories replacing rural England, but he’d have trouble telling my Mom why that should be the case. Most importantly, Tolkien never made the case that increasing technology or a different lifestyle alone made a person WORSE or evil or un-wholesome. In fact, he often celebrated technological advances, especially via the Dwarves. Tolkien never implied that just because someone had a personal like for something, or dislike for something, such preference had anything to do with one’s moral character.
So let’s run things down: I live a private life in NYC, farms are a great way to poverty, mowing grass is for suckers, oh, and add on these: I like McDonalds. I hate to cook. I don’t chase technology, but I do like it when something helps with conveniences. Sheesh.. is owning a blender bad these days? What about vacuum cleaners? Should we beat the dust off of carpets now, too?
Honestly – I could probably attack almost every smug claim made by the crunchy cons. I don’t think that any of their lifestyle choices necessarily will make a darn bit of difference in the greater political sphere either, since there are greater forces at work than what kind of vegetables people eat.
Next time, just subtitle the book: “Why People From New York Are Evil.”



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Andrea Harris

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:42 am


Tolkien wasn’t against technology per se, he was against loud, dirty, pointless technology that destroyed the countryside. However, notice that factories today are much cleaner and make much less impact on the countryside than they did in his day; this is in part thanks to those early inefficient, dirty factories (or rather, the technological advances they brought, which in turn made people wealthier and therefore able to afford to build more complex, cleaner factories.
Don’t get me wrong, I love nature (though I share Sydney’s hatred of lawns — in Florida large lawns breed mosquitos, are a water suck, and are also heat attractors — I prefer trees; if I ever live in a house it will be surrounded by trees and no lawn, I will never rake the leaves either, I like heaps of leaves). But nature is not your friend or cuddly pet, and it should be kept at arms’ length.



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Jon W

posted April 1, 2006 at 12:13 pm


I love nature (though I share Sydney’s hatred of lawns — in Florida large lawns breed mosquitos, are a water suck, and are also heat attractors — I prefer trees; if I ever live in a house it will be surrounded by trees and no lawn, I will never rake the leaves either, I like heaps of leaves).
Interestingly enough, lawns aren’t natural in most places that have them. Hence, all the watering. Lawns are not, most of the time, “crunchy” at all for exactly the reasons you give for disliking them. (Tolkien prefered trees, too.)
In fact, lawns and that kind of dishonestly over-manicured landscaping in places where it is not natural at all to the surrounding environment are part-and-parcel of what “crunchy” conservatives should be suspicious of.
The great temptation of wealth is that you can afford entirely to remake wherever you are into whatever you want it to be. Whereas, when you’re poor, you have more of an incentive to integrate yourself more entirely with the way things are. That’s why genuine local customs always come from the poor while mansions tend to all look the same: like psuedo-neo-classical piles of brick and stone.
It seems to me that “crunchy” conservativism … and how I wish we could retire that horrible adjective. Dreher, I love you, man, but in its previous incarnation, “crunchy” infallibly described people so insufferable they made me want to drown myself in Bud Lite. That’s the only thing I don’t like about this new movement: the terminology. (*mutters*) Organic … blech.
Anyway, it seems to me that (shudder) “crunchy” conservatism is far more about opposition to a kind of existentialism by which we think that now we are wealthy we can assert our will to remake the world exactly how we want it: controlling it exactly to our taste, down to the last microbe (or, hey, DNA strand). A la That Hideous Strength (my crunchy conservatism bible).
Conservatism is about receiving and loving what has been given you and cultivating it properly, not taking it to bits now that you have this incredibly efficient wealth-producing system for doing it.
Do we think we can remake entirely the vast system that God has given us? We were here to till and keep the garden, not dig it up and re-plant.
We are wealthy – very, very wealthy. Perhaps it behoove us (as a freaking society I am not arguing against people who are shopping at Walmart just to make ends meet so don’t freak out people!) to develop and assert some ideals which may cost us a little bit of capital but which may enable us to lead better, more human, lives.
factories today are much cleaner and make much less impact on the countryside than they did in his day; this is in part thanks to those early inefficient, dirty factories
This is correct. And there’s nothing wrong with benefitting from technology even if you decry the means by which the technology was first developed.
But we also have a responsibility, given what we have now in the situation we find ourselves in now, to arrange our resources in the most humane way possible.



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Mark Windsor

posted April 1, 2006 at 2:39 pm


Sydney,
You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.



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Andrea Harris

posted April 1, 2006 at 2:55 pm


Well there you have it, Sydney! You don’t know anything about your own experiences! Listen to Mark: he knows you better than you know yourself.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 4:05 pm


Mark,
Care to explain why? What is it that I’m missing?



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Mark Windsor

posted April 1, 2006 at 6:32 pm


oooh, Andrea, how wonderfully snarky! Nice touch :)
Sydney, have you even read the book? From what you’ve written above, it doesn’t look like it. You’ve relied on a bunch of blog posts to form an opinion. That’s similar to relying on Catholic blogs to learn about Catholicism. Nobody’s asking you to give up your McDonalds, just be open to other ways of doing things. I buy a lot of books off Amazon, but when I can, I buy one or two from a mom-and-pop bookseller not far from where I live. I don’t get a great deal, but they treat me well, know everything about mysteries that I don’t want to learn, and I like the atmosphere. That makes me a smug conservative – because I buy from a smaller, family owned business? Because I’ve actually read Russell Kirk (how many GOP types have done that?)? Gimme a break.
If you haven’t read the book, then you just posted 10 paragraphs slamming something that you don’t really seem to know much about.
And why is it that everyone who disagrees with you is psychotic, crazy, insane.
Pet the imaginary cat, Sydney. Pet the imaginary cat…



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Rod Dreher

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:15 pm


Sydney Carton:
Next time, just subtitle the book: “Why People From New York Are Evil.”

Sydney, this is just an asinine tantrum. If you bothered to read the book, you would have read pages that were a love letter to my former Brooklyn neighborhood. I think your petulant remarks say a lot more about you than about my book. What on earth are you so threatened by?



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:46 pm


“Nobody’s asking you to give up your McDonalds, just be open to other ways of doing things.”
Wrong. It’s a judgment call as well. I don’t give a crap if anyone eats organic food. But the minute you start saying that people who do are better, more wholesome, and hence, more authentically conservative… unlike those grubby people who eat at McDonalds. Well, that’s insulting, and it’s rude, and it’s smug.
“And why is it that everyone who disagrees with you is psychotic, crazy, insane.”
I’m not the one basing an entire newfound philosophy on the way vegetables are grown, Mark.



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Eileen R

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:03 pm


DOWN WITH LAWNS!



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Mark Windsor

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:04 pm


I tell ya what, Syd. Here’s the deal. I’m not going to tell you what kind of conservative you are based on where your veggies are grown, or what kind of food you buy from your local fast food chain. I will tell you that a more authentic conservative would be well read on Burke and Kirk, but you might consider that rude of me. But then, you seem to be an expert at knowing the contents of books you have never opened.
Let me say it again: Sydney, you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Rod, you ask what he’s threatened by? Real conservatism that might force him to take a Catholic view of politics? Just ponderin’…



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:08 pm


“Sydney, this is just an asinine tantrum.”
Rod, your have some good insights, but Crunchy Cons seem all about judging people based on pure lifestyle choices, as opposed to their moral actions, and is a serious flaw.
You liked Brooklyn because it had uniqueness about it. But you seem to imply that anyone who likes something diversely enjoyed, is to be harshly judged, because “the personal is political.” That’s why I asked if eating at McDonalds makes me evil. I suppose I should mention that I love Nike sneakers, and won’t even think about wearing sandals. Does THAT make be evil too?
I never judged a person by the type of food they ate, the shoes they wore, or whatever. But you seem to be doing that, while claiming that you’re more authentically conservative, and more wholesome. That’s very, very insulting. And, since we’re on a Catholic blog, I’ll say that it’s evil. Judge Not Lest Ye be Judged. You’re judging people based on their actions. Wearing Nikes funds multinational global corporations that feed on the world like a parasite, right? And Nike spreads propoganda like, “Just Do It,” and I’m funding them, right? And so I’m just a part of the problem, right? All my preferences translate into the problems you want to fix. So I’m part of the problem.
Oh, here’s a radical idea! Instead of judging people who wear Nikes and eat at McDonalds, we could try to teach our kids a little humility, and that they should judge a person not on superficialities, but on their character. And if there are larger problems like the fact that my favorite shoe company does stuff wrong, we should fight it at THAT level, and not by attacking individuals.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:18 pm


“Real conservatism that might force him to take a Catholic view of politics?”
Real conservativism? Gee, my conservativism is only 98.9 percent pure. I guess I’m evil.



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mark Windsor

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:21 pm


Sydney, you’d understand that nobody is judging anybody based on their sneaker purchases…if you’d read the book. But no, you know better.
Very sad…



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Sonetka

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:27 pm


Mark – or maybe he just read the Crunchblog at NRO. I haven’t read the book, but I did read the blog, and much of the content was so sanctimonious and preening that I have no desire now to pick up the book. Sorry, Rod, just my personal impression.



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Rachel

posted April 1, 2006 at 10:00 pm


Sonetka,
The book is much more engaging then the blog (sorry Rod!). The posts at the Crunchy blog were a bit long-winded and esoteric. The book is both practical and inspiring.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 1, 2006 at 10:10 pm


Mark,
Fine. I’ll pick up the book tonight. But if it’s anything like the Blog at NRO, and if my complaints are in fact accurate, then beware…



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Mark Windsor

posted April 2, 2006 at 10:13 am


Beware of what, Sydney?
I couldn’t stomach the blog on NRO, to be honest.
The book isn’t perfect (but what book is), but it’s got some very interesting ideas.
Sydney, I mean this with charity, there is an older form of conservatism that isn’t on the GOP platform. YOU HAVE GOT TO GET PAST THIS IDEA THAT ANYONE HERE IS CALLING YOU EVIL!!! That simply isn’t the case. I think it’s a bit foolhardy to condemn a book you’ve never read. If you still think it’s nuts after reading the book, fine. You’re entitled to your opinion.
By the way, just so you’ll know, I really like the Crunch Con idea, but: I buy Adidas, my work shoes are made by Timberland, I can’t stand Birkenstocks, I drive a Chrysler that gets crappy gas mileage, I shop for food at a division of Safeway, I have a TV and a DVD player and – God forgive me – a Gamecube, I buy way too many books that I don’t have time to read, I can’t tell the difference between an organically grown carrot and a ConAgra grown carrot, I’m a damn good cook but I choose to cook peasant food rather than haute cuisine. I don’t care for burgers all that much, but I have a soft spot for Schlotzkis, Philly style cheesesteaks, and a good New York Sub. The only thing that I’m truely, deeply, pathetically snobbish about is music; I can tell the difference between the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, but then, I have two kids playing classical instruments, and I play my jazz horn like a classical one too; I’ll take Carlos Kleiber over Herbert von Karajan most days. If you want to call me a snob, at least have the decency to aim in the proper direction.
And Sonetka, you’re learning about Catholicism from Catholic blogs is progressing well, is it?



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Sonetka

posted April 2, 2006 at 10:46 am


Mark – I’m going to give the book a look. But not because of you, but because of Rach, who didn’t feel the need to stick a nasty barb into everything she said. Perhaps you were trying to be witty?
I think checking out the Crunchblog is perfectly legitimate – Rod Dreher and people who were (presumably) officially sanctioned by him were posting on it. It was THE Crunchy Con blog. If St. Blog’s contained a blog on which the Pope and various church higher-ups posted, I think it would be legitimate to try and get an initial idea of Catholicism from it.



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Andrea Harris

posted April 2, 2006 at 11:15 am


Mark, you’re being an ass because someone gored your ox. Sure, crunchies haven’t actually come out and called anyone evil here — no, they’ve just been smug, preening, and monomaniacal on their you-are-what-you-eat bugbear. Well fine, I don’t mind if you think of yourself as an organically-grown, bought-at-a-farmer’s-market carrot; I certainly do.



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mark Windsor

posted April 2, 2006 at 12:48 pm


Sonetka and Andrea,
Ok, perhaps you have a point with the sharpness of the barb, but really, it’s all been rather tame here given what’s possible in comboxes. The sharpness started after someone decided that I was calling him evil because he’s a New Yorker (and for a great many other reasons) – after someone started putting words into my mouth that were NEVER there. Sorry if my barbs offned. And, just to be clear, I even complimented Andrea for a snarky comment above – an appropriate comment, to a certain extent – aimed at me.
Andrea, are you sure you’re aiming your comment at the right person? I am, after all, the guy that said I can’t tell the difference between an organic carrot and a ConAgra one, and that I like New York subs and Philly cheesesteaks. Exactly how monomoniacal have I been again? Ya mean the part where I say someone that’s going to condemn a book as “INSANE” should actually read it first?
If you’re assuming my ox is Crunchy-con-ism, I’m still not sure I agree with you on that. But let’s be honest here, shall we? I critique the GOP and get a ton of bricks dropped on me…and this for suggesting that Burke and Kirk are right. But the GOP doesn’t have any problems with Schwartzenegger, McCain or Specter and their version of conservatism. Where is their view of conservatism relative to the original precepts written out by Burke? If you want a good look at an alternative definition of INSANE, have a look at a Catholic-Conservative-ProAbort-Republican like Ahnold. Why is that more acceptible than a guy who says maybe – just maybe – it would be a good idea to preserve some of the west so that it’s not all paved over by Walmarts and Starbucks?
So far as I can tell, the three strongest voices against the book and the ideas contained therein – here at least – haven’t even cracked the cover. Ok, you read the blog. You’ve got plenty of people saying that the blog doesn’t do the book justice, so you don’t have to take my word for it.
Now, I have a four month old baby that’s beginning to get fussy, so I don’t have time to dream up an end-of-post-barb. Sorry.



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mark Windsor

posted April 2, 2006 at 1:20 pm


baby in arms so typing is off a bit
it occured to me if you want a decent review of the boook have a look at loudons on amazon



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Victor Morton

posted April 2, 2006 at 2:18 pm


Why is that more acceptable than a guy who says maybe – just maybe – it would be a good idea to preserve some of the west so that it’s not all paved over by Walmarts and Starbucks?
Because anyone who’s against paving over the West is obviously insane.



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mark Windsor

posted April 2, 2006 at 3:04 pm


Victor,
Imagine someone aiming a very loud raspberry your direction…



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Victor Morton

posted April 2, 2006 at 3:55 pm


Natural beauty is green concrete.



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Victor Morton

posted April 2, 2006 at 3:56 pm


Remember that episode of SOUTH PARK where the kids learn about the rainforest? It was so awesome.



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Sydney Carton

posted April 2, 2006 at 10:53 pm


Well, I bought the book and so I’ll give it a read. But Mark, don’t think that I’m a whore for the Republican Party. There’s plenty about them that piss me off. I don’t like Arnold, McCain, or Specter, and they symbolize a lot of the problems of the GOP lately.
Anyway, I had to laugh at Victor’s remark: “Natural Beauty is Green Concrete.” If he only knew. In spring, when I was growing up, as the snow melted and the flowers came out, I’d get terrible allergies. Since moving to the nice, paved streets of Manhattan, that hardly ever happens anymore. The concrete has actually made spring more enjoyable – no more allergies, no more pollen, no more cut grass, etc. God Bless pavement.



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Mark Windsor

posted April 3, 2006 at 9:23 am


Sydney,
Hey, man, I never assumed you were a whore for the GOP. But you have to admit that if Arnold, Specter and McCain give you pause, then there’s somethin’ wrong in GOP land. We probably agree on more things than we disagree on.



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tk

posted April 3, 2006 at 10:13 pm


“No thank you, just an empty glass, please.”



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