Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More on Corporate Beef...

OK, I give up... I'm in. I buy it.

Every meat-eater has a few vegetarian friends who claim that the main reason other people should be like them is simply because mass-produced meat cannot be trusted. They're right, of course. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point... Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was published in 1906. Like a lot of people, though, I've been resistant, even though I should know better. I'll argue that it's OK to eat Big Macs occasionally because, like, we're all part of the food chain and stuff. What can I tell you... I'm weak. As Vincent Vega would say, steak tastes good, man. Hamburgers taste good. No more, though... I don't trust faceless corporations to prepare my food. I'll be doing some serious reflection on where stuff comes from before I put in into my body.

...there's no beef in Jack Daniels, right?

Article tidbits for this week's 'toon:
  • If you haven't seen the Humane Society video that led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history, here you go (prepare your stomach before proceeding).

    Kathy Benz:
    The video shows Hallmark Meat Packing Co. workers administering repeated electric shocks to downed cows -- animals that are too sick, weak or otherwise unable to stand on their own. Workers are seen kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter.

  • Mark Bittman: estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

    Because the stomachs of cattle are meant to digest grass, not grain, cattle raised industrially thrive only in the sense that they gain weight quickly. This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people.

    Those grain-fed animals, in turn, are contributing to health problems among the world’s wealthier citizens — heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes. The argument that meat provides useful protein makes sense, if the quantities are small. But the “you gotta eat meat” claim collapses at American levels. Even if the amount of meat we eat weren’t harmful, it’s way more than enough.

  • Katharine Mieszkowski:
    [Epidemiologist Devra] Davis argues that again and again, from tobacco to benzene to asbestos, the profit motive has trumped concerns about public health, delaying, sometimes for decades, the containment of avoidable hazards. And, as in the current scientific "debate" about global warming, the legitimate need for ongoing scientific research about many possible carcinogens has been exploited by industry to promote the idea that there's really no need to worry.

  • Will Dunham:
    France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.

    If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year...

  • Michael Pollan:
    The food industry wants to cook for you, shop for you, they want to do everything but digest for you and if they could figure out a way to do that profitably, they would. It's all about making money. They need to convince you that you can't do this stuff on your own...

    The fact is we've had 50 years of letting corporations cook our meals, and it appears now that they were not doing a very good job of it. The food they're cooking is making people sick.

  • Jamey Lionette:
    Supermarkets are part of mainstream America's identity. Working-class people have little choice but to shop at conventional supermarkets. Middle-class people can shop at places like Whole Foods and appease their consciences with the notion that that food is safer and tastier than conventional supermarket food. And those of the flat earth society -- middle- and upper-class people who do not believe that their climate is changing, that a global market is a bad thing, or that our food systems are in trouble -- favor the conventional supermarket. However, both conventional and progressive supermarkets operate on the same model: mass-produced foods, made cheaply, and sold at cheap prices.

  • C.W.A. colleague Stephanie McMillan:
    The global economy is a machine with one objective: to extract wealth from the earth and the labor of the poor, convert it to money, and transfer it to the hands of the rich.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fighting Words: 2/25/08 Cartoon

"Corporations: Purveyors of Safe and Reliable Products"...

A few previous episodes of "The Corporation Guys":

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More on Retroactive Immunity...

There seems to be a little confusion about who the old guy is in this week's cartoon... in retrospect, he does look a little like Rob Reiner. Actually, he's supposed to be the guilt-trip guy in the Christian Children's Fund commercials.

Article tidbits:
  • Glenn Greenwald sums it up perfectly (sorry about the length, but this whole thing has gotta be one of the top 5 objectionable things that our government has done the past few years):
    It's worth taking a step back and recalling that all of this is the result of the December, 2005 story by the New York Times which first reported that the Bush administration was illegally spying on Americans for many years without warrants of any kind. All sorts of "controversy" erupted from that story. Democrats everywhere expressed dramatic, unbridled outrage, vowing that this would not stand. James Risen and Eric Lichtblau were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for exposing this serious lawbreaking. All sorts of Committees were formed, papers written, speeches given, conferences convened, and editorials published to denounce this extreme abuse of presidential power. This was illegality and corruption at the highest level of government, on the grandest scale, and of the most transparent strain.

    What was the outcome of all of that sturm und drang? What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary, the Senate is about to enact a bill which has two simple purposes: (1) to render retroactively legal the President's illegal spying program by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its legality: namely, the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms. In other words, the only steps taken by our political class upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking is to endorse it all and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law...

    That's really the most extraordinary aspect of all of this, if one really thinks about it.

  • Meanwhile, Bush tries to get us to shit ourselves with fear:
    Bush renewed his demand today for Congress to complete action on the measure promptly. "Our intelligence professionals must be able to find out who the terrorists are talking to,'' he said at the White House. "Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that would make Sept. 11 pale by comparison.''

    As does Ted Poe, after the House refused to vote on the Senate bill:
    “I think there is probably joy throughout the terrorist cells throughout the world that the United States Congress did not do its duty today,” said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas.

    Dana Perino helps the House get some perspective:
    "The ‘people’s House’ should reflect the priorities of the American people, not the fantasies of left-wing bloggers."

    And, Lamar Smith reminds us who the real good guys are:
    Exposing the phone companies to lawsuits would be unfair, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas said. "Is that any way to treat a friend? No,'' he told reporters.

    They're YOUR friends, jackhole, not mine. They didn't donate a dime to my last campaign.

  • Matt Stoller on public opinion:
    Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters reject amnesty for phone companies that may have violated the law by selling customers' private information to the government, preferring to let courts decide the outcome...

    Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters oppose allowing courts to issue blanket warrants for wiretapping American citizens that would not have to name any specific individual...

  • But... the programs were only initiated after 9/11, and only involve calls going out of the country, right? Uh-huh...
    In a separate N.S.A. project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Primary challenges? Check, check, check, check....

Regarding the failed amendment to strike the "retroactive immunity" provisions from the FISA bill, Kevin Moore points to a list of Senate Democrats who should be treated exactly like Republicans the next time they are up for reelection.

No real surprises... it's the usual suspects: Feinstein, Rockefeller, Landrieu, Bayh, Salazar, Nelson x 2...

The very notion of a Democratic "majority" in the Senate will be a fantasy until these people lose their jobs.

More on the candidates...

Article tidbits for this week's 'toon:
  • I don't think you will see me seriously trash Obama any time soon (at least not with the contempt that I reserve for, say, Joe Lieberman). Upon reflection, while he was not my first choice, I definitely prefer him over Hillary and will enthusiastically support him if the alternative is a McCain/Huckabee ticket.

    I've been hesitant to jump on the "he's so inspiring," "he's just like Kennedy" bandwagon for exactly the reasons stated in the cartoon, but Robert Parry makes an excellent substantive point in favor of supporting him because of his oratorical gifts:
    ...another factor that plays to Obama’s advantage as the prospective nominee – when compared to Hillary Clinton – is that the Right’s powerful media apparatus and the Republican attack strategies appear less successful against Democrats with strong oratorical skills and the ability to inspire enthusiasm and passion.

    Over the past two decades when the Democrats have put up candidates who are competent but who lack pizzazz – think Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry – the Republicans have been most effective in leveraging their media advantages to damage the Democrats and deny them the White House.

    In contrast, Bill Clinton bested the Republican machine by exploiting his impressive speaking skills and by generating excitement and hope. Even though the Right never gave up trying to destroy President Clinton, his ability to communicate with the American people was always his saving grace.

    Edward Lazerus also points out:
    Sen. Barack Obama is a disciple of Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe and a constitutional scholar in his own right. Obama's intellectual roots, as well as his early career, are deeply grounded in the idea that progress can be achieved through law, including through the judicial process.

    How glorious will it be, after the last 8 years, just to be able to say that the person occupying the oval office is a scholar of anything other than Ms. Pac-Man.

  • I will, however, continue to poke Obama with a stick on issues where his positions bother me. Jen Sorensen points out some of the flaws in his positions on health care. Matt Stoller also talks about the problem of the Dems' squishiness on issues like the FISA bill:
    I don't want to diminish the utility of Obama and Clinton coming out against this bill. But at certain moments in history, principled clarity is what's required in a political leader. America is in a bad situation, and it's problematic that our leaders have and continue to betray us at all levels. I suppose clarity isn't required all the time, but it is surprising that neither Clinton nor Obama could offer clarity on such an obvious matter.
    Big business shouldn't be allowed to break the law. It's not a tough call, and it doesn't require caveats.

    (More on the FISA bill later.)

    Charlie Savage on the use of signing statements:
    ...while all the Democrats condemned Bush's use of signing statements, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama each said that they would use them too - just less aggressively. Obama said the problem with Bush's signing statements is not the device itself, but rather that Bush has invoked legal theories that most constitutional scholars consider "dubious" when reserving his alleged right to bypass certain laws.

  • Paul Krugman on the Republicans:
    What seems harder to understand is what’s happening on the other side — the degree to which almost all the Republicans have chosen to align themselves closely with the unpopular policies of an unpopular president. And I’m not just talking about their continuing enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The G.O.P. candidates are equally supportive of Bush economic policies.

    ...[for example]...

    Mr. McCain now says that he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Not only that: he’s become a convert to crude supply-side economics, claiming that cutting taxes actually increases revenues.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

OK... that's cute

Screen-cleaner sent to me from a friend...

Happy Mardi Gras!

More on MYSPACE, symbol of the vacuous 00's...

Yeah, that's right... in honor of my cartoon trashing MySpace and everyone who uses MySpace, I've started my very own evil MySpace page. Just because I'm a giant hypocrite. Or maybe I'm trying to be ironical or something, who knows...

I'm also incredibly vain, so if you'd like to be on my "friends list" then send me an add request...

UPDATE: I'm also now on the Facebook. I gotta admit, I don't quite get the point of this one...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More on the Bush stimulus plan...

This week's 'toon was supposed to be mainly about the ridiculous decade we're living in and the digital people who live in it (more on that later). However, I couldn't help using the opportunity to comment on our brutal (and collapsing) economy...

Some tidbits:
  • Paul Krugman:
    Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need.


    It has nothing to do with economic efficacy: no economic theory or evidence I know of says that upper-middle-class families are more likely to spend rebate checks than the poor and unemployed. Instead, what seems to be happening is that the Bush administration refuses to sign on to anything that it can’t call a “tax cut.”

  • Krugman again:
    Republicans will hold any attempt to help the economy now hostage to yet another try at making the Bush tax cuts permanent — thereby, among other things, crippling future possibilities for health care reform.

  • Charles McMillion:
    The foolishness of powerful, self-interested claims of a "new paradigm" is again exposed. The fantasy is that soaring debt and the loss of production through trade deficits are good things and the lack of current savings irrelevant. As a long forgotten advertisement once proclaimed: "If you don't have yourself an oil well, get one!" We can all live well from royalties and asset appreciation.

  • Paul Craig Roberts:
    Job growth has been pathetic, with 28% of the new jobs being in the government sector. All the new private sector jobs are accounted for by private education and health care bureaucracies, bars and restaurants. Three and a quarter million manufacturing jobs and a half million supervisory jobs were lost. The number of manufacturing jobs has fallen to the level of 65 years ago.

    This is the profile of a third world economy.

  • Joe Bel Bruno:
    The subprime [mortgage crisis] wreckage could dwarf the nation's last big banking crisis – the failure of more than 1,000 savings and loans in the 1980s. The biggest difference is that problems with S&Ls were largely contained, and the government was able to rescue them through a $125 billion bailout.

Monday, February 04, 2008