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July 20, 2010

So what’s new?

59 Comments leave one →
  1. artemis54 permalink
    July 20, 2010 10:27 am

    Yet another viral disease identified in salmon farms: Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation of Farmed Salmon Is Associated with Infection with a Novel Reovirus

    Nonetheless, as our data indicate that a causal relationship is plausible, measures must be taken to control PRV not only because it threatens domestic salmon production but also due to the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.

    You will not be surprised to hear that Alex Morton is all over the case.

    (from her letter to do-nothing Fisheries Minister Gail Shea)

    Test the Atlantic salmon and Fraser sockeye for the newly identified HSMI virus so that we can know with certainty. Close the border to eggs if we were lucky enough to escape this virus. There are already more Atlantic salmon in BC than Fraser sockeye. There are no grounds for you to ignore the science and continue putting public fisheries at risk by importing ever more Atlantic salmon into British Columbia.

    In fact if I recall correctly one of Morton’s various newsletters was all over it a couple days before the paper was even published.


    From our rather thin Win/Win/Win File, sheep and goats save the turtles:

    • cometman permalink*
      July 20, 2010 12:23 pm

      Thanks for those. Lately, in some of the articles I read about how capitalism is royally fucking up the world (which I believe should be self-evident), I’ve heard complaints that the destruction of the earth dates back to the discovery of agriculture (which I tend to think is bullshit). Coming from a farming family, perhaps I’m biased, but I do think agriculture can be done right so that it doesn’t harm wild species and in fact helps them. There are certainly myriad ways it is being done wrong right know (like with salmon farms) but there are plenty of ways (like that in the video) where it can be done right if people put in the effort. Not only is it a triple win for the animals mentioned, but if done more often, the agriculture done locally could also save a rainforest or other ecosystem from being razed somewhere else in the world to pasture grazing animals.

      • artemis54 permalink
        July 20, 2010 1:06 pm

        Well, modification is one thing, cataclysmic destruction another. Agriculture can certainly be done right or at least better. I’ve brought up the subject of food forests before, known from indigenous cultures all over the world.

        It is heretical to mention in certain circles because it is contrary to the conventional wisdom that any acre of crop production is more productive than animal production, but in fact grazing really is the most appropriate use of certain land. Dry grassland for instance that can’t support “real” crops due to soil conditions, water availability, etc. You are simply inserting people into the role of the now-missing predators.

        Australia for one would be a hell of a lot better off if they simply ate kangaroo.

        • cometman permalink*
          July 20, 2010 1:21 pm

          Good point about the grazing. My family grazes the dairy cows on the land that isn’t good enough for planting anything, it’s mostly just a fairly rocky hillside. My folks’ house is on land that was once part of the farm and is now forested but used to be the same kind of hillside pasture land several decades ago.

  2. cometman permalink*
    July 20, 2010 12:46 pm

    Missed this little slap on the wrist when it happenedlast week, but Goldman Sux has settled with the SEC for $550 million in the Fabulous Fab case.

    Get away with billions and pay a half billion fine while not really admitting to doing anything wrong – nice work if you can get it. But wait, there’s more! Not only do they have to pay a slap on the wrist fine, they have to change their businesses practices. Now one would think that after settling in a fraud case, they might have to change those business practices permanently. But no so when the head of the SEC is an industry stooge. Goldman only has to agree to play nice for 3 years. Check out this bullshit:

    As part of the settlement, the SEC required Goldman to comply with certain business practices for three years. The company will be required to certify in writing, each year, that it has followed all of the rules.

    They have to certify it in writing!!! Well whoop-de-doo. I guess it would have been to much effort for Mary Schapiro to get off her fat ass and actually verify that they did what they were supposed to so she’ll just take their word for it. because they’ve been soooooo trustworthy in the past. What a fucking joke. When a company’s stock price rises on the news of a penalty (which it did) that should be a pretty good sign that said penalty was not nearly adequate.

    But there may be some room to gloat at Goldman’s expense. Let’s see how their stock price does considering reported earnings were down 82% (note that the taxes levied on them by the Brits actually took them down a few pegs). Perhaps I’m assuming too much here, but reading between the lines in that article a bit, it almost sounds like fewer people want to do business with the Goldies right now. Boo fucking hoo.

  3. cometman permalink*
    July 20, 2010 12:48 pm

    The fragging will continue until the FUBAR improves.

  4. cometman permalink*
    July 20, 2010 1:24 pm

    Bill Black on the financial “reform” legislation Barry will soon be signing. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t think it amounts to a pisshole in the snow.

  5. cometman permalink*
    July 20, 2010 1:31 pm

    Part II in the Dana Priest/Bill Arkin series – National Security Inc..

    I have to wonder whether those who claim the government couldn’t do without all the private contractors are lying or just stupid because many of these private contractors learned what they know as government employees before going into business on their own. So why not just implement their ideas while they are still employed by the government? And why in the hell would anyone think it would be somehow cheaper to hire for profit contractors than have not for profit government employees do the work? The fact that the contractors turned out to be way more expensive than doing things in house seems to come as a surprise to some of the dunderheads mentioned in the article.

    Glenn Greenwald has some added commentary on this story where he notes that evidently those who publish the Washington Post evidently don’t read the Washington Post.

  6. artemis54 permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:51 pm

    I watched Glenn Beck tonight.

    This Keystone Cops administration has tied itelf into such a knot of unforced errors over the Sherrod affair that Beck’s analysis makes much more sense than that of Vilsack or Gibbs – or it would if he could stop ten minutes sooner, before he succumbs to his usual OCD and has to cram in Van Jones, Dwight Eisenhower, Teresa of Avila and a partridge in a pear tree.

    Welcome to the funhouse. From here on out we have Hannity, Beck, the little old white farmer couple, and half the country coming to Shirley Sherrod’s defense – defending her against the idiocy of Barack Obama, the USDA bureacracy, and of course the NAACP. And reinstating her – which is what they should do – will only make them look even more ridiculous.

    Outwitted by Breitbart – this crew is as sharp as a bowling ball. And next month, when Fox demands that Obama dump his ambassador to New Zealand? Or Bo? Michelle? Is there any charge from the right that won’t make him piss his pants and flee?

    • cometman permalink*
      July 21, 2010 12:30 pm

      Hadn’t heard about that kerfuffle but when I looked it up, it sure looks like Barry got punked again. The rush to accommodate the nutjobs is truly mindboggling to me. The story was “broken” by Breitbart?!?!?!? Can the <O administration really not have gotten the message that the last big story about ACORN broken by Breitbart was nothing but a fucking hoax? And yet ACORN was defunded anyway any now this woman is temporarily at least out of a job for no good reason.

      If Barry keeps throwing the blacks under the bus in order to prove he isn't one of those kind of blacks, or whatever the hell it is he thinks he’s trying to prove, a hell of a lot of voters are going to sit out his re-election bid.

      • artemis54 permalink
        July 21, 2010 12:54 pm

        Talk about a fustercluck. There are now a number of black commentators demanding Ben Jealous’ head on a platter for his shabby role in all this.

  7. artemis54 permalink
    July 21, 2010 11:18 am

    What next? Statue of Liberty suffers heat stroke

    • cometman permalink*
      July 21, 2010 12:32 pm

      Well since you asked, looks like China has a sizable oil spill of its own and somebody’s blowing shit up in Russia. Just another day in paradise.

  8. cometman permalink*
    July 21, 2010 12:41 pm

    This sounded interesting – Why Some Plants Flower in Spring, Autumn and Some in Summer – until I read this bit:

    ‘Being able to understand and ultimately control seasonal flowering will enable more predictable flowering, better scheduling and reduced wastage of crops’, explained Dr Jackson.

    Why the need to control? All the plants in my yard are already flowering weeks ahead of when they normally would thanks to people trying to control nature. I’m thinking this genius figures if they can control when plants flower they can counteract the effects of the climate change that’s already happening. When the fuck are they going to learn that problems caused by overuse of technology are better remedied by STOPPING the use of too much technology rather than with another technological fix where the long term effects are not known? My guess is when civilization collapses and they don’t have access to said technology anymore.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 21, 2010 12:50 pm

      You fool! It is imperative that the Floral Year be synchronized with the Fiscal Year if we’re ever going to a hold of this! You can’t just have plants and bugs and birds going off half cocked whenever they feel like it.

      • cometman permalink*
        July 21, 2010 1:02 pm

        Heh. Maybe you’re right! My roses bloomed so early the last couple years that the Japanese beetles didn’t have time to attack them before the flowers went by. Just think of all the losses the pesticide industry will incur if there are no beetles left to poison.

  9. cometman permalink*
    July 21, 2010 12:44 pm

    Part III of Priest and Arkin’s series Top Secret America – The Secrets Next Door.

    • cometman permalink*
      July 22, 2010 6:38 am

      Just finished reading the whole Priest/Arkin series. Have to say that I agree with Jeremy Scahill’s take on it – Corporate Media Discover Private Spies. In Other News, No WMD in Iraq .

      The was little that is new there to anyone who has been paying attention and the articles are woefully short on specific details. I’m sure Scahill’s a bit miffed, and justifiably so, that his own work in this area (which has been much more specific and much more damning) has been largely ignored while these articles have been getting a lot of press in recent days. Blackwater was barely even mentioned in the series if it all (can’t remember exactly without re-reading). For a series that was two years in the making there really wasn’t much meat to the articles, but having read both Priest and Arkin in the past, I suspect that is due to the Post’s own editors/publishers censoring out the more sensitive information, something the WAPO has a history of doing.

      Based on the research the authors claim to have done and the info they gathered over the course of two years, it makes me wonder whether a book that does have more specific information is forthcoming, because what appeared in print shouldn’t have taken two years to compile.

      Anyway, I was glad to see that the articles did get a lot of mention if only so that those who haven’t been paying attention (which is a lot of people) may wake up a little bit.

  10. cometman permalink*
    July 21, 2010 1:15 pm

    More on the utter uselessness of “fracking” for shale gas from of all places, The Financial Times.

  11. cometman permalink*
    July 21, 2010 1:32 pm

    So <O has signed the financial "reform" legislation into law today claiming that "These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history" which is of course utter bullshit.

    But it appears there was one little tidbit that the oligarchs forgot to water down while cutting their backroom deals that has taken those who have been following this story closely and the ratings agencies by surprise. The new law repealed another part of Glass-Steagall, but this time it was a clause that had exempted ratings agencies from liability if their debt ratings turned out to be based on nothing but wishful thinking and pixie dust. A preliminary report from Naked Capitalism here. The article quotes the WSJ, which is reporting that the ratings agencies are begging their clients NOT to use their bond ratings which would seem to be a tacit admission that the current ratings are fraudulent.

    The nation’s three dominant credit-ratings providers have made an urgent new request of their clients: Please don’t use our credit ratings.

    The odd plea is emerging as the first consequence of the financial overhaul that is to be signed into law by President Obama on Wednesday. And it already is creating havoc in the bond markets, parts of which are shutting down in response to the request.

    Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings are all refusing to allow their ratings to be used in documentation for new bond sales, each said in statements in recent days.


    • cometman permalink*
      July 23, 2010 8:50 am

      Didn’t take long to get around that little problem for the ratings agencies. Rather than enforcing the new law and requiring ratings to be accurate and done in good faith, the SEC has decided that certian bond sales are to be exempt from any ratings at all.

      Federal market regulators are relaxing a rule that could have clogged crucial markets for bonds backed by consumer debt.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission says a credit rating agency’s signoff will not be needed for the sale of certain newly issued bonds. The change will last six months.

      Credit raters currently must endorse certain new bond deals backed by consumer loans. The agencies said this week they would no longer do so. They fear the financial consequences of a new law that makes it easier for investors to sue them if ratings prove inaccurate.

      Can somebody explain to me why we even bother having a Congress these days? If we’re going to live in an oligarchy anyway, let’s just drop the pretense that Congress in any way represents democracy for the rest of us.

  12. cometman permalink*
    July 22, 2010 6:53 am

    Some links.

    A new version of Mark Twain’s autobiography is going to be published, and this time it will be the uncensored and uncut version. From Twain’s own directions a century ago:

    “From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out,” Twain instructed them [his heirs and editors – cman] in 1906. “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see.”

    A modern day Twain has a new post up and a new website design. Here’s the latest from Joe Bageant – Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball – Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse. Damn, that guy can write.

    Check out the video artwork from Isao Hashimoto here depicting every atomic explosion on the earth from 1945-1998. It’s pretty long but well worth watching the whole thing. Very sobering.

    A good video on global climate change from David Mitchell at the Guardian. I’d like to see more of that argument, although as a species we need to do more than just the little individual things.

    And right after Oakland gets done with the trial of the last cop to murder somebody, a whole slew of Oakland cops guns down another man who didn’t seem to be an immediate threat to anybody. Note to cops: just because a guy asks you to shoot him doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Perhaps he just had some bad kim-chi.

  13. cometman permalink*
    July 22, 2010 9:14 am

    New video from The Story of Stuff series dealing with the cosmetics industry –

    And added commentary by Mr. Zappa with a special appearance by the world’s favorite shoe thrower!

  14. cometman permalink*
    July 22, 2010 9:20 am

    Been some problems with ScienceBlogs lately, especially after they allowed PepsiCo to start its own “science” blog under their umbrella causing a lot of the real science bloggers to leave.

    Now, PZ Meyers is on strike !

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 22, 2010 9:33 am

      Terrible. This whole mess has made melvin sad. Money changes everything.

      • cometman permalink*
        July 22, 2010 10:19 am

        Myers seems to have some clout though. If he looks for greener pastures for his site too, ScienceBlogs may have to kiss their asses goodbye, which would be a shame. I read the link in the Myers article about the blogger Bora leaving, and that guy mentioned that according to Technorati at least, Myers has the 68th most influential blog in the world and his site alone accounts for 42% of the traffic on all ScienceBlogs. I had no idea it was that widely read – check the rankings again and he was in the mid- 50s today.

        Hopefully Myers can whip them into shape because Scienceblogs is a very good resource.

        Of potential interest, I also noticed that Klub Kumquat and its sister site at the other end of the ideological political bullshit spectrum, Red Hate, were currently # 24 and #25 on the Technorati list. Curiously, neither The Deli nor Cephaloblog made the list, which is updated daily.

        Maybe we’ll make it tomorrow…. :)

  15. cometman permalink*
    July 22, 2010 12:49 pm

    Couple things to note from the “If you didn’t already despise BP enough…” department.

    BP has been caught photoshopping images of its clean up efforts. How they thought they could get the hackjob included at the link by people is beyond me.

    And for the last decade or so, BP has had a super secret phone number that the politically connected could call to get primo seats at sporting and concert events for free.

  16. cometman permalink*
    July 22, 2010 1:35 pm

    Scott Horton reports on AG AG’s escape from the <O DOJ –Another Audacious Whitewash at DOJ.

    While the DOJ could find nothing criminal about what Gonzalez did, Horton notes that that hasn’t always been the case for others in similar circumstances:

    The DOJ criminal review didn’t exonerate Gonzales and his team–far from it. The Justice Department’s letter to the Judiciary Committee explained that they clearly engaged in improper conduct, but it focused on an absence of clear-cut evidence that would make out a criminal case. That’s curious. In a series of high-profile public-integrity prosecutions brought by the Bush Justice Department–those against Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, and Georgia Senate Minority Leader Charles Walker, for instance–prosecutors also acknowledged they lacked the direct evidence to make out their case in full. But they said the facts were enough to allow jurors to decide for themselves, based on inference, whether corrupt motives were in play. When the tables are turned on the Bush Justice officials who drove those very decisions, we discover that the evidentiary bar has been dramatically raised.

    Horton also brings up the case of a speeding motorcyclist who recorded his arrest and posted it to youtube and is now facing wiretapping charges brought by the police department after they also raided his house and confiscated his belongings. If the guy had a helmet-cam when he rode his bike as a matter of course, I suspect that the reason for posting videos to youtube was to record his escapades and not so much to embarrass the cops because he was pretty clearly breaking the law. Here’s the video –

    I’m no lawyer but it sure looks like the cop overstepped his bounds – generally you don’t come out with a drawn guy right away for just a simple speeding violation. The cop was in plain clothes and it isn’t clear from the video whether any lights on the officer’s car were flashing or not. But if not, that cop is damn lucky the biker remained calm seeing an unknown man jump out of a car and wave a gun in his face. But it’s the wiretapping charges that are the chilling part. As Horton notes:

    Of course the anti-wiretapping statute that the Maryland state police cite is designed to protect private persons from having their phone conversations monitored without their consent (you know, the sort of thing that the folks at Fort Meade now do routinely). The idea that it would protect a public official in the course of the performance of his duties in a public place would probably come as a shock to the legislators who authored this measure. The way the prosecutors have construed the statute, shooting ordinary news footage is turned into a criminal act.

    This is an extreme example of the arrogance of power, in which a Maryland cop exercised bad judgment, was embarrassed when he was publicly exposed, and got his colleagues and prosecutors to exercise still worse judgment.

    And one more from McClatchy, which reports that it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the US State Dept. and the US military – State Dept. planning to field a small army in Iraq .

    The sound of jackboots gets louder every day, unless you are among the oligarchy like AG AG. Then you can do whatever the fuck you want with no repercussions.

  17. cometman permalink*
    July 23, 2010 8:14 am

    Suppose it was inevitable, but Dan Choi has been officially honorably discharged from the US military for asking and telling.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 23, 2010 1:19 pm

      As RM points out, he could have gone on any tv show he wanted to last night:

      • cometman permalink*
        July 25, 2010 6:58 am

        Finally got chance to watch that. I’m impressed every time I hear Choi speak. That man has more integrity in his little finger than the entire Joint Chiefs.

  18. cometman permalink*
    July 23, 2010 8:42 am

    So Barry has passed financial “reform” which will prevent another meltdown and the whole thing is fixed so Congress can now move on to watering down climate change legislation and declaring another problem “solved”.

    But not so fast. While Congress was busy claiming they were fixing the financial mess (and NOT granting unemployment extensions for a month and a half for those who were in dire need), the bailouts for the financial industry have continued unabated in the past year –

    “Indeed, the current outstanding balance of overall Federal support for the nation’s financial system…has actually increased more than 23% over the past year, from approximately $3.0 trillion to $3.7 trillion — the equivalent of a fully deployed TARP program — largely without congressional action, even as the banking crisis has, by most measures, abated from its most acute phases,” the TARP inspector general, Neil Barofsky, wrote in the report.

    Another report released by ” executive compensation Czar” Kenneth Feinberg has determined that bailed out banks overpaid bonuses to executives by $1.6 billion but there is much he can do about it except to ask them to voluntarily stop paying themselves so much. I imagine that produced gales of laughter on the Street today.

    As a result, Mr. Feinberg will merely propose that the banks voluntarily adopt a “brake provision” that would allow their boards to nullify or alter any bonus payouts or employment contracts in the event of a future financial crisis. All 17 companies have told Mr. Feinberg that they will consider adopting the provision, though none has committed to do so.

    Maybe Feinberg doesn’t have the power to do anything but Congress does – they could tax the hell out of them, get the money back, and use it for something productive, like putting the money into the hands of people who are losing their homes. But rather than taxing the wealthy, the Democrats in Congress are considering extending the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy as they fear for their own re-elections this fall after failing miserably to do pretty much anything right.

    Meanwhile the program designed to help out homeowners continues to fall drastically short of expectations:

    The Home Affordability Modification Program is widely considered to be a failure. Here is Shahien Nasiripour reporting on the latest numbers from June. They haven’t remotely hit the numbers they projected. Homeowners continue to suffer from a lack of modifications due to servicer problems and the overvaluation of their books.


    HAMP is such a failure that it is a bit of a game among the financial bloggers as to who has the best write-up of how bad it is each month and what the killer statistics are that prove it.

    And yet the oligarchs are scared to death of appointing Elizabeth Warren because she might actually enforce some of the regulations in place and help some people.

  19. cometman permalink*
    July 23, 2010 10:17 am

    With all the reports that come in on a daily basis of abuse, violence and murder by the cops it’s nice to see that there are still some cops who manage to behave decently. Check out this video of a fan who ran onto the field at an O’s game in Baltimore recently. Rather than tazing the poor bastard for no apparent reason as the cops in Philly did recently, they just waited until the guy ran out of gas and everybody seemed to enjoy it.

    Of course, the article where I ran across the video was practically begging the cops to attack this guy because of all the “million-dollar athletes with no means to protect themselves”. Maybe I’m assuming too much, but I’d imagine your average professional athlete who works out on a regular basis could probably handle an unarmed drunken scrawny teenager without too much problem.

    Looks like those warnings that with enough propaganda people would beg for a police state aren’t far off the mark.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    July 26, 2010 12:12 am

    Well that didn’t take long. A bare month ago on coming to power Julia Gillard promised action on climate change.

    Now following Washington’s lead she’s abandoned the whole idea until maybe 2012, or maybe the twelfth of never.

    You can get away with this shit in the US, but it will probably be the end of Gillard.

    • cometman permalink*
      July 26, 2010 8:07 am

      Interesting that she’s backing off what she said after being elected and not just campaign promises. Which makes me wonder why she bothered to mention it at all.

  21. cometman permalink*
    July 26, 2010 6:34 am

    Ha! The Periodic Table of Swearing. That could come in handy. Been running out of epithets lately :)

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 26, 2010 10:15 am

      Ah, reminds me of my old favorite.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 26, 2010 10:19 am

      And the classic Rude Tube Map.

  22. cometman permalink*
    July 26, 2010 6:42 am

    Fascinating. Here’s one about one of the evolutionary concepts we talked about here a while back. A certain species of roundworm has evolved so that it develops a small mouth in less crowded environments to eat bacteria and a much bigger mouth with big teeth in a crowded environment to eat other worms – A worm bites off enough to chew.

    “Pristionchus’ mouth dimorphism demonstrates two fascinating evolutionary principles simultaneously,” says Sommer. First, it shows how frugally evolution works: signalling pathways that have already been established are re-used in a new context – biologists refer to this process as co-option. In order to assign a new significance to a signalling chain, all that needs to be done is to activate it at a different time or with a different concentration of the signalling molecule that triggers its activation, as occurs in this case. Moreover, the existence of alternative body structures is viewed as paving the way for evolution: “In order to change the mouth structure permanently, the genetic control would only have to be decoupled from the environmental dependency,” explains Ralf Sommer.

    Cool video by the camera icon at the bottom of the link showing one of the worms tearing into another one. Neat-O.

  23. cometman permalink*
    July 26, 2010 6:44 am

    Some potential good news for wild salmon as environmentalists try to force the EPA to do its job – U.S. farmers may face crackdown on pesticide use.

    The nation’s farmers could face severe restrictions on the use of pesticides as environmentalists, spurred by a favorable ruling from a judge in Washington state, want the courts to force federal regulators to protect endangered species from the ill effects of agricultural chemicals.

    The eight-year-old ruling by a federal judge in Seattle required the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Environmental Protection Agency to review whether 54 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were jeopardizing troubled West Coast salmon runs.

    The agencies moved recently to restrict the use of three of the chemicals, including a widely used one with the trade name Sevin, near bodies of water that flow into salmon-bearing streams, and they’re considering restrictions on 12 additional chemicals. The Washington State Department of Agriculture says such restrictions would prevent pesticide use on 75 percent of the state’s farmland.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 26, 2010 10:21 am

      Expect a hell of a fight.

      • cometman permalink*
        July 26, 2010 11:54 am

        Yeah, I see the agriculture lobby is already whining about how it would force all the farmers out of business blah blah blah.

        Read another article recently which I can’t put my finger on that mentioned some blight that was affecting certain crops in the NE and one farmer claimed his whole crop was ruined because US consumers wouldn’t buy anything with even a small blemish on it. That may be the case – I certainly try to buy unblemished produce from the store myself and why not if it’s the same price. But the rest of the world isn’t like that and the US is just going to have to get used to eating apples with a mark or two on them. I been served slightly blemished food in restaurants many times in Greece and it comes on a plate with a paring knife – cut off the bad part and the rest is perfectly fine. I suspect given the choice between blemished food and no food, people will opt for the latter.

        • artemis54 permalink
          July 26, 2010 12:51 pm

          It’s a little dance involving the ag industry, the marketing industry, and Suzie Q Consumer. The most blatant example I know of is in fruit. It is sold as stop sign red for apples, this weird new standard for apricots that is 3XLarge, rosy colored, and utterly tasteless. I see it in kids all the time. A potato, anything with a spot on it is thrown away. It is considered dirty, contaminated. The idea of cutting out that little half of one percent of the potato never occurs to anyone.

          It is the same kind of cul de sac that leads people to hose down their homes with lindane because they are afraid some – usually harmless – bug or arachnid might get in, but never mind the cancers and birth defects they are engendering in the nighborhood, even in their own homes.

          • cometman permalink*
            July 26, 2010 1:49 pm

            Had a conversation with a neighbor about gardening recently. Very nice woman but she was talking about the weeds that poke through the 5-10 feet of sidewalk in front of her house and mentioned she used Round-Up on them because she didn’t know how else to get rid of them – the thought of bending down and pulling them out two or three times a season which would take all of about 5 minutes hadn’t seemed to occur to her.

            In the interest of picking my battles and remaining friendly with the neighbors, I just kept my mouth shut.

  24. cometman permalink*
    July 26, 2010 8:13 am

    The latest wikileaks documents on Afghanistan are out.

    The <O administration's rebuttal is particularly weak:

    White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release of the documents “put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk.” In a statement, he took pains to point out that the documents describe a period from January 2004 to December 2009, mostly during the administration of President George W. Bush.

    Jones noted that time period was before President Obama announced a new strategy.

    Uh, now that they’ve been using even more Predator drones to kill even more innocent people and even more US soldiers have died due to the “surge”, I’m not sure trying to tout the “new and improved Obama Afghan policy” is going to make people feel a lot better.

    Greenwald has a lot more on the story including lots of good links.

    • cometman permalink*
      July 26, 2010 8:45 am

      About that new Afghan policy. Looks like over the weekend it was a smashing “success”. Drone attacks in Pakistan leave 35 dead although nobody seems to be sure exactly who all the dead people are and a few dozen more dead in a raid on an Afghan village including many civilians. Al Jazeera, the news organization with a supposed anti-US bias, expresses some doubt whether it was US forces or the Taliban who were responsible, but since reports mention villagers fired upon by helicopter gunships, I’m betting it wasn’t the “insurgents” who did the damage.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 26, 2010 12:54 pm

      Gotta love the Sybil respnse in the media: nothing there, it’s all old news, but on the other hand it endagers the troops.

      Hint: everyone else already knows. As Assange has pointed out, it’s only the people paying for all this that are in the dark.

  25. cometman permalink*
    July 26, 2010 12:10 pm

    Some links of potential interest.

    This one mentions that Jon Yoo is ironically enough married to the daughter of Peter Arnett, the veteran reporter declared persona non grata for attempting to tell the truth about the US illegal wars –The Skeleton in John Yoo’s Closet .

    Cops raid a grocer in Cali having the temerity to sell raw milk to people who know exactly what they’re buying. Somehow that’s dangerous but dumping untold tons of pesticides on crops is AOK.

    Headlines claim new home sales up 24% last month which sounds good until you actually read the article. Zerohedge with a little more on why the headlines are bullshit.

    Hugo Chavez threatens to stop all oil exports to the US if the US keeps supporting Columbia and fomenting violence on Venezuela’s border. I do like the guy’s rhetoric –

    If Colombia were to launch an attack “promoted by the Yankee empire, we would suspend oil deliveries to the United States, even if everybody over here has to eat stones,” he warned.

    Are there any of his former supporters who Barry hasn’t managed to deliberately piss off? – Teachers Need to Confront, Denounce Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’. This part was quite telling –

    The NEA convention voted in favor of a resolution of “no confidence” in Obama’s Race to the Top program, essentially voting “no confidence” in the Obama administration. The AFT convention was not allowed to vote on a similar resolution, but the rank and file applauded loudest when the AFT President, Randi Weingarten, spoke about the betrayal of the Obama administration. The NEA did not invite Obama administration officials to the convention, because, according to The New York Times, “…union officials feared that [Obama] administration speakers would face heckling.” (July 4, 2010).

    The president of the NEA, Dennis Van Roekel, summarized teacher’s experience with the Obama administration:

    “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced.” This is an extraordinary statement. Not only is it true, but it highlights that President Obama is more anti-teacher than was President Bush, who introduced the anti-teacher No Child Left Behind.

    And lastly,Tony Hayward finally gets the axe, although unfortunately only figuratively.

  26. artemis54 permalink
    July 26, 2010 1:43 pm

    This deserves lengthy and thoughtful discussion, which it will surely receive at mongabay: USAID is skating close to “direct action” in Madagascar:

    Paradise Lost?: Lessons from 25 years of USAID Environment Programs in Madagascar

    The following section lays out three broad scenarios for how international donors in general, and USAID in particular, might intervene in Madagascar. It is purposefully provocative in an attempt to open up the debate and lay out issues that may otherwise be neglected in discussions that focus primarily on fine-tuning the current approach.

    Scenario 1: Forget it; it’s already too late and nothing we can realistically do will save Madagascar’s remaining forest resources. This scenario proposes that USAID invest its scarce resources somewhere else where the context is more favorable to a positive and sustainable outcome.

    Scenario 2: Keep on track – Do more of the same, but do it better. This scenario proposes reprioritizing USAID intervention areas to identify those where we anticipate having the greatest impact, adding significantly more resources with assurances that funding will continue for at least another 20 years, and developing a program around the best practices that have been identified up until now (but with more sustained attention to economic growth and the promotion of civil society institutions).

    Scenario 3: Madagascar’s biodiversity ends justify the means – Break all the rules and go for it. This scenario essentially recognizes that the international community values Madagascar’s biodiversity far more highly than do its government and its people. We must therefore be prepared to pay for its protection. This approach would require a massive commitment of international aid into the distant future. Funds would be used for direct payments to communities that forego activities harmful to the environment and to fund infrastructure, education, and other structural factors as needed to help the economy transform and develop. The demands of this approach would far surpass USAID’s capacity, but the agency might play a useful role in conceptualizing the approach and, perhaps, implementing a discrete set of activities as needed to maintain its presence at the table.

    The link above is to an overview page. The actual report is 126 pages largely devoted to all the work that has been done, and how far it is from being enough in view of Madagascar’s ongoing poverty and political chaos (and of course the ruthless exploitation of these conditions by the Chines, mining and logging industries, the pet trade, you name it). Well worth the read.

    • cometman permalink*
      July 27, 2010 12:24 pm

      Read through the overview and found this:

      Without improved infrastructures (transport and irrigation) and national economic policies that promote rural development, there is little chance of persuading farmers to abandon unsustainable subsistence agriculture practices.

      Not a huge fan of USAID in general especially over the last few years based on what I’ve seen them up to in Central America – their “AID” seems to go to support coups to install US-friendly governments so natural resources can be further exploited and exported- but that overview was a good rundown on the problems being faced and it sounds like they were trying to do the right thing in this specific case.

      Maybe I’m nitpicking but I didn’t like the part I highlighted at all. You know more about this than I do so please let me know if I’m off base here, but my assumption is that Madagascar has cleared big portions of its forest land so that industrial agriculture can produce goods for export. If that is the case, then I think it’s very unfair to sort of pin the blame for deforestation on “unsustainable subsistence agriculture” by the locals. I think sustainable local small scale agriculture is the answer and not the problem and if organizations like USAID don’t realize this and start focusing on the problems caused by industrial agriculture, they might as well go straight to scenario 1.

      • artemis54 permalink
        July 27, 2010 4:35 pm

        The problem is that subsistence ag can’t be sustainable in the face of an ever growing population. But yes, there is a cycle of illegal deforestation followed by promises not to do it again. The last year is simply the latest in that cycle and the most rapacious. The point is made more clearly in the full report that unless something changes quickly, there won’t be anything left at all, including sustainable uses. The explicict comparison is with Haiti.

        The land is being cleared for the hardwood, nothing else. Whatever is left is left; there’s no plan. You have to think in terms of warlords basically running these things. Where the hardwood is is also where much of the biodiversity is; it is not neccesarily even any sort of sensible place for ag production in terms of accessibility, proximity to markets, etc.

        Then there are the nickel mines, cobalt mines, tar sands production, etc. All this is being arranged without a thought at all for the people of Madagascar, who don’t have any rules or political system in place to resist. And never mind the nonhuman. This isn’t development; it is simply rape. All of the profits will leave the country for Canada, Europe, China and Madagascar will be left with nothing.

        • cometman permalink*
          July 28, 2010 7:01 am

          I agree that subsistence agriculture isn’t sustainable with increasing population and I don’t think it would be desirable to most even in a stable or shrinking population. I should have been more clear – I didn’t mean to advocate for subsistence agriculture, just smaller scale agriculture at the local level.

          Population is the elephant in the room that is rarely talked about and is something that should be addressed in conjunction with these other problems. I read a pretty good article recently that talked about population increase among poorer people as a biological/evolutionary imperative. In short, if you are from a poor area with a low life expectancy, you reproduce earlier and more often since you future prospects aren’t as clear cut. You don’t focus on a career and hold off on kids until you’re 35 if there are no careers and lots of people never make it to 35.

          The way to stop that would seem to be to stop raping the lands where these people live for the benefit of others halfway across the world.

          Just polishing off the end of The Black Swan and Taleb discusses the environment and warns repeatedly about screwing with Mother Nature when we have no idea what the long term consequences will be. He hammers home the point of the faulty thinking that so many engage in – just because there is no evidence that a specific action causes harm does not mean that action doesn’t cause harm. It just means you don’t have evidence yet. Absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence. Have to say it’s been very refreshing to hear somebody make the arguments he does on logical grounds.

  27. artemis54 permalink
    July 27, 2010 6:33 am

    Researchers seem to have documented the spontaneous generation of infectious prions.

    I think I’ll just go back to bed.

  28. artemis54 permalink
    July 27, 2010 7:51 am

    In London today, from Greenpeace UK:

    • cometman permalink*
      July 27, 2010 12:30 pm

      Very nice! Hopefully locking out some customers will cause their earnings to dip even further than the $17 billion loss they just reported.

  29. cometman permalink*
    July 27, 2010 12:37 pm

    Glancing around the news today I don’t see too much of interest that we haven’t already discussed and after butting heads with the local city council again last night, I don’t have the energy to look much further today.

    It simply amazes me how incompetent, stupid, and corrupt even the local two-bit politicians can be. Sat through three hours last night and every person there was adamantly opposed to the council taking an empty building off a local developer’s hands and turning it into a new city hall. Had hopes that they might take the idea off the table considering the way the discussion had gone, but by the end of the meeting the bad half of the council couldn’t even wait for the public to leave the building before dropping any pretense of having listened to a damn word anyone said and beginning to talk about further plans for pushing their new city hall through, right in front of everyone who had just voiced their opposition. One of the good council members expressed her shock at what her fellow council members were doing, but unfortunately she’s in the minority. I may have to see if my town has any recall procedures for council members because that may be the only way to stop this boondoggle – they obviously don’t give a damn what their constituents think.

    • artemis54 permalink
      July 27, 2010 4:37 pm

      Don’t do it alone. Your power together multiplies.

      • cometman permalink*
        July 28, 2010 7:08 am

        Thanks. I’m trying to get others involved since I’ve been one of pretty few people who shows up to these meetings and often the only one to stay for the whole thing. I end up feeling like I have to try to say everything since there’s no one else around to object and then I come off looking unhinged when I try to pack everything in to the allotted 5 minutes each member of the public is given to speak. I’m going to try to write my thoughts down ahead of time and read them for next week’s meeting instead of just talking off the cuff. Hopefully that will make me seem less like a lunatic :) They don’t seem to listen whether people speak calmly or heatedly, but I’m going to give it a try anyway.

  30. cometman permalink*
    July 28, 2010 7:13 am

    I will try to get a new post up later since this thread is getting long although I don’t much in the way of subject matter. melvin, if you want I can make it so you have the ability to post main entries too.

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