Archive for June 22, 2009

ahmadinejad

I’m not comfortable with Western media reports on Iran for a number of reasons. First: I don’t know anything about the country, its culture or history, and I’m sure neither do most of the Western journalists and bloggers who provide us with their opinions. Second: we can’t claim that our governance institutions are the shining example for democracy that countries like Iran should follow: our politicians are corrupt and don’t do what the people want them to, our governments treat human rights often with disrespect, we wage war for selfish reasons on other countries who have not attacked us, we have no social justice within our own boundaries, and so on. Third: with the Guardian Council having seemingly acknowledged serious irregularities, it might be true that Ahmadinejad might not have had the overwhelming majority of votes he claimed. But: does that mean he lost the elections? Most likely not. Pre-election polls, including one conducted by a US pollster, had him leading by a long shot. There is no evidence for a stolen election (there was evidence for an election stolen by G.W. Bush from Al Gore, but the US media didn’t make much fuss over that theft).

So, maybe the West and the Iranian progressives with a Western bent just have to learn to accept two things: the basic democratic principle that if a majority has spoken the reaction needs to be acceptance, and the fact that Iran might just be a very conservative country. Maybe the latter is what the progressives should really focus on changing – that certainly would take take a much deeper commitment to democracy and change than superficial desires for Western lifestyles.

The following article comes from VDARE and was written a week ago by Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand.  With such track record I would not take Robert’s opinion lightly in which he argues for a more informed view on what is happening in Iran right now. He also ponders whether the current Western media propaganda is a precursor to a US involvement in military action against Iran. Its purpose would be to overthrow the political rulers that replaced the US puppet dictator in the 1970’s, a man who brutally ruled the country for more than two decades after coming to power in the 1950s with the help of the CIA. America is known to harbour resentment for a long time when its interests were defeated.

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“It’s going to be a very different use of their skill set than perhaps they’ve used on Wall Street” says one of the CIA recruitment reps. Really? It seems to me that both camps have a lot common: you have to be able to lie well, be deceitful and selfish, have malleable principles, be comfortable with corruption and lack empathy and compassion. Sounds like the bankers have the basics right. They just have to take a bit of a pay cut while their looking for new ways of defrauding the world.

CIA

By Frederick H. Katayama

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Laid off from Wall Street? The CIA wants you — as long as you can pass a lie detector test and show that you are motivated by service to your country rather than your wallet.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been advertising for recruits and will be holding interviews on June 22 at a secret location in New York.

“Economics, finance and business professionals, if the quest for the bottom line is just not enough for you, the Central Intelligence Agency has a mission like no other,” one radio advertisement for the agency says.

“Join CIA’s directorate of intelligence and be a part of our global mission as an economic or financial analyst. Make a difference in your career and for your nation,” it says.

Ron Patrick, a spokesman for recruitment and retention at the CIA, told Reuters Television the agency had received several hundred resumes so far from applicants ranging from people just out of graduate school to laid-off bankers.

“It’s going to be a very different use of their skill set than perhaps they’ve used on Wall Street,” Patrick said.

Recruits will have to pass rigorous background and medical checks, as well as a polygraph, or lie-detector test.

Starting salaries range from around $60,000 for a new graduate to $100,000 for somebody with more experience, and top out at $160,000. Generous benefits are included.

Patrick said the agency would welcome worthy applicants from Wall Street, whose reputation has been tarnished by the financial crisis and revelations of lavish lifestyles and multi-million dollar bonuses at banks blamed for the meltdown.

“Typically the people that come to the CIA want to serve the government, they want to serve their countries. It’s a different mindset perhaps than serving a company or serving profit as a bottom line,” he said.

“As long as they can make that attitude switch from profit being the motivator to serving their country, I think they’ll fit in very well with us.”

Iran Update

Posted: June 22, 2009 in society
Tags: , ,

Updates on Iran from Nico Pitney: rumors of a general strike, a list of activists and journalists arrested, and a statement from the Guardian Council admitting the number of votes collected in 50 cities exceeded the number of voters by some three million.

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food incThis looks like a good book to read: Food, Inc., available now from PublicAffairs and Amazon. The following excerpt is part of one of the  contributions to the book, titled “Declare Your Independence” by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm fame.

Perhaps the most empowering concept in any paradigm-challenging movement is simply opting out. The opt-out strategy can humble the mightiest forces because it declares to one and all, “You do not control me.”

The time has come for people who are ready to challenge the paradigm of factory-produced food and to return to a more natural, wholesome and sustainable way of eating (and living) to make that declaration to the powers that be, in business and government, that established the existing system and continue to prop it up. It’s time to opt out and simply start eating better — right here, right now.

Impractical? Idealistic? Utopian? Not really. As I’ll explain, it’s actually the most realistic and effective approach to transforming a system that is slowly but surely killing us.

What happened to food?

First, why am I taking a position that many well-intentioned people might consider alarmist or extreme? Let me explain.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the unprecedented variety of bar-coded packages in today’s supermarket really does not mean that our generation enjoys better food options than our predecessors. These packages, by and large, having passed through the food-inspection fraternity, the industrial food fraternity and the lethargic cheap-food-purchasing consumer fraternity, represent an incredibly narrow choice.

If you took away everything with an ingredient foreign to our 3 trillion intestinal microflora, the shelves would be bare indeed. (I’m talking here about the incredible variety of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts and perform an array of useful functions, including training our immune systems and producing vitamins K and biotin.) In fact, if you just eliminated every product that would have been unavailable in 1900, almost everything would be gone, including staples that had been chemically fertilized, sprayed with pesticides or ripened with gas.

Rather than representing newfound abundance, these packages wending their way to store shelves after spending a month in the belly of Chinese merchant marine vessels are actually the meager offerings of a tyrannical food system.

Strong words? Try buying real milk — as in raw. See if you can find meat processed in the clean open air under sterilizing sunshine. Look for pot pies made with local produce and meat. How about good old unpasteurized apple cider? Fresh cheese? Unpasteurized almonds? All these staples that our great-grandparents relished and grew healthy on have been banished from today’s supermarkets.

They’ve been replaced by an array of pseudo-foods that did not exist a mere century ago. The food additives, preservatives, colorings, emulsifiers, corn syrups and unpronounceable ingredients listed on the colorful packages bespeak a centralized control mind-set that actually reduces the options available to fill Americans’ dinner plates.

Whether by intentional design or benign ignorance, the result has been the same — the criminalization and/or demonization of heritage foods. The mind-set behind this radical transformation of American eating habits expresses itself in at least a couple of ways.

One is the completely absurd argument that without industrial food, the world would starve. “How can you feed the world?” is the most common question people ask me when they tour Polyface Farm.

Actually, when you consider the fact that millions of people, including many vast cities, were fed and sustained using traditional farming methods until just a few decades ago, the answer is obvious. America has traded 75 million buffalo, which required no tillage, petroleum or chemicals, for a mere 42 million head of cattle. Even with all the current chemical inputs, our production is a shadow of what it was 500 years ago. Clearly, if we returned to herbivorous principles five centuries old, we could double our meat supply. The potential for similar increases exists for other food items.

The second argument is about food safety. “How can we be sure that food produced on local farms without centralized inspection and processing is really safe to eat?”

Here, too, the facts are opposite to what many people assume. The notion that indigenous food is unsafe simply has no scientific backing. Milk-borne pathogens, for example, became a significant health problem only during a narrow time period between 1900 and 1930, before refrigeration but after unprecedented urban expansion. Breweries needed to be located near metropolitan centers, and adjacent dairies fed herbivore-unfriendly brewery waste to cows. The combination created real problems that do not exist in grass-based dairies practicing good sanitation under refrigeration conditions.

Lest you think the pressure to maintain the industrialized food system is all really about food safety, consider that all the natural-food items I listed above can be given away, and the donors are considered pillars of community benevolence. But as soon as money changes hands, all these wonderful choices become “hazardous substances,” guaranteed to send our neighbors to the hospital with food poisoning.

Maybe it’s not human health but corporate profits that are really being protected.

Via AlterNet

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Growing hay in the desert is one of the more absurd examples of trillions more for how economic thinking is short-term based, narrow-mindedly focused on making hay of another kind and selfishly preoccupied with serving serving individual material desires rather than community needs, leave alone those of species other than human. The following report by Melinda Burns was published by AlterNet.

hay-bales

In the Imperial Valley of California, a region drier than part of the Sahara Desert, farmers have found a lucrative market abroad for a crop they grow with Colorado River water: They export bales of hay to land-poor Japan.

Since the mid-1980s, this arid border region of California has been supplying hay for Japan’s dairy cows and black-haired cattle, the kind that get daily massages, are fed beer and produce the most tender Kobe beef.

Container ships from Japan unload electronics and other goods in the Port of Long Beach, and the farmers fill up the containers with hay for the trip back across the Pacific. Since the containers would otherwise return empty, it ends up costing less to ship hay from Long Beach to Japan than to California’s Central Valley.

“Everything is done for economics,” said Ronnie Leimgruber, an Imperial Valley hay grower who is expanding into the export market. “Japan cannot get hay cheaper. The freight is cheaper from Long Beach than from anywhere else in the world.”

Water is cheap for valley farmers, too: urban rates there are four times as high. It costs only $100 to irrigate an acre of hay in the desert for a year.

But what makes economic sense to farmers may not be rational behavior for California in the third year of a severe drought, say some conservationists. At the very least, they contend, the growing state debate over water allocation should take into account the exports of crops such as hay and rice — two of the most water-intensive crops in the West — because they take a toll on local rivers and reservoirs.

“This is water that is literally being shipped away,” said Patrick Woodall, research director at Food and Water Watch, an international consumer advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, D.C. “There’s a kind of insanity about this. Exporting water in the form of crops is giving water away from thirsty communities and infringing on their ability to deal with water scarcity. This is a place where some savings could be made now, and it’s just not being discussed.”

Now, estimates of hay exports from California range from 1.5 to 7 percent of the state’s total hay production. In 2008, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis, California exported between 617,000 and 765,000 tons of hay, some of it originally brought in from other western states. Most of it was shipped to Japan. A minimum of 450,000 acre-feet of water was required to grow the exported hay – roughly what the city of San Diego uses in two years.

But hay is not the only controversial crop; rice is another thirsty one, in an area that nature never developed to sustain water hungry vegetation. So, no matter what those rice growers say: the loss of water is a serious issue.

In 2008, the U.C. Davis data show, California exported 52 percent of its rice production, much of it to Japan. The California Rice Commission, a trade group representing 2,500 rice farmers, estimates that rice uses 2.2 million acre-feet of irrigation water yearly, about 2.6 percent of the state’s total water supply. Rice exports, then, soaked up about 1.1 million acre-feet of water in 2008, or enough water to supply the city of Los Angeles for a year and eight months.

By another estimate, with every pound of rice that leaves the U.S., about 250 gallons of “virtual” or “embedded” water used in growing and processing rice leaves along with it, according to “Water Footprints of Nations,” a 2004 study from the Netherlands for UNESCO (The report spawned the Web site www.waterfootprint.com.)

But Tim Johnson, president and CEO of the California Rice Commission, said water statistics and the notion that rice is a “monsoon crop grown in the desert” don’t tell the whole story.

“These are the same old arguments we heard back in 1990 when California had its last drought,” he said.

Rice exports help bolster Japan’s aging farm base and they provide high-paying jobs at California ports, Johnson said. Moreover, he said, rice is grown on heavy clay soil that can’t be used for other crops, and the paddies provide a habitat for more than 200 wildlife species.

“There’s no other crop that does as much for wildlife in the West as rice,” Johnson said. “The fullness of the discussion — not just how many units of water goes into an individual crop — is what’s needed.”

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