Archive for July 2008
Americans know that they are God’s chosen people, destined to run this planet in whatever way guarantees them bigger better bibles, cheaper gas, and less goddamned refugees leeching off their healthcare system.
So we may as well enjoy their election process. It will affect us all. Which is one good reason why we should all go to our nearest American embassy and demand that our votes be counted.
Although that would hardly be fair on all the black, poor, independent and freer thinking American voters who will probably get screwed out of voting yet again this year. If they are among the 60% of eligible Americans who try to, that is.
Truly chilling chats – the following is a sample from this much more complete online conversation between ‘Cator99’ and ‘Antrophagus’ on March 6, 2001.
antrophagus: After you’re dead, I’ll take you out and expertly carve you up. Except for a pair of knees and some fleshy trash (skin, cartilage, tendons), there won’t be much of you left
cator99: There will be a good bit, like the knees, I hope you have a good hiding place for them
antrophagus: I’ll dry out the knees and grind them up soon after
cator99: Okay, they’re good as fertilizer, I heard that once. I see you’ve thought about it. Good! Sounds like I’m the first
antrophagus: And you won’t be the last, hopefully. I’ve already considered catching a young person from the street, but I would rather kill only those who want to be killed.
Antrophagus killed and ate Cator99 3 days later.
Not one for the Cyndi Lauper fans so much as the Armageddonists.
There have been other voices in Western media that have tried to tell the real story about the US build-up in the Persian Gulf proximal to Iran, but Seymour Hersh has perhaps been the most dogged and informative. Yes, it’s possible that he at some point got caught in a Karlrovian Pentagonal bait-and-switch, but the bulk of his writing has seemed to cut close to the bone and that which hasn’t has still made for provocative reading.
Watching Lebanon was really the most chilling piece, analysing cold-blooded international war crimes in action. Since then, he has repeatedly updated us on the notion that the current US Administration will certainly attack Iran before leaving office. Of course, mid-term election bit Bush in the ass and put things on hold, but the timing for Hersh’s latest piece, Preparing the Battlefield, could hardly have been more contextually alarming.
Iran’s changing image?
The above picture and illustrations come from this piece in the New York Times. Hardly worthy of applause for either its objectivity regarding Israeli foreign and domestic policy or its sobriety of judgment in matters involving Iranian posturing, the Times has identified what are clearly visible as manipulated images of missile tests, supposedly released by Sepah News which is supposedly the propaganda wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Times has managed to pull this together within hours of the picture being run by French media. Have they got this good now because they feel bad about the way they gave Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney, and Bush free passes? OR, could they have perhaps paid this kind of attention 5 years and X hundred thousand dead civillians ago?
It’s a fair question.
And not one which distracts from or avoids the apparent gravity of the situation – Israel, America, and Iran are very much right in the middle of a massive Mine Is Bigger Than Yours stand off right now, and the first one to cough loses… or wins… depending on your point of view, and their weighting of short term testosterone against medium and longer term outcomes.
But to look at this situation – Israel supposedly formation-tested and ready to attack, Iran testing Tel-Aviv-able missiles, Condi Rice goading Tehran somewhat more mildly than she’s tempting Moscow – one must seriously ask “what the hell?”.
Now, I’ve only looked at the New York Times, SBS, ABC and listened to Radio National about this… but Al Jazeera is the only news source I’ve seen to mention that Iran is conducting scheduled war games. This might take some of the Harrison Ford out of news coverage if properly reported and certainly changes the context for the better – unless of course you’re somebody keen to see a fresh premise for some of that tasty new doctrine of preemptive defense.
Like any Halliburton alumni.
On the other hand, Al Jazeera does sometimes understate the idiocy of Islamic fundamentalists, AND Iran’s choosing to lob missiles and torpedoes into the Persian Gulf at night when 3 US battle groups are stationed there is, well, a bit like putting Josef Fritzl in charge of a day care centre and hoping for the best.
Still, with everything that America has learnt by starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and unleashing a torrent of global death, torment, and religious hatred, and everything that Israel has learnt about saying one thing rudely while doing another thing horrendously, I’m sure this will turn out fine.
If you sell oil.
This just in from Bloomberg, one of the most useful American-based sources of international market-related news.
The five Greens Senators will push for deeper emissions cuts and a tougher carob trading system, Brown said. The government has vowed to cut gases by 60 percent by 2050 and has not yet set short-term targets.
It’s not yet clear what climate science says about the impact of eating chocolate substitutes.
News has just come in from Japan that leaders of the G8 have agreed in broad terms to aim for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
At last year’s summit in Germany they agreed to seriously consider a plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent by the middle of this century.
Today they have agreed to that goal as a shared vision, and to press other nations to also adopt the target.
Is this a good thing?
Do the biggest emitters, and therefore biggest contributors to global warming, deserve a pat on the back for agreeing to think about the possibility of making their massive future profits in a marginally less sociopathic manner?
No. No they don’t.
If Saddam Hussein had used a radioactive isotope to kill thousands of Kurds slowly over several years rather than quickly with highly toxic nerve agents, would he have been applauded for this infinitely more humane and sensible course of action?
Not bloody likely.
Not to mention that the US and UK have already covered the Middle East with long-lasting radioactive isotopes and would likely not care for the competition.
But I digress.
If in the ’80s, everybody had agreed that CFCs and HFCs were causing the growing hole in the ozone layer, and that said hole posed a doomsday risk to this planet’s viability for sustaining life, but that doing something real about it would be too hard and it would instead be better to hold protracted and unproductive talkfests while increasing production of CFCs and HFCs, would the media have cheered global leaders for their sensible and measured approach?
Would said leaders have been allowed to publicly gloat and pat themselves and each other on the back for their resolute inaction?
Last year at about this time, noteworthy journalist, academic, and author George Monbiot wrote damningly in his trademark evidence-based way about the nearsightedness of the British Government’s 2050 60 per cent target. Everything points to the need for much more drastic 80, 90, and perhaps even 100% targets.
Clarifying writing of this sort is, even now, unfortunately rare. Not for lack of people producing objectively spine-chilling forecasts, but for the simple fact that the real news never makes it to the front page. If it is even published at all, it is lost amongst the shrill idiocy of the Tim Blairs, Michael Costas, and Lord Moncktons who somehow satisfy the desire to sell papers much more than they satisfy any need to educate the public or illuminate truth.
Still, wrote Monbiot at the time:
A good source tells me that the British government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions – 60% by 2050 – is too little, too late, but that it will go no further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the Confederation of British Industry. Why this body is allowed to keep holding a gun to our heads has never been explained, but Gordon Brown has just appointed Digby Jones, its former director-general, as a minister in the department responsible for energy policy. I don’t remember voting for him. There could be no clearer signal that the public interest is being drowned by corporate power.
Sound familiar? Maybe even universally applicable?
And in his latest article, Monbiot considers a newly proposed model for a global emission taxation scheme that might be profoundly more simple than national models currently under discussion:
This would not be the first time that business was rescued by the measures it most stoutly resists: there’s a long history of corporate lobbying against the kind of government spending that eventually saves the corporate economy.
Do we want to save it, even if we can? It is hard to see how the current global growth rate of 3.7% a year (which means the global economy doubles every 19 years) could be sustained(11), even if the whole thing were powered by the wind and the sun. But that is a question for another column and perhaps another time, when the current economic panic has abated. For now we have to find a means of saving us from ourselves.
Shortly I’ll be adding to the myriad of voices throwing in their quarter-of-a-cents-worth regarding the Garnaut Report (it’s a very enabling first step and has the makings of a much-needed springboard, imho), but in the meantime:
State Treasurer to the New South Wales Labor Government, Michael Costa, you are an effing moron. Now you are adding further weight to this argument by attacking the generally clear and excellent recommendations of the preliminary draft of the Garnaut Report on Australia and climate change.
You are one of the more prominent reasons why even tragic lefties now know in their hearts that the Iemma government has to be sacked. Four years of an unsteady, visionless, and ideologically sterile government with right-wing tendencies won’t be much of a breather, but it will be better than four more years of the brattish, self-congratulating, aggressive hypocrisy of the Australian Labor Party’s New South Wales outpost.
What electoral challenge has the NSW State Government had to face at any time since it was elected? Has anybody with even the charisma of a Barry Unsworth stood in opposition to you? The last election you weren’t even running against a human. The NSW COALition were so out-of-ideas that they ran a ginger kid against you – a frigging day walker!
Yet the NSW ALP is so disconnected from any sense of community values or cultural context that even recently they have cheered the visionary leadership of Morris Iemma and his victory in “the unwinnable election”.
Such a truly slippery handle on the facts can only exist in a political party that would employ Michael Costa while spouting humunculous geysers of barely credible froth about concern for the workers, for the people, for the future, for the children, for the state, etc. etc.
What is the problem with Australia in the eyes of Michael Costa? What is the problem with the state of New South Wales in the eyes of Michael Costa?
There are unions, who have the nerve to speak up for the interests of their members when it doesn’t suit Costa. There are citizens groups, NGOs, and – yes, them again – unions who he thinks must be stupid for expecting more from an elected government than they have any right to expect from privately held run-for-profit corporations…
Well, he may be right there.
But now, Michael Costa somehow thinks that he has greater political capital than the mob that gave Canberra an enema on November 24 last year. He thinks that the concern about climate change is nonsense. He would like to join the Liberal Party, where they have made a living out of misquoting people and then striking them down over the fact that things they never even said could have only come from stupid people.
Hmm… Right again.
For example, claims from some quarters that the Great Barrier Reef would be destroyed if Australia, which emits less than 2 per cent of global greenhouse gases, does not adopt an ETS are patent nonsense.
Chicken Little arguments are no substitute for getting right the important details on issues of far-reaching consequence, but Garnaut has said his detailed economic impact modelling won’t be available until August.
Costa has sided in today’s Australian with climate ignorance.
The state treasurer seems a bit behind the main game in thinking that anybody with more than half a brain thinks that local problems only come from locally emitted CO2.
He is publicly trying to undermine and reverse the federal ALP’s position, even though it is thus far one of hesitant progress. He has essentially rejected some of the most essential recommendations of the Garnaut Report – namely, Costa is calling for compensation for any and all big polluters, for further significant delays to action, for an ALP about face on the implied contract for social and environmental responsibility.
Costa will no doubt feel vindicated by the number of voices that will echo and support his proclamations this week. His wits as sharp as a ball, Costa may not see anything in the fact that his supporters will be conservatives, kneejerk ignorami, and vested interests such as the aluminium and coal industries, lobbyists for illegal international logging and their entirely partisan corporate consultancies – like Alan Oxley – and not to mention operators of those electrical utilities Costa’s constantly trying to offload for a song.
Not that there is any conflict of interest there. Not that he has any reason to make 19th century electrical facilities look like attractive investments. Not that this is exactly the same belligerent and dismissive type of abuse that he levelled at anyone thinking that essential things like electricity are best run for modest public profit, rather than massive private gain.
The one public service which Michael Costa seems to actually be performing is as a case study on what went wrong with a stale and incumbent state government, and of what to expect if the public just trusts politicians who claim to know best.
2020 targets, not 2050. No more delays. No rewards for inaction.
And no more Costa.
News.com.au, The Australian, and their regional subsidiaries are currently carrying – or miscarrying – a story about free-range eggs. They all seem keen to emphasize that free-range eggs are a stale rip-off on a grand scale, and that the survey which has concluded as much is objective. The survey by consumer group Choice may well be ‘objective’ (whatever one may think of the value or merits of its assessment criteria), but it certainly doesn’t reflect the conclusions being loudly proclaimed by big, clumsy media.
proclaims The Australian. This assertion, by writer Tamara McLean, has of course been reprinted at News.com.au, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, and likely the West Australian, Daily Telegraph, and other News Ltd (very) outlets across Australia. Even though it is uncredited, the article lifted from AAP and carried by Yahoo News! seems also to be McLean’s.
Strangely enough, Nathan Dukes at The Canberra Times and Daniella Miletic at Fairfax, when presented with the same survey by Choice, managed to get the story right. They focussed not only on the survey outcomes, but on the key issue relevant to the survey – that the definition of “free range” as it applies to Australian eggs, and consequently the hundreds of thousands of Australian chickens which produce them, is not only weak relative to European standards but cloudy in terms of Australian regulation and value to the consumer.
Choice clearly state that
We tested more than 650 eggs (all production systems) [ed: emphasis added], using an internationally recognised measure of egg freshness and quality called a Haugh unit (see How we tested, below).
There are no prescribed Australian standards but the US standard classifies eggs under 60 Haugh units as ‘weak and watery’ and we used this as our benchmark for freshness.
Of all the eggs we tested, 36 percent had Haugh units below 60…
This clearly states that looking at 650 samples of all types of eggs, 36% were found to be lacking in terms of freshness and quality. Tamara McLean, with the blessings of her editor, has managed to reinterpret this to mean:
A test of 650 free-range eggs by consumer group Choice returned a fail grade for 36 per cent of the products, branding them “weak and watery”.
Although she eventually states that regulation and standards are somewhat lacking or even voluntary in Australia, the News Ltd articles mainly feature cherry-picked quotes relating to the potential shortcomings of free-range eggs:
“Well over half the hens described as free-range are housed in huge sheds, may never go outside and their eggs may come off conveyor belts,” Mr Zinn [ed: Choice spokesman] said.
“If you’re buying free-range eggs because you believe in animal welfare, the brands in the big supermarkets may not be meeting your expectations.”
Ms McLean and Mr. Zinn aren’t trying to scare away your ethically spent dollar, but think it’s important for you to know that:
“[O]n average we found no significant differences between the freshness of barn-laid, cage and free-range eggs.”
Looking at the actual results, it would seem that Choice, if anything, has found that Pace Farms produce consistently mediocre eggs. Furthermore, only 7 of the 30 brands tested scored a 0-fail rate. 4 of these completely succesful brands –
- BOOST VEGETARIAN Cage (Brisbane)
- ESSENTIAL FOODS Free-Range (Melbourne)
- FAMILY HOMESTEAD Free-Range (Melbourne)
- FIELD FRESH Free-Range (Sydney)
- GOLDEN EGGS Barn-Laid (Perth)
- NATURE’S BEST Free-Range (Sydney)
- SUNNY QUEEN FARMS Barn-Laid (Brisbane)
were produced by Free-range methodology. Which, if anything, should produce an article with, perhaps, a ringing endorsement for free-range production methods. Despite the definite need for more rigorous regulation, definition, and enforcement, the methodology could easily be framed as at least 4 times more reliable than caged egg production… if the journalist or their master was inclined to do so.
Ever-reliable in such matters, The World Today has gone right past the fluff and got stuck into the heart of the matter:
JOHN STEWART: In the past animal welfare groups have waged successful campaigns, turning consumers against the tuna and pork industries. But it seems that chickens don’t have the same appeal as dolphins caught in fishing nets or images of bloated pigs and ham sandwiches.
But the signs are there that if free-range eggs do become cheaper, moral concerns for animal welfare may be less constrained by the hip pocket.