May 30, 2007

The Chinese Touch


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I found a faux Nigerian email in my mailbox this morning -- from China. Never let a fine idea go unduplicated.

Jeg har ny e-postadresse!

Nå kan du sende meg e-post på:

Von Larry,Sales & Marketing Department,

China Metallurgical Steel $ Iron Industry

[Feel free to skim, since you've probably read one like this seventy five times].

- Good Day Friend,It is my pleasure to write to you in respect of our organisation. I got your contact from my private search. We are experts in the sales of Metal Raw Materials.We export into the Canada/America/british and some parts Europe. We are in search of a reliable offshore representatives who can help us establish a medium of getting our funds from our costumers in the canada/America/Europe/british as well as making payments through these offshore representatives to us.Please, if interested in transacting business in view of helping us,so our clients could make payment to you being our representative, we will be very glad. Compensations will be given and other benefits.Contact us for more information.If this proposal is acceptable to you.Please get back to me, so that I can work out a remuneration for your services as our offshore representative in Canada/America/Europe/british.Thanks,as I anticipate your earliest response in the above regard.

A dear and close personal relative once said that there's nothing like growing up under a communist regime to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Another dear relative writes from the bosom of China:

Honestly, Chinese industry seems culturally equivalent to American business circa 1890, when bakers would spike bread with alum, and color candy with lead salts. Besides having no real equivalent of an FDA (it exists, it's just not enforcing anything), there's such a rush for profits that it seems to draw out examples of the most despicable human behavior.

On the other hand, there is also a pervasive "what could it hurt/close enough is good enough" attitude here, probably a direct result of zero health education in the provinces, the total destruction of the medical community during the Cultural Revolution, and rule by fiat for the last fifty years.

And, let's face it, accurate information is not always available under a repressive government (as we are beginning to experience here in the USofA). For example, many Chinese do not understand the difference between fog and smog.

As the universe would have it, while reading Deconsumption this morning for other purposes, I was astonished to learn that there is lead in Chinese china., and, sure enough, all my new mugs are made in China. It's ubiquitious. Check out Walmart bibs and childrens' jewelry. We should all rush out to the hardware store and get a lead testing kit.

And finally a little news that will put some teeth in the Twinkie Defense, Steve Ettenger has deconstructed one for the LA Times:

When I began researching the ingredients for Twinkies, I naively thought that their raw materials were extracted from nuts, beans, fruit, seeds or leaves, and that they came from the United States. I was looking to link places with foods — along the lines of California wine or Maine lobster, but for thiamine mononitrate. It turned out that I was way off.

Although eight of the ingredients in the beloved little snack cake come from domestic corn and three from soybeans, there are others — including thiamine mononitrate — that come from petroleum. Chinese petroleum. Chinese refineries and Chinese factories. And there are other unexpected ingredients that are much harder to trace. So much for the great "All-American" snack food.


We probably shouldn't have been eating Twinkies anyway.

Photo note: An acre of shiny metal cookware, shot on location at the Bai market in Dali, China

Posted by Dakota at 06:26 AM

May 29, 2007

Monica's Transformation


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The girls over at Slate know one when they see one:

When she was White House liaison in Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, Monica Goodling, 33, had the power to hire and fire seasoned government lawyers who had taken the bar when she was still carrying around a plastic Hello Kitty purse. Goodling, in fact, described herself as a "type-A woman" who blocked the promotion of another type-A woman basically because the office couldn't tolerate infighting between two strong women. ("I'm not just partisan! I'm sexist, too!") That move sounds pretty grown-up and steely. Yet in her testimony this week before the House judiciary committee, Goodling turned herself back into a little girl, and it's worth pointing out that the tactic worked brilliantly.

Look past Goodling's long, silky blond hair, which may or may not have been a distraction. She's entitled to have pretty hair. Look past her trembling hand as she swore her oath and the tremulous voice as she described her "family" at Justice. What really shot Goodling into the stratosphere of baby-doll girls were her own whispered words: "At heart," she testified, "I am a fairly quiet girl, who tries to do the right thing and tries to treat people kindly along the way." [Late-breaking discovery, courtesy of a sharp reader: Goodling used the word girl in the written rather than spoken version of her testimony.] The idea, of course, was to scrub away her past image as ruthless, power-mad, and zealously Christian. But—as professor Sandy Levinson noted almost immediately over at Balkinization—it was in calling herself a "girl" that the 33-year-old did herself a great favor. It was a signal to the committee that she was no Kyle Sampson. Or Anita Hill.

Oh go ahead, read the whole thing.

And there's more dish about Our Monica.

Her pricey defense lawyer, John Dowd, from the prestigious Washington law firm Akin Gump, did an excellent coaching job on our crispy Christian ingenue, as well as supplying many sweet euphemisms for breaking the law

In these days of government permeated by Christian cult fundamentalism, a girl (probably) doesn't have to sleep with her boss to be promoted, but it's probaboy a good idea to join his Bible Study Group. No sacrifice for true believers.

Photo note: We located the bleeding hearts backed by blonde in the archives , now all we need is a little conditioner

Addendum #1: John Stewart deconstructs Monica's testimony

Addendum #2: Theoretical physicist, Mark Buchanan's, op ed "Our Lives as Atom's: Chain Reactions " has been copied in its entirety below for your edification - it speaks eloquently to Ms. Goodyling' behavior, and ours.

Our Lives as Atoms:
Chain Reactions

By Mark Buchanan

The political party that claimed it would restore “honor and dignity to the White House” has done nothing of the sort. Having on false pretenses led us into the disaster of Iraq, the administration and its supporters are now beginning – cravenly and shamefully – to shift blame onto the Iraqi people. The administration continues to hold hundreds of people without charges in secret prisons around the world, while arguing that torture is O.K. and that President Bush can disregard the laws he doesn’t like. I haven’t even mentioned illegal spying or efforts to keep scientists quiet if they’re saying the wrong thing.

Where’s the honor and dignity?

In her testimony last week before a House panel, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, admitted that she had “crossed the line” in using political considerations to judge potential Justice Department employees. She may well have broken laws that forbid political influence over civil service positions. But “crossing the line” has been business as usual for the past six years. Goodling’s behavior follows a pattern established across almost all federal agencies, where the administration has sought loyalty over competence at every turn.

Another word for it, of course, is corruption – and it’s natural to wonder how we got so deeply mired in it. If the gathering storm of investigations forces Karl Rove and other White House officials one day to testify under oath, we may have some chance of finding out. And I suspect, if we do, that we’ll discover that honor and dignity were sacrificed at the very top. It will be a familiar story – of a few power-hungry and largely amoral political operatives, the real drivers, whose actions encouraged and directed a small army of fairly ordinary people, the Monica Goodlings of this world, many of whom were hardly aware they were doing something wrong.

People who engage in corrupt acts often do not see them as such. This much has emerged from studies of corporate scandals and fraud at places like Enron or WorldCom. In a study two years ago, for example, business professors Vikas Anand, Blake Ashforth and Mahendra Joshi concluded that most fraud within institutions takes place through the willing cooperation of many otherwise upstanding individuals with no psychological predisposition to be criminals.

Whether embezzling money, undermining product safety regulations, or even selling completely fake products, the perpetrators rationalize away their responsibility. They deny that they actually had any choice, saying that “everyone was doing it.” Or they deny that anyone really got hurt, so there really was no crime: “They’re a big company, they can afford to overpay us.”

Then there’s the popular appeal to higher authority, a mechanism with special relevance, perhaps, to the loyalty-rewarding Bush administration: “I had to do it out of loyalty to my boss.”

All of this isn’t so surprising, actually, when you realize that we like to feel good about ourselves and about those with whom we work, and that our brains have immense talent for producing reasons why we should. People engaged in corruption, the academic researchers suggest, create a kind of psychological atmosphere in which what they’re doing seems normal or even honorable. So if congressional oversight does ultimately expose the machinations behind anything from secret prisons to the United States prosecutor purge, brace yourself for a litany of the usual excuses – “We didn’t know it was wrong” and “We were told to do it.”

But the psychology of rationalization is only part of the story. The other element in all such cases seems to be a chain-like linking together of individual actions that can undermine social norms with surprising speed – or keep them safe, sometimes if just a single person remains strong.

In the late 1970s, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter pointed out that the differences among people – in their willingness to engage in certain kinds of acts – can lead to surprises. Think of the dance floor at a party. Some people are more than happy to be the first out there, dancing alone, but lots of the rest of us would like some others out there first. You might be willing to go out if five or six went before you, while others might require 20 or 30. Some might not go out unless everyone at the party was out there.

The point is that each of us has a threshold for joining in, which depends on personality, the music being played and so on, but also – and this is the really important part – on how many others have already joined in. As Granovetter argued, this can make a group’s behavior extremely difficult to predict.

Just imagine, for example, that 100 people at the party have thresholds ranging from 0 to 99. In this case, everyone will soon be dancing, you can be sure of it. The natural extrovert with threshold 0 will kick it off, soon to be joined by the person with threshold 1, and the dancing will grow, eventually involving even the reluctant people.

But notice how delicately the outcome depends on the precise interlocking of these thresholds. If the person with threshold 1 goes home, then after the first person starts dancing the rest will simply stand by watching. With no one willing to be the second person onto the floor, there’s no chain reaction. So just one person can have a dramatic effect on the overall group.

This is just a toy model, but it illustrates something about the logic of people joining not only dance floors, but riots or protests, trips to the pub in the evening, getting in with others to skim cash from the restaurant till – or violating well-known rules against taking political affiliation into account when hiring. Tiny differences in the group makeup, the presence or absence or a few people of the right type, might be the difference between a few renegade violators and division-wide corruption.

I can’t help thinking of the bizarre attempt by then-White House officials Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, drugged and in the hospital, to sign off on a secret National Security Agency wiretapping program. Ashcroft – who back then I would have thought would rubber-stamp anything Bush wanted – was clearly made of sterner stuff and refused, as did Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. Again, we won’t know how much effect these refusals had – and just how extreme the program was that Bush wanted to authorize – until someone manages to get past White House stonewalling and digs up the real information.

But the fragility of social outcome, its potential sensitivity to the actions of just one person, brings home the profound importance of individual responsibility. Everyone’s actions count. The laws and institutional traditions we have were put in place precisely to help us avoid these social meltdowns, and to give people the incentive not to step over the line, especially when lots of others are doing so already. In particular, the laws of the civil service prevent hiring on the basis of political affiliation (at least for many positions), and the routine violation of those laws puts our democracy at risk. Many people went along with it, and so might have many more, had the creeping corruption not been exposed when it was.

Restoring honesty and dignity. One might say of it what Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western Civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.”

22 comments so far...

May 29th,
9:31 pm

Another excellent article! Granovetter’s exposition of the “threshold for joining in” emphatically underlines the importance of the Senate’s advise and consent role, and the perils of a rubber stamp Congress.

— Posted by Partha Neogy
May 30th,
3:34 am

Well this is certainly Mr. Buchanan’s most partisan entry to date. The first paragraph or two are indiscernable from any one of a number of blog entries you can find on Daily Kos. I wonder what kind of thoughts he had before he hit the ’send’ button.

On the one hand, such a standard issue summation of Bush’s misdeeds makes it look like he has fallen prey to the very sort of cognitive dissonance he warned us about just a few posts ago. On the other hand, avoiding “extreme” views altogether makes it look like he has fallen into the opposite trap, of buying into a false “mainstream” view–pluralistic ignorance, I think it was.

So: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It seems like no matter what you do, someone else can always come along and–somewhat ad hoc, I think–attribute one or another psychological cause to your behavior. But what is the benefit of doing this? What work is being done by the claim, “You did this behavior because of psychological theory X”?

I think that unless some scientific model or theory is actually generating useful predictions, it really doesn’t have any explanatory power. Attributing some psychological tendency to corrupt individuals after their corruption has been exposed is easy–the term “Monday morning quarterback” comes to mind. But what about using these psychological theories and models to predict breakdowns of rationality and morality before they happen?

That would be pretty impressive.

— Posted by David Morris
May 30th,
3:42 am

Some “corrupt” people, espcially in politics, often believe what they are doing is right, and don’t see “bending corners” to do something “good” as corrupt, even though if someone did similiar things for something they disagreed with (thought was wrong) They’ll see it, and decry it as corruption.

— Posted by Madrone
May 30th,
5:43 am

It’s something of a vicious circle that you describe, but surely it has existed since humankind began to get itself organized into structured societies.

Around the world, in both private and public sectors, strong people lead and the weaker follow. In the majority of instances the strongest gets to be boss and others follow orders. Whether dignity and integrity are considered the norm within a given company or government or even a division or department is entirely dependent on the tone set by those at the top.

I take issue with the contention that somehow the sycophants are ignorant of the fact that some of the acts they perform to further their bosses goals are corrupt.

The shepherd/sheep analogy seems to apply to most human endeavour. And when it comes to corrupt followers enabling corrupt bosses, the western world is far from unique. I’m a great admirer of much that Ghandi did- but your use of his cute quote re western civilization is just that…a clever and cute quote.

— Posted by jim
May 30th,
6:23 am

This article is wonderful, I am sending it to everyone I know. As individuals some of us have been standing up for six extremely long years to say what this administration stands for is not anything like you will find in the Bible or Christlike. We have been called anti-Christian, traitors, supporters of the enemy and any other label that Carl Rove may think will work to keep his followers in line and hating the truth. The thing that keeps us strong and still fighting back is the fact that every day people or dying, losing their home and country, doing anything to survive BECAUSE of the horrible actions of this administration. When will there be accountability, how many people must die so “THEY DON’T FOLLOW US HOME!” The enemy is already here.

— Posted by Carol Gibbs
May 30th,
6:47 am


Jane Jacobs’ classic book “Systems of Survival” explains why deceit is a necessary aspect of all successful governing bodies. When are our political commentators going to give us something more than a rehash of stories that are centuries old with only the characters changing.


— Posted by Verne Harnish
May 30th,
6:59 am

When will there be something new on this front?

— Posted by dan cusick
May 30th,
7:03 am

As a citizen of Houston Texas I lived under President Bush as Governor - and his successor Governor Perry who has continued the charade Bush started. Bush wanted to end food subsidies to poor children saying it was corrupt. He refused to regulate the poluting industries making it voluntary making the air in certain cities we now have the worst cancer rates in the nation, he cut social services and initiated a tax cut - about enough to send each family a box of pampers - which ended many useful programs and limited what those that remained could do. - What kind of person supports these evil harsh, anti-social programs - a Republican.

— Posted by Volley Goodman
May 30th,
7:44 am

From the perspective of the butterfly effect, Mark’s optimistic message that individuals can make a difference in stopping bad behavior makes sense. But for the most part, the power of the group to influence individual behavior is overwhelming; especially when emotions come into play.

Consider the 4,743 lynchings that occurred in the U.S. from 1882 to 1964 as tracked by the Tuskegee Institute. And then compare that with the glee coming from the audience in the last Republican debate when Mitt Romney espoused doubling the size of Guantanamo where suspected terrorists would not have access to lawyers and could be subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ It can’t be a coincidence the 25 states with the highest number of lynchings per 100,000 people based on 1910 populations, all happen to be red states. dthgun100k+srt=v2

— Posted by R. A. Orr
May 30th,
8:14 am

I think you’re on to something important, Mark. It seems to me that the lack of individual accountability in this administration goes back a generation, to the “birth” of our current Republican extremism, when the Lee Atwaters and Karl Roves of the world made the calculated and strategic decision that right and wrong are, at best, relative. When the basic premises that guide our society are ignored, it’s no surprise to me that more and more people - especially younger people like Monica Goodling - act in such appalling ways. Just following orders.

— Posted by LouK
May 30th,
8:38 am

Corruption requires deceit, deceit means that not everyone has all the facts, and incomplete information is one of the places where the law of supply and demand breaks down. Conservatives seem to believe so fervently in the laws of economics. Do they consider that the exceptions to the rule — here, incomplete information — may be so overwhelming that the rule itself is in fact not a rule, but merely the exception? Do conservative thinkers know this and continue to spread the lie of “economic laws” as a cover for their rapacity?

— Posted by Mike B.
May 30th,
8:40 am

I love this column.

— Posted by Mimi Barron
May 30th,
8:52 am

A good essay, and it’s certainly true that individual actions count. If enough individuals stand up and say this behavior must stop, then the individual actions become group actions–a much more potent force.

As applied to the situation at hand: since we can’t count on the individuals in this Administration to do the right thing, then it must be up to us as citizens. Since this isn’t a dance party, the question then becomes one of deciding what type of action many individuals must take to stop this behavior. Protests? Writing your representatives? Voting them out? Clearly, many people feel the same way, but we have yet to come up with an effective set of individual actions. Certainly many people are doing some of these things, but big change is a long and painful way off at the pace these debacles are happening, 2008 at a minimum. In the meantime, it feels like we are waiting for the Administration to implode on itself, something it seems intent on doing. Unfortunately the damage to our nation gets worse by the day. Rightly or wrongly, I think a lot of us are trying to figure out what actions make the most impact, hoping someone comes up with a good and effective idea so we can join in.

— Posted by Carla M.
May 30th,
8:57 am

Monica Goodling is an excellent example of someone who clearly didn’t think she was doing wrong when she did it. (Being perceived as doing right is such an important part of her character.) The power of a few powerful people to instigate wrong is something we don’t often think about. (I’ve been reading about Hitler lately.)

I was interested in the chain idea.

I also think groups matter and the tendency of Americans not to join groups (Bowling Alone) may make us more vulnerable to corruption. Groups have the power to encourage us to become corrupt, but also to encourage us to do right. It’s easier to rationalize when the only ones you have to explain your behavior to are yourself and your TV. Harder when it’s a whole community of neighbors, friends, relatives, and so on.

Interesting stuff.

— Posted by Ward
May 30th,
9:09 am

While I have no quarrel with the overall theme of Mark’s piece,it is a bit of a stretch to describe someone like Monica Goodling as just another ordinary person caught up in a tangled web of corruption beyond her control. By her own admission, and as Mark notes, she admitted that she “crossed the line” when she allowed political considerations to influence her recommendations for U.S. Attorney replacements. Her surreal explanation, that “I crossed the line, but didn’t intend to break the law,” has gone mostly unchallenged by the media, which broadly reported the statement but never really analyzed its import. Mark’s point about ordinary folks getting caught up in an atmosphere of corruption and acting out of ssome sense of misplaced loyalty is valid as far as it goes, but in the case of Ms. Goodling, we have a high level Justice Department attorney who implies in her testimony that she is unaware of the federal law that specifically governs her job responsibilities. We often hear this from CEO’s who claim they were unaware of financial reporting requirements, and as hollow as this sounds, at least we can say that these are business people, not trained lawyers. For Ms. Goodling to cite ignorance of the very law that governs her job as an attorney at the Justice Department strains credibility well past the breaking point, particularly since she possessed enough legal savvy to invoke her 5th amendment rights.

— Posted by robh
May 30th,
9:35 am

If you like it…go ahead and keep your neat little chain reaction theory. But please spare us the moralizing. Your metaphysical framework doesn’t allow it. Bush’s actions (and our response) were determined at the Big Bang. Words like “shouldn’t” or “immoral” have as much meaning as a well timed burp.

— Posted by Adam
May 30th,
9:38 am

Having just revisited “Judgment at Nuremberg”; I am struck by just how much some of this analysis was prefigured in the legal argumentation of Maxmillian Schell in defense of the Nazi defendant’s. Even more striking is the film’s conclusion which affirms the significance of individual responsibility on the same basis as does this artical. In the face of mass corruption, however, it does take a great deal of faith to sustain a belief in the efficacy of such responsibility. Either that, or a lack of imagination.

— Posted by michael ormond
May 30th,
10:01 am

The analysis was excellent. There does seem to be a consistent theme in much of the corruption . . . the use of the “highest authority” to justify all. Ms. Goodling came out of the Pat Robertson law school,Regent University School of Law, which trains lawyers to go into the administration and essentially take over the executive branch on behalf of their beliefs. And so corruption is not corruption. It is the act of reclaiming the nation/world on behalf of God, who seems to be whatever they want him/her to be. From their first day of work they are there to restore “honor and dignity”. It is not a rationalization after the fact. It was part of the plan. So even if she is legally wrong, she can believe she is morally extremely right.

— Posted by D Powell
May 30th,
10:41 am

Good analysis. Two points: the administration has not only positioned the Iraqi people to take the HEAT round to the chest, but the US military as well. David Patraeus was not elected President, G.W. Bush was. The civilians make the policy, and the military carries it out. Waiting until September is quitclaiming policy to the military. H.S. Truman knew where the buck stopped. These guys don’t even know what the buck is, much less where it stops. Two, do not hold your breath for any real information even on 20 JAN 2009, for there will be nat’l security pardons for all by then.

— Posted by Skip
May 30th,
11:29 am

“So even if she is legally wrong, she can believe she is morally extremely right.

— Posted by D Powell”

scary…don’t terrorists think this way too?

— Posted by a reader
May 30th,
11:33 am

Great analysis, but I wonder if this doesn’t just boil down to the old problem of “ends justifying means.” Whether the “ends” are short term (small victories) or long term (winning the ideological war), many people claim to do things “on principle” and thus feel their methods are above reproach. This does happen in all cultures. Compare the rather amoral “means” analysis of the idealogues on the political right, claiming to own Christianity and have a monopoly of understanding as to God’s will and God’s plan (abortion clinic bombers, corrupt Attorney Generals, televangelists), with the amoral “means” analysis of the Islamic idealogues, claiming the Q’uran gives them carte blanche to do whatever it takes to bring to fruition their reading of Allah’s plan. A harsh comparison to be sure, and emotionally charged, but step back a moment: each side uses all means necessary to accomplish what it believes to be the only true understanding of God’s will. Some means are just more insidious than dramatic.

— Posted by D Stahl
May 30th,
12:05 pm

Both extremes, socio-liberals as well as whatever you choose to call Bush and his gang of thieves (they’ve been disavowed by so many conservatives because of Iraq) believe that the ends justify the means. Trouble is, the ends here seem to be just more power to the oligarchy.
Who was it that said, “In order to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.” Oh yeah, Stalin.

— Posted by dorothy

About Our Lives as Atoms

Mark BuchananMark Buchanan, a theoretical physicist, is an associate editor for ComPlexUs, a journal on biocomplexity, and the author of "Ubiquity: The Science of History," "Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks" and, most recently, "The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You." He lives in Normandy.

Posted by Dakota at 06:48 PM


On June 5, Judge Reggie Walton will decide whether Scooter Libby will go to jail immediately, or be released on bail until his appeal. If he's released, it gives our President a short reprieve to work on his popularity . Then he can feel free to pardon Scooter (for lying under oath to a grand jury in order to cover his boss's ass) in broad daylight right under the noses of the forgetful American public. As Dan Froomkin says:

To those of us watching the investigation and trial unfold, Cheney's presence behind the scenes has emerged in glimpses and hints. (The defense's decision not to call Cheney to the stand remains a massive bummer.) But I suspect that people looking back on this story will see it with greater clarity: As a blatant -- and thus far successful -- cover-up for the vice president.

Evidently there have been pleas for clemency written on Libby's behalf , but, of course, his defense team wants them to be kept secret. Marcy Wheeler writes for Guardian Unlimited::

It is not unreasonable to suggest some of these public figures submitted letters to curry favor with the administration or advance their own position within it.

This is particularly true given Dick Cheney's role in the case. The evidence presented at the Libby trial makes a compelling case that Libby obstructed the investigation of the leak of Plame's identity to hide Cheney's role in that leak. Cheney, of course, remains in government. The more lenient Libby's punishment, the smaller the chance Libby will flip on Cheney. So any lenient treatment of Libby would directly benefit Cheney, something those hoping to influence Cheney surely know.

Meanwhile, the enormous Dick was out on the commencement circuit this weekend, having landed the big one at West Point. Grandfather of Sam took the opportunity to trash the Geneva Convention to those graduates who will need it most as they surge into active duty in Iraq. Digby comments on Cheney's speech:

I hope all those new officers at the US Military Academy got the message. Real men don't need those silly protections. When the Vice President of the United States openly derides the Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution at West Point by snidely describing those who demand their protections as "delicate" I think you can assume they are no longer operative. If any of these newly minted officers ever have the misfortune to be captured, they'd better hope they can be blasted out because they surely won't be able to leverage any kind of reciprocation or make any kind of an agreement. You are on your own boys, no "delicate sensibilities" allowed.....

One more thing: the West Point honor code says, "a cadet will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do." How in the world did they justify having Dick Cheney speak at the commencement?

Here's a version. of his address that has been annotated for projections.

Oh Dick's a man of courage indeed. He had five deferrments during the Vietnam War, He allowed his most trusted deputy to take the rap for his vindictive and treasonous disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative. Halliburton, Cheney's federal fund sponge in the corporate world, moved to Dubai as soon as it looked like there would be aninvestigation for war profiteering by the Democratic Congress. I'm sure there's much more, but it's been classified

The man may not have courage, but he does have a hellava nerve.

Photo Note: A bumper sticker shot in a blue state

Posted by Dakota at 02:47 PM | TrackBack

May 28, 2007

Gliding into Alignment


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The gliders
the salt marsh
this weekend

providing a
perfect shot
for Memorial Day
and the
American flag

as well as

a metaphorophoto
the bridge
almost in

that means


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Photo note: I talked to the pilot as he sighed with relief, taking off his "girdle", which weighs fifty pounds and holds a two cylinder engine -- though progressive gliders are going to four cylinders. As to the flight, he reported that that the view was spectacular, the air smooth, and, as in all air travel today, the snacks were inadequate..


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Posted by Dakota at 07:37 AM

May 25, 2007

Happy Long Weekend


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Given that it's a long weekend, and I shall be at the seashore, I thought I'd throw up a few things to tide you over.

If you have a few minutes watch "Women in Art",
or perhaps you'd rather create your own painting.

Have a little more time for the baked car? Be sure to catch the movie at the end.

And, just in case it rains, you can watch all of the best shorts from the Tribeca Film Festival

Photo note: Just a pretty peony picture to look at until I get back

Posted by Dakota at 06:44 PM

Vitamins Too


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NPR provided a jarring wake up call this morning by broadcasting some more disturbing news about Chinese food and drug imports

China has become the leading supplier of many food ingredients, such as apple juice, a primary sweetener in many foods; garlic and garlic powder, a major flavor agent; sausage casings and cocoa butter.

China now supplies 80 percent of the world's ascorbic acid — vitamin C. It's used as a preservative and nutritional enriching agent in thousands of foods. One-third of the world's vitamin A now comes from China, along with much of the supply of vitamin B-12 and many health-food supplements, such as the amino acid lysine.

That is no accident. Chinese manufacturers have tried to corner the market in many food ingredients by under-pricing other suppliers.

Leo Hepner, a food-ingredient consultant based in London, says vitamin C is a good example.

"The price in 1995 was $15 per kilogram," Hepner says. "Today, the price from China is $3.50."

No one can compete with that. So most Western producers of vitamin C have shut down.

That's globalization. But there's a hidden price for cheap goods. Earlier this year, lead-contaminated multivitamins showed up on the shelves of U.S. retailers. And this spring, vitamin A from China contaminated with dangerous bacteria nearly ended up in European baby food.

If you go to the article, you can see that China is also producing cheap antibiotics Erythromycin, Amxicillin and Oxytetracycline.

Here's a list of Chinese imports that were refused by the FDA in April 2007 alone. According to William Hubbard, former deputy commissioner of the FDA, who now works with the Coalition for a Stronger FDA:

"The system is so understaffed now that what is being caught and stopped is only a fraction of the food that's actually slipping through the net," he says.

The FDA normally inspects about 1 percent of all food and food ingredients at U.S. borders. It does tests on about half of 1 percent.

And official vigilance has been going down — for two reasons.

First, food imports have increased dramatically, from $45 billion in 2003 to $64 billion three years later.

Second, the "food" part of the FDA has been getting smaller.

Shaun Kennedy of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense says no country is increasing its food exports faster than China.

Gives us a little something to consider as we pop our vitamins this morning.

Photo note: Fresh strawberries resting on a bucket of white glue taken on location in Lijaing, China. We did not partake, in spite of their succulence.

Posted by Dakota at 08:31 AM

May 23, 2007

About Impeachment


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Should Bush be impeached? MSNBC is running a poll. 88% say yes. You can vote.

So why hasn't Bush been impeached?. Gary Kamiya at Salon has some ideas which are excerpted here to save you from watching a commercial.

The Political Explanation

Yet the public's dislike of Bush has not translated into any real move to get rid of him. The impeach-Bush movement has not really taken off yet, and barring some unforeseen dramatic development, it seems unlikely that it will. Even if there were a mass popular movement to impeach Bush, it's far from clear that Congress, which alone has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings, would do anything. The Democratic congressional majority has been at best lukewarm to the idea. In any case, their constituents have not demanded it forcefully or in such numbers that politicians feel they must respond. Democrats, and for that matter Americans of all political persuasions, seem content to watch Bush slowly bleed to death.

Why? Why was Clinton, who was never as unpopular as Bush, impeached for lying about sex, while Bush faces no sanction for the far more serious offense of lying about war?

The main reason is obvious: The Democrats think it's bad politics. Bush is dying politically and taking the GOP down with him, and impeachment is risky. It could, so the cautious Beltway wisdom has it, provoke a backlash, especially while the war is still going on. Why should the Democrats gamble on hitting the political jackpot when they're likely to walk away from the table big winners anyway? ......

The Psychological Explanation

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we're too confused -- not least by our own complicity -- to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through impeachment. We haven't done the necessary work to separate ourselves from our abusive spouse. We need therapy -- not to save this disastrous marriage, but to end it....

The establishment media, which has tended to treat impeachment talk as if it were the unseemly rantings of half-crazed hordes, has clearly bought this paradigm. In this view, those who want to impeach Bush, or who are simply vehemently critical of him, are partisan extremists outside the mainstream of American discourse. This decorous approach has begun to weaken. A recent U.S. News and World Report cover read, "Bush's last stand: He's plagued by a hostile Congress, sinking polls, and an unending war. Is he resolute or delusional?" When centrist newsweeklies begin using words drawn from psychiatric manuals, it may be time for Karl Rove to get worried. But it takes time to turn the Titanic. The years of deference to the War Leader cannot be overcome that quickly.

An interesting thought. All of us here at Dakota were cured of our deference round about 1999, how about you?

By the way, in another poll conducted by the Peoples Email Network,99.43% think that Cheney should be impeached. Their sample could be a little skewed, but the sentiments are endearing

Photo note: A patriotic expression

Posted by Dakota at 07:37 PM

Mildly Obscene


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Last December, in a valliant attempt to tidy up our dining room table and save the environment in one fell swoop, all of us here at Dakota sent a check for $36 to GreenDimes, an organization that cancels mail order catalogs on your behalf, and plants trees in their stead. Though the catalog companies are slow to respond, gradually most of our 86 (!?!!!) unwanted publications have disappeared.

Yesterday we received this shocking email from GreenDimes founder and CEO Pankaj Shah regarding Victoria's Secret:

We contact thousands of catalog companies and mailers on our member's behalf every month. Each of these is cooperative and provides an easy way for us to take customers off of mailing list... all but ONE. Victoria's Secret. They require us to call them each and every time we take a customer off of their lists - which can mean hold times of 30 minutes! Odd given that people can request to RECEIVE and REDUCE catalog mailings on-line. I guess this is why they keep sending 350 Million catalogs every year. Feel strongly about this? Email Brigitta Witt ( who runs corporate development for us and tell her what you think.

Now that we have reached an age where flaunting one's cleavage is considered undignified, and there are currently no adolescent boys in residence, Victoria's Secret's monthly deluge is quite unnecessary in our household. As far as we're concerned, what we once considered harmless soft porn has just raised its rating to green obscene

By the way here's the GreenDimes report:

We're up to 514,000 pounds of junk mail stopped, over 174,000 trees planted and over 1,313,000 gallons of water saved. Thanks to everyone and keep spreading the word


Photo note: Isn't there something a little obscene about this shot? AND there's no green in sight.

Posted by Dakota at 07:23 AM

May 21, 2007



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the statistics

Photo note: Strategic placement of the sticker on the flaccid arrow of the no left turn sign makes for worthy metaphorophotography

Posted by Dakota at 07:58 PM

May 20, 2007

Meat No Longer


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see the frog

Okay guys, I know this will be a challenge because it's Sunday morning and you have Frank Rich and the entire wedding section to read too, but you probably won't stumble upon this wonderful essay by Marclord in the newspaper - "When Nations Lose Their Love for War;Or How to Evolve for Dummies". For your convenience, the five most important paragraphs have been excerpted below:

The capacity to organize into collective forms of protective violence saved the human race in wars against predators like lions and tigers and bears, oh my, all of whom were once well above us on the food chain. Where tigers still roamed in unguarded situations, surprising numbers of us were recently meat; upwards of 50,000 people a year were eaten by tigers in India as recently as a half-century ago. But as a race, we long ago refused to accept our status as "meat." When collective organization didn't save us from such a fate, we were motivated to diligently acquire technical solutions, the means to overcome or at least shore up our weaknesses. We made tools which could hit at distances, extending beyond the reach of tooth and claw in order to project the force required to stave off wolves, lions, tigers and bears, to enhance our own ability to eat or tame the largest mammals, and to elevate our status as a predator worthy of respect and fear. Our minds wished for arrows, missiles, and spears, and as if by magic, like the satellites which traverse the orbits of the skies, our nimble hands extruded them.

As we organized ourselves into tribes, races, and nations, while we trained our wounded, wished solutions on our tormentors, we began to use these tools on each other, too, more and more. We didn't stop until the tools reached counterproductive levels of overkill. And here we are, hostage to our solutions. Hollywood apocalyptic fantasies can finally come true, with terrorists nuking Key West as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis flee it in the movie "True Lies," as the predators we once feared are captive in zoos and clinging to a marginal-species existence, and as Republican presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) got the biggest cheers in the debates the other night when he said, "I would double the number of inmates at Guantanamo."

Americans still naively believe, perhaps more than any other people, in the application of death-dealing technologies as palliatives for achieving peace. Probably because of prior successes in shared experience, that belief is sealed into the permeable pores of our mythology like a poison gas, the protective wrapper of which was ripped off when we gained the status of Sole Superpower. As Bill Murray said in the movie 'Stripes,' to inspire his fellow post-Vietnam Army classmates in boot camp: "Hey! We're Americans, and we've been kickin' ass for over 200 years. We're 10 and 1!"......

This will be different from Vietnam. Vietnam was a wasteful war fought over flawed ideology and theory, but having no appreciable oil reservers, it wasn't an Energy War. When we pull out of Iraq, we will have lost privileged access to resources which power the engines of the the high consumption upon which our way of life is based. The blame-storming will make Vietnam's wrenching, frustrating, insecurity-inducing debacle look like the aftermath of a game of Stratego in comparison. Back then there were some tremors of a required change in lifestyle, but our culture preferred tp reach for more violence to bully and quell them. This is different. When it comes to oil, this war is for keeps. That's why the daily and nightly attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad are being censored and not reaching us, why the car-bombing of the last open market there cannot be photographed or written about in the press. Its' too painful to admit. It's the whole mythology of twentieth century America we're losing in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're losing a way of life, and that is not unacceptable.

Yet we'll have to face it. Defeats have much to teach. I'm hopeful that America as a country can rise to the challenge defeat poses, and that after it, we'll engage in a great spiritual growth. Victory has a joyous momentum which the Greeks knew naturally bred hubris and led to tragedy. When you gain mastery over something, gain adulation, and become too good at it, if you don't get corrupted and distracted, you'll eventually just get bored. In our cores as humans, it has been more the process of mastery we have reveled in than its end points, and our most delicious joys have not been found in the mutations of murder, but in charting, as a race, a course to the new and right directions which have never rested on rewards. At this point of violent overkill, many are the nations which have lost their love for war, and which are ready for moving on to the kind of the species-wide, collective maturation needed to deal with that capacity for overkill before it extinguishes us.

Interest piqued? Out of A-Span? No? Go ahead, read the whole thing.

Photo note: A metaphorophoto - Transformation of a certain kind of patriotism. Emergence of a rainbow helix from the cloaca of a frog hidden behind the flag - a hopeful image.

A tale of the law of attraction. This shot was taken right after the discovery that funeral pyres where multiplying on the bluffs. The Queen of Good Taste was certainly upset about that! Then she discovered nine rainbow whirlygigs , anchored by frogs, hanging off of the porch of the victorian cottage next door. They had been left as housegifts by the first tenants of the season. The Queen of Good Taste had been focusing on what she didn't want, and, low and behold, she got nine more. Making the best of things, she turned the whirlygigs into photo subjects. By the end of the day all but one had blown away.

Posted by Dakota at 06:56 AM

May 18, 2007

Going Green


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All of us here at Dakota were thrilled to hear that a secondary school we admire is building an entirely green building, complete with composting toilets. It was designed by Architerra an architectural firm whose "distinction lies in its commitment to comprehensive green design solutions for any project in the built environment." Ecological education at its finest.

Upon hearing this good news, we decided to see what Harvard is doing in the greening department. The university has recently ripped down a quarter of Cambridge, including old growth trees, and is covering all the vacant lots thus created with multistory buildings. Not all of us here at Dakota are fans of Harvard, particularly its more corporate aspects, epitomized by the omnivorous Harvard Real Estate, whom we hold responsible for the suburban malling of Harvard Square. We were therefore pleased to discover that Harvard actually has their very own Green Campus Initiative....and Harvard isn't alone. Many of Boston's institutions of higher learning are greening up.

Just in time for this entry, Bill Clinton, running eco-end for Hillary in case Al Gore decides to run, announced The Clinton Foundation's billion dollar Green Cities Initiative, which will provide green makeover programs in sixteen locations. However politically motivated, it's productive, rather than destructive. Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious green plan for New York City and the yummier half of Brangelina is doing the green thing in New Orleans.

But you don't have to be a movie star or an institution to have a green place of your very own. Take a peek at these Enertia houses that use no fuel at all. Although we wish we had that kind of Enertia, all of us here at Dakota have at least overcome the usual kind and changed our bulbs. Have you?

Photo note: The greening of a fence post. Shot on location in beautiful downtown Sandwich.

Posted by Dakota at 10:24 PM

May 17, 2007

Wiretapping and Worse


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Even before his his astonishing testimony on Tuesday, all of us here at Dakota were quite taken with James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General, a Republican who kept his ethical center under what we now know was tremendous pressure. Over at Firedoglake, "Looseheadprop" provides more of the back story.

.. the WH had to know by then that Comey was not a go along to get along guy. I always thought that the fact that New York Magazine made a point to talk about the fact that Schumer had forced Comey into SDNY to keep a loyal footsoldier out of there in an article about Comey going to Washington was a clear signal that NYMag had heard the same story about Comey being forced down the White House's throat.

I have always wondered who pulled that off. Was it Schumer? Was is a group of non-wingnut Republicans? I can tell you that many republicans saw his arrival in DC as the only hope that the party would not be destroyed by the Plame scandal, not because he would cover it up — but precisely because they were confident he would NOT allow it to be covered up. When he immediately appointed PatFitz, many good, honest, ethical, decent republican lawyers breathed a sigh of relief.

Pretty much from the day he arrived, the word was that Comey was effectively running DOJ and that Ashcroft was off at his farm in Virginia doing the planning work for his next job, and taking care of his health.

Certainly, Comey became the guy with his finger in the dike trying to hold back the worst of the WH power grab and trying to protect his beloved DOJ from the unethical assault that was to come.

You may have noticed from Marcy's timeline and Jane's post building on it, that the really outrageous things which were apparently in the planning stages for a long time, could not be executed while Comey remained in office.

Alas, he's gone.

What was the administration in such a hurry to have signed, anyway? If John Ashcroft wouldn't sign it, and arose from his dire illness to say so, it must have been reeeeeally reeeeally reeeeeally bad, because Ashcroft was quite the little Bushkisser in his day.

So now we have Alberto Gonzales confidently obstructing justice because he's head of the Department of Justice and he is in charge of appointing special prosecutors to investigate heinous crimes like the ones he probably just committed - a jumbo conflict of interest.

Here's our President responding to questions asked by the press. We could hardly pay attention, because he reminded us how scared we should be of those terrorists again.

Speaking of scared, if you want a better idea of what it's like to live under surveillance-- especially if you think it can't happen to you, go see "The Lives of Others" Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film about life under the Stasi in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a timely tale, that illuminates life in a police state, and its effect on the human spirit. Or you can skip the art, and take your dose directly from the Frontline Special Spying on the Home Front right now, in the comfort of your home.

Well guys, we have the gulags, it's just a question of who will be locked up in them.

Photo note: I just knew I would need some good wiretapping shots. I've been collecting them.

Posted by Dakota at 09:54 AM

May 15, 2007

Tata Reverend F.


God smote
Jerry Falwell

perhaps for
his words
or his deeds
or simply because
his heart was

Photo note: An angel waving goodbye (angels don't do good riddance) on location at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Addendum #1:The Reverend's bio on film

Addendum #2:MSNBC, desperate to fill the obligatory hours of eulogizing, takes the bait

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Posted by Dakota at 10:25 PM

May 14, 2007

The Law of Attraction Strikes Again


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Goodness, we spent all of our bloggish time yesterday writing a letter to the editor. Unfortunately it was not on the subject of Republican corruption. There are so many scandals from which to choose these days that one needs an illustrated map. No, it was about a smaller issue, but an important one to arbiters of good taste. The following letter has been edited for snide.

I was heartbroken this weekend when I discovered five newly poured footings along the bluffs on the avenue. I fear that more granite monument benches will appear above them shortly. In 2002 the family of Peter Gay, who died on 9/11, erected the first one. That is understandable. However, they seem to have proliferated.

I know that the families who have presented these gifts to the citizens of town are doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, as well as to honor loved ones they have lost who undoubtedly enjoyed the magnificent view of the Bay from the bluffs -- as do all of us. Since there are so many who love this vista, I worry that we will have granite benches three deep before the gifting stops

Granite is cold and it is hard. Often rain or dew accumulates on the surface, soaking the sitter in a most unpleasant way. Polished stone with carved inscriptions is more suitable to a cemetery than a beach. None of the designs are in keeping with the historic Victorian architecture of the village which residents have worked so hard to restore.

I plead with those who would give a bench to make it slatted and wooden (teak is low maintenance and sturdy), and to find an appropriate Victorian design . A small brass plaque in honor of their loved one could be attached to the back.

The bluffs were deeded to the town so that they would be forever preserved. This new trend seems to be in direct contradiction to that end. I hope it's not too late.


True, there are those of us who are heartbroken, but there are also those of us who are livid and would like to hire a jackhammer and a crane on the spot, which is what it will take to remove these permanent displays. We predicted that this would happen and have been complaining for years to all the wrong people. Ah, Esther Hicks is probably right about the law of attraction. We might have to lash ourselves to the footings to obstruct construction.

Photo note: A couple of slabs, enhanced by orange traffic cones, and one of the least offensive benches.

Posted by Dakota at 10:01 PM

May 11, 2007

For Mothers of Various Persuasions




All of us here at Dakota

Photo note: A fence belonging to some mother around the corner. Notice the single tulip that has lost its head

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Posted by Dakota at 09:00 PM

Bee News


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As you must have heard, bees are dying like flies.

Good news. There are no organic bee deaths. Sharon Labchuk, environmental activist and part time organic beekeeper tells Informationliberation:

I'm on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies. ...

Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

Seems like the bees have been stricken by agribusiness as have the cows, and the chickens and the salmon who are pumped up and pumped into, and ultimately poisoned for commercial reasons. Guess who's on the end of the food chain guys.

Photo note: Although there are undoubtedly better bee pictures in the archives, this is the only one I can locate at the moment. Bees are always busy, as you know, so they are often out of focus.

Posted by Dakota at 05:43 PM

May 10, 2007

Long shots


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All of us here at Dakota are mindless movie viewers, so it's a pleasure to discover the blog "Daily Film Dose" created by Canadian filmmaker and critic Alan Bacchus which will undoubtedly make us a more appreciative audience and improve our critical eye. For example, he has collected a series of long takes for our perusal. Of course we have seen every movie cited, and never even noticed.

As long as we're on the subject of movies, and it's almost the weekend, if you have a spare hour you might want to catch another long shot. If nothing else, it will improve your ability to view some iconic visuals a bit more critically. Given the depth of criminal behavior in the Bush administration that is slowly being revealed 9/11/Mysteries wouldn't be a bad way to while away your spare time.

Photo note: Our own little long shot down the corridor at Jim's Tibetan Hotel in Dali, China.

Posted by Dakota at 04:15 PM

May 09, 2007

Making Silk the Old Fashioned Way


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Yangshou is the destination village at the end of the beautiful Li River cruise. It's probably a hideous tourist trap to the Chinese, but it held much fascination for the western eye.

One of the dozens of charming and, admittedly, not so charming, shops along the main drag was a little worm- to-fabric, four person silk factory. You can see the final product hanging above -- it's silk, but I can't figure out how these little sacs, that are clearly stretched on the frames, become some silky product. Asking a complicated question was impossible at the time, and the internet has not been helpful. My guess is that this little factory is the equivalent of a Chinese Williamburg or Sturbridge Village, where a craft is practiced in an ancient way for the entertainment of tourists.


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The worms, probably dead from frostbite or steaming. Roasted, they make a high protein snack


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The cocoons, soaked and ready to be unwound.


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Unwinding the cocoons onto a frame, thus creating the little sacs of photo number one.

Photo note: as above

Posted by Dakota at 07:43 PM

May 08, 2007

A Taste of Contaminants


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Inspired by 9/11, a National Food Security Plan was developed in 2001. It should come as no surprise, given the condition of other major projects in this administration (take the reconstruction of New Orleans), that the Plan is stalled

"The bottom line is that the United States is being overwhelmed with food imports, and they are not being screened by the FDA," said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning.

"A lot of time and effort went into it, and the best minds of the agency were brought in," he said of the import protection plan. "It wasn't approved or disapproved. It was basically, 'We can't do this because we have no money. This is all good stuff, and it should be done, but we don't have money.' "

There is, however, a new urgency. The chemicals implicated in the pet deaths, identified as melamine and cyanuric acid, were found in protein ingredients used in human foods, ranging from bread to veggie burgers. One of the most common of these ingredients is wheat gluten.

After "retiring " from the FDA, William Hubbard went on to form The Coalition for a Stronger FDA, since he is clearly displeased by the agency's poor performance. No doubt the FDA, like most federal agencies these days, has been depleted and drained by fat cat neoconservative appointees who know nothing about the agencies they head, and care even less about their purposes.

Congressional critics say that the FDA is unable to protect the USfood supply

"This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road," said U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Michigan), chairman of the full House committee. Dingell is considering introducing legislation to boost the agency's accountability, regulatory authority and budget.

It is some comfort that, Revere, everybody's favorite epidemiologist over at Effect Measure doesn't think that these particular contaminants are all that harmful.... so far.

For perspective, take a peek at the chilling list of adulterated foods that can be found in China, compiled by an observant American blogger in Beijing. Some of this is undoubtedly coming your way. The list does not include diethylene glycol, a cheap glycerin substitute with a formula close to that of antifreeze, that's contaminating medicine. Put a little hair on your chop suey, didn't it?

Let us not judge China too harshly. Consider our own sinister part in poisoning food for bigger profits. Russia finds American chickens unsafe to eat and Korea doesn't appreciate American beef.

What do neoconservatives care about contaminated food anyway. They can afford to buy organic, and poisoning the poor is yet another way to thin out the democratic vote-- but not soon enough for 2008.

Why just yesterday, In the name of protecting Americans,Congress killed a bid to allow us to buy our medications abroad (Canada, Austraila, New Zealand, Europe) for a fraction of the price we currently pay.. The Commander had threatened to veto it anyway. The administration has made their priorities clear-- protect the profits of agribusiness and big pharmaceutical companies, rather than people

Photo note: A snack vendor in Lijaing, China, pedaling in heavy traffic, displaying his sticky wares without the benefit of saran wrap.

Posted by Dakota at 06:26 PM

May 07, 2007

Making a Spectacle


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Time for a movie. Here's the background. Storyteller Mike Daisey was performing an original monologue at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge last month. He was delighted to see a larger crowd than usual in the theater one evening.

Midway through his performance, ostensibly in reaction to the "F" word, as applied to Paris Hilton, 87 Christians, visiting from California, rose in unison and left the premises silently. One saw fit to pour water all over Daisey's script. Daisey handled it with aplumb.

The whole creepy event was captured on video for your edification.

It's puzzling why the group in question chose to attend in the first place. They must have known something about the general content of the performance. Perhaps it was to make a moral statement. At about $38 a ticket, not to mention the ensuing publicity, it seems that the theater benefited -- it was also $3000 that didn't go into the donation plate.

Photo note: The entrance to the Star Ferry that runs between Hong Kong and Kowloon all decked out for The Year of the Golden Pig. Also a spectacle.

Posted by Dakota at 11:01 PM

May 06, 2007



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Photo note: My Ladies Group met in a magnificent house by the sea, restored completely and solely by one of our members. We're not just talking pansies and paint, we mean plumbing and plastering. It's for sale, if you want to live in the light with the angels.

Posted by Dakota at 06:34 AM

May 04, 2007

Where Have All the Good Republicans Gone?


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James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General, an ethical Republican, testified yesterday in front of the House Judiciary Committee. You can watch the movies on YouTube. Comey is no longer with the Department of Justice. From a Law.Com article in 2005:

In a deeply partisan administration that places a high premium on political loyalty, sources say Comey -- a career prosecutor and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York -- is not viewed as a team player.

"[Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy," says the former official. "The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."

Comey declined to comment.

Comey's reputation as a prosecutor is that of a "straight arrow." He is perhaps best known for smoothing the relationship between federal prosecutors in New York and Northern Virginia -- sites of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, while he was the U.S. Attorney in New York.

When asked about the CIA leak investigation during his Senate confirmation hearing, Comey stated: "I don't care about politics. I don't care about expediency. I care about doing the right thing."

He's gone. He was clearly disturbed by the policies of the DOJ under Gonzales. From an email Comey wrote to fired federal prosecutor Bud Cummins

You're a good man and have handled this maelstrom with great dignity. Watching it causes me great pain for the USA's,whom I respect, and the Department, which I love. Regardless, I will not sit by and watch good people smeared. What's that quotation about all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent?"

Comey is speaking the truth -- quite a contrast to his superior's performance before the same committee.

Photo note: The contrast between light and darkness.

Addendum: Look at the testimony differences between Comey and William E. Moschella , Deputy Attorney General, Bush loyalist and big fat liar.

Posted by Dakota at 05:56 AM

May 02, 2007

Growth is Failure


I was curious about this bumper sticker, and of course went right off to the internet to see what I could pull up. In my explorations, I found an excerpt from David C. Korten's book, "When Corporations Rule the World" entitled "For the Love of Money"

The world's most powerful corporations are also active in shaping public policy in ways that virtually forces us into a pattern of overconsumption that yields large profits to themselves at the expense of our quality of living. Evidence is mounting that to make our societies sustainable we will have to restructure our systems of production and consumption to largely eliminate:

. Dependence on personal automobiles;
. Long distance movement of goods and people;
. The use of chemicals in agriculture; and
. The generation of garbage that we cannot immediately recycle.

In each instance, we have an opportunity to substantially increase the quality of our living while reducing our burden on the environment. Why aren't we doing it? Who wants to give over their living spaces to automobiles, take long business trips, eat contaminated foods, or live in a garbage dump?

One important reason we live this way is because it is profitable for politically powerful corporations. For example, the steel, automobile, construction, and oil companies have a major stake in policies that make survival without an automobile nearly impossible in most of our towns and cities. Chemical and agribusiness companies have had a similar stake in maintaining chemical and energy intensive agriculture systems that provide us with foods of dubious nutritional value laced with toxic poisons. Other industries benefit from encouraging our use of excessively packaged low durability products. So long as these corporate interests are allowed to dominate public policy processes, change is unlikely. Global civil society is mobilizing to reclaim the power that these interests have co-opted.

A recent juicy example of profiteering in the cavalier corporatocracy can be found in the FDA report on hog feed and melamine . The good thing about melamine is that it seems to have a quick and deadly effect, at least with pets. One doesn't have to wait for the cumulative long term effects in order to get the public's attention.

Wonder who benefits from corporate malignancy? In his op ed Hedging Disaster Robert Kuttner takes a peek at just how big the profits can get:

This past week, even jaded observers of Wall Street were startled to learn that last year's top hedge fund manager, James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, made $1.7 billion in 2006. Alpha Magazine reported that the top 25 hedge fund earners garnered an average of $570 million in 2006, up from $362 million in 2005.

The burgeoning hedge fund and private equity industries are both a cause and a symptom of a dangerously lopsided America. Because they are private (not listed on stock exchanges or offering shares to the public), these funds do not have to disclose their inner workings to regulators or to the public. Yet these unregulated funds are increasingly buying and selling some of our largest corporations, stripping assets, piling on debt, leaving employees and subsequent buyers to dig out of a deep hole.

The difference between hedge funds (unregulated mutual fund s for very wealthy individuals) and private equity (privately held firms that buy and sell entire companies) is collapsing, creating an unregulated sector of wild-west financial engineering rife with conflicts of interest.

Read enough?

I certainly have.

Sorry I never found a source for the bumper sticker. You'll have to make your own, While you're at it, subscribe to "Yes!"

Photo note: As above so below

Posted by Dakota at 07:10 PM

May 01, 2007

Creeping Up


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So much for spring break. It's back to harping once again, sorry folks, but democracy is important.

The Guardian (of course) published Naomi Wolf's sinister title Ten Steps to Fascism

....If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

Of course you must read the article in it's entirely to be properly horrified, but for those who find the subject boring, I have excerpted the Ten Steps below

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

You might choose to devote some real time to this thought, if you weren't trying to paste a smiley face on an empty gas gauge, as Esther Hicks would say--- You are where you are, do not deny that. If you do, watch the movie or read "The Traveler" then think a better thought.

Here are a couple of suggestions you might consider, but don't tell anyone you heard it here.

Did you see that a fifty foot "Mission Accomplished? "banner was unfurled in front of the White House today. Maybe not the one in Iraq isn't, but ........

Photo note: The bottom of a bird bath taken on location in Cambridge at the Pemberton Farms I shot a number of other lizards on this garden ornament, but I just know I'll need them later.

Posted by Dakota at 05:10 PM