New Seal for the Great

Condom, the Seal of the USAA new national seal to reflect the current age:

The condom allows for inflation,
halts production,
destroys the next generation,
protects a bunch of pricks,
and provides security while being screwed.

Republican greed for votes

And greed it is. This graph reveals the truth about so-called smaller government and what Republican nonsense efforts to achieve power have cost us.

Ronald Reagan, first to increase debt by more than $100 Billion in one year.
Ronald Reagan, first to increase debt by more than $200 Billion in one year.

George H.W. Bush, first to increase debt by more than $300 Billion in one year.
George H.W. Bush, first to increase debt by more than $400 Billion in one year.

George W. Bush, first to increase debt by more than $500 Billion in one year.
George W. Bush has increased debt by more than $500 Billion AGAIN.
George W. Bush has increased debt by more than $500 Billion a THIRD time.
George W. Bush has increased debt by more than $500 Billion a FOURTH time!

Larger version here

The Levels of the National Debt under Democrats and Republicans

Burning witches, jailing addicts

Burning accused witches during the witch hunts may thus be compared to destroying confiscated whisky during Prohibition. – Thomas Szasz

Amsterdam’s ‘Centre for Drug Research’ ceased to exist as an independent drug research institution in 2004, but Peter Cohen left a few challenges to our thinking. Offering something completely different about our understanding of addiction, Cohen says

“I will offer an alternative description. I will try to create a definition that will make it possible to accept the behaviour we now call addiction and see it as a normal, although infrequent type of adaptation. Once we normalise the behaviour we no longer have to fear it, and organize massive and religious discriminations against this behaviour and its alleged cause, the drug.”

The person has been reduced to the enslaved bearer of a deranged brain.

In my world of learned control, the user is a rational being trying to reach rational goals by means of techniques that are hard to grasp for people who use other types of control to reach the same rational goals; that is to feel they master their environment, get a sense of belonging and to cope. In my view, people we call ‘addicted’ do the same things that people do that we call ‘not addicted’. The difference is their methods. It is like looking at homosexuals. They do the same things as heterosexuals, only their methods differ. To decide that they are ill, deviant, or self destructive is not science.

So, my pointing out that the word ‘addicted’ fits in a list of words like possessed, bedevilled or bewitched, is an attempt to change our way of explaining heavy drug use as the agent of magic, and to show that even ‘scientific’ approaches to this behaviour may mask devils and ghosts, and create Cardinals, Inquisitors, and Heretics.

Painted shame

I can’t help but think that it’s because many of the artist’s pictures are vaguely pornographic. Did you know Klimt painted the naked bodies of his women before painting on the clothes?

Left only with the politics

We know little about the rich. This most important scholarship barely exists. But it’s fun to moan.

Found at wood s lot, Glen Ford ramps his rant into fine rhythm:

When politicians offer nothing, and the people demand nothing, then the powers-that-be are free to continue doing whatever they choose.

The death knell of participatory politics can often be a very noisy, celebratory affair – such as we have witnessed in the call-and-response ritual of “Change!” “Hope!” and other exuberant but insubstantial campaign exercises.

Finally, the most accomplished slickster in presidential history, Bill Clinton, was compelled to expose Barack Obama’s “fairy tale” anti-war history – some truth for a “change.” Black Agenda Report knows the story very well, after more than four years of observing Obama’s descent from vaguely progressive rhetoric to shameless pandering (to whites) and vapid “Change!” mantra nonsense.

Only the rich can win this game.

Bitching about Obama? Ford seems to be warning us, “Although ‘change’ may come, it will be at the direction of the rich.”

This, my friends, is Globalization!

With no mention of China, the piece below may be several years old, yet it seems there’s only a piddling 4,000 listings on Google. Without success I searched for the original author until deciding if it screened through a Lee Iococca book or didn’t halt Buzz Aldrin, the author will likely press his claim with their publishers first.


What is the truest definition of Globalization?


Princess Diana’s death.


How come?


An English princess
with an Egyptian boyfriend
crashes in a French tunnel,
driving a German car
with a Dutch engine,
driven by a Belgian
drunk on Scottish whisky,
followed by Italian Paparazzi
on Japanese motorcycles;
treated by an American doctor
using Brazilian medicines.

This is written by a Canadian,
using American patents
with Taiwanese chips,
a Korean monitor,
assembled by Bangladeshi workers
in a Singapore plant,
transported by Indian truckers,
hijacked by Indonesians,
unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen,
and delivered downtown by Mexican illegals.

That, my friends, is Globalization!

Maybe the following from a previous post will add insight too:

When the rich steal from the rich, it’s Good Business;
When the rich steal from the rich for the poor, it’s Noblesse Oblige;
When the middle steal from the middle, it’s Corruption;
When the rich and the middle steal from the poor, it’s Fiscal Responsibility;
When the poor steal from the rich and the middle, it’s Crime;
When the poor steal from the poor, it’s Tough Luck.

High price makes it better

Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at the California Institute of Technology led a study using magnetic resonance imaging to observe the brains of 20 people as they were given the same Cabernet Sauvignon but with different prices. [story]

People given two identical red wines to drink said they got much more pleasure from the one they were told had cost more. The brain scans confirmed that their pleasure centers were activated far more by the higher-priced wine.

A wine retailer added, “Price is just one of the elements, but if you served the same wine in better glasses or a grander environment, that would also make people think the very same wine was better.”

Critics of the study say it might have been different if the particpants had been picking up the bill. Scott Rick, a researcher in neuroeconomics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said:

“There are people who derive pleasure from spending, and those for whom it is painful.

“In a study of 13,000 people it emerged that 15% were spendthrifts to whom spending gave pleasure and 25% were tight-wads to whom it gave pain, and the remaining 60% fell in between the two.”

US Agribiz no longer on top

While we pour blood and $1.5 trillion into Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA is no longer the world’s top agricultural exporter. Twenty years ago it would have seemed absurd….

10.jan.08 [via Agnet]
Fortune Magazine
Susanna B Hecht, Charles C Mann

After a half-century of dominance, the U.S. is losing its edge in agriculture to a booming, hi-tech Latin America powerhouse.

Today Soylandia, with nearly 60% of the world market, dominates the global soy trade. And Brazil the heart of Soylandia is an agricultural powerhouse. Not only is it the world’s biggest soy exporter, a title it seized from the U.S. in 2006, but it has the world’s biggest farm trade surplus, $27.5 billion last year. The U.S. farm surplus was $4.6 billion.

The leading producer of beef, poultry, pork, ethanol, coffee, orange juice concentrate, sugar, and tobacco, Brazil has seen farm exports grow an average of 20% a year since 2000, according to the USDA.

Warning us that there are bumps ahead, John Bogle, founder of the $1.3 trillion Vanguard mutual funds, says,

“At home, we have a tremendous future financial problem with the federal deficit. We’ll have to take action on Social Security someday. Government spending has gotten to the point where we will have to either cut spending or raise taxes. Another problem is this deadlocked Congress. And I see the quality and caliber of our presidential nominees, and I am not impressed. It raises the question of whether this country is even able to run itself anymore.”

But let’s not be certain about gloom! John Bogle asserts there’s much on the horizon too:

What’s the best investing advice you’ve ever received?

It was the best advice and the earliest advice. I was working at a brokerage house one summer while in college, and one of the guys who was another runner at the firm delivering securities said, “Let me tell you all you need to know about the investment business.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “Nobody knows nuthin’.” That sounds cynical, but we don’t know what the markets hold, certainly not in the short run. We have no idea.

There are many changes ahead, as always. Impatience in America can reshape our world. Impatience from poor workers in China can skew our sense of reality in a heartbeat. James Fallows at the Atlantic tries to explain “The $1.4 Trillion Question“:

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes.

In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China.

Counting Killer Whales

Orca whale under the mistThe Pacific Northwest, especially near Alaska and along the Queen Charlotte Islands is wet, more wet, and then it rains.

From early May until September in the early 1960s, I counted both trees and killer whales among the coastal islands and inlets. Of 150 summer days only 11 were dry.

I was paid to survey forests, to audit old growth trees and count new seedlings, but I was more than eager to cruise the channels to visit and count the Orca.

Orca 'Killer Whales' in the Queen Charlotte StraitTo live in these wilderness forty years ago, there were no eco-tours, kayak trips or government funded biology jobs. And I was too young.

I was 16 but I’d told the loggers in Sandspit I was 18 and raised with a chainsaw wearing nail bottom boots, joking that if hired I was ready to start in the dark. After a few months of logging, labor and learning, I took over the timber survey, a job that required boating among the islands.

During each day navigating not far from from shore but often many miles from camp, pods of orca whale would pass through the ocean straights and often very near my small inboard boat. I’d stop to drift quietly as they slowly passed. My breath would stop; a sensation of awe fused in the terrific experience of being among creatures so fitted in this great earth.

Intensive field research of the orca whale began in the late 1970s, finding three distinct type of orca that circulate the coastal waters. The ‘resident’ whales, with a shorter fin, can generally be seen during the summer from Alaska down in to Puget Sound. The more aloof ‘transient’ whales hug close to the entire western coast of North America. There’s a smaller number of ‘open ocean’ killer whales, often nicked and scarred because it’s believed part of their diet is shark.

Mountains meet the seaThe northern coast of the Pacific is rugged. I was amazed as the mountains met the sea as if an entire continent had been squeezed. Our beaches, grasslands and forests to the line of rock and snow were in one view, from ocean to mountain top, as if compressed into a shorter box.

I found it easy to climb these peaks yet I nearly fell into a crevasse while crossing a flow of ice. Trembling but holding strong to an edge, I was shunning the nightmare I would be found years later as my bones melted through the bottom.

Rainforest of the Queen Charlotte IslandsThe endless precipitation has lifted robust and endless forests, now among the most critical and endangered rainforests on earth.

These dense forests are western red cedar and spruce on pre-glacial land almost 14,000 years old that stretch from Oregon to Alaska. Among 100s of islands south of Alaska, many so close together I could squeeze my boat between them only at high tide, the Haida have survived at least 9,000 years.

Haida art, Raven Releasing the SunIn this bountiful damp, from southeast Alaska to the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, the Haida developed a unique and strong culture in equal clans of the Raven and the Eagle, legendary for their art such as ‘Raven Releasing the Sun’ or “Raven Stealing the Moon“,

Raven Stealing the Moon by Douglas Reynolds

Haida believe Humans are a direct result of the supernatural and natural. A first contact explorer noted that the “Haida were so intertwined with the super-natural world before contact that we used to have to sing and dance hard to prove we were human.”

Today it’s the totem pole and the bighouse of the potlatch that top the unique character of these varied tribes, and they too are great creatures also fitted to the earth.

Haida natives of the Northwest

First Nation potlatch bighouse

Prepare to stop the seal hunt

Blood covered ice during seal huntThe season of blood is approaching once again late this spring. Seals, young seals, baby seals, will be killed for their fur and their penises.

There’s a market for seal fur in Scandinavia, Russia and the Far East for clothing, boots, and garment trim.

Their penises are an aphrodisiac in China.

The lucky die quickly after being clubbed or shot. The wounded are skinned alive or escape to die beneath the ice.

A few years ago, Member of the Parliament of Canada John Efford declared to his cronies when he was the fisheries minister of Newfoundland,

“I would like to see the 6 million seals, or whatever number is out there, killed and sold, or destroyed and burned. I do not care what happens to them. The more they kill the better I will love it.” [AFC News]

A few years ago nearly half of Canada’s population had no idea there was a seal hunt. Today, most of the world is condemning the practice. And most local fisherman who have wielded the clubs and aimed the rifles also want out.

The Humane Society of the United States reports that more than 95 percent of the seals killed are under 3 months old. Veterinarians reported that in 42 percent of cases seals did not show sufficient cranial injury to guarantee unconsciousness at the time of skinning—in other words, they were skinned alive.

Perhaps more than six million have been killed in the last several years. As of October 2007, the Canadian government has banned journalists and observers from viewing the hunt, a garish and piddling $3million industry. Veterinarians who traveled to Newfoundland for the European Commission were also denied access.

[full article here]
[background faq here]
[Stop the Seal Hunt here]

Current biofuel policy is bunk

The easiest way to find out if we’re going in the wrong direction is to discover it’s supported by Bush or Cheney.

The Ecological Society of America, the nation’s professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists are warning that the current mode of biofuels production will degrade the nation’s natural resources and will keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.

The Administration’s ethanol policies are crony capitalism at best. The ESA has developed a set of principles that better ideas.

Biofuels sustainability: Nation’s ecological scientists weigh in on biofuels
from a pres release
WASHINGTON, DC — The Ecological Society of America, the nation’s professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position statement that offers the ecological principles necessary for biofuels to help decrease dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Society warns that the current mode of biofuels production will degrade the nation’s natural resources and will keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.
“Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax breaks and tariffs,” says ESA. “Future systems based on a combination of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability.”
Three ecological principles are necessary:
1) SYSTEMS THINKING: Looking at the complete picture of how much energy is produced versus how much is consumed by extracting and transporting the crops used for biofuels. A systems approach seeks to avoid or minimize undesirable production side effects such as soil erosion and contamination of groundwater. Consistent monitoring is critical to ensure that biofuel production is sustainable.
2) CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Maximizing crop yield without regard to negative side effects is easy. On the other hand, growing crops and retaining the other services provided by the land is far more challenging, but very much worth the effort. For example, lower yields from an unfertilized native prairie may be acceptable in light of the other benefits, such as minimized flooding, fewer pests, groundwater recharge, and improved water quality because no fertilizer is needed.
3) SCALE ALIGNMENT: How agriculture is managed matters at the individual farm, regional, and global level. Policies must provide incentives for managing land in a sustainable way. They should also encourage the development of biofuels from various sources.
“The current focus on ethanol from corn illustrates the risks of exploiting a single source of biomass for biofuel production,” says ESA.
Continuously-grown corn leads to heavy use of fertilizers, early return of land in conservation programs to production, and the conversion of marginal lands to high-intensity cropping. All of these bring with them well-known environmental problems associated with intensive farming: persistent pest insects and weeds, pollution of groundwater, greater irrigation demands, less wildlife diversity, and the release of more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. Ironically, one of the touted benefits of biofuels is to help alleviate global climate change, a benefit that is considerably diluted under a high-intensity agriculture scenario.
The Ecological Society of America will contribute more to this timely issue in a few months when it convenes a conference devoted to the ecological dimensions of biofuels.
Like other organizations, ESA is also concerned about the hardship on the nation’s poor communities as higher crop prices drive up the cost of food.
It has been said that biofuels have achieved cult-like status and in the rush it is only too easy to overlook the big picture of environmental implications. Iowa alone has planted more than a third of its land surface with corn and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal government has some 20 laws and incentives to boost ethanol use.
A biofuels infrastructure that incorporates systems thinking, conserves ecosystem services, and encompasses multiple scales can best serve U.S. citizens, the economy, and the environment.
–Note to Reporters– Registration for the ESA Biofuels conference is waived for reporters with recognized press credentials. Interested press should contact Nadine Lymn ( to register for “Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels.”
The Ecological Society of America is the country’s primary professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the world. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has pursued the promotion of the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. For more information about the Society and its activities, visit the ESA website at

New York’s mayor Bloomberg says,

“The part of the bill that, uh, requires using more ethanol was an outrage,” Bloomberg said. “That is going to drive up the cost of food for everybody in this country and have world-wide implications on the food supply. The bottom line is you cannot keep growing corn for ethanol and have reasonably priced food in our country. Farmers are already walking away from planting wheat and soybeans and other things to go over and plant corn because they’ll be able to sell this corn to be used in ethanol plants.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the ethanol that is made is fuel efficient or anything else. It’s just, it’s a farm bill rather than an energy bill and I’m not even sure it’s good farm policy. Most of the farm things that we do don’t benefit most farmers. They just benefit ten percent of the more industrial-sized farms. And the small farmers who we really should be helping in this country, who needs a lot of help isn’t sharing in that. So it’s bad energy policy and probably bad agricultural policy.” [link]

New attack against street drugs

Here’s a new way to fight drug dealers.

It might be scary and it certainly will require sensible cooperation from prosecutors and the bench, especially from the robots and bounty hunters at the federal level.

According to this story from the BBC,

Sandra Bergen, 23, suffered a heart attack and spent 11 days in a coma after taking crystal methamphetamine.

She said in her court claim that the dealer “knew the drug was highly addictive” and that his dealing was not only “for the purpose of making money but was also for the purpose of intentionally inflicting physical and mental suffering” on her.

“I sued him for negligence… for selling me drugs and getting me hooked when I was vulnerable.”

It seems the Canadian court has granted her $50,000 in compensation, and she’s awaiting a date to determine damages.

Farming top cause of global warming?

Patrick Metzger at Green Daily noticed a new twist about the causes of the greenhouse effect:

A new report from Greenpeace says that agriculture is one of the biggest sources of the greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming.

The report from researchers at the University of Aberdeen estimates that between 17% and 32% of all human-generated greenhouse gases come from farming.

The largest part of the gases (about 32% of the farm total) comes from nitrous oxide produced by chemical fertilizers, with cow flatulence in second place at 27%.

One part of this Greenpeace report requires fact checking.
Flatulence is the burping of ruminant livestock. It’s methane created by fermentation bacteria in one of the animal’s stomach chambers. A cow burps 280 liters (75 gallons) per day, but the carbon in this gas is not new carbon.

The critical point that is being missed is where this carbon comes from.

Cars, ships, etc.:
This carbon comes from carbon that has been buried deep underground. It is unearthed, burned, and then released into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released is added to carbon already present in the atmosphere = global warming.

Cows, agriculture:
This carbon comes from the atmosphere. The plants take up the carbon dioxide. Livestock then eat the plants and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released by the cows was already in the atmospher to begin with (carbon neutral) = no global warming.

The problem isn’t the re-releasing of carbon that was already in the atmosphere (livestock, agriculture), but the unearthing of new carbon sources (gas and coal) and then adding these to the atmosphere.

Food for thought
Phillip Barker posted an interesting comment at a BBC story on the impact of livestock:

“Your findings and calculations cause me to wonder if human contributions to global warming gases are a wash considering the billions of wild bison, water buffalo, rhinos and elephants no longer producing these dangerous gases due to our eliminating them from the planet.”

Stunted by smog

Women who live close to air pollution from roads have smaller babies.

“We found that mothers that were exposed to generally higher levels of air pollution had generally smaller babies.”

But only a matter of millimeters.

Urban Farming Contest

Jules Dervaes and his family at Home Grown Revolution are readying to harvest 10,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in 2008 from merely 1/10 acre.

Can 1/10 of an acre (about 4,300 sq ft; 400 sq meter) grow a cornucopia of 10,000 pounds without using synthetic fertilizers? We are talking about a piece of land equivalent to 65’x65′! Read more

They’re not kidding. In 2003, they surprised themselves with 6,000 lbs (3 tons) of fruits, vegetables and herbs on their Pasadena 1/10 acre. Now they’re challenging the world by attempting to harvest five tons from their city lot.

Jules says, “Our leaders, being politicians, are not leaders at all but are bound to be followers, who just won’t be there for us in a crisis. So, it’s up to me and you to make the choice of becoming responsible stewards of the earth.”

Increasing and diversifying how we use land might become important sooner than we think. The agriculturists at AllAboutFeed report that food prices will rise continuously for the foreseeable future. They report that much of the increase in prices is a result of world growth and “the only way to slow that significantly would be through war, pandemics or chronic health issues“.

Although alarm about shortages and high prices may not be prudent, a steady re-invigoration of local farming, and backyard farming, can be truly beneficial.

I’ve lived in an era where the portent of disaster, such as atomic annihilation, germ warfare and now hoards of angry jihadists will destroy us, or for that matter something as innocuous as the Y2K bug! I can’t listen anymore. But nuthin’ could be finer than ripe tomato on my china…. Let’s learn to enjoy using our land.

Diplomats standing against Bush

Reuters and many news services are reporting that nearly half of our professional diplomats are refusing to serve in Iraq saying they do not support the Bush administration’s policies. Well, duh.

There are 11,000 personnel listed as US Foreign Service in the State Department, the Agency for International Development, the Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agriculture Service, and the International Broadcasting Bureau.

And almost half of the US Foreign Service think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is doing a “poor job”.

Are ideas property?

From the pirate community, where copyright battles are daily and increasingly costly, here’s part of the argument from TorrentFreak:

The same way light confuses scientists by existing as particles and waves at the same time, information increasingly seems to confuse us. Information is getting cheaper and more expensive at the same time, and it appears that many of us, especially those of us who own or control a great deal of it, no longer understand how to observe or use it.

We live in a world where it is legal for a company to patent pigs, or any other living thing except for a full birth human being, but copying a CD you bought onto your hard drive is considered an infringement of someone else’s rights. A place where an average law abiding citizen could owe more than $12 million dollars in fines if they were sued every time they accidentally violated copyright law in a single day. A society where it’s ok for each of us to be hit with 5,000 advertising messages every 24 hours, usually without our permission, but creating a piece of art and placing it in public yourself without permission can land you in prison. This isn’t just about the pros and cons of file sharing – this is about an entire species losing its sense of perspective, failing to understand the potential of one of its most precious (and yet most abundant) resources.

Many of us are confused about whether our ideas should count as information, or property.

No loss of tropical forests?

I’m very cautious when issues become popular. Our culture will rush to fashion. Politicians and marketers will tilt into the crowd. Mistakes will increase. For example, while building a low impact sustainable future is necessary and will greatly enrich us, premature corn ethanol policies may soon embarrass us.

And the trumpeting for a green future is too often rhetoric, crafted to raise attention rather than explore details. For example, even well-intentioned groups such as the Rainforest Action Network or the World Wildlife Fund persistently raise the alarm about deforestation saying we raze tropical forests, but one of the world’s leading experts on tropical deforestation at the University of Leeds reports that the decline of tropical forests cannot be backed up by hard evidence.

“Every few years we get a new estimate of the annual rate of tropical deforestation. They always seem to show that these marvelous forests have only a short time left. Unfortunately, everybody assumes that deforestation is happening and fails to look at the bigger picture – what is happening to forest area as a whole.”

“The errors and inconsistencies I have discovered in the area data raise too many questions to provide convincing support for the accepted picture of tropical forest decline over the last 40 years.”

Despite the large errors attached to present estimates, the lack of apparent decline in tropical moist forest area suggests that deforestation is being offset by natural reforestation at a higher rate than previously thought.

I support both the Rainforest Action Network and particularly the World Wildlife Fund. These are brave, prescient and witty folks that helped carve our awareness while pioneering difficult projects and inventing new economics. Frankly, I’m posting this to encourage fact checking. We’ll need it.

Ed Ring at EcoWorld is a number cruncher, rare and important. Here’s his current take on rainforests:

(1) The mainstream press is beginning to see – rather late in the game – that the subsidized market for biofuel has unleashed catastrophic rainforest destruction, and (2) Yet again it is apparent that the journalistic value of “fact checking” does not extend to quantitative data – and that value is needed now more than ever.

It’s clear there’s more argument than agreement, fewer facts than beliefs. It’s important to have government’s cooperation to deliver facts, to repudiate foolish laissez-faire experiments, and to end game theory population management. We need to invigorate mere leadership and the facts are part of that

Snails passing through

San Lorenzo RiverA small mud snail from New Zealand is threatening US river fish.

It’s a threat across the country including smaller coastal rivers such as California’s San Lorenzo. The river travels only 30 miles from 2500 feet in coastal mountains before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay [wiki]

Mud snails gobble up the same bacteria and algae that sustain flies and river insects, reducing the food available for native fish. If they overwhelm a watershed, mud snails can displace 95 percent of the bugs and invertebrates!

New Zealand mud snails in the San Lorenzo RiverIn New Zealand, the snails are preyed upon by 3 kinds of fish and 14 species of worms. But in California, there’s no predator capable of extracting them from their shells. The snails snap shut to pass through ducks and fish virtually unharmed.

The snail is here.
Only changing people can rescue some rivers. People can help the remaining fish survive. For example, there’s only a few thousand fish surviving in the San Lorenzo. The overall health of streams and rivers has become critical. There’s no question we must reduce Army Corp-style flood engineering, erosion from construction, power plants, public works and road repair, plus increase control of litter and toxics.

Pajaro River leveeHumans slap shut too
South along the California coast is another of America’s most endangered smaller rivers flowing into Monterey Bay. The Pajaro River is a disaster as well. Old-fashioned industrialization is killing it.

Slow as snails, lazy institutions are failing to deal with the watershed’s problems.

While many farmers are learning to support biology and the environment, the Pajaro River has been slapped with erosion and concrete over decades and there’s a new tussle with the Army Corps’ plan to spend $200million merely to chop vegetation and raise levees rather than secure the river’s health.

Before the Golden Gate appeared as a geologic exit, all the waters of the San Francisco Bay and the San Joaquin Delta flowed over this area – through the Chittenden Gap and into the Pajaro River Watershed before reaching the Pacific at Monterey Bay.

Leafy green progress

Doug Powell
The good microorganisms out-compete the bad, so no one will get ever get sick.
I’ve heard variations of that from a lot of organic growers over the past decade — yet there is no evidence that such claims are true.
But there is lots of evidence that people get sick from fresh produce — organic, conventional, or otherwise.
It’s all about the bugs.
Ian Davidson of BioLogic Systems LLC writes in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning that there is, “a microbial force field around the plant that is naked to the human eye. By inoculating plants with these beneficial organisms, it is virtually impossible for pathogenic organisims to even touch the plant, because the beneficial aerobic organisms are in such dominance. These beneficial organisms can easily eliminate the pathogen, or simply outcompete it for food resources.”

One of my students heard the same thing back in 2000. I sent her on a day long workshop to learn how to be an organic inspector. Microbial food safety was never mentioned, until my student brought it up at the end of the day, and was told, no worries, the good bugs keep the bad bugs at bay.
Yet fresh produce remains the single biggest source of foodborne illness today.
Sure, soil microbiology is complex, but until our knowledge increases, I’ll side with the victims of foodborne illness. And there’s a lot of them,

Selling your loyalty

I don’t know the criteria Reuters would use to determine what’s newsworthy, but while I was reading this January 2008 story it seemed to me it should be national front page news:

How Supermarket Purchases Violate Your Privacy and Increase the Cost of Insurance

In May 2007, the Harvard Business Review published an extensive ‘analysis of analytics’ in the retail sector and how our shopping habits have become a new source of profits. [The Dark Side of Customer Analytics, sub required]

Supermarket and chainstore management have stumbled into new profit centers in the unregulated ‘agriculture of population’ – data mining of purchase history. For example, ten years’ worth of customer data from southern Michigan supermarkets revealed that customers purchasing unhealthy products had more medical claims. Analysts teamed up with sales to create a new health plan for customers with healthy diets, increasing the premiums or refusing coverage for customers with sloppy diets. The insurance firm is establishing your premium based on what you’ve been eating.

Health, life and auto insurance companies are buying retail data and recording purchases linked to your name. Trisha Torrey at Every Patient’s Advocate asks, “How will it affect you?”

“Well — suppose you purchase wine from the supermarket, then drink it at home that night. The next day you drive to work and someone broadsides your car. Later, in court, the defense brings up that fact that YOU purchased alcohol the day before the accident, so perhaps it was your fault?

“Or maybe you want to purchase life insurance. The insurance company pulls up your records, finds out you have an affinity for doughnuts (even though you really bought them to take to work every Friday, how do they know you weren’t the one who ate all of them?), you’ve got a problem with acid reflux, plus the fact that you have a large dog (because you buy so much dog food so often) AND they notice that you never buy condoms (will they make a leap to STDs too?) — bottom line — they’d be glad to sell you life insurance, but the price will be higher than it might have been if they weren’t concerned by those unhealthy purchases you make….”