Melamine Pet Food Guilty Plea

Was it that long ago? In April 2007, the FDA received 12,000 pet food complaint calls, more in one month than any entire year for any product. The company that imported the bulk melamine labeled wheat gluten issued a press release:

ChemNutra states that the firm “imports quality ingredients from China to the U.S. for the feed, food and pharma industries.

“We are a professionally managed, American owned company experienced in negotiating, securing and delivering ultra-competitive pricing on high-quality chemicals and ingredients from quality-assured manufacturers in China.

“We bridge the business and cultural gaps…including all regulatory, compliance, import and transportation requirements.”

But as the wheels of justice turn, ChemNutra officers have pleaded guilty to distributing a tainted ingredient used to make pet food that reportedly killed thousands of animals.

Bogus USA Freedom Rants

Mark Morford, SF Gate ColumnistDeny it at your peril.

This is the hilarious paradox of America, of modern life in general.

We do not actually want complete freedom. We don’t even understand what the hell such an unfettered beast would entail, really. As Thomas Hobbes so famously said, were mankind to live in a true state of nature, free of structure and laws and our million beloved social contracts, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” And who the hell wants that?

Most of us don’t really want government to stop protecting us from the world and ourselves, the FDA to stop making sure our foods aren’t poisonous, the EPA to stop checking on the water supply, the myriad agencies to stop making sure we don’t die every single day from 1,000 slings and arrows and outrageous growth hormones and insane militant right-wing murderous gun nuts.

How furious we get when something goes wrong because the government failed to regulate! How angry we get that the agency didn’t do its job, the law wasn’t enforced, the police didn’t respond, the rules were not followed, the warning label not clearly displayed, the restaurant not inspected, the meat not real, the doctor not certified, the corporation not ethical, the pothole not filled!

Barbaric, or what we want

And yet we seem reluctant to claim it.

The idea that we are trying to create a culture whose primary satisfaction is its beauty is not really such an extravagant thought. When we say that we desire a world in which nature is intact and animal life thrives; when we say that we desire human communities in harmony with nature; and when we say that within those communities human beings should be able to live in dignity, so that they can be something more than worker-consumers, we are arguing for a reality that is first aesthetic. Environmentalists argue for such a reality all the time. It is what they propose in the place of a barbaric culture of profit and violence. Even so, we are often seduced by the economic and scientific appeals to efficiency, sustainability, and prosperity, in spite of the fact that we suspect that these appeals are actually part of the problem. But in our heart of hearts we are not fooled. What we want is the beautiful.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein

New Summer Habit Needed

Handwashing is the primary means to stop the spread of the H1N1.

The White House sent a letter to every public school superintendent that outlines how to encourage handwashing to slow swine flu.

via barfblog

Peak Oil Chewing Gum

Have you ever thought about chewing gum? Asked any Mayan archaeologist lately?

By the late 1880s, Adams produced five tons of chewing gum daily. By 1930, chicle forests were nearly extinct, thus we’ve been chewing flavored petroleum and wax.

But now, the world’s first biodegradable chewing gum is coming to market.

link to Smithsonian

Toiletware for Equity

American Fez on bathroomology:

As there was no “business” to discuss at our morning meeting, some overbearing busybody with nothing better to do brought up the tedious topic of office etiquette. “I wish the guys among us would remember to put the seat down in the bathroom,” she bleated.

A reasonable enough request, no doubt, in normal circumstances, and normally I would have left the matter there, but the speaker was a grotesque and miserable cow whom I detest, so I didn’t.

“That seems a pretty old-fashioned and sexist code of conduct to me.” I said. “Since we are all equal at work these days maybe we should make an effort to be equal in the toilet also.”

I could almost hear the eyes-rolling in my colleagues’ heads, but bravely forged ahead with my argument anyway.

“Of course, I’m not suggesting that ladies should leave the seat up every other day on some kind of rota system,” I explained. “But if both men and women left the seat at a forty-five degree diagonal twixt bowl and the cistern, well, perhaps then we can achieve some sort of bathroomological gender parity on this issue.”

Unfortunately everybody ignored me.

“I was thinking it would be a simple matter of tightening the toilet seat hinges themselves, so that the seat can remain immovably elevated at the correct angle when the toilet isn’t in use,” I added to a quickly emptying conference room.

Too busy to bitch!

If boomers had any time, would they march in the streets?

“The home price declines to date have resulted in negative equity for approximately 50% of the remaining performing borrowers in the 2005-2007 vintages.

In addition to continued home price deterioration, unemployment has risen significantly since the third quarter of last year, particularly in California where the unemployment rate has jumped from 7.8% to 11%… The projected losses also reflect an assumption that from the first quarter of 2009, home prices will fall an additional 12.5% nationally and 36% in California, with home prices not exhibiting stability until the second half of 2010.

To date, national home prices have declined by 27%. Fitch Rating’s revised peak-to-trough expectation is for prices to decline by 36% from the peak price achieved in mid-2006. The additional 9% decline represents a 12.5% decline from today’s levels.”

So, what does an aging population do that has seen its retirement nest egg in the form of housing and stocks go literally nowhere for 12 years? You go back to work! David Rosenberg, now with Gluskin Sheff, offers us this insight:

“What really struck us in the employment report of a few weeks ago was the fact that the only segment of the population that is gaining jobs is the 55+ age category. This group gained 224,000 net new jobs in May while the rest of the population lost 661,000. In fact, over the last year, those folks 55 and up garnered 630,000 jobs whereas the other age categories collectively lost over six million positions. This is epic.”

“Moreover, the number of 55 year olds and up who have two jobs or more has risen 1.1% in the last year, the only age cohort to have managed to gain any multiple jobs at all. Remarkable.

“These folks have seen their wealth get destroyed by two bubble-busts less than seven years apart — the Nasdaq nest egg back in 2001 and the 5,000 square foot McMansion in 2007.

“Both bubbles ended in tears … and so close together.”

John Mauldin’s Newsletter

Going somewhere?

Rush University Medical Center:

After adjusting for age, sex, education and race, a higher purpose of life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of mortality.

Thus, a person with high purpose in life was about half as likely to die over the follow-up period compared to a person with low purpose.

The association of purpose in life with mortality did not differ among men and women or whites and blacks, and the finding persisted even after controlling for depressive symptoms, disability, neuroticism, the number of medical conditions and income.

White Coat Lobby

The AMA only represents 15.0% or 135,300 practicing physicians in its 250,000 membership from approximately 900,000 practicing physicians in America. Since 1918 the Association is strongly against public health insurance. link

“William McGuire while running United Health Insurance received $1.6 billion in stock options from an insurance company doing its best not to provide health insurance,” cites Senator Bernie Sanders. link

Push pipes

FTTP (fiber to the premises) can boost the US economy by at least $440 Billion.

Full Broadband rollout can boost $110 billion per 30 million people.

There is about a 15% productivity boost from broadband.

Various studies calculate over 10 times GDP return from each dollar invested in broadband.

Scaling to gigabit access could increase GDP by about an extra 3% per year.

Now and Future Economy

I think there are rational pointers here, in this calm conversation at UK’s Guardian with economist Paul Krugman:

The idea that we sort of bounce along the bottom is all too easy to imagine.

Guardian: Is it just a story about the right dose of fiscal policy? What structural change would you advocate in the economy, to support recovery?

Krugman: Financial regulation. Rein in that monster. The huge increase in general private-sector leverage is at the core of how we got so vulnerable. We went for 50 years after the Great Depression without any major financial crises, and that, I think, was because we had a financial sector that didn’t let people get as deeply into debt as they have now.

Guardian: So rein in the financial monster and give a fiscal stimulus. So you would leave the American way of doing capitalism untouched?

Krugman: I’m not that cosmic in this stuff. But it is true that Gordon Gekko [the anti-hero of Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street, motto: Greed is Good] went hand in hand with the wave of financialisation. Corporations got more brutal and fiercer.

Debt pays off debt

Until we have somethin’ to trade, here’s how America’s economy works these days:

It is a slow day in the East Texas town of Madisonville.

It is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich tourist from the East is driving through town. He enters the only hotel in the sleepy town and lays a hundred dollar bill on the desk stating he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

As soon as the man walks up the stairs, the hotel proprietor takes the hundred dollar bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to pay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer then takes the $100 and heads off to pay his debt to the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmer’s Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute who has also been facing hard times and has lately had to offer her “services” on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel and pays off her debt with the $100 to the hotel proprietor paying for the rooms that she had rented when she brought clients to that establishment.

The hotel proprietor then lays the $100 bill back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler from the East walks back down the stairs after inspecting the rooms. He picks up the $100 bill and states that the rooms are not satisfactory. Pockets the money and walks out the door and leaves town.

No one earned anything.

However the whole town is now out of debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.

link to comments

Pill-aging

Why organized thievery in this nation?

Eli Lilly studies show Zyprexa didn’t alleviate dementia symptoms in older patients, but markets the drug to those very people.

Bloomberg finds internal company documents.

Our Political Premise Isn’t Real

It’s important to note now,

because business lobbyists and conservatives generally have launched a campaign to tell us …China and other low-wage countries are going to eat our lunch unless we tighten our belts and accept less (except, of course, for rich businessmen, who must have more “incentives” to “keep jobs here.”)

It’s nonsense.

As serious as America’s problems are, they are far less severe than those anywhere else.

And we have more weapons with which to fight those problems than anyone else does.

When rich businessmen want to talk down America’s prospects the best “ooga booga booga” they have is China. China has all our debt. China has low wages. China has us by the balls.

Bullshit. We have China by the balls.

Once rich, stay rich

Really interesting, though, is the hole Gladwell punches through the hoary stereotype we sometimes hold about America – that it is a classless meritocracy.

“While it appears meritocratic, in large part it is not.”

Gladwell cites studies showing that Europeans in the lowest economic classes have a far greater chance of moving up in the world than Americans.

“Once you are rich in America you stay rich… but if you are at the bottom it just never happens, statistically, it never happens that people make it. And that’s very different from western European counties.”

…so much for the land-of-opportunity myth.

1 in a million

UK’s Telegraph:

Gerrit Blank, 14, was on his way to school when he saw “ball of light” heading straight towards him from the sky.

A red hot, pea-sized piece of rock then hit his hand before bouncing off and causing a foot wide crater in the ground.

The teenager survived the strike, the chances of which are just 1 in a million – but with a nasty three-inch long scar on his hand.

He said: “At first I just saw a large ball of light, and then I suddenly felt a pain in my hand.

“Then a split second after that there was an enormous bang like a crash of thunder.”

“The noise that came after the flash of light was so loud that my ears were ringing for hours afterwards.

“When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road,” he explained.

Peak Oil or Not

Peaked Oil, p'shopped by azrainmainProvocatively, Peter Schwartz, a futurist planner who worked at Shell Oil in the 80s, said that peak oil is wrong, that “clean technology professionals shouldn’t believe what they hear about peak oil”.

zach wilson says, “This is such a stupid, intentional misrepresentation of the position of many advocates of the peak oil concept it is simply infuriating.

“Peak Oil has never been about supply, it has always been about flow rate.

“Peak oil is about whether or not we can maintain the current, expected level of oil production at current costs and if not, what the ramifications for that are.

“More expensive oil means that we’re spending more of our GDP on energy which means a lower quality of life across the board. Someone has to suffer, likely a lot of people have to make major sacrifices.

“At $125 a barrel, [we will be] spending 1/4 of our GDP on energy…. and as a result many dependent sectors of the economy will suffer – like food production and manufacturing.

Simon says,
“The more sophisticated Peak Oil arguments may be about flow rate, but the ones that permeate the popular media right now are all about the ‘end of oil’ which is of course sexier/scarier and make for better ratings.”

The Hustle Years

In case you didn’t sense futility in the Bush Administration, the mailing of tax rebate checks is shown to be utterly dumb.

Congressional Budget Office:

By itself simple observation of aggregate consumption over time may not detect the effect of rebates.

Yes, we cannot detect the effect. Call it $158 billion in chump change.

too little to offer

businessweek article

…that helps explain why America’s apparent boom was built on borrowing.

The information technology revolution is worth cheering about, but it isn’t sufficient by itself to sustain strong growth—especially since much of the actual production of tech gear shifted to Asia.

With far fewer breakthrough products than expected, Americans had little new to sell to the rest of the world.

Exports stagnated, stuck at around 11% of gross domestic product until 2006, while imports soared. That forced the U.S. to borrow trillions of dollars from overseas.

While Wall Street’s mistakes may have triggered the financial crisis, the innovation shortfall helps explain why the collapse has been so broad.

Game Theory has been nuthin’ but self-serving rather than true community and solid efforts?

A Bad Nine Years

Losses under Bush

Disocracy

RightWingNuts are seething over debt, but:

“The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office,” reported David Leonhardt in the New York Times yesterday.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.”

Leonhardt lists four factors that account for the present deficit — a $2 trillion difference from the surplus Clinton bequeathed to Bush. 37% can be attributed to the business cycle and the resulting lost tax revenue from two recessions. 33% comes from legislation — like Medicare Part D — signed by Bush. 20% is accounted for by Bush spending that Obama continued — examples being two wars, the Wall Street Bailout, and a portion of Bush’s tax cuts.

“About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February.”

On any waters

After 779 days continuously at sea, he writes in his blog post:

An Evolution of Sailing

From my humble, fragile, delicately balanced position at sea it appears to me that most of the world sees sailing as an exclusive activity for rich white men.

100 years ago as working sail died out and faded as a necessity of life we were left with the myth, history, poetry, song and legacy of Melville and Conrad. Wealthy men began racing and kept sailing from fading from the modern world.

Since then sailing has evolved along with man’s scientific knowledge. As man strives to sail faster and faster, boats have become sleeker and more built for speed, and the songs and figureheads have been left behind. In the 21st century it seems the common sailor has been left out entirely as corporations have taken over boatcrafting to market racing. We have forgotten that nature and the spirit never hurry.

The Tao and other ancient wisdom says, “Racing maddens the mind”. Racing hurries over the face of the sea driven by more and more money. After a lifetime of meeting sailors, I have come to realize that for many, it is the only way they think they can get out on the water. Then those that do manage to go on their own are so influenced that they think they have to go fast.

My reaction to this is to act out the ancient fables like Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The things that I discover match the metaphors of sailing myth, song, poetry and our soul’s longing for distance.

If sailor’s goals were to search for our hearts highest longings and sailors made an effort to share this, then sailing could be perceived as a beneficial activity for the betterment of humankind.

This Chi process of living in reverence to tradition and spirit, once reincorporated into sailing will make sailing and those doing it evolve. More inspired people will feel joy, then let their spirits free to voyage on any waters and space to eternity: This is a course I propose we set in our sailing and life endeavors.