Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The American Apartheid Will Rise Again

Have you heard of The Jena 6? I hadn't, until recently. (TGTDN! Thank Goodness There's Democracy Now!)

I'm running more short on time than usual, but follow the links. You'll think you're in the fucking past -- not just because this happened, but because it isn't being addressed nationally the way it absolutely must and should be.


In other news, another shocking story from the August 1 Democracy Now!, though a wholly different level/kind of shocking. Bottled water apparently, wait for it... isn't all that great! Specifically, several more companies have admitted their bottled water is freaking tap water from public utilities:
"...most people don't know that Pepsi's Aquafina, Coke's Dasani, comes from our public water systems... Nestle owns several dozen brands of bottled water. The bottled water brand they source from our public water systems is called Nestle Pure Life. They also own Poland Spring, Ozarka, Arrowhead. The list goes on. And regionally, it's distributed across the country. And then we also have Coca-Cola, which bottles Dasani water, and, or course, Pepsi with Aquafina." -- Gigi Kellett, Associate Campaigns Director at Corporate Accountability International
I know people have railed at bottled water before, but the thing is, it doesn't seem to have taken. Dennis Miller ranted about it some years ago, people laughed, and that was the end -- pass me the Dasani, please -- yes, the Dasani made of tap water that is essentially a 7000X markup on the original tap water. Yes, that's smart -- that's the efficient genius of capitalism at work. And it's not as if this conspicuous and senseless consumption is benign: "The environmental impact of the country’s obsession with bottled water has been staggering. Each day an estimated 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away. Most are not recycled. The Pacific Institute has estimated 20 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the plastic for water bottles." (Democracy Now!)

So unless you're in the land of Montezuma or somewhere else without improved sanitation and US water quality, you might want to consider at least buying a Britta and a reusable sports water bottle -- you can get the same water quality at almost 1/7000 the price, AND cut down on "foreign oil dependence", garbage, pollution, ozonation, and bone-headed capitalism.

Go to Corporate Accountability International and for more information on water; see Democracy Now! and, or just Google Jena 6 for more information on that topic.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm so funny!

Apropos of nothing, I had this conversation today and was dazzled by my own smrtniss, er, smartness, er CLEVERNESS:

Me: If Molly punks out, she'll be punking out on herself, and that's not cool.
Andrew: Yeah, that's true, it's not. But we've all done it.
Me (abashedly): Yeah, that's true.
Andrew: But that doesn't mean we can't still make fun of her for it. We can be hypocrites. (laughs)
Me: Yeah! Hypocrisy is AWESOME! (Pause) As long as I'm the one doing it.

Completely unrelatedly, and apropos to nothing especially that last thing, I've been meaning to write down a sort of declaration of principle that's been rattling around in my head for a while and I just wanted to "get it on paper," as it were. In this case, my paper is a self-aggrandizing blog, and I don't really want to get it down just to remember it, but also to be self-congratulatory. Disclaimers aside:

"It is not the purpose of government to require someone be extraordinary in order to survive. Rather, the true purpose of government is to help create and maintain a society where average people have what they need to live extraordinary lives."

I've been working on the exact phrasing for a while for my own edification, but I impressed myself with the sentiment. It's based largely on Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen and his analysis of "equalities," such as in "Inequality Reexamined." And of course, I use government here in a context of strengthened/a Strong "small-d" democracy, sensu Prugh, Constanza and Daly's "The Local Politics of Global Sustainability," the book that helped set my entire research agenda and career (such as it is right now) in place.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Sunday, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!

A message from Amanda Edmonds, ace Executive Director of local (Ypsilanti, Michigan) food security/organic urban gardening/food sovereignty nonprofit Growing Hope (see also post from the Growing Hope Blog):

Friends, Neighbors, Colleagues...

You know you love the Corner Brewery. If you haven't been there, you will love it-- promise. I don't even like beer YET STILL I love the Corner Brewery's beer. And, the Corner is smoke-free! Soooo, this Sunday we're having a fundraising beer tasting for GH and I'd love for you to come and support us, drink good beer, and hang out with other lovers of the Growing Hope... Beer for a good cause is good beer.

Join supporters of Growing Hope and connoisseurs of fine brew at Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti to support Growing Hope on August 26th from 3-5pm. Tickets price is $20 per person, which includes beer tasting (open bar!) for two hours plus appetizers. Tickets will NOT be sold at the door. You can buy tickets online from our website--, down at the bottom of the main page-- or reserve your spot by calling or emailing us. Give a hollar at 734.786.8401 or send an e-mail to and we'll put your name down! And there's more-- if you want to go ahead and get your tickets for Hope's Harvest (Sept 23 at Cobblestone Farm!) you can also get those on our website!

Growing Hope Beer Tasting
Corner Brewery
720 Norris St
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Sunday, August 26, 2007
$20 (for lots and lots of beer and food!!!)

Bring a friend or seven! If you're a blogger, please post for us!! Pass around to your colleagues and friends and neighborhoods. We've also got a few remaining spots for people to get in free by volunteering to be beer pourers. If you want one of those, drop a line!

See ya Sunday!

Growing Hope is dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening. Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, we work with neighborhoods, schools, community groups, and families to develop and sustain organic community growing spaces; we build on the strengths of individuals and the community to bring the benefits of gardens to all.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A largely "Untranslated" quickie on Genetically Modified Foods

Doing research for redrafting a paper/thesis chapter, I came across at least one recent study where genetically modified foods were fed to animals and then statistically tested to see how the animals reacted vs. a variety of other diets. They in fact used Monsanto's own data, released apparently 2 years ago under lawsuit in Europe (did anyone hear about this? I faintly recall something like that, you'd think it might've resurfaced in the news at some point).

So, the re-analysis found several abnormalities in GM-fed rats, especially in weight (lower in GM-fed rat males, higher in GM-fed rat females), and initial signs of damage to detoxifying organs (kidneys, liver). I read it quickly, it didn't seem that they used a statistical test to screen out the fact that when you do hundreds of stats on something, so number will be significant by chance -- I think there is a repeated measure test one can do. Any road, this is not my forté (stats) and I'll be returned to read this and similar studies more deeply, but this is the type of study we HAVEN'T much conducted on GM foods, on the "If it quacks like a duck" theory. ("If this GM duck quacks like a duck, then we can treat it like a duck, and assume it's safe to eat.") Of course, as I commented in an earlier post, I personally don't think our chemical understanding of proteins et al. is good enough to actually determine such "substantial equivalence," and it would seem reasonable to require animal testing as we do for drugs, what hey? (Drugs, pesticides, cosmetics -- but not food?) Clearly, I think this study needs to be followed up on, in exactly the way people aren't these days: animal studies and similar epidemiology, not dissolving GM food in a tube and analyzing its chemical content, when it's not even clear we'd understand pertinent differences if we found them (i.e. the extreme difficulties in determining protein three dimensional structure, which is at least as important as any other chemical characteristic in determining its effects, if not more so.)

Abstract of the paper for those without academic library access (reprinted here under a fair use assumption):
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007
New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity

Gilles-Eric Séralini1, 2 Contact Information, Dominique Cellier1, 3 and Joël Spiroux de Vendomois1
(1) Committee for Independent Information and Research on Genetic Engineering CRIIGEN, Paris, France
(2) Laboratory of Biochemistry, Institute of Biology, University of Caen, Caen, France
(3) Laboratory LITIS, University of Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France

Contact Information Gilles-Eric Séralini

Received: 18 July 2006 Accepted: 20 November 2006 Published online: 13 March 2007
Abstract Health risk assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cultivated for food or feed is under debate throughout the world, and very little data have been published on mid- or long-term toxicological studies with mammals. One of these studies performed under the responsibility of Monsanto Company with a transgenic corn MON863 has been subjected to questions from regulatory reviewers in Europe, where it was finally approved in 2005. This necessitated a new assessment of kidney pathological findings, and the results remained controversial. An Appeal Court action in Germany (Münster) allowed public access in June 2005 to all the crude data from this 90-day rat-feeding study. We independently re-analyzed these data. Appropriate statistics were added, such as a multivariate analysis of the growth curves, and for biochemical parameters comparisons between GMO-treated rats and the controls fed with an equivalent normal diet, and separately with six reference diets with different compositions. We observed that after the consumption of MON863, rats showed slight but dose-related significant variations in growth for both sexes, resulting in 3.3% decrease in weight for males and 3.7% increase for females. Chemistry measurements reveal signs of hepatorenal toxicity, marked also by differential sensitivities in males and females. Triglycerides increased by 24–40% in females (either at week 14, dose 11% or at week 5, dose 33%, respectively); urine phosphorus and sodium excretions diminished in males by 31–35% (week 14, dose 33%) for the most important results significantly linked to the treatment in comparison to seven diets tested. Longer experiments are essential in order to indicate the real nature and extent of the possible pathology; with the present data it cannot be concluded that GM corn MON863 is a safe product.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Trifectas: Clarence Thomas and the J Continuum

As loathe as I am to be put into any sort of sentence, group, state, country, or world along with Supreme Court "Justice" Clarence Thomas, this is my third post for today -- a trifecta of non-thesis related work -- and this Slate article uses my favorite word to describe the assholish stylings of Thomas as he pretends, ever so faintly, to have used principles to come up with unprincipled decisions on free speech and integration. Some money shots:
Despite the vast differences between public education then and public education today, Justice Thomas evidently believes the question of whether students have free-speech rights should be answered by conducting an imaginary séance with 18th- and 19th-century Framers and ratifiers, who should be asked: Do you think public-school students have a constitutional right to free speech while in school? This line of inquiry is about as productive as asking an only child: Imagine you have a sister. Now, does she like cheese?...

...he asks how those alive at the relevant time would have applied that language to a set of facts different than we face today. This elevates the expectations of the ratifiers and Framers over the meaning of the text itself. But the meaning of the text—as Justice Thomas surely would agree—must be paramount over the subjective expectations of any individual, whether alive or dead...

For someone lauded as the originalist's originalist, this is a pretty weak showing. For someone looking to advance a conservative political agenda, however, these three cases constitute a sort of trifecta: Curtail voluntary integration and student rights while boosting the rights of corporations. Not a bad couple of weeks... [i]n two of the three most important cases of the past term, Thomas was forced to abandon originalism—his version of it, anyway—in order to reach a politically conservative result. In the other, his originalist reasoning was weak at best.

Go. Read the whole article.

God I hate Clarence Thomas.

That's Right, Irrelevant Exuberance: Slate Writer Calls for Iraq Withdrawl

Philip Carter, Slate writer and correspondent for their "War Stories" column, and himself an Iraqi veteran, is calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. (Indeed, in May he outlined a plan for it.) I don't consider him to be the world's biggest dove, proof 1 of which might be the fact that he served in Iraq. You can object to war on principle and still serve in the Armed Forces, but that hardly qualifies you for pacifist-of-the-year. What I'm saying is, this is yet another call from someone who can hardly be characterized as a crazy left commie pinko effectively pro-terrorist weak-kneed girly man, but someone who a) seems to know what they're talking about and b) would likely support a politico-military "plan for victory" in lieu of withdrawing if, in their opinion, there was one. I've had something like this viewpoint for a while now, but it's nonetheless good to see it gaining steam, some years later than I'd've liked. (And while one may say, "Well, years ago we didn't know it would turn out like this," please see some of the other countries we've reconstructed post-WWII-reconstruction: Haiti (#1 poorest country in our hemisphere, very high intervention by the US for decades), Nicaragua (#2 poorest country in our hemisphere, high intervention, most of it illegal i.e. Iran-Contra), Afghanistan (not doing so hot), Guatemala (ended up helping a prolonged civil war continue with thousands of civilians killed), Greece, Brazil, Grenada, Libya, overthrowing the democratically elected Shah of Iran, and sundry other examples. In other words, there was no real reason to think intervention by the US was going to lead anywhere good in this case either. Go ahead, closely examine the history of US intervention -- results like those we've seen in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Iran are far more common than those for post WWII aid to Germany and Japan.

A distant cousin (but close childhood friend) once said that he wanted to go into the field of history to make sure that the US learned its lessons and never went completely the way of the British Empire through the course of making the same mistakes, for the love of God. He's since gone into a different area -- it doesn't seem like the slack's been taken up on this one, hmm?

US' falls further behind in Gender Equality

Hello, faithful readers, and people who googled this page by mistake.

So, there are numerous ways one could imagine in which the US falls further behind in gender equality. In this case, it's in our running series, "Countries that already have had elected female heads of state." This includes places from Ireland to Liberia to Pakistan to the UK to Jamaica. It does not, sadly, include us, the US.

Today, India has joined the august body of people with female heads of state before the so-called leaders of the free world. (That's us again.)

That still doesn't mean I'm for Hillary Clinton. J-Friend APVS recently pointed out that, despite not having terribly strong identification with Hillary politically, she thought that having a woman as prez of the US (or a black man, an equality concern for a different day) behind the podium every day for 4 or 8 years, standing, sitting, signing there as the so-called leader of the blahdyblah blah would be an extremely potent visual. (I took some liberties with APVS's exact phrasing).

We here at the Continuum agree, but strongly disagreeing with Hillary on matters of policy (or, more precisely, not trusting her to do the few liberal things she's mentioned and trusting the loopholes she's left herself in the rest will get well-used) we're not ready to vote for her. On Iraq, we find her very disappointing, and on everything else, mediocre at best. We -- er, I, sorry for the affectation -- don't trust Obama, for his part, because his resolve hasn't been significantly tested, and I'm still very very disappointed/frightened by his noises during his Senate campaign about rethinking the wisdom of legalizing gay marriage and the possibility of attacking Iran. It's not just that he said these things that I disagree with, but that he said them in a race he almost couldn't possibly lose. NO ONE likes Alan Keyes. Illinois voters seemed more likely to ask Dick "Dick" Cheney out for a drink than Alan "I hate Carpetbaggers like Hillary Clinton" Keyes "Carpetbagger for Senate '04." The man was not popular, and not just because his voice sounds like Jon Stewart doing an impersonation of the doctor guy from the Simpsons after having had his nose broken. If you can't stand up for liberal positions when your insane-oh "my gay child is going to hell, ha ha" conservative opponent is so thoroughly disliked by everyone and has no chance of winning ("Hmm, we can choose a black man or a black man brought in by the Republicans for the sole reason that he's a black man to compete with the other black man"), then I have nooooo faith that you'll make the hard, correct progressive calls I'm looking for when your gonads are really on the line.

So. Yes. India: Woman President. First one. Beat us, by at least a year and a half if not more. (They did already have precisely one woman prime minister -- they're one of those countries with both a PM and a prez -- which is good and all, though Indira Gandhi was not, from all accounts, a nice person -- in the forced sterilization, authoritarian head of state meaning of the phrase "not a nice person".)