View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Why I Just Gave Dean More Money, Even If It's for the Last Time

Dean has said that if he doesn't win Wisconsin, he's dropping out of the race.

This is something I don't want to see. I really, really don't want to see it. So I just contributed, and I hope you will too. Why?

First, I think it's too early in the process. I'm furious at the Democratic National Committee for setting up the primaries to bunch up within a few weeks. There hasn't been enough time for voters to judge the candidates beyond whatever memes the press is pushing. Why should Kerry have it all wrapped up in February? Or even early March?

Second, I don't want to see Kerry as the Democratic candidate. See my previous post for just some of the reasons. Kerry is a Washington player who wants to be President because he feels entitled to it. He's accepted more money from special interest groups over the past 15 years than any other senator. How are we supposed to believe him when he says he'll work for us, the ordinary people? Like most politicians in D.C., he's spent the past couple of decades working for special interests, namely big business. But now, after Howard Dean proved that Americans want someone to stand up to those interests, to stand up and say "Enough!", now he finds some backbone--supposedly. But what's he going to do once he's in the White House? It'll be meet the new boss, same as the old boss, at least when it comes to corporate interests, the economy, trade issues, and the like.

Lucky for him Dean gave him some talking points or he wouldn't be where he is today. And that brings me to my third reason for continuing to contribute to Dean's campaign. Not one of the Washington insiders, the DLC-annointed, had the guts to stand up and tell the truth about just what's gone wrong with this country (I don't consider Kucinich an insider). Not one. And then Howard Dean stood up and told the truth (although these truths were usually called "gaffes" by the media). He looked around and saw how angry people were, not just at Bush, but at the Democrats as well. He saw how betrayed we felt, betrayed by the system and by both parties. And he acknowledged that anger and turned it into a campaign that promised we could bring some changes about, that we had the power to do it.

It resonated. It worked. The other candidates picked it up and ran with it. Now they all sound like Howard Dean. But they're not Howard Dean. Talk is cheap. Talk is easy. Standing up against war in Iraq when everyone else considered it political suicide was not easy. Standing up and saying "The emperor has no clothes!" was not easy. But not a single cowardly mainstream Dem had the guts to say those things until the outsider--with no seat to lose--said them. Once he did, once he proved there was a groundswell of opposition to Bush and his ilk, then suddenly those candidates "found" their voices. Found them, my sweet ass. What they did was steal Dean's lines. Their records don't much go to prove that they actually mean what they say. That's worrisome. If they really mean what they're saying now, why haven't they done a damn thing to show it? They've been in office. They've had the opportunity to show their opposition to Bush's policies, and by and large, they haven't done it.

Fourth, it feels good to put your money where your mouth is. It feels good to believe in something strongly enough to donate your cash, even if all the conventional wisdom says that cause is doomed. I don't know if it's doomed. I don't even know if it's right for Dean to drop out if he loses Wisconsin. I saw a graph the other day--which, of course, I can't locate now--that illustrated Kerry's and Dean's delegate counts as opposed to the total number of delegates. The difference was small when you looked at the graph. The only thing dooming Dean is the sheep-like behavior of the American people. Can't you hear them bleating now? Baaaa ... Dean unelectable! Baaa-aaa-aaa ... Kerry good! Baa--aa--aaaa ... Kerry a veteran! Baaa-aaa--aaa ... Dean angry! We almost have to hope that the American people are the sheep they seem to be--and not lemmings about to go off the cliff.

If Dean has any chance, any chance at all, then I want to make that chance more likely.

But fifth, even if he has no chance, I want to say I did what I could to elect an honorable man.

I'll tell you one thing. Kerry, if he's the nominee, will not get one cent of my money. But then, he won't need it.

Like George Bush, he can count on all those special interests.

Kerry: Business as Usual

Joel at Pax Nortona asks the interesting question, "What has Kerry done?" The answer is, as you might expect, less than heartening.

In addition to voting for the war in Iraq, for the No Child Left Behind act, and the Patriot Act, Kerry voted for a bill forcing states to contract with religious institutions, voted for Internet censorship, more FBI wiretapping authority, a National ID Card, and the Juvenile Justice Bill (under which children as young as 14 can be tried in Federal Court).

He didn't vote at all on the anti-rave bill, a bill to require the release Guantanamo Bay detainees' names, a bill allowing greater government surveillance or the Medicare bill! Another gutless wonder.

And a Detroit Free Press article points out that, in response to a question about the candidates' positions on diverting water from the Great Lakes, Kerry said:
The water rights issues have been guided by the court decisions, states and the compacts between states. But it is also important to understand that we have national needs. It's a delicate balancing act. There are different ways of managing water rights with remunerations and the appropriate respect to states' rights.
Well, that was on Thursday. A day later, and this will certainly shock you!, major backpedaling had taken place:
Twenty-four hours later, his Michigan campaign spokesman, Mark Kornblau, said the Massachusetts senator's position on shipping water out of the Great Lakes is "unequivocal."

"He is absolutely opposed to diversion of Great Lakes water. Period."
Michiganders are said to be apathetic about the vote today because of polls showing a huge lead for Kerry. I only hope that's true and that Kerry supporters stay home in droves. Maybe then he won't win by as much as he thinks he will.

I'd like to see Kerry's momentum stopped or at least slowed in a major way. I do not think he will serve us well. He is just more of the same old, same old, not the change we need in Washington.

Sometimes my fellow citizens are beyond my understanding.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Love Letters

I used to have a blog of which the sole purpose was to help take down Michael Savage, the right-wingnut shock jock who did a brief stint on MSNBC. He's still on the radio, but at least he no longer sullies cable TV (it's quite sullied enough, thanks).

The blog is still up there, but I haven't written in it since July of last year and regard it as defunct. But I still get letters now and then from Michael Savage fans. Maybe it's because his new book just came out or something ... although how many of them can actually read, one wonders. Anyway, I thought you might like a glimpse into the minds of a few of the wingnuts' finest.
I swear, you don't give up do you ? What? did you change your name from Todd to Kris? Why don't you let go of Savage's shirt-tail, and be your own man, or woman, or why don't you just be your own person? Could that be so hard? Haven't you anything better to do, than tag-along someone elses name ? You "wanna-be', who will NEVER BE? How pathetic can one get ? MY GOD< YES< THAT"S RIGHT GOD< G-O_D> Everlasting, almighty, Alpha and Omega, First, Last. and all that's inbetween.
I summon the power of Jesus Christ to give to you what you have given to Michael Savage. That means, whatever YOU have done, whatever grief YOU have caused, will now descend upon YOU. Why, because I said so, I asked for it, now YOU are going to GET IT. How DARE you infringe upon the rights of a FREE MAN? I have given it over to the Lord, and it is out of my hands, so now YOU deal with it. All of the hate and rage that you insist on instigating and perpetuating will now be lovingly returned to you, with extra hugs and kisses. I DON'T believe in turning the other cheek. I say,"TURN THE OTHER CHEEK AND FART" !!!!!!! My interpretation of the bible may be a little different than what you know, IF ANYTHING, about it. MY GOD, is the UGLY GOD, he is the one who takes care of parasitic nuisances LIKE YOU. He is the JEALOUS ONE, the one who says," Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay" He is the one, they are one in the same, but you will never see it coming, because they BOTH are mysterious. What a Maggot.
What can one say, other than "Who the hell is Todd?" Really, I'm at a loss. Another reader writes:
thank god for people like michael savage he tells it like it is and you fags cant stand it
your right we fags cant stand it

Another by the same sender:
kills someone like you to hear the truth should listen to Michael more often and call me it will do you good
Call me? Talk about delusional. And yet one more (these were about three weeks apart):
Well, I guess you listened to Michael it will probably do you some good. But just listen you probably can't stand Alice can't marry Jane but you will get over it and I bet a praying in school would really make you have a fit. All to day except what part of this country do you agree with and I know you are a kerry,edwards or dean person.
I have to admit I laughed out loud over this one, especially the "I know you are a kerry,edwards or dean person." Why not Kucinich or Sharpton, after all? I am, however (1) puzzled over "I guess you listened to Michael," since I have no idea what could have given such a notion, and (2) alarmed by "All to day," which I take as a veiled threat that I'll be receiving more tender missives from this benighted soul.

There you have it, folks: the whirring gears of the Savage-heads. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Thanks to the Food Industry, Your Diet May Be Killing You: Last Thoughts

[last in a series]

In our late-capitalist society, when it comes to priorities, we've become inured to having our health and well-being come well behind the profits to be made by big business. Recently the Bush administration blocked the World Health Organization's anti-obesity plan (officially called Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health) arguing--as they usually do--that it wasn't based on good science. (It's never good science unless the findings don't spell trouble for Dubya's corporate buddies.)

BushCo also argues that rather than take such alarmingly radical steps as limiting junk-food advertising, improving food labeling, and other such common-sense practices, we should be urging people to take more "personal responsibility" for their diets.

Well, I hope I've shown you just how hard that is to do, given a food pyramid whose design was heavily influenced by the food industry; food processing practices that remove nutrients from our foods; practices that put downright dangerous products into our foods (like trans fats); and labels that make it hard to know just what is in our food. You can talk "personal responsibility" until the cows come home, but few people have the time, inclination, or knowledge to do the digging that's required to make such fundamental decisions as what diet to adopt.

I haven't even touched on the advertising of junk foods, especially to kids, and what effect that has on our eating habits. No wonder the world is growing fatter. No wonder our diets, combined with lack of exercise, are responsible for most of the world population's heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Yet the advertisers are allowed to saturate us with junk food ads, all the while yammering on about personal responsibility.

Gee, do you think maybe Bush's position on WHO's plan could be related to this:
Note that the Bush Administration is not demanding some personal responsibility from junk food bigwigs such as sugar magnate Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, Safeway CEO Steven Burd, and Richard F. Hohlt, a lobbyist for Altria (formerly Philip Morris), which is majority owner of Kraft. It is not asking them to take responsibility for the billions of dollars they and other junk food marketers spend seducing our kids with saturation ads, nor for the obvious and predictable consequences of these actions - i.e. the diseases associated with the consumption of junk food.

Each of these fat cats has purchased an indulgence in the form of bundled $200,000 contributions to the 2004 Bush campaign. So the Administration points the finger instead at parents and their children. The finger comes no less from the Department of Health and Human Services, which probably should be renamed the Department of Junk Food Marketing and Corporate Services.

The sugar industry has wanted to hobble WHO since the organization said that free sugars should comprise less than 10% of total daily calories. Last April, the Sugar Association actually threatened WHO that it would sic its allies in Congress on the U.S.'s annual $406 million contributions.
It's true that the government is reviewing the Food Pyramid, which it's obliged to do every five years. It may even evolve into something beyond a pyramid. But I doubt very much whether the food industry will keep its mitts off the final product. If they do, it will be the first time ever.

Not all of the questionable recommendations of the food pyramid come from the food industry. It's also true that the pyramid simply hasn't kept up with science. I'm sure that the next decade will provide us with many more answers about nutrition, that we haven't by any means found the definitive eating plan. But it does help to know what science can tell us right now about the foods we eat. It has to buck the powerful food lobbies to do so, lobbies that find it useful to mislead us through labeling and advertising. And those who want to help us eat better don't have the huge advertising budgets of the food industry.

I urge anyone who's found these posts interesting to read Walter Willett's Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, or at least to visit the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source, for more details. It's an eye-opener.

The Urbanization of Poverty: The Real WMD

A recent United Nations report, The Challenge of Slums, outlines, among other things, the terrible health consequences of International Monetary Fund (IMF) practices that have urbanized poverty in developing countries to the point where 1 billion of the world's people now inhabit slums:
The authors of the report broke with traditional UN circumspection to squarely blame the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its neocolonial ‘conditionalities' for spawning slums by decimating public-sector spending and local manufacturing throughout the developing world.

During the debt crisis of the 1980s, the IMF, backed by the Reagan and Bush administrations, forced most of the third world to downsize public employment, devalue currencies and open their domestic markets to imports. The results everywhere were an explosion of urban poverty and sharp fall-offs in public services.

A principal target of IMF austerity programs has been urban public health. In Zaire and Ghana, for instance, "structural adjustment" meant the laying off of tens of thousands of public health workers and doctors. Similarly in Kenya and Zimbabwe, implementation of IMF demands led to huge fall-offs in healthcare coverage and spending.

In South Asia, likewise, investment in public health has lagged far behind the growth of slums. The five largest cities of the region alone have a total slum population of more than 20 million, and standards of sanitation are symbolized by ratios of one toilet seat per 2000 residents in the poorest parts of Bombay and Dhaka.
The West's callous indifference to the suffering of the millions who live with lack of sanitation and resulting diseases may come to an end if the virus known as H5N1 (and see here; updates here) spreads as rapidly as some scientists fear it might.

More than 2% of humanity, or 40-50 million people, died in the winter of 1918-1919 due to an influenza outbreak. Scientists suspect that the flu virus jumped to humans from a bird virus. Humans don't have much immunity to such species jumps.

The "biological reservoir" for H5N1 is in southern Chinese farms, where wild and domestic fowl, pigs, and humans "are brought into intense ecological contact in farms and markets." The dense concentrations of poultry at such farms create the conditions for the evolution of such viruses and their passage between species.

So far, any known cases have come only from direct contact with birds and their droppings, but
the current strain is far more lethal than last year's SARs epidemic that caused so much international havoc. As a result, a top researcher told Nature, "Everyone's preparing for the worst-case scenario." At this moment, WHO investigators are checking on the terrifying possibility that the first human-to-human transmission has already occurred in Vietnam. . . . .

H5N1's progress has also been abetted by poor monitoring and government secrecy in half a dozen countries, but especially in Thailand, Indonesia, and China. The Chinese staunchly deny covering up an avian epidemic as they did SARs, but the eminent virologist Kenneth Shortridge, interviewed by Science, said all evidence points to "natural reservoirs in southern China" where the disease might have emerged as early as last October.

The slums of the developing world lack health monitoring and response capacities. If an epidemic of this strain of avian flu were to take hold here, it would sweep through areas unable to deal with the threat. And you can be sure that such an outbreak would not be confined to the slums. The world we live in is too interconnected for anyone to feel protected from such a threat.

It's shameful, but not surprising, that the West can dismiss the millions who die of AIDS, malaria, and other diseases in the developing nations and will only be shaken from its complacency should its own populations be endangered.


The site that provided comment capability for the blog is down, possibly permanently. I'll have to look around for a replacement if I want comments. As some of you know, it wasn't working consistently anyway. Sorry for the inconvenience--do e-mail me if you want to comment.

Thanks to the Food Industry, Your Diet May Be Killing You


Grains, in the form of breads, cereals, flours, meals, rice, etc., could be a valuable part of the human diet--if most of their nutritive value weren't processed out of them.

Long ago in human history, white flour and other refined grains became marks of affluence. Coarse, dark bread was for the poor, while the upper classes dined on lighter, fluffier fare. The more refined a product was, the more costly it was (same for sugar). Refined grains became the choice.

This worked to the advantage of the food industry, who saw that refining grains gave them a longer storage life. Let's take wheat. The milling process removes the germ, thus removing vitamins and unsaturated fats. Taking off the outer layer, the bran, removes fiber, magnesium, and other vitamins.

That's too bad, because eating whole grains has shown, in more than one study, that intact grains can protect you against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One study also shows that whole-grain consumption cuts down on chances of developing certain kinds of cancer. For me, a vegetarian, whole grains can provide with protein, as well as vitamins that are hard to come by elsewhere. The antioxidants and phytoestrogens in whole grains are also thought to be protective.

Not only do the minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals contribute to health; the fiber that's in whole grains slows down the absorption of glucose, so you avoid getting those spikes in blood sugar I talked about previously. Fiber also reduces cholesterol levels.

Not only does the food industry push refined grains, it makes choosing whole grains difficult by murky labeling practices. Whole-grain foods like bread should list as the first ingredient whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, etc. A label that says "made with wheat flour" doesn't mean a thing; the most refined cake flour is made from wheat.

If you eat oatmeal, be sure to buy the "old-fashioned" variety, which leaves the grain pretty much intact. Best is steel-cut, but rolled oats are fine too. Stay away from instant anything! It's virtually useless nutritionally, and all it will do is zap your blood with glucose and a following surge of insulin. Stay off that roller-coaster!

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