Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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The poison chronicles

November 29, 2018

“The lack of regulation meant that companies could pretty much put whatever they wanted into food with no fear of being held accountable. “[Food] wasn’t safety tested, because there were no rules requiring that,” says Blum. “It wasn’t labeled because there were no rules requiring that anyone tell you what was in your food. And it wasn’t illegal even if you killed someone.”

Companies were adding copper to vegetables to make them look greener and 20 Mule Team Borax to butter as a preservative—assuming it was butter and not beef tallow or ground-up cow stomach dyed to look like butter. Spices contained things like ground coconut shells, charred rope, brick dust, even floor sweepings. Honey was often little more than dyed corn syrup. The phrase “a muddy cup of coffee” might date back to this era, when ground coffee typically contained dyed sawdust, tree bark, or charred bone, and fake coffee beans were made out of wax and dirt. “I’m especially bitter about this, because I love coffee,” says Blum.

Dairy suppliers were among the worst offenders, adding pureed calf brains to milk to make it look more like rich cream, thinning the milk with water and gelatin, and then adding dyes, chalk, or plaster dust to correct the color. Worst of all, they added formaldehyde—then widely used as an embalming fluid to slow the decomposition of corpses—to milk as a preservative. (The additives were given innocuous names like Rosaline and Preservaline.) Hundreds of children were sickened, and many died, from the tainted milk. Formaldehyde was also used as a preservative in meat.

That was the driving force behind Wiley’s radical “Poison Squad” project. (He actually referred to it as “hygienic table trials”; journalists gave it the more colorful moniker.)  He recruited several young men to be his guinea pigs—all of whom signed waivers—and provided them with three healthy square meals a day. The catch: half of them also were given capsules containing borax, salicylic acid, or formaldehyde. Wiley started with the borax, thinking it would be the safest additive, and was alarmed at how quickly his squad members sickened.

The results convinced Wiley that federal regulation was necessary to protect American citizens from the dangerous and fraudulent practices of food suppliers. Naturally, industry leaders pushed back against Wiley’s proposed legislation. The National Association of Food Manufacturers formed around this time, along with chemical industry manufacturing associations, as companies pooled their resources to oppose the ominous specter of government regulation. They even instituted a smear campaign against Wiley. One trade journal called him “the man who is doing all he can to destroy American business.”

With Roosevelt’s support, Congress finally passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.”

— excerpt from this great article at arstechinca

It’s amazing to me that this was just over a hundred years ago.  That until then you had to spend time and effort and worry to check every thing and even with that work could never know for sure if what you were getting was what you thought you were getting and you or others could easily be sickened or maimed or die.

It’s also a great story about the scientific method, of curiosity, of rigour, of courage in the face of opposition, and a commitment to your fellow human beings.

Definitively makes me want to read the book about Dr Wiley.

 

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Shadow Ballot Addendum

October 25, 2018

I want to take a time out here to note something, even for those who are not in California or voting in the upcoming elections in the USA:  Though I post these infrequently, I don’t want to give the impression that only certain elections are important.  Quite the contrary.

They all are.

To that end I implore you all to vote.  In every election.  For every position.  Not just big elections for federal/national governments, but all the way down to your local elections.  Much of what affects your daily lives is decided at the local level.  Or the provincial/state level.  So-called “not important” or “not monumental” election(s) are rarely not important.  Swings of legislatures happen during these times of low turnout, and you may find things going in directions you don’t want them too.  So please vote.

And please remember that “not choosing” is still making a choice.  If you do not vote, or do not vote with thoughtfulness and care, then you are explicitly stating that you are fine with any outcome.  That whatever happens is fine by you.  Implicitly, you are agreeing with what comes.  So please vote.

If you feel your vote doesn’t/won’t matter, please know this:  it does.  There are those who want to convince you that you don’t matter, because it makes their job easier to game the system, stay in power, or bend things to their wishes.  Don’t listen to them.  Recent elections in many countries have been decided by very narrow margins, and unlike in the past many parties no longer interpret that as a signal to govern from the centre.  They push to the edges.  So please vote.

Protest votes rarely turn out for the better.  Avoid them.  Bring thoughtfulness and care to the polling booth.  And please vote.

If you think it will take too long/it’s too confusing to become informed, I invite you to consider that it does not.  Put aside a day.  One day (I usually spend around 6-8 hours researching my shadow ballot).  That’s usually enough to become grounded.  Then you can build from there, little by little until it becomes big.  Also remember the above: there are those who want to convince you it’s too tough, too confusing, you don’t have time, that it’s no fun.  Again, it makes their job easier to bend things to their wishes.  So please vote.

Thank you.

(And if you are in a country where voting is not permitted, or is wracked by violence, or corrupt, then you have my sorrow.  I push for the day when you will have your voice.  Wherever you can and feel safe to do so, even if things are corrupt, there can come great and surprising change when people band together. If you cannot or if things are just not safe, then stay safe and take care of yourself and those around you.)

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My Shadow Ballot

October 25, 2018

And lo, an election approaches.  Here’s my shadow ballot.

“Since I can’t vote, please allow me to tell you how to vote instead…”

(Needless to say, this will be a long post)

Read the rest of this entry ?

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De-framing the Conversation

March 2, 2017

I’m being specific here in saying ‘de-frame’ rather than ‘reframe’ – because I think the conversation has already been reframed in a misleading way, and I want to bring it back to the centre.

So here we go:  Regulations are, most often, about health, safety, and protection.

I’ve been hearing regulations being thrown about as an epithet, some evil force put upon by malicious entities designed to… well, they don’t really say, do they?  They just keep talking about them like they’re evil and bad and must be gotten rid of or else.

Thing is, they didn’t just come out of the blue.  They’re written into law to ensure a civilized and functioning society that is working to keep all people healthy, alive, and free to pursue what they want.  Without being burdened and oppressed by injury, illness, degraded conditions, financial shenanigans, hoodwinks, or a number of other things to have to deal with.  They are there to release us from malicious actors.

This talk about “regulations are the devil” and “if only there weren’t regulations, everything would be glorious golden roses for everyone” is beyond rose-coloured glasses, it’s disingenuous.

There is an intent.  “Don’t frick other people over.”  Few would have issue with that intent (and if you do, well, that’s telling).  We can talk about the most effective way to achieve that intent.  Please!  Let’s have that conversation. Let’s create that more perfect union.

But let’s not get all BS about it and turn the view about regulations into them being some sort of scourge.

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#cdnpoli

February 12, 2017

Hello my fellow Canadians.  Let’s talk election counting systems.  Not because it’s Sunday night, and you need help falling asleep, but because there’s some traction starting to form around reforming our existing First Past the Post (FPTP) elections that occur in each riding across the country.  While the government seems to have shelved election reform for the moment, I wonder if it is because many of us, when asked, were wary about it because we didn’t know the ramifications, and that wariness sounded like disinterest to opinion gatherers.

But there’s some rather glaring issues and downsides to FTPT, and it we can benefit greatly from a different system to determine our MPs.

Fortunately, CGP Grey has us covered with an excellent series of videos that do a great job of breaking down both the pitfalls but also the workings and the boons of three different potential replacements.

Start here with a reflection on how out of whack the FPTP system can be, with a look at the last UK parliamentary election:

Then begin watching the full series here:

It’ll take you less than an hour.

Note that I’m not talking about replacing the concept behind the House of Commons, just altering the process and tally by which each MP gets elected.

The Senate, and how we might use it to be a more beneficial second chamber, is a whole other post.

Note too that I’m not keen on a purely proportional representational system, at least not as the main chamber of parliament, for it has its own, perhaps even worse, issues and failures.

So please, view the videos, and let’s get the conversation started again about reforming our electoral process to phase out FPTP.

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Side note, there are some great footnote videos linked to in the description of the last video, also quite worthwhile checking out:

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Action Wednesday

January 18, 2017

The time has come, if you live in the USA, to contact your senators and ask them to decline the nominations of both Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior and of Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator.

If you have never contacted your senators before, it is easy.  Go to either http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ to find your senator’s phone number, or simply call the  US Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 to be connected.  Once you’ve got a hold of their office, tell the staff person you are a constituent, you want your senator to oppose the nominations of Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt, and that if they do, you have your senator’s back.  If the staff member tells you that the senator does oppose Pruitt, pass along your thanks, and encourage them to hold the line!

It’s that simple.  Remember to call both of your state senators and ask the same from both of them.  Phone calls are the most effective means of communicating with your Senators, they are what garner the most attention.  And, with the clock ticking, it is the fastest means as well.

If you’d like to go more in depth, Hank Green has a great video introducing how to write  a letter, which can easily be translated into a phone call.

Why to oppose these two?

Ryan Zinke will preside over the Endangered Species Act, the access to public lands for exploitative resource extraction, offshore oil and gas drilling, and the relationships with first nations tribal governments and people.  Zinke’s record shows he does not lean towards stewardship, human or environmental health, or social growth.

Scott Pruitt is most known for suing the EPA to gut their provisions.  The EPA is literally a health and safety organization – it’s charge is to protect the very basic fundamental operating systems of our planet so that we can lead full, joyous, and fruitful lives.  This includes clean air, water, and soil.  It prevents companies from dumping toxins everywhere, be it in products or waste.  Pruitt has fought legal battles to undermine the EPA’s role in protecting human health and the legacy of the country, meaning the person being nominated to lead the EPA has actively worked to destroy the EPA.

Neither of these picks is what the USA needs, nor do they honor what the country for what it was and where we can go.

Please, take a moment to call and let your voice be heard.  The Senate is split 52-48, and a few extra “no”s can make all the difference.  It was calls to our representatives that put the brakes on the House’s plan to eliminate the ethics board that oversees them.  Calls work.

Please call.  Be the bulwark.

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In great news, Earthjustice will be one of the recipients of donations from this year’s Project for Awesome!  Woooo!

Thank you all who viewed my video and voted, and equally large thank you to all those who donated to Earthjustice and to the NRDC.  Thank you for taking action and standing up for life.

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My Shadow Ballot

October 30, 2016

There are 17 ballot initiatives for this election in California.  At this rate, California needs to change its flag, not only because it completely violates rule number 4 of good flag design, but also because that writing is becoming completely false.  A republic, as you all know, is a type of governmental system wherein the public elect individuals to go to create laws in their stead.  In other words, I vote that you, someone whom I trust and who I know will dedicate the time and effort to do the job properly,  and who has the knowledge to do just that, to go create the laws that will govern this land.  Ballot initiatives are doing an end run around this.

I am not a fan on the whole of ballot initiatives.  One, because they undermine the idea of a Republic.  Two, because often they cannot be amended except by another ballot initiative – meaning they become inflexible bits of the system.  Three, they are ripe for trickery and hoodwinking.  And four, and most importantly, is their isolationism.  Something may sound good in isolation, but once it gets into the complex system that is our society and our governance, they may and often do not play well.  They have unintended consequences, unbalance things, and worst of all can tie the hand of the legislators.  If you have four ballot initiatives all saying “X% of revenues must go to this/these specific things”, then next thing you realize most of the $ is allocated and can’t be adjusted to account for changing situations.

And when you have both trickery and hand tying, they can get really deleterious fast (and then you’re stuck because of needing another initiative to change it).

With that said, there are 17 ballot initiatives this election.  So here’s my shadow ballot.

“Since I can’t vote, please allow me to tell you how to vote instead…”

Also, needless to say, this will be a long post… Read the rest of this entry ?