Links for the Week – June 24, 2006

Quorn, a non-animal protein made from fungus.


The Parallels Between Baghdad and New Orleans: The NYT reports the decline into near-anarchy of New Orleans as the Bush Administration continues to leave it up to the ‘free market’ to rebuild the city’s devastated infrastructure — though the ‘market’ has no incentive or intention of doing anything of the sort. The parallels between Baghdad and New Orleans — two cities destroyed by horrific damage, where the troops were sent in to “restore law and order”, as if all the rest of the problems of rebuilding would somehow solve themselves, and which now sink further and further into desperation and lawlessness, are obvious. But the Bush Administration, which is directly responsible for both because of its ineptitude and inaction on rebuilding public infrastructure, remains oblivious.

Why the US Should ‘Cut and Run’ from Iraq Now: An editorial in the Guardian argues it’s a full-scale “military balls-up” and that, as humiliating as withdrawal would be now, waiting until later will only make it worse. Does anyone remember Vietnam?

US Supreme Court Cops Out on Government’s Environment Regulatory Authority: In a case that “came close to rolling back one of the country’s fundamental environmental laws“, the US Supreme Court split acrimoniously over the right of the government to impose environmental regulation over private property. The four right wingnuts — Thomas, Scalia, and the Bush nominees Alito and Roberts, basically argued that private property trumps government regulation, and the environment be damned. The four remaining moderates on the court offered a more reasoned balance between the two extremes. Neither side won, with the ninth judge, Kennedy, kicking it back to the appeals court. The extremism of Bush’s new nominees in their early decision sounds an ominous note over how this unbalanced group will rule on matters to come — like the outcome of the 2008 election and perhaps even some of this fall’s critical Senate and gerrymandered House races.

Four Anglophone Countries Seek to Scuttle UN Aboriginal Treaty: Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand, four countries whose treatment of aboriginal peoples has been among the most disgraceful, have banded together to try to block a new UN global aboriginal rights treaty. The opposition to this long-overdue international treaty is all about two things: money, and fear of giving the right of aboriginal communities to true self-determination. Liberate aboriginal communities from the control of dysfunctional central governments, and who knows what other communities might get it into their heads that they can run their lives better than Big Brother?

The Elite’s Plan For China: Steal Everything, Then Move to North America: An interesting review in the independent Chinese journal The Epoch of the growing chasm between the tiny rich elite and the billion-plus poor in China, and the degree to which that elite is plundering the country for its own personal benefit. Remind you of any other country you know? How would you like a $375,000 unmonitored limit on your credit card? Oh, well, when they bring their stolen billions here it will help balance the trade deficit (and help make housing here unaffordable).

…And the Elite in the US Gets Richer Still: American CEOs now earn an average $11 million a year, versus the average American worker salary of $42 thousand. The Canadian comparatives in US dollars (the Canadian dollar is rapidly creeping up on US dollar parity) are $1.1 million and $50 thousand, 23:1 versus the US 263:1. Here’s what all that means for the US economy, from EPInet.

Bush, Secrecy and the Abuse of Power: Great recap from Salon’s Mark Follman on how Bush is using the ‘need for secrecy’ to conceal the most massive American abuse of power in a century: Abduction, torture and spying on Americans through phone taps, e-mail surveillance and prying into personal financial records.

Time to Break Up Wal-Mart: Also in Salon, Andrew Leonard makes the case that, with four of Wal-Mart’s top ten suppliers driven into bankruptcy, the company needs to be broken up before it does any more damage. What is really needed of course is anti-combines legislation with real teeth, like the US had before Reagan dismantled it, to restore at least a vague semblance of competitiveness to the oligoplogy-plagued US economy.

Why Are So Many Non-Profit International Organizations Corrupt?: James Surowiecki in the New Yorker tackles this question with an analysis of the despotic and patronizing FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and why the soccer world puts up with him.

The Wisdom of Crowds:

A Brawling Debate Over Wikipedia and the ‘Hive Mind’: Film director Jaron Lanier throws the baby out with the bathwater in his dismissal of Wikipedia and other online collective information sites on Edge. Fortunately, Edge has opened the discussion up to its member-commentators, and while the original screed leaves much to be desired, the ensuing conversation is illuminating. Bottom line: There are things The Wisdom of Crowds does brilliantly, and others it does not do well at all. The trick is knowing which is which. An additional take on this in my article tomorrow. Thanks to Robert Pitkin for the link.

Environment and Energy:

British Company Commercializes Fungus That Looks and Tastes Like Chicken: Wired reviews Quorn, a fungus meat-substitute (pictured above) that has soy and mushroom producers in a flap, but which could be the most important invention in decades. At this stage, unfortunately, it’s only available in pre-packaged (over-packaged) ‘prepared’ foods with other ingredients not suitable for vegans. Meanwhile, a competing idea is to grow meat from stem cells instead of live animals. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the links.

Global Directory of Renewable Energy Programs: The Renewable Planet allows you to find, and post, ways that people in your community can take advantage of and invest in local renewable energy projects. Please help populate this long-overdue resource.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Stevia: I use stevia, the natural South American chemical-free zero-calorie sweetener, instead of sugar. Monsanto doesn’t want you to know about it. This beautifully-designed site comes to the rescue, and includes some great, mostly-vegetarian recipes.

Petition for Laws to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals: It’s a Canadian petition, from Environmental Defence, and it’s wasted on the global warming denying Harper government, but there probably isn’t a country in the world that doesn’t have it just as bad. Our governments and corporations are poisoning us, for profit — It’s that simple. Learn more.

…But Don’t Compensate by Living in a Sterile Environment: A CBC report suggests that the current epidemic of allergies, asthma, arthritis and auto-immune diseases could be due to lack of exposure at a young age to substances that would allow our bodies to build up resistance to them naturally. So the despicable practice of getting rid of your pets when you have a baby, or soaking your home and lawn with toxic antibiotics, could actually make your family sicker. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Just for Fun: If you have the opportunity where you live to catch the BBC series Hustle, do so — you won’t be disappointed. Light-hearted fun with a group of grifters who outrun the police while sticking it to greedy and corruptcorporate and government bigwigs. Those old enough to remember The Rogues will know the idea, and it never gets stale.

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2 Responses to Links for the Week – June 24, 2006

  1. Pearl says:

    The wisdom and limitations of crowds isn’t as catchy of title but good to see people are coming around to seeing both sides. That quorn looks conceptually interesting.

  2. Jon Husband says:

    I used to buy quorn, packaged by itself in a one pound (454 gram) container, 13 years ago at Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury and Tesco in London.

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