Sunday, August 13, 2006

the folly of bureaucracy, in one quote

“I don’t know. I don’t care. They just asked me to stamp it, so I stamped it.” ~~ some Chinese official guy

Inspired words by a man thoroughly challenged and stimulated by his work. Rather revealing, isn't it?

It doesn't even really matter what the context is, given the fact that so many endeavors burdened by bureacracy wind up being designed, directed, and carried out by people whose knowledge and drive matches the Chinese official who so eloquently sums up the bureaucratic mindset.

For those who wonder, the quote comes from this Intellectual Conservative article questioning the trustworthiness of the USDA organic label. I didn't think I'd ever find a worthwhile article from such a site, let alone one about organic food. It's definitely a worthwhile read, especially if one is increasingly concerned about the food they eat.

Here's the portion of the article related to that quote:
Lavigne also quotes Matsumi Sakuyoshi, a Japanese inspector who has checked Chinese soybean fields for organic certifiers. Sakuyoshi found an empty plastic bag of herbicide. When confronted, a farmworker told her the wind must have blown it from a neighbor’s field.

Sakuyoshi also questioned a certificate that said a piece of land hadn’t been farmed for the previous three years, making it eligible for organic status. Hardly any Chinese farmland is left idle. The official who stamped the certificate told her, “I don’t know. I don’t care. They just asked me to stamp it, so I stamped it.”

The article concerns itself with organic farming in places like China since an increasing number of organic foods sold here in the US with a USDA label come from places like China. If organic consumers are uneasy after reading that excerpt, they may feel downright ill after reading the rest of the article (hint: human waste is involved).

I guess I now have even more reasons to seek out locally grown and produced food as much as possible. Additionally, the collection of fodder for condemning the USDA continues to grow. In fact, stay tuned for more anti-USDA posts (well, at least one) in the coming week. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about to chow down on some mandu that'll be dipped in organic soy sauce produced here in Michigan by a pioneering organic company that rejects the USDA label (more on that later).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

who needs the usda?

I sure don't. Neither should anyone else.

All of the supposedly beneficial things that the USDA is "supposed" to carry out can be practiced without a government bureaucracy inherently prone to corporate manipulation.

The latest example of the USDA's status as a menace to our health came to my attention thanks to the LRC blog.

First, fromAnthony Gregory's May 2004 article titled "The USDA and Cow Disease Madness":
The USDA is blocking an American slaughterhouse that wishes to voluntarily test its beef for mad cow disease so it can sell meat to Japan.

Creekstone Farms, a slaughterhouse in Kansas, has spent $500,000 to create a mad cow testing facility to comply with Japan’s tougher regulations. Forbidden from testing and shut off from its Japanese market, the company loses $200,000 in sales every day, and it has already been forced to layoff fifty workers.

Unfortunately for the people at Creekstone Farms, the USDA will not permit such testing, because the agency does not consider the testing “scientifically warranted,” and it worries that competing slaughterhouses may appear unsafe by comparison.

Americans who believe that the USDA protects consumers from tainted beef might find themselves scratching their heads. Why would the USDA interfere with a business taking extra precautions to prove the safety of its product to its customers?

Historically, government regulation of beef has often had less to do with common sense or genuine health concerns than with the state-corporate favoritism inherent in a highly regulated economy.

The USDA is continuing such thuggery today, as revealed by this USA Today editorial:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture — invoking an obscure 1913 law intended to thwart con artists from peddling bogus hog cholera serum to pig farmers — is blocking companies from selling the testing kits to Creekstone.

USDA is doing the bidding of large cattle barons afraid that Creekstone's marketing will force them to do the same tests to stay competitive. It's true that the incidence of mad cow disease is quite low. But there's little logic in stopping a company from exceeding regulations to meet the demands of its customers, or protecting its rivals from legitimate competition.

Not only is USDA blocking Creekstone, the department said last month that it's reducing its mad cow testing program by 90%. The industry and its sympathetic regulators seem to believe that the problem isn't mad cow disease. It's tests that find mad cow.

The department tests only 1% of the roughly 100,000 cattle slaughtered daily. The new plan will test only 110 cows a day.

By cutting back on testing, USDA will save about $35 million a year. That's a pittance compared with the devastation the cattle industry could face if just one human case of mad cow disease is linked to domestic beef

So, the USDA is also slashing it's already feeble testing program in addition to serving as hired goons for the big firms. If food safety is to be a serious concern, then realizing that testing and other safeguards will only be administered, or even allowed, by the government to the extent that it doesn't threaten privledged businesses is a necessary step towards ensuring that the right paths are taken to ensure safety. Rest assured that the USDA will always go down the wrong path, while also setting up roadblocks preventing passage through more proper paths.

Food won't be safe until a separation of food and state occurs. Without such a separation, those with the most cash and the most political clout will continue to dominate the food supply, driving recklessly in search of power and profits without concern for safety.

Friday, August 04, 2006

the book virus thingie

I've been tagged by Nick Manley to play along with the latest book virus thingie for bloggers, so here it is.

* One book that changed your life:
Burning All Illusions: A Guide to Personal and Political Freedom by David Edwards. I read this book 7 or 8 years ago when my political mindset basically consisted of a strong civil libertarian streak with severe economic ignorance and apathy. This book changed all that and made me think more and read more about politics, albeit from a more or less statist left standpoint. The book served as my introduction to Noam Chomsky and also touched upon many Buddhist teachings that I was sort of interested in at the time.

Even though I'm now a radical free market advocate, there is much that is worthwhile about the book. I don't remember a whole lot of detail and I can't skim through it again since I don't own a copy, but if you're interested in reading a review of it, here's one from Dave Pollard.

* One book that you have read more than once:
Well, I'm currently reading Wendell Berry's Another Turn of the Crank for the second time.

* One book that you would want on a desert island:
The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It's long, it's fun, it's wild, it's chock full of stuff, and every reading is radically different from the last. Why not?

* One book that made you laugh:
I was going some of my boxed up books and organizing them recently when I saw my copy of Aristophanes's The Clouds. I remember finding the play to be quite funny when I read it back in the day. I also liked the fact that the particular translation that I have contains swear words.

* One book that made you cry:
Hmm... I'm sad to say that I can't think of one right now. I've read plenty of dark and/or sad things, but I don't actually recall shedding any tears while reading anything. I find that to be rather unfortunate.

* One book you wish had been written:
It's hard to think of book that could have or would have been written but weren't for some reason. I guess I'll just go along with the crowd by choosing Samuel Edward Konkin III's "Agorism".

If I can come up with an imaginary book, then how about a decentralist, individualist manifesto linking libertarianism with leftism by Karl Hess? That would have been cool. I've read Community Technology, but that's not really what I have in mind.

* One book you wish never had been written:
While choosing any Ann Coulter book at random is tempting, I think I'll go with Mein Kampf instead. It's close enough to going with Coulter, I suppose.

* One book you are currently reading:
I mentioned the Berry book already. The other book that I've started but not finished yet is Daniel Quinn's The Story of B.

* One book you have been meaning to read:
Butler Shaffer's Calculated Chaos. It's on my shelf and ready to go as soon as I finish one of the two books I'm currently working on. (I don't want to exceed 2 at a time) Also, I'd like to say "shame on me!" for not purchasing a copy of Kevin Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy yet. I've read some of it online, but I want to have an actual printed copy of it as well. Kevin should also recieve some more financial compensation for writing such an important work.

* Now tag 5 people:
Rad Geek (it's a virus, not a meme!)
Larry Gambone
Adem Kupi
Vache Folle
David Reynolds

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I apologize for the continued lack of blogging this summer. The past few weeks have been really trying for myself and my family since my mother passed away. I do guarantee though that I'll be more active here this month than I have for the past 3 months combined.

One cool announcement is that I plan on signing up with a web host sometime this month and will begin to transfer stuff from here to the eventual new blog. I'll also be setting up a separate music-related blog so that anyone either interested in my music posts or uninterested in my more serious posts can frequent that blog instead of this one. Look for that blog to be up and running before I deal with setting up flc 2.0 on the new host.

Stay cool.