Forceful Consumerism

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This has been bothering me for a long time, and I’ve finally decided to write about it. The US, Canada and other countries are currently in a battle with the EU and others on the topic of GMOs. The problem started several years ago when the EU put the brakes on the import of GMO products in order to study them more thoroughly. This seems like a reasonable course of action considering that consumption of GMO products is a relatively new thing and the effects they may have on humans are still unknown.

The plaintiff countries don’t see it that way. They claim that the lack of evidence of bad effects on humans is justification to demand that the defendant countries be forced to buy their products. This is completely preposterous and defies common sense and many lessons from the past few centuries. Was is a good idea to use Mercury and Asbestos before fully understanding their effects on humans?

The plaintiff countries are trying to use the World Trade Organization to make their case. There apparently are rules in the WTO stating that a country must have “reasonable cause” for refusing to import a product. I think most people would agree that safety is “reasonable cause.” In general I agree that this might be a beneficial rule, but when a country has concerns about safety I think that should trump any other WTO rule.

This boils down to: why should any sovereign country be forced to import a product that they have reasonable grounds to declare they would like to study it in more depth? This obviously isn’t some case of a country trying to block imports to gain a competitive advantage for national products. Plus, if an importing country has more stringent safety rules than those who export a product, shouldn’t they be allowed to take such action? In this case the exporting country obviously has incentive to declare a product “safe” as quickly as possible.

The EU has offered to remove the moratorium if strict new labelling rules are met, where any product containing GMO ingregients must be labelled as such. Of course the plaintiff countries don’t want this because they fear that consumers, when given the possibility of an informed choice, will choose other products. I think this nicely proves the point that the health effects are unknown since the companies selling products with GMO ingregients know they need to hide that fact. This part of the story reminds me of labelling dispute last year over animal hormones http://www.thier.ca/cbc/archives/ 000001.html

Here is some background on this issue:
http://www.terradail y.com/2004/040227074522.o3dx6n0u.html
http://www.biomedcentral.com/ne ws/20030709/03/
http://www.organicconsum ers.org/ge/tradewar030804.cfm

The Science of Moden Politics

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A very interesting article detailing the very meticulous nature of communication in modern politics. This is specifically about Bush and the precise language his speech writers use to evoke various emotions.

http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030630&s=brooks&c=1

Substance matters less than appearance these days, which is why speech writers are so important. Vagueness and catch-phases are the new staple, which the Bush administation is especially good at. Their theory seems to be that if they give something a nice name for the catch-phrases and headlines, it will appear to be a good thing. My favourite is still Bush’s “Healthy Forest Initiative” which consisted of increased logging.

Another problem is that politicians have become television stars, which is especially evident since most (larger) political races are at least partially decided on charm and appearance. This has been a problem for a long time but is getting drastically worse as television becomes the center of the universe in “the west.” I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of the “political machine,” although they are not doing anything to stop it. As the general population becomes more disinterested in politics the real issues become less relevant and ones that are easy to grasp like charm and appearance are sought. This seems like a fairly natural side effect of television coupled with a lazy populace and yet another reason to dislike the “box”. Therefore, the blame for this lies entirely with us.

What will it take to fix this? Don’t let politicians appear on TV? That’ll never happen. We need to get off our butts and follow the real issues in politics

Sex, lies and … corruption?

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I don’t understand how in the US a scandal about a guy having an affair is larger than this. Bush previously had business dealings with the current vice chairman of Clear Channel. Bush made 23 times his investment on a deal involving the Texas Rangers which was bought by said vice chairman. Howard Stern has recently begun being publically critical of Bush, and has a large audience. Clear Channel owns over 1200 radio stations thanks to the recent round of deregulations. Given all this friendliness and money-greasing, is it coincidence that Stern has been kicked off the Clear Channel network? This happened under the guise of “indecency,” but Sterns show has been the same forever. The only thing that changed is he said some critical things of Bush.

Sure, this story doesn’t have any sex in it – the only ingredient that seems to get the American publics attention, but that is ridiculous. Does no one really care that this level of corruption goes on every day?

Maybe to get the American public and media’s attention we need to juice this story up. So let’s pretend that Bush and the vice chairman of Clear Channel (Tom Hicks) are gay lovers. George broke down one day and had marital relations with his wife, so Hicks broke it off in a fit of jealousy. Hicks has been blackmailing Bush ever since, threatening to give John Ashcroft the video tapes of their love sessions (they aren’t aware Ashcroft has video tapes of everything and watches these by himself every night). They have since made up and agreed to work together to squash any dissenting opinions using the power of their public offices and radio network. In the middle of all this a lot of money changed hands and there was lots of corruption, etc, etc. Feel free to repeat this fiction wherever you’d like.

http://www.opednews.com/creekmore030804_stern_clear_channel.htm

Why the US isn’t going after Pakistan

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Interesting and detailed look at the events and history leading up to Pakistans admission of selling nuclear secrets. A good read. It shows how helpful it can be for those less powerful countries to be “friendly” to the US. When unfriendly ones are simply suspected of proliferating WMDs that’s bad, but when friends are proven to do it, that’s ok.

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040308fa_fact