Friday, November 24, 2006

real bread

I knew there was something missing from Wonder Bread. Always have. I grew up on whole wheat, black bread, pumpernickel. When I was young we drank beer like Schlitz and Coors, but always respected zesty beer with body, like Molson Ale. Then when the microbrew revolution hit, we knew for sure beer had kind of lost its life-force through being brewed in the same old usual way w/ boring and lackluster varieties of hops and grains, as the microbreweries zipped up the taste and body of beer with fancy old fashioned hops and grains and yeast.

This story in the San Francisco Chronicle details grain as it used to be vs. grain as it is now. It reminds me of the beer Anchor Steam used to brew, based on a recipe found on Sumerian tablets from thousands of years ago.
A story of wild wheat seeds that began 10,000 years ago with Neolithic hunter-gatherers who harvested them on the shores of the Mediterranean sea is continuing today in California, a tale that underscores the new era of modern genomics.

The Stone Age people used wild wheat seed to bake their bread long, long ago, and now the seeds from current generations of wild wheat growing in Israel have yielded the gene that scientists at UC Davis are crossbreeding into modern wheat plants to increase their nutrients for an undernourished world.

Through many centuries of domestication by farmers and plant breeders, the wheat found in today's breads lost some of the vital protein and minerals, such as iron and zinc, that the genes in the ancient wild seeds carried. After cloning the major gene for those nutrients from current wild wheat, the UC Davis scientists have bred them back into new wheat strains without the need for more controversial genetic engineering.
For more information about gardening as it used to be, see the Native Seeds Search website. Native Seed Search has, among all kinds of other cool stuff, a seedbank where you can buy actual, not cloned, ancient varieties of chilis, beans, peas, melons, gourds, corn, even tobacco.

Skeptical? Try what is known as an heirloom tomato. Compare it to a regular tomato you buy at Safeway or Alberston's.

The same thing keeps happening again and again. "Am I losing my taste or does this bacon have no flavor?" my 80-something mom said when we were cooking Thanksgiving dinner. "The bacon has no flavor Mom," I said, crunching into a strip of the tasteless pseudo-meat. Try the organic stuff, i.e. bacon from farm where they don't dose their animals on poison, let them have some sun and fresh air. Similarly, in the book Fast Food Nation, you see the story of how McDonalds and the like have to douse their food w/ chemical flavor agents, so that their product smells and tastes like food rather than the lifeless industrial end-product filler that it is.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Respect : Activism is not a dirty word

More on the use of cameras by ordinary citizens to document the abuse of of police power:

My main points:

Police work is tough, it is necessary, and police deserve our respect. They are public servants. According to an 84 year old civil rights lawyer whose lecture I attended a couple years ago, police start out idealistic, with the goal of service in mind. It is common for what can be described as psychological problems to occur after a few years on the job. Police become jaded and burned out dealing with the worst, most troublesome and dangerous element of the human species. After a while they may begin to identify anyone they come in contact with on the job with that element. Rights can be violated, power mis-handled, etcetera.

Us civilians do not have to put up with that, even in the paranoid social climate the Bush administration has helped create. It is our duty to not put up with abuse of police power.

That is why we are seeing more news stories about people whipping out the ubiquitous cell phone camera and filming police when police start making mincemeat of people. You have to be brave to do so, but humans are a brave species and we have instincts to take care of each other, keep each other in line, help each other out. Everyone benefits: "Hey! You're losin' it! Back down, you're losing sight of your humanity."

Here is another news story about this topic which describes the phenomena of police overreaction, citizen documentation and organization. The story quotes activists, police leaders, and ACLU folk.
"This police department was a cowboy department, a department that was very quick on the trigger and it is hard to root out those practices from the past. That's why the cameras are important," Ripston said.

"If the police were not overreacting there would be no photographs to take."

Friday, November 17, 2006

UCLA: Police power gone wild

In this story in the UCLA Daily Bruin you can read the sad tale of a student library user grabbed and tasered by police officers for the amazing crime of not identifying himself. Wow. Judge, jury and executioner in the library! Quoting from the article,
"At around 11:30 p.m., CSOs asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check. The student did not exit the building immediately.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition.

UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers.

As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us." The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more.

"It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close.
So, not only did the police zap the hell out of the poor student library user, they threatened onlookers who complained about the obvious abuse of police power, the trampling of civil rights- last time I looked, the Constitution is pretty strong on the issue of not being subjected to military force for not having an ID in a fucking library, for yelling "get off me," for not standing up again after they zap you with how-many-fucking-thousand volts of electricity.

But there are a lot more citizens than police. The fact that everybody is carrying a movie camera these days- the cell phone- makes it easy, if you're brave enough to withstand police threats, to document such abuses. Here is the link to the Youtube posting. As I've said before, true police will be shocked at this behavior. True police work to help us, protect us, not kick us around.

This is the second recent incident where people started crying stormtrooper, or gestapo, at military-style police tactics used in civilian settings, and got hauled off, humiliated, terrified, and not charged with a crime. Here in Tucson, an artfest hosted by a lovely Tucson sculptor at a guest ranch in the desert was raided by insane-acting sheriffs deputies. The incident was covered by the local Weekly, treated with kid-gloves in the major daily. Last I heard the deputy who was frothing at the mouth at the gathering of artists, families, senior citizens and aging blues-rock musicians was in deep trouble over his actions and demeanor.

The point is police are supposed to serve us, not define us as instant threats whenever we don't show ID, question them, or gather at a peaceful arts-fest. It's up to us to remind the government that police serve us, not the government.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Darwin appears on tree branch

Now if there was ever a sign from God this is it, and it appears to be directed toward moron fundamentalist "christians" of the sort who don't believe in dinosaurs, think Halloween's evil, get upset at Harry Potter books, and push blind anti-science creationism curriculum in schools.

What I love about this story is the language used by the person who saw the Darwin apparition:
"I got up this morning, and looked out the window I look out for hours every day. I looked up at the birdfeeder to the spot where a limb was chopped off and saw Charles Darwin."

Yes I read about it on the loveable Boing Boing.

Motorhead sponsoring kid soccer team

Now who ever said these guys didn't care about the community. The soccer coach in the UK Guardian article I stumbled across says he was hoping Motorhead's sponsorship, team uniforms w/ Motorhead's logo, and blasting "Ace of Spades" as the kids take the field would boost performance.

Now that is really nice. It's just that you'd usually expect a local dentist or hardware store owner to sponsor a soccer team, not the rowdiest rock and roll band of all time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tucson police accidentally leave explosives under elementary school desk

Here's another post about the t*rr*rism mentality gone wild, and local law enforcement getting emboldened & overstepping its bounds.

According to this article in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson police were conducting bomb-search training at an elementary school. Not only is this stupid and insane, but they left explosives under a student's desk! Now that's crazy and whoever even had the idea about exposing an elementary school to bomb-search training, bringing in live explosives, euphamistically referred to as a "training aid" in the article, should not be in that line of work.

It just reeks of paranoia, and police overrunning the state, gone mad trying to root out imaginary terrorists hiding behind every tree.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jail4Judges & politcal strategy

I call it bull-shit. Want to be nice? Call it "cleverly crafted argumentative rhetoric"

The term "activist judge" just means a judge who does not work to uphold radical right-wing policy- social oppressiveness, throwing more people in jail for no reason, the loss of civil rights, and racist, homophobic, xenophobic or misogynist policy.

Strangely enough the true activist judges are the right wing zealots BushCo has worked to pack the U.S. Circuit Courts with.

This story in the Houston Chronicle talks about a crucial issue in the right wing takeover attempt, what Sandra Day O'Connor refers to as the loss of judicial independence.

There were ballot measures, they all failed thank goodness, that would have done things like send judges to jail or have them fired when they don't what people want- what right wing morons want, actually.
"Such proposals reflect a political strategy," said University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen B. Burbank. "If voters are persuaded to see judges as representing constituents or policies rather than simply interpreting the law, it will be easier to pass laws limiting their independence," he said.
I like the professor's analysis here. The key word is persuade.

The so-called conservatives, the manipulators among them anyway, the ones with loudest mouths, always come up with worrisome-sounding arguments- hippies, weirdos, gays, liberals, are taking over the world, etc. People who don't go to your church are taking over somehow. Then, as the supposed agent of this vague danger, the "conservatives" conveniently point their finger at whoever's not towing the ultraright party line. It often involves misleading terminology, or a term whose meaning is used in a new, manufactured, purposeful sense, for example liberal, secular humanst, activist judge, etc.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A sigh of relief, but...

It's easy to feel some comfort after the events of last night, but the "Republicans," or whoever it is that's been fucking us over for so long, are really pissed now. I keep picturing them seething, like termites, sending out wave after wave of h*mel*nd security "experts" to "keep us safe." This is a regime that is terrified of its own people and has caused us all considerable harm- harm in terms of the economy, the destruction and poisoning of the environment, and the erosion of the law. Let's not forget that they still have an enormous spying network set up, they still have the wherewithal to classify dissidents, critics, protesters, anybody, as t*err*rists, that this is the regime that can't win an election w/o cheating, has demonstrated enormous incompetence as well as disregard for its own people in the face of natural disasters and national defense, and sponsored an enormous network of lies and slippery rhetorical half-truths in order to support itself. Let us not forget that the constitution has been systematically dismantled, and legal foundations going back thousands of years in civilization have been for the most part destroyed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Men with guns at the Polls in Arizona

See this AZ Daily Star article for a kid-gloves treatment of what is happening here on the Southside, the side of Tucson where most people speak (gasp) Spanish. We would be doing pretty good if this were the only incident of voter intimidation around here, and we would be doing better if we had a way to prove that there was no cheating, particularly in the Diebold-infested "voting machines." Yes, they are voting machines, and they do mechanically cast a whole lot of votes, but do they cast your vote or do they just respond to somebody's keyboard punches? Ask the Dieblold higher-up, who told the whole fucking nation a couple years ago he'd do whatever it took to make sure Bush won.

I have seen men with guns at the polls before. The last time was when we supposedly elected Fuhrer Bush. I was coming home from work, having voted at 7 that morning. I was walking by my polling place, and there stood a man with a short hair cut, and an obvious firearm at his side. He was about 10 feet from the door of the polling place. The firearm was covered in a holster, but you could tell what it was and you could tell the guy was putting on a very good "cop" act, w/o the badge, to the disgrace of all true cops, who are there to help folks, serve the public. The guy looked at me like he wanted to kick my ass. I was just walking by. I thought he was going to follow me or something.

In the Daily Star article I link above, the reporter describes a man with a gun, who is named but not described. An accompanying man with a camera, and a known anti-Hispanic/anti-immigration person with the armed man are described.