The Mr. Nice Guy Show Blog

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My thoughts on what's goin' on in the world,

just like years ago on the radio.

Saturday, January 03, 2004


The BBC's Bill Thompson and many others lately have been saying that Google has gotten too big for its britches (that's southern talk. I lived in the south for 3 1/2 years, so I know.), is far from perfect, and and we should look for alternatives.

He's not fond of Vivisimo, the "clustering engine," but I think it might be worth a closer look. I've seen it before, since it's debut a few years ago. Rather impressive.


Friday, January 02, 2004

President Shithead

Kathy Bay, producer of The Mike Malloy Show compiled this Presidential 2003 Audio Collage of actual stuff that came out of the mouth of Too Stupid to be President over the past year.




Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, a book that had a profound effect upon me and is one of the major reasons I've been a vegetarian for over a year now, writing in today's NY Times about the incredibly scary goings on at the USDA.

January 2, 2004
The Cow Jumped Over the U.S.D.A.

Alisa Harrison has worked tirelessly the last two weeks to spread the message that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, is not a risk to American consumers. As spokeswoman for Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, Ms. Harrison has helped guide news coverage of the mad cow crisis, issuing statements, managing press conferences and reassuring the world that American beef is safe.

For her, it's a familiar message. Before joining the department, Ms. Harrison was director of public relations for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the beef industry's largest trade group, where she battled government food safety efforts, criticized Oprah Winfrey for raising health questions about American hamburgers, and sent out press releases with titles like "Mad Cow Disease Not a Problem in the U.S."

Ms. Harrison may well be a decent and sincere person who feels she has the public's best interest at heart. Nonetheless, her effortless transition from the cattlemen's lobby to the Agriculture Department is a fine symbol of all that is wrong with America's food safety system. Right now you'd have a hard time finding a federal agency more completely dominated by the industry it was created to regulate. Dale Moore, Ms. Veneman's chief of staff, was previously the chief lobbyist for the cattlemen's association. Other veterans of that group have high-ranking jobs at the department, as do former meat-packing executives and a former president of the National Pork Producers Council.

The Agriculture Department has a dual, often contradictory mandate: to promote the sale of meat on behalf of American producers and to guarantee that American meat is safe on behalf of consumers. For too long the emphasis has been on commerce, at the expense of safety. The safeguards against mad cow that Ms. Veneman announced on Tuesday — including the elimination of "downer cattle" (cows that cannot walk) from the food chain, the removal of high-risk material like spinal cords from meat processing, the promise to introduce a system to trace cattle back to the ranch — have long been demanded by consumer groups. Their belated introduction seems to have been largely motivated by the desire to have foreign countries lift restrictions on American beef imports.

Worse, on Wednesday Ms. Veneman ruled out the the most important step to protect Americans from mad cow disease: a large-scale program to test the nation's cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The beef industry has fought for nearly two decades against government testing for any dangerous pathogens, and it isn't hard to guess why: when there is no true grasp of how far and wide a food-borne pathogen has spread, there's no obligation to bear the cost of dealing with it.

The United States Department of Agriculture is by no means the first such body to be captured by industry groups. In Europe and Japan the spread of disease was facilitated by the repeated failure of government ministries to act on behalf of consumers.

In Britain, where mad cow disease was discovered, the ministry of agriculture misled the public about the risks of the disease from the very beginning. In December 1986, the first government memo on the new pathogen warned that it might have "severe repercussions to the export trade and possibly also for humans" and thus all news of it was to be kept "confidential." Ten years later, when Britons began to fall sick with a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, thought to be the human form of mad cow, Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg assured them that "British beef is wholly safe." It was something of a shock, three months later, when the health minister, Stephen Dorrell, told Parliament that mad cow disease might indeed be able to cross the species barrier and sicken human beings.

In the wake of that scandal, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Japan banned imports of British beef — yet they denied for years there was any risk of mad cow disease among their own cattle. Those denials proved false, once widespread testing for the disease was introduced. An investigation by the French Senate in 2001 found that the Agriculture Ministry minimized the threat of mad cow and "constantly sought to prevent or delay the introduction of precautionary measures" that "might have had an adverse effect on the competitiveness of the agri-foodstuffs industry." In Tokyo, a similar mad cow investigation in 2002 accused the Japanese Agriculture Ministry of "serious maladministration" and concluded that it had "always considered the immediate interests of producers in its policy judgments."

Instead of learning from the mistakes of other countries, America now seems to be repeating them. In the past week much has been made of the "firewall" now protecting American cattle from infection with mad cow disease — the ban on feeding rendered cattle meat or beef byproducts to cattle that was imposed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. That ban has been cited again and again by Agriculture Department and industry spokesmen as some sort of guarantee that mad cow has not taken hold in the United States. Unfortunately, this firewall may have gaps big enough to let a herd of steer wander through it.

First, the current ban still allows the feeding of cattle blood to young calves — a practice that Stanley Prusiner, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on the proteins that cause mad cow disease, calls "a really stupid idea." More important, the ban on feed has hardly been enforced. A 2001 study by the Government Accounting Office found that one-fifth of American feed and rendering companies that handle prohibited material had no systems in place to prevent the contamination of cattle feed. According to the report, more than a quarter of feed manufacturers in Colorado, one of the top beef-producing states, were not even aware of the F.D.A. measures to prevent mad cow disease, four years after their introduction.

A follow-up study by the accounting office in 2002 said that the F.D.A.'s "inspection database is so severely flawed" that "it should not be used to assess compliance" with the feed ban. Indeed, 14 years after Britain announced its ban on feeding cattle proteins to cattle, the Food and Drug Administration still did not have a complete listing of the American companies rendering cattle and manufacturing cattle feed.

The Washington State Holstein at the center of the current mad cow crisis may have been born in Canada, but even that possibility offers little assurance about the state of mad cow disease in the United States. Last year 1.7 million live cattle were imported from Canada — and almost a million more came from Mexico, a country whose agricultural ministry has been even slower than its American counterpart to impose strict safeguards against mad cow disease.

Last year the Agriculture Department tested only 20,000 cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, out of the roughly 35 million slaughtered. Belgium, with a cattle population a small fraction of ours, tested about 20 times that number for the disease. Japan tests every cow and steer that people are going to eat.

Instead of testing American cattle, the government has heavily relied on work by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to determine how much of a threat mad cow disease poses to the United States. For the past week the Agriculture Department has emphasized the reassuring findings of these Harvard studies, but a closer examination of them is not comforting. Although thorough and well intended, they are based on computer models of how mad cow disease might spread. Their accuracy is dependent on their underlying assumptions. "Our model is not amenable to formal validation," says the Harvard group in its main report, "because there are no controlled experiments in which the introduction and consequences of B.S.E. introduction to a country has been monitored and measured."

Unfortunately, "formal validation" is exactly what we need. And the only way to get it is to begin widespread testing of American cattle for mad cow disease — with particular focus on dairy cattle, the animals at highest risk for the disease and whose meat provides most of the nation's fast food hamburgers.

In addition, we need to give the federal government mandatory recall powers, so that any contaminated or suspect meat can be swiftly removed from the market. As of now all meat recalls are voluntary and remarkably ineffective at getting bad meat off supermarket shelves. And most of all, we need to create an independent food safety agency whose sole responsibility is to protect the public health. Let the Agriculture Department continue to promote American meat worldwide — but empower a new agency to ensure that meat is safe to eat.

Yes, the threat to human health posed by mad cow remains uncertain. But testing American cattle for dangerous pathogens will increase the cost of beef by just pennies per pound. Failing to do so could impose a far higher price, both in dollars and in human suffering.

Eric Schlosser is author of "Fast Food Nation" and "Reefer Madness."

Pass me the broccoli.


Fair Use Notice

Thursday, January 01, 2004

What a Year

I can't figure out what to make of 2003. Some good, some bad, some worse.

Dave Barry has a better grip on it all, as we see in his annual year in review: 2003: A Dave Odyssey.

Happpppppy New Year.


More on Jackson

A few more thoughts on Michael...

*Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post's media critic writes:
"The contrast between his hand and his face was mesmerizing."
"Michael Jackson's words on Sunday's "60 Minutes," reiterating his innocence, were less intriguing than the spectacle."
"Of course the makeup, the impossibly enhanced cheekbones and the unmoving upper lip were part of the freak show. But Jackson's hand, that of a 45-year-old man, held against his face, that of a plastic surgeon's overworked palette, made it impossible to look away

*An AP story by David Bauder dated yesterday evening reported:
"The New York Times, quoting a Jackson associate who was not named, said Wednesday that Jackson was paid $1 million to reschedule an entertainment special that had been postponed in November. That payment came on top of a previously negotiated licensing fee for the special, the Times said. The entertainment program, 'Michael Jackson Number Ones," will air Friday.'

My thoughts: We've already discussed here how many people feel CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is a loathsome, greedy whore who would sell his soul for a rating point. If CBS did pay Jackson, it's just further proof, one more reason to turn off the TV and wonder how Moonves and countless others sleep at night or look in the eyes of people who care about them.

*I've already said here that I don't think Jackson was mistreated by sheriff's deputies. Yesterday afternoon, AP reported that Santa Barbara County officials will conduct an investigation and, if Jackson's allegations are proven to be like many other fantasies in his world, they will have Jackson charged with filing a false police report!! YES!!!

They also have audio tapes of the weirdo saying he was comfortable in police custody and they say Jackson was not put in a restroom, but a cell designed to hold seven prisoners and equipped with a toilet that had been cleaned just before Jackson arrived and the singer was there for 15 to 20 minutes, not the 45 Jackson whispered to Ed Bradley.

Who y'gonna believe, sheriff's deputies who knew they had to treat the guy with kid gloves (pun intended)...or a man who has to screw his nose in when he wakes up every morning???

*Finally, big dispute over Jackson's involvement with the Nation of Islam. Are they guarding him, controlling his finances, converting him, not involved at all? Why did Stuart Backerman, Jackson's official spokesman, resign Monday? To protest the group's presence? Because Jackson's TV lawyer fired him? Because Backerman devoloped a conscience???

Maybe Jackson has shot himself in his moonwalking foot and is on the way to finally being proven to be what many suspect he is.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Mad Cowboy... discovered in Washington.


Monday, December 29, 2003

A Year of Accomplishment?

Or a year of us obediently eating up White House bullshit? The Center for American Progress and I choose the latter.

A very important article.
It should be posted on every tree.
People should be forced to put
down their remote controls
and read it:

2003 in review:
Bush claim vs. Bush fact


The good, the bad and the lucky

"Leaders who shaped the world, for better or worse, in 2003." An excellent column by Eric Margolis in The Toronto Sun, one of North America's best newspapers, as far as I'm concerned.

Pay special attention to the last paragraph. Kidding aside, the world can learn a lot from the guy.


Sunday, December 28, 2003

Jackson on 60 Minutes

I watched the Ed Bradley interview with Michael Jackson and drew these conclusions...

Bradley could've been tougher, but was much more of a journalist than I expected him to be. He asked some strong questions and wasn't all star-struck and dreamy-eyed as I've seen him while interviewing other show people.

As for Jackson, even if he isn't guilty of the charges, he is obviously a very disturbing and disturbed person. I don't care how good a song Billie Jean was, the most adoring and gullible among us shouldn't be rewarding his obvious illness with anymore adulation.

45 year old men shouldn't be sleeping with young boys, in the same bed or the same room.

Even with a staff of over 100 sycophants at Neverland, I can't imagine any of them would do anything but smile and say "yes" if Jackson wanted to give alcohol to a boy or a duck or do anything else.

I don't believe for a minute that police officers "manhandled" him "roughly." His ass has been kissed so delicately for so long that he isn't used to living or being treated like regular people. His body has been physically altered so frequently - by doctors who should be ashamed of themselves - that doctoring a photo or applying make up to fake injuries is no biggie. Sometimes, rest rooms aren't so lovely and fragrant: a fact of life Jackson probably is unfamiliar with. I seriously doubt anyone locked him in. One wonders if - in his world - he even knows how to work a door knob.

There is no conspiracy involved in the lack of success of his last album in this country. People just didn't like it and/or him and spent their money elsewhere. Again, after decades of ass-kissing, Jackson can't recognize that.

As for his TV attorney, I'm sure many would say he should provide Jackson the most vigorous defense possible...and shouldn't get a good nite's sleep for years to come.