Thursday, 30 May 2013

The food feud

There are some things that all of us in the world today still have in common. One of the most important of those is the need for food that will nourish us sufficiently to keep our bodies and minds operating at maximum efficiency. This can only be achieved when we are able to access sufficient quantities of good food.

Herein lies one of the biggest contradictions faced by modern society. Most first world countries and a number of aspiring ones have spiralling obesity rates and increases in diseases which more often than not have their origins in what might loosely be described as ‘lifestyle’.

Now I am not talking about simply eating habits here; lifestyle in this context includes the way we live our lives and the physical environment in which we live them. It seems ironic that many Western cultures are boasting of increased longevity, but poorer health. It seems we have done some kind of pact with the Devil or the Universe or God or whatever wherein we have agreed to trade quality for quantity.

A hundred years ago we had far less money being spent on medical research and finding cures for diseases, yet we seem to have simply swapped the old diseases for a whole bunch of new ones. Westerners are living longer but we are spending more of their lives unwell which begs the question about whether this is progress or not.

That contradiction on its own is pause for thought, but running alongside it is the fact that developing countries are still filled with starving and malnourished people.
Famines are still a part of life in the African continent due to crop failures, wars and weather conditions. 
However far and away the largest reason people starve is the same one that has existed since the beginning of time; their inability to either afford or access enough food of sufficient quality to keep them nourished and able to function at optimum levels.

A hundred years ago we didn’t have all these ‘think tanks’ and NGOs and assorted aid organisations and yet now that we do we seem to have made next to no progress towards feeding those who cannot feed themselves.

So what is the answer? You might think that if I knew that I could make myself a fortune, but you would be dead wrong. I think I do know the answer and furthermore I think we all know the answer if we think about it. The problem is that it is an answer that the power brokers don’t wish to acknowledge. They don’t wasn’t to acknowledge it because it would mean they would have to change the way they go about their business and it would affect their bottom line. It wouldn’t send them broke, but it would reduce the outrageous fortunes the biggest players in the food cartels are currently able to make.

You might think that these people should be allowed to make handsome profits from peddling food and I would not argue with that except to add the caveat that it rather depends on what the cost of that is in human and planetary terms.

For some considerable time big corporations involved in food production have been acquiring competing businesses and growing larger and more powerful in terms of both their market share and the amount of income they are generating. This has led to a position rather like that in the oil industry where a small number of humungous corporations are controlling the production and distribution of most of the world’s food. Some such as chemical giant Monsanto have taken it to a whole new level by getting control of seeds and patenting them along with their attempts to take out patents on actual vegetables!

Many farmers in the USA have been threatened with or found themselves actually facing law suits for what Monsanto has described as violation of their patents. Usually this has been where a farmer has had the misfortune to be the benefactor of some windblown seed from a neighbouring farm. This is bullying of the worst possible kind. The small farmer (it is always a small one because the big ones are all being taken into the fold of the big corporations) has to expend money he can ill afford to defend a spurious legal case brought against him by a large corporation for whom legal fees are a convenient tax write-off.

However the implications of this policy are far worse. Companies like Monsanto are neither scared of losing a couple of market shares to a small scale farmer. The amount he would take even if they allowed it would be less than a month’s salary for one of their top executives. The real reason these actions are being brought is to financially ruin the small farmers so Monsanto can get a firmer hold on the global food chain. Left unchecked these people will literally have the power of life and death over the world. If you control the majority of the food in the world you can then control who gets it and who does not as well as how much you charge for it.

However Monsanto are not on their own in this and there are other players here who are also doing their bit to ensure that food resources are controlled by a small cartel of big players. Furthermore there is another side to all of this and that becomes evident when we consider the quality of the food that is being produced by the major players. In short it is crap and crap that in many cases is doing us harm and very often responsible for those so-called lifestyle diseases that many of us now suffer from.

Companies like KFC, Dominoes Pizza, Unilever and the like are sourcing their ingredients from a select few massive growing operations that have gobbled up most of the tiny food producers and then shipping their wares all over the world. Surely not the most efficient way to do things considering the costs of freight and packaging, not to mention all the additives that must be used to preserve the food for these journeys?

In case anyone in New Zealand thinks this doesn’t affect them, I would draw your attention to the TPPA an agreement which our Government is hell-bent on signing and which would bring obligations upon us to fall into line with various other signatories to hand over control over our own food to external forces. There are various petitions about at present that voice concern over this. While it is a good idea to sign those (if you agree of course), I think we have to recognise the fact that this Government is going to implement this, much as they did with the Therapeutic Medicines body where we gave up our sovereignty to Australia and allowed them to make our decisions for us. That particular agreement could enable outsiders to stop some therapeutic medicines being used in this country so that we are forced to use only those approved by an outside body – a body which is most likely influenced by those manufacturers who want to control the industry.

What’s worse is that there are and ownership arrangements and unholy alliances already between the big players in the food, chemical and drug industries.

So what can we do about it? 

Not a huge amount on the macro level, but plenty on the micro level. Support your local farmers, especially those who farm using natural methods. Buy locally produced and grown food and grow as much as you can of your own. Home produce gardening is one of the most revolutionary and rebellious acts you can do today without getting locked up (yet). But take it further and save your seeds and share them with your friends. If enough of us do it we could bring about a change.Even if we don’t we will still be better off not putting more money into the pockets of those who don’t need it and your health will be better too.

I also recommend a book by Frederick Kaufman called Bet the Farm. It is an entertaining yet scary look at what the global food giants are really up to.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Studies in stupidity

Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Studies in stupidity

An awful lot of money is expended by governments and public bodies engaging so-called academics to carry out studies. Now that might sound like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. After all we need to know certain information in order to plan for many different private and public organisations and with studies that actually move forward our understanding I have no problem whatsoever.

However I am seeing an increasing number of really stupid studies that seem to be telling us things that nobody with an IQ in even double digits should need a study to find out. It is annoying enough to see public money wasted in such a reckless way, but even more frustrating that I can’t become recognised as an academic and manage to grab some of this bounty for myself.

The latest of these forays into the frivolous is the study carried out by Otago University that trumpeted its astonishing findings to the nation via the pages of the NZ Herald this week. 'Right to success' belief can cause students to struggle screamed the headline to a story that informed us how students who had an exaggerated belief they had a right to success are more likely to struggle come exam time.

But the stupidity doesn’t end there; it goes on to ‘reveal’ that these same students whose own opinion of themselves was much higher than their academic prowess, performed worse than their peers in the final exam – but only when they found the paper more difficult than expected.

Well I never. Fancy that. And it took a huge slab of money from vote education that instead of being been used to educate our students tells us that little twerps who have lost touch with reality vis-a-vis their own capabilities are more likely to fail. Duhh!

And this study was not only funded by Otago University, but also published in the International Journal of Higher Education. Higher than what, I wonder. Higher than kindy education? No wonder the world is going to hell in a handcart.

If journals bearing such a prestigious sounding names as that are according studies of the bleeding obvious such importance, I have to wonder if there just might be a chance for me to grab some of the coin that is being freely tossed about.

Why don’t we commission a study into why we spend so much money on studies into such ridiculous ideas as the one above? I’m sure the answer to that is just as obvious, but for anyone who doesn’t see it; the answer is that governments, councils and bodies administered by them love to spend money on everything but their core functions. They also like to appoint wankers to carry out these idiotic activities so they can turn out press releases to divert our attention from the real issues and enable our shamefully unimaginative newspapers to fill a few more column inches without having to leave their desks and write anything intelligent.

Rather than print slop like this the Herald should have been out there grilling this twat about how his study had improved the lot of students at Otago Uni or slam Heckyeah Parata up against the blackboard and get her to explain why there is insufficient money to fund our schools properly but always enough to fund stupid studies like this one.

I have a few ideas of my own for some ground breaking (or is that wind breaking) studies that should improve the world just as much as the example above.

How about a study into why when I fill my car with petrol I am about $120.00 poorer? Why should this be? I am wondering if it could somehow be related to the fact that I actually have to pay for the stuff. It’s just a theory, mind you, but I’m sure if someone was to chuck me a hundred thousand or so I could investigate that fully and come up with a conclusion that would benefit the whole of New Zealand.

Alternatively I could carry out a study into the meaning of life. This I suggest could be a life- long study and I could drip feed my startling revelations via a series of annual reports which I know would be eagerly anticipated by a grateful nation. I could probably knock out between 700 and 1000 words of absolute bollox, much as I do on a regular basis these days except that the taxpayer would be paying me a handsome retainer to do it.

Yes, I think I could get used to that. They can expect my submission very soon.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Where’s the Wally?

In the last couple of weeks we have gained a new catchphrase into our lingo and we have been ‘privileged’ (?) to become familiar with somebody few of us had ever heard of before. Having said that, most of us would have been no poorer for never ever hearing of this prick, but life is like that sometimes. We can’t go back. The prat is now well and truly out of the bag.

I am referring of course to the one and only (thank God) Arrant Grabmore, that lowly National list pillock with delusions of adequacy.
Grabmore is likely to have one of the briefest careers of any of the overfed, over privileged tossers with whom he soils the benches of this Parliament. He has in the course of a couple of weeks gone from zero to zero and back again, managing to completely miss out the hero part of that particular cycle. He has offended a waiter, some diners, some tenants, possibly also his partner and his idol/idle/leader along with every right thinking person in New Zealand.

Boorish little twats like this should have been given a good kicking in the schoolyard and had this sort of arrogance knocked out of them before they got out of short pants.

For the benefit of anyone who has been in intensive care for the last week or a medically (or otherwise) induced coma, I will give you a little history of this twerp.

He was born in Christchurch in 1973 and spent most of his working life either working for Government Departments or sucking up to National Party shakers and movers like the reptilian Ill Health Minister and State Sold Enterprises Minister Tony Vile. He spent some time working with a couple of accountancy firms as well where he apparently advised utility companies. That probably explains why so many of them are so arrogant, although I shouldn’t give too much credit to whippersnapper Grabmore as he is still pretty wet behind the ears in this regard. A really smart arsehole, unlike Grabmore, knows how to insult and throw his weight around without bringing the roof down on his own pointed little head.

Grabmore suffers from an over-inflated sense of self importance derived from his overwhelming inferiority complex. And who can blame him? He is after all clearly a twit and he looks like a Jianqi clone, which is enough of itself to make anyone feel inadequate.

His political career if you can call it that has been pretty much a disaster from day one. He began by putting out his own PR in which he managed to boast about so much he has been referred to satirically as the go-to man for everything. He claimed a qualification for himself that he did not actually hold and seems to have sung his own praises pretty comprehensively – but it must be remembered this has been a totally solo performance for young Grabmore, much as I suspect, like his sex life.

He stood for the Christchurch East electorate in the 2011 election and lost, but almost got in on the Natsis' list. However his election night celebrations were somewhat premature (and I am tempted to make another reference to his sex life here, but won’t) and following the final counts the Green’s became entitled to one more seat at the expense of the Nats. As a result Grabmore as their lowliest lister lost his spot to Mojo Mathers. I’ve no doubt that this loss must have rankled with him particularly. First of all he lost to a party he probably perceives as the anti-Christ; then he lost to a woman; and finally he lost to a woman with a disability. To Mr Perfect In Every Way, this must have really impinged upon his own mojo.

However the universe often moves in mysterious ways and because young ‘Grabbers’ was such a proficient arse licker he remained on the Natsi list and thus when Blockwood Smith resigned from Parliament last year he was ushered in to the back benches.

This appears to have inflated his already bursting sense of entitlement and so it was that he got sloshed at a Natsi conference and behaved like a buffoon in a Christchurch restaurant. Here he uttered that now famous line, “Do you know how I am?” when refused more wine due to the fact he was pissed as a chook. He then got stroppier and threatened to tell his ‘Dad’ (Jianqi) on the waiter and have him bash him up (fire him).
His behaviour was so bad that one of the people he was dining with was so embarrassed he wrote a note to the waiter apologising for the little shit.

Then when the faeces hit the fan, little Arrant wrote a note of his own (in crayon) in which he apologised for the behaviour of his group. This of course pissed off his fellow diners who had all been apparently behaving perfectly appropriately. His esteemed leader was then contacted as they always are in these cases and as is always the case with Jianqi’s particular style of ‘laissez-faire’ management nothing has been done. Jianqi has made some grumbly noises and delivered his usual po-faced response about the miscreant letting himself down and his behaviour falling below the standard expected etc etc etc... yawn; but sod all else.

In a case like this there is always more and you can rely upon the media to start finding it soon. They have already found another instance where Grabmore has chucked some tenants out of their accommodation in circumstances that seem less than fair and certainly less than polite. It looks as though he might have upset his partner at the same time, so he looks destined to become an even bigger little Johnny no mates than his steamed leader.

Of course more will unravel from all of this and eventually Jianqi will have to drop this Wally because he will become too much of a distraction. He certainly won’t be the first MP Jianqi has supported to start with, held on grimly for several weeks and then eventually had to chuck out. Pansy Wong-Number immediately springs to mind and I know there have been one or two others as well, especially if one includes coalition partners.

In any event even if Grabmore manages to stifle any further revelations you can be sure his list place at the next election will be expressed in three digits. Of course none of us should be remotely surprised by all of this as it is exactly the sort of arrogant attitude that most of this Government carries around with it all the time. The only difference between young Arrant and his fellow party members is that the others have learned how to tone theirs down when other people are watching or listening.

But I feel sorry for the waiter, who after all was only doing his job. It is illegal to sell alcohol to pissed pricks, so he was merely doing what he oughta.
But most of all I am sorry that he didn’t have the presence of mind to call for silence in the restaurant and announce that the person next to him didn’t know who he was and ask if anyone could come forward and help him in regaining his memory. It would have been an absolute scream if nobody had come forward.