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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Folks, this ain't normal" - Book Review

I first saw Joel Salatin in the latter half of the eye opening documentary called Food Inc.  He was taking chickens in for processing - killing them one at a time and then plucking and packaging them outdoors in the fresh air of his small farm.  Big Agra / Food sees his method, one that's been used for millennia, as 'unclean', and their method in a secretive, filthy industrialized feedlot as 'safe'.  Folks, this ain't normal.

Situation #1) Monsanto grows a GMO (genetically modified organisms) crop, and the GMO crop blows its seeds onto your property.  Monsanto sues YOU for patent infringement - and wins.  This is normal (and true).

Situation #2) A food sickness outbreak is traced to a factory egg farm.  The Food Industrial Complex, combined with its enforcement arm (USDA / FDA) decide that chlorine will sterilize the eggs and kill the bacteria, therefore USDA approved eggs must be bathed in chlorine.  The American Public now sees USDA chlorine soaked eggs as 'safe' and non USDA approved eggs as 'unsafe'.  This is normal.

Situation #3)  Joel Salatin makes quiche, and it is very popular and people want to buy it from him - by choice, uncoerced.  Government regulations state that if he wishes to sell quiche, he has to build a commercial kitchen ($50,000) on his property and have it inspected regularly.  However, if he wishes to give it away to people, church groups, schools - neither the kitchen nor regulations are necessary.  This, too, is considered normal.

Folks, this ain't normal is a look at our warped society through the lens of a man who runs a small family farm.  He speaks about our country in general, but focuses on the food system and explains, in great detail, how the Big Industrialized Food Giants, aided and abetted by the Federal Government have destroyed the legitimacy and value of our national diet, and to some degree, culture.

Salatin's book is a treatise on how government regulations hurt small and midsize organic farms.  Through personal examples and painstaking explanations, Salatin shows how the regulations imposed on farmers are really about limiting market access for small and midsize farms, and increasing market share for the large food corporations.  Under the aegis of 'protecting the consumer', the enforcement arms of the large food companies, the USDA and the FDA work hand in glove with lobbyists and create rules and regulations that small players cannot afford.

Salatin's book will educate you about how the farm system works, how things used to be done, and how much of our modern system has become horribly abnormal.  The USDA approval process has become a boon to the large corporate players - at the expense of the small organic farmers and the health of the American public.  Salatin craves for a more educated, connected population with regard to their farms and their food.  Here Salatin sounds naive - even though he is a worldly and versatile man.  He doesn't seem to understand that the average American (HL Mencken called them the booboisie) believes what he is told.  If something is USDA approved - it is safe.  If something is not approved - it is unsafe.  Our government regulators are looking out for our best interests and are fighting the good fight - I know people who actually think this.  Salatin requests that people research who runs these government regulators - a ridiculous task for most indoctrinated Americans who have spent at least 12 years in the Church of the Religion of Government.  Basically, Big Food and Government Regulations are not helping you.

Folks, this ain't normal, combined with Food Inc. and Food Matters have changed the way my family and I eat.  It is imminently readable, filled with interesting history and independent ideas for solving the problems we have in the United States today.  His solutions are clear, common sensical and place the power over your life and health in your hands.  If I believed in required reading, this book would be on the list.

Helpful links:  The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

The Cornucopia Institute.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bums, An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers - Book Review

I used to cut class in high school - but only when there was a substitute teacher of course.  What I used to do is go to the back corner of the library and read the sports books during this unexpectedly free period.  One of the books that I remembered even after all of these years was Peter Golenbock's Bums.

The oral history format is a difficult one to do well.  Oral histories often sound campy and rehearsed, or they are all hyperbole and serve as platforms for stating the obvious (Jackie Robinson was great, Duke Snider swatted lots of homers).  Bums is different and wonderful because it shows, in the words of the people involved, what happened in the Dodger years from about 1900 to their last season in Brooklyn, 1957.

Golenbock has the players words interspersed with commentary on the information presented.  It is a good mix of prose and interview material on a topic any serious baseball fan would find appealing.  Bums originally came out in 1984, when many of the players on the 40's and 50's Dodgers were still alive.  He also includes the men who wrote for the local papers as well as a few people who were around the team - executives, employees and fans.

Naturally one of the most interesting parts of the book is the section on the breaking of the color barrier spurred by Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.  The behind the scenes information told by Jackie Robinson's widow Rachel Robinson, and Happy Chandler (former MLB commissioner - whose actions supporting Rickey cost him his job) is unique and not widely known.  Jackie Robinson's first season was the one with the 'no fighting back' policy and the pressure to conform to this Rickey rule had to have been astronomical.  The back office pressure provided by the other owners on Commissioner Chandler was intense.  They voted to not allow Robinson to break the barrier, and when Chandler gave Rickey the green light to allow Robinson to play, the owners didn't renew Chandler's contract and he was out.  The owners never had more than a puppet commissioner after that.

Jackie aslo had a prickly personality, and was not loved by the other players.  Apparently he was aloof and difficult to get along with.  Later on he became intensely political, supporting Republican Richard Nixon, and this turned off many of his former teammates - not because of his allegiance, but because he was unwilling to talk about anything else.  It is this type of non mainstream information that is the gold that is sprinkled throughout the book.  Also lost in the Robinson mystique is how fantastic an athlete Jackie was, and how skilled a second baseman he was.  Bill James gives him due credit in his Historical Baseball Abstract, but rarely does one see in print quality analysis of Robison's skill as a player.  Even the players who were not Robinson fans per se recognized his hall of fame ability on the field.  Bums provides much of the heretofore unseen backstory.

The Dodgers have had a rich history.  Their tenure in Brooklyn sounds like it was one of the aspects of an older, non corporate New York City that was even more rabid for baseball.  Bums covers a lot of ground:  What happened to Karl Spooner - comes up as a left handed 23 year old and pitches two games, both complete game shutouts with 27 strikeouts in 18 innings?  What did Sandy Koufax do in Brooklyn - and why was he so invisible during his time there?  Who were the Daffiness Boys and Uncle Robbie?  Why is Walter O'Malley vilified when his actions are justifiably those of a smart businessman?  Why are they called the Dodgers in the first place?

These questions get answers, the history gets an honest look (this is not hagiography) and the prose is smooth and detailed.  I understand, 23 years later, why Bums stayed in my memory.

The heart of the 1957 Dodger lineup, the final year in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We Are Witnessing The End Of the Mainstream Media - More Bad News For Our Overlords

On June 5 the New York Times Company sold the Boston Globe for a paltry $70 million. It had paid $1.1 billion in 1993, which was worth $1.76 billion in today’s money.  Think about that last sentence.  You spend $1.1 billion on something, then sell it off at a 90% loss.  It gets worse.

On August 5th, the bombshell hit: the Graham family is selling The Washington Post for a paltry $250 million to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos. If the peripheral Boston Globe was worth $1.76 billion in 1993, and $70 million today, think of what the Post was worth in 1993.  Billionaire Jeff Bezos, the founder of the largest mail order web based company in the world, figured it would be fun to own a paper.  He certainly paid the right price.

This bodes ill for the Thought Controllers in the media, and it is great news.  For decades, the artificial Left vs. Right 'debate' in the country was purely Kabuki theater.  On the Left, the NY Times and the Washington Post led the way, and on the Right, the Wall St. Journal was the standard bearer.  The rhetorical battles were decent, but even a cursory analysis of those newspapers and their editorial boards shows that they were both in the first pew of the Church of the State.  In a nutshell, the Times would explain how we needed more gov't in our lives to solve our problems, and the Journal would argue that we needed more gov't in our lives to solve our problems, but not quite as much as the Times would want.

The best example of this fake debate was the Reagan administration.  The "Democrats" hated Reagan, and the "Conservatives" loved him.  Yet, Reagan vetoed no spending bills, opened the borders, and government spending and debt skyrocketed during his term.  One would think "liberals" would have loved the guy.  You can read about what actually happened during the Reagan administration here, but you'd never know it by the rhetoric from the 2 'sides' of the Mainstream Media.

These two papers controlled the terms of the debate.  There was no internet, there was no outlet, other than newsletters, for any honest debate outside of the 3x5 index card of 'established' opinion.  The World Wide Web has decimated the major media outlets, and you have to wonder why anyone would either care, or still read such nonsense.  The NY Times, still seen by many in the NY area as a legitimate paper, sat on the W Bush warrantless wiretapping scandal for a year before it pretended to be angry about it.  They fired a real journalist (and real leftist), Chris Hedges when he started to actually report what US troops were doing in the Middle East.

On the right, neoconservative shill outlets like National Review, Pajamas Media and most of conservative talk radio are openly hostile to someone like Ron Paul, who presented a plan to eliminate 5 Federal Gov't departments, and reduce spending by $1 billion his first year.  Why would they hate this man - I thought conservatives were against government spending?

Perhaps people are starting to see that the emperor has no clothes.  Newsweek was sold for $1 to an octogenarian zillionaire, who promptly died.  It exists today as something called 'The Daily Beast'.  Remember, Newsweek was going to spike the story about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton.  After all, Clinton was a "Democrat"and couldn't possibly get negative press, and the rabble should't have their images shattered - they are unfit for such things.  Unfortunately, in a sign of things to come, Matt Drudge had the story, published it, forced Newsweek's hand, and the rest is history.  Drudge's site is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Newsweek is gone.

Next comes cable television.  After that, the public school system.  You have a front row seat to all of this.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Different Kind of Teacher, by John Taylor Gatto - Book Review

A Different Kind of Teacher, despite its being 12 years old, reads like an analysis of present day schools.  Gatto does what most educators refuse to do - look at schools for what they are and parallel that to what the creators of government forced schooling said they wanted schools to become.  If you are a fan of real world analysis and unsanctioned thoughts, Gatto and his works are for you.

Unsanctioned Thought, from page 52: "Between 1896 and 1920, a small group of industrialists and financiers, together with their private charitable foundations, subsidized university chairs and researchers, and school administrators, spent more money on schooling than the government itself did, with the aim of bending schooling to the service of business and the political state.  Carnegie and Rockefeller alone, as late as 1915, were spending more than the state.  In this laissez-faire fashion, a system of modern schooling was constructed without public participation."

These kinds of statements turn everything you learned in school on its head.  We get taught that the Big Bad Businessmen are to be reviled, and want to systematically crush the little guy in their lust for money and power.  The irony is that your State loving, Left leaning teacher was right - they just had the methods incorrect.  It isn't the 'free market' or 'capitalism' that is your enemy.  These are red herrings.  The school and the school system that you are forced to go to was created for the purpose of keeping the little guys in their place.  The radically independent, free thinking entrepreneurial American had to be shaped and molded into a time serving drone whose allegiance was to the State (wholly controlled by the Moneyed Powers).  Your independent family might teach you the things of the world, you might learn by doing.  Even worse, you might become a competitor to the large corporate interests, like Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Ingvar Kamprad, Madame CJ Walker, SB Fuller, Richard Branson.  The aforementioned were all exceedingly educated, but unschooled.  What the State / Corporate Alliance had to try to do was break apart the dynamic, flexible and most importantly, independent family unit.  School was the bludgeon to do that.

Proof:  Here is where the garden variety unthinking American, who has been schooled into oblivion, will meet you with silence.  "In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.  The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own goodwill upon a grateful and responsive folk.  We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning of men of science.  We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets, or men of letters.  We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters musicians nor lawyers, doctors preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply.  The task is simple.  We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."  You can read the whole thing here.  You should be angered at the paternalistic 'we' constantly used.  Who is the 'we' that is to mold the children of America?  They certainly weren't talking about the average, free, independent American parents doing the molding.

I was taught by well meaning people who believed in the system.  Chances are so were you.  However, what Gatto does in this book, which is really a series of essays, is show you that the illogical failing system that is foisting illiterate and incapable parasites into the American Electorate, isn't failing at all.  It was engineered to be that way.  I cannot think of any person more qualified to show you that you live in a house of mirrors.  Gatto is careful in A Different Kind of Teacher to explain that the teachers and administrators are almost always nice, caring people who believe that they are looking out for your best interests.  What they don't know, and from my experience, don't care to know, is that they are part of a system that was engineered to create a mass of unthinking spenders, never able to think for themselves or understand the world around them.  In short, they are used to simply doing as their told, which after 12 years of compulsory, authoritarian indoctrination, is what they do.  A Different Kind of Teacher explains this point thoroughly through Gatto's research and 30 years experience as a middle school English teacher in the NYC Public School system.

In case you think that school is supposed to provide a way out, instead of keep you in your place, I'll leave you with this quote, by Woodrow Wilson, hero of the Progressives, from a day when the elites were much more forthright about their intent:

“We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”
― Woodrow Wilson

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How to Build an MLB Team and Ignore Conventional Wisdom

The three teams to watch this season are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A's.  These teams rank 26th, 25th and 29th in payroll.  Conventional Wisdom says this is impossible.

These teams are all among the leaders in wins in their respective divisions.  The Rays are particularly fun to watch as they have been putting on a clinic the past 8 years in how to run a franchise.  The Rays play in one of the worst parks in MLB, have horrible attendance, yet they are able to compete at the highest level every year.  What they seem able to do better than any team in baseball is find, groom and display the best starting pitchers in the game.  They are so good, that while teams are picking up retreads and scrap heap starters, the Rays traded James Shields last year because they had too many starters, and they knew they had young guys in the farm system ready and able to compete.

Think about that for a minute.  The Rays had a 30 year old pitcher who had won 87 games for the franchise, was coming off a 15-10 season, and they trade him to the Royals.  Shields had pitched 6 shutouts in the past two seasons (Andy Pettite, who some seem to think is a Hall of Fame pitcher, has 4 shutouts - in his entire career), and the Rays saw fit to move him and allow Matt Moore to continue his development and Chris Archer to slide into Shields' spot.  This is something to watch, especially in the NYC market.  I hear Yankee fans on sports talk radio talking about who to pick up in order to get better.  The Yankee fans of today have been watching a $200 million payroll franchise paper over mistakes for 15 years.  If the Yankees (or Dodgers or Mets or Red Sox) make an error, they can throw money at free agents or make a trade for a big money player.  The Rays cannot do this.  Neither can the A's.  The Pirates, who have been a poorly run team for last 10 years, have finally figured it out.  We'll see if it lasts.

I've always been a fan of Bill James, who was an outsider for 20 years.  As the Fallacy of Authority was able to keep out independent thinkers like James who prove the "experts" wrong (and in some cases, it still does), we're seeing smart people turn the Establishment on its head via the Rays franchise. Billy Beane, the subject of the book Moneyball, was the beginning, and now we see how winning can take place by bucking the trend and ignoring the Established Authorities, who for years have ridiculed people like Bill James and the number crunchers who run the Tampa Bay franchise.

Maybe some day one of the moneyed franchises will imitate the truly outside the box thinkers and not only win, but make money in a more efficient manner and more profitable result.  Surely if you enjoy baseball and enjoy watching the independent minded, watch the A's, Rays and Pirates this season.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sacred Number, by Richard Heath - Book Review

Intentionally or not, we are predisposed and taught that the Ancient World was a place of simplicity and ignorance.  The imagery is usually one of people so unfortunate as to live lives hand to mouth,  gathering fruits and berries, handling simple farming and doing little to no analysis of the world.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sacred Number and The Origins of Civilization, The Unfolding of History through the Mystery of Number, by Richard Heath sends the above premise into the trash.  Think of measuring the following measurements of the Earth in the modern age, gotten via GPS and satellite tracking, in addition to using advanced math:  Equatorial Radius, Equatorial Circumference, Mean Radius, Mean Circumference, Meridian Circumference and Polar Radius.  All of these were measured by the ancient peoples of the earth, and were known thousands of years ago.  Not only did they know, but the accuracy of the measurements is astounding.  The LEAST accurate measurement by the ancients was the Meridian Circumference of the Earth, and it was 99.906% accurate to the modern measurement.  All of the others were closer, from 99.962% accurate (Mean Circumference), to 99.998% accurate (Mean Radius). (p.55) 

Stated further, not only was the Equatorial Bulge of the planet known, it was measured correctly by people who did not have modern methods, electricity, manned flight or rapid travel.  While reading I kept thinking of the Isaac Newton quote "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."  Perhaps these were the people about whom he spoke.

Sacred Number not only shows what these people knew, but how they represented their knowledge of the Earth and the Heavens.  The Great Pyramids of Egypt show the mathematical relationship of the Earth to the Moon, as well as serving as a solar calendar.

"Squaring the Circle", or having a circle with the same perimeter as the square (see above) inscribed by the mean Earth.  The Great Pyramid of Giza has the exact shape to demonstrate the 3:11 relationship of the Moon to Earth.  The difference between the perimeters of the two circles above (the perimeter of the Earth and the circle that passes through the center of the Moon) equals in length exactly the circle that is the Moon.  The Moon is exactly in this proportion to the mean Earth.  The Egyptians had figured this out thousands of years ago, and Heath goes further, noting that the difference in height between the uncapped pyramid and the capped pyramid is the ratio between the mean and polar radii of the Earth.

Sacred Number is more than simply letting on what the Ancients knew.  Heath's premise is a philosophical one.  The idea of God, God's works and the representation of God(s) can all be found in the monuments, temples and placement of these representations.  He gives a wonderful summation of this premise in the chapter called "Life, the Universe, and Everything".  The 'prehistoric' way was God and the Works of God, and it became, during the 'historic' era, The Idea of God and the Works of the Idea of God.  We know this now as the Word of God, or Logos, or scripture.

Sacred Number effectively shows the role of Number in nature, and the recognition of this knowledge by the Ancient People in the ancient monuments.  Heath is open about the lack of recognition by The Establishment of this knowledge, and in doing so, shows a genuine respect to the societies of yesteryear, as opposed to the trendy snark that passes for modern analysis.  The chapter "Ancient Theme Parks" is worth the price of the book, as you'll be amazed at the deft accuracy of monuments throughout the world and the celestial and solar relationships they mirror.  

This video, from Secrets is Plain Sight, got me interested in Ancient knowledge.  It is from the bibliography here that I learned about Sacred Number.