WHO OWNS YOUR FAVORITE ORGANIC BRANDS? As the $20 billion organic marketplace continues to expand, major corporations continue to take over many of the most familiar organic brands. Dr. Phil Howard, an Assistant Professor at Michigan State, has provided a new update on his popular chart "Who Owns Organic." Are you supporting corporations like Kraft, M&M, or Pepsi with what you thought was a purchase of your old familiar brand?
Forty-eight thousand million animals—yes, 48 billion creatures—are estimated to die each year as a result of human activities ranging from factory farming to hunting, the fur garment trades, commercial exploitation of various kinds, and biomedical research. That's more than 130 million creatures every single day, including birds, cows, and hogs, all of them highly sociable animals.
The way we go about killing animals, wherever they may be found or kept, land, sea or air—murdering and torturing are better words—is astonishing. We do it with abandon and we do it in such institutionalized, "tradition" approved ways that only a minority ever realize the extent of the tragedy. Since the era of modern fishing began 200 years ago we have decimated the oceans, ostensibly infinite reservoirs of life, converting many maritime regions into what Farley Mowat accurately decried as "seas of slaughter." In the USA alone, every year almost 50 million turkeys are killed just for Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate a date that is of questionable historical merit, and which, despite the fact that the sacrificial victims have grown from a handful to tens of millions, rarely stirs any introspection. Sadly, such incidents are but a mere drop in an invisible sea of abuse whose actual roots date back to our earliest times as a species with self-righteous "dominionistic" claims over nature.
Forty-eight billion animals is a stunning figure, yet this figure, regarded by many experts as scandalously conservative, does not include animals mistreated or dead as a result of habitat destruction, widespread pollution, apparently "harmless" recreational activities such as sport fishing and boating, and the collision of animals with "modernity" (up to 250 million animals die annually as roadkill on the American highways alone). We have become indeed not only the most appalling tyranny over every other sentient creature on this planet, including many segments of our own breed, but also a raging, self-righteous cancer extending itself with impunity to every corner of the earth.
PROGRESSIVES OF ALL STRIPES, IT'S TIME TO DO SOME RETHINKING
Today, as a result of industrialism, ecological deterioration and other related issues, self-defined progressives can't afford to go on pretending that suffering on such egregious scale is just a peripheral issue, or the concern of affluent diettantes with little interest in other social issues.
Due to a deeply embedded and largely unexamined 18th Century heritage of philosophical "superhumanism" ("man is the measure of all things," and the rest of all that self-celebratory rubbish which, we should mention in passing, arose as a response to a greater form of human stupidity, the one granting God and King total control over human agency), the Left continues to endorse or acquiesce in human supremacist attitudes toward animals. This moral blindness is inexcusable for those who rightly see themselves as the moral vanguard of humanity. [Check this article, for example: Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the Future of the Left By STEVEN BEST . It'll probably challenge many of your assumptions.]
The bottom line is that speciesism—an underhanded and primitive form of fascism applied to animals and nature in general—is by far the oldest and most pervasive form of brutal tyrannization known on our planet. I don't use the word "fascism" as hyperbole in this context or for dramatic effect. I wish it were hyperbole. But the fact is that fascism is distinguished for its unilateral proclamations of superiority by a certain race or breed, with such spurious superiority endowing said race with the "right" to dominate, exploit, and annihilate at will any group deemed "inferior." If that pretty much doesn't describe eloquently our despicable behavior toward non-human animals, I don't know what does.
And for those who pretend to be stuck on the word "fascism" thinking that its use in this context is an abuse of language, you better think again. You abuse a language when you turn it on its head, to accomplish precisely the opposite of what the words originally denoted. Bush and his contemptible camarilla, as we all know, is a prime example of this: in his lips the words freedom, democracy and justice, not to mention a fair shake for the disadvantaged, are but tools of manipulation to further the agenda of a deranged and criminal plutocracy. But what am I proposing here? Something that all of you should be for, an extension of compassion, or at least the benefit of the doubt when subjecting mind-boggling numbers of creatures to the finality of death. Where is the inversion of meaning there? The outrageous betrayal of the language? Or is it that I just managed to offend the sensibilities of too many purists who happened to land on this forsaken blog?
But wait, I ain't through yet. Just like there are many varieties of capitalism, socialism and communism, so you also have distinct varieties of fascism. In some, all the bells and whistles are found that connote "classical fascism" —the jackboots, the open corporatization of the state, and so on and so forth, as we have come to know it. In others, it's more an all-encompassing worldview, a system of values, an ideology that justifies a treatment code. But here's the crux of the question, as some might say. The boots, the marches, the endless wars, the nauseating violence, the paraphernalia of fascism and the fascination with death—all of that cannot happen in the absence of an ideology that starts by justifying the oppression of others by virtue of a self-serving, unilateral declaration of superiority. You think you heard that before? Yeah, I said it earlier.
Regrettably, human chauvinism cuts very deep and pervades every nook and cranny of what we optimistically still call civilization, and has done so for millennia. No one is immune to its infection, including many folks who regard themselves as impeccably "progressive". Indeed, it is from their ranks that you often hear some of the worst and most derisive epithets. The usual argument is that progressives, always a thin line against barbarism, have better things to attend to than the fate of "mere" chickens and cows. Compassion, to such individuals, has obviously left the building; it is fungible, divisible, and comfortably apportionable according to inclusion or exclusion in certain categories of privileged sentience. They obviously don't see—refuse to see—the parallels with so many other struggles they may have honored or participated in, nor do they see how the liberation of animals is an integral part of a serious environmentalist agenda. No, here they draw the line, and reason, kindness, and the most elementary fairness fly out the window.
But such narrow-minded and intellectually lazy positions will surely be exposed—sooner rather than later—for the pretentious sham they truly are. For now, in the age of an utterly deranged industrialism, with a global system blatantly proclaiming as its organizing principle the pursuit at any cost of infinite growth in what to any sensible person is a very finite and fragile planet, the tyranny of humans over nature has acquired monstruous proportions. The colossal dimensions of animal exploitation by the industrial method and the death of one species after another grimly attest to that.
In view of these incontestable facts, no one with a scintilla of decency should turn his or her back on such knowledge. It is the duty of all people who haven't yet done so, and especially of progressives, to re-examine their assumptions about animals, about their everyday conduct in choosing food and clothing and transportation modes, and to join the last struggle against the first tyranny. By doing so, they will re-invigorate the environmental movement, rendering it less abstract and more passionate, because while fighting for nature is a noble and urgent call, fighting for nature's oppressed creatures is a matter of long overdue justice.
-- PATRICE GREANVILLE, editor of Cyrano's Journal [ http://www.cjonline.org ] is an independent leftist and sometime economist who has always supported animal liberation, and who sees no contradiction whatsoever in such praxis. Having suffered, as a result of his opposition to corporate values, from unemployment and underemployment for most of his adult life, he is not cavalier in his opinions on job loss.
Far more unites men and women than divides us, but when it comes to negative stereotypes, women win hands down. Girls are "bossy" and grow into women who "nag", while boys of all ages are "authoritative" and "natural-born leaders". When men go out for a drink together it is considered positive social interaction or "networking"; when women get together they "gossip". But the stereotype that many women hate the most is "bitch". Men bitch too, of course, only in their case it is dubbed Machiavellian (with a palpable hint of respect) or they are hailed for their acerbic wit. As the actor Bette Davis once said: "When a man gives his opinion, he's a man; when a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch."
For centuries, the straight definition of the word bitch was simply a sexually promiscuous woman. Then, as women became more powerful throughout the 20th century, the definition expanded to include being duplicitous. Now men tend to call women bitches when they do not get what they want from them. So, if a woman turns a man down for a date, she is a bitch. If she climbs the career ladder faster than him, she is a bitch. If she becomes his boss and turns down one of his ideas, she is - you guessed it - a bitch.
Current slang associations underline the fact that, for some, the idea of being called a bitch is just as derogatory as ever. Bikers "ride bitch" (pillion), but only when their own bike is unavailable, of course. Among heroin users, the major artery for injection is known as "your bitch", hence the Prodigy's most famous track Smack My Bitch Up. That small, unattractive tuft of hair that some men like to grow beneath their lower lip is also known as a bitch, presumably because of its vague resemblance to female genitalia.
Given all its negative connotations, it is not surprising that women fear being called a bitch. In fact, though, it is something that we should embrace. Why? The US feminist magazine BITCH explains it like this on its website: "When it's being used as an insult, bitch is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and do not shy away from expressing them and who do not sit by and smile uncomfortably if they are bothered or offended. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we will take that as a compliment, thanks."
The website Heartless Bitches International agrees, announcing on its homepage that Bitch means Being In Total Control Honey. It is a sign of strength in a woman and of honesty.
After all, look at some of the women who get called bitches. Michiko Kakutani, the famously ferocious book critic on the New York Times, has been accused by the male literary establishment of being "weird", and a "feminist" who deliberately trashes the likes of Norman Mailer simply because he is male. You can almost read the word bitch between the lines, can't you? But Kakutani is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who is dedicated to literature. Her reviews are honest appraisals of each book rather than sycophantic hero-worship of incredibly well-known authors, which we tend to get this side of the Atlantic. It is hard to believe Kakutani would suffer the same sort of criticism for giving her opinion if she were a man.
Bitching thrills because it flouts manners and speaks the truth. Feminists such as Germaine Greer and Julie Burchill excel at the art because they dare to say what they really think of other people, even when that offends. Then there is Joan Rivers, one of the funniest women alive, who has made her name savaging other famous women, usually over their appearance. What she says she hates is the dishonesty, the pretence, that they have had no cosmetic surgery. And what could be seen as cruelty is mitigated by her own self-deprecation: "I wish I had a twin so that I could know what I looked like without plastic surgery. My best birth control now is to leave the lights on."
Many of us are still so constrained by conventional stereotypes of how women should be - selfless, kind, enabling of others, calm and supportive - the good girl essentially, that the real girl inside gets denied. We take insults on the chin and say nothing. We find it hard to compete or ask for that pay rise because we are not sure we deserve it. We are not supposed to shout or get angry about all the inequities we face as women. We become the bitch, the bad girl, when we want more, when we are not prepared to make do with what we have and when being heard is more important than being liked. That is a liberating feeling. If we fear being labelled as a bitch, we still seek validation from men on their terms rather than ours.
Of course, there is a huge difference between the "strong" bitch I am writing about, the woman who happily flouts conventional female stereotypes, and the "weak" bitch whose persona proceeds from vulnerability and who manipulates others to make herself feel stronger. Teenage girls bitch to bond when they feel vulnerable, and bitching to bully is rife in our schools. This is rarely detected because it can be very subtle, but when women bitch from a position of sheer envy and vulnerability it can have devastating effects - as we saw in the Big Brother house last week. Our culture is full of this kind of weak bitching, and girls have little guidance as to how to move from that ugly, bad-bitch stereotype to being a strong, good bitch who stands up to the world with courage.
Bitching can be clever, with far more wit and irony than sarcasm. It is also more subtle than the blunt instrument of insult. Joan Crawford once boasted that her first husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, had introduced her to the great plays, while her second husband, Franchot Tone, had taught her what they meant, along with "words like 'metaphor' and 'transference'". Jean Harlow's response when she heard this was, "And she taught him words like 'jump' and 'fuck'."
A good bitch with someone you trust can be cathartic when life as a woman gets you down. It is better for your health than Prozac and cheaper than therapy. Few things are more interesting than other people - talking about them behind their backs is often illuminating as well as entertaining. We bitch to bond for support and when we spar as equals it can be incredibly funny. For instance, broadcasters Gill Pyrah and Susan Marling have been friends for years. At the height of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust era, Pyrah was the proud owner of an all-in-one light blue space suit with metallic lining. When Marling saw it she said, "Lovely. And you're oven-ready."
Think of all the fantastic bitches that have gone before us - from Jane Austen, Margot Asquith and Eleanor Roosevelt to the extraordinary verbal rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Lauren Bacall and Greta Garbo were all strong, inspiring women who fired off as many great lines off-screen as on. "Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch," said Bette Davis, warming up for the perfect punchline. "Maybe that's why Miss Crawford always plays ladies."
Life would be extremely dull without these women or the characters they created, Davis as veteran movie bitch Margo Channing in All About Eve, or Crawford as Crystal in The Women. In literature, there are Emma, the Bingley Sisters and Becky Sharp, female characters who thrill us because they dare to present women as they really are: clever, calculating and verbally dexterous. A healthy malevolence lurks beneath the good girl facade. Take Mae West, for instance, who wrote most of her own material, as well as being a sex symbol. In her list of 15 "Things I'll Never Do" (which includes cook, bake, sew or take another woman's man), number seven says it all - "Play mother parts, sad parts, dumb parts or a virtuous wife, betrayed or otherwise. I pity weak women, good or bad, but I can't like them. A woman should be strong either in her goodness or badness."
In an ideal, ungendered world, everybody would be nicer to each other. All women are human, with a wide range of strengths and weaknesses, just like men. We are just as competitive and ambitious, we get just as angry but we are not supposed to show it. Girls still grow up squeezing themselves into stereotypical "good" girl notions of femininity (and their feet into uncomfortably high-heeled shoes) and when we are not aware of how fettered we are by these stereotypes we veer towards being the kind of weak bitches who put other women down simply to make ourselves feel better. But there is a much stronger bitch inside each one of us just bursting to get out. As Madonna once said, "I'm tough, ambitious and I know what I want. If that makes me a bitch, OK." Real women are loud, brave, outspoken, astute and funny, as well as kind, loving and supportive. So let her out girls, for "life's a bitch and then you die". You might as well get what you want from it while you can.
The latest example of airline security gone insane is provided by rock star and stand-up comedian Henry Rollins, who was recently reported to the Australian government for reading a book on an aeroplane.
"US rocker and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on flight to Brisbane."
"A furious Rollins was informed he was "nominated as a possible threat" for reading Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia."
"The incident happened on a flight from Auckland on the recent Big Day Out tour."
Rollins (pictured above) then received a letter from the Australian government warning him not to read such books in future. His response was to post the letter on his website and tell the Australian government to "go f***k themselves."
Last month we highlighted the case of Margaret Jackson, CEO of Quantas Airlines, who was detained by the TSA at Los Angeles airport for having aircraft diagrams in her bag.
With programs afoot to introduce the same measures to train and subway stations in both the US and the UK, horror stories of this nature will only increase in regularity.
In the UK, London subway passengers will be forced to stand in an 8 foot metal tank and have their entire body scanned. The London bombings, irrefutably carried out with the aid of the highest rungs of the British intelligence establishment, were the paper tiger the government needed to crack the whip against an increasingly skeptical population.
To this day we still have a situation where not one item of cargo that enters the plane is inspected but Grandpa has to remove his shoes because he might be a suicide bomber. Even Playmobile have got in on the act by releasing a security check-in toy, brainwashing children into accepting routine violations of their 4th amendment as normal.
Airport security is non-existent because it is directed at innocent people just trying to go about their business. Screeners are trained not to profile for fear of discrimination. How many white pregnant women, 4-year-old boys, famous rock stars and senators have hijacked planes in the last few decades?
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