Twas Bileg

‘Twas brillig and the slithy tothes, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
–Lewis Carroll
Goo goo g’ joob…

–John Lennon

(Has anyone else noticed that “Slithey tothe” is sort of a slant rhyme with “slimy toad?” Of course, toads aren’t slimy but verisimilitude be damned…)

A troll appeared in the comments at Joho the Blog this month. Twas “Bileg,” a slithey tothe if ever I’ve seen one. The guy is giving ad hominem argumentum a bad name. Bileg’s critique to date includes: a) an expression of dissatisfaction with the Joho colors; b) a yawn and a slur regarding David’s epistemological Work In Progress; c) a gratuitous insult or two around a really funny video of Nathan W. eating a carrot; and d) (my favorite, a sartorial insight of the first water) “If this web site is any indication I bet Weinberger is the kind of guy who wears baggy Dockers.”

I think it was the baggy Dockers comment that led me to take a closer look at the troll. I was probably wearing baggy Dockers when I read it. My interest in the troll’s identity was piqued. Does he, I wondered, have some specific ax to grind with DW or with Berkman or Levi Strauss or what? Some desultory googling yielded nothing so his identity remains cloaked in webby anonymity. I hope he appears again. As a student of ad hominem arguments, I think I can pick up some pointers on how not to do it. (Baggy Dockers!)

nobody knows, nobody really cares

Read more about trolls and how to deal with them in this post by Maria Niles at Blogher.

The statin stupids

I had a little heart problem a year or so ago and the doc prescribed simvastatin. During the time that I’ve taken the drug, those around me have noticed a dumbing down and a slowness of response. I’ve noticed this too, and I’ve also noticed a decreased ability to find the right word in conversation and while I’m writing.

I thought that this was a general function of aging and I accepted my decline, albeit sadly. I may have been premature. It’s possible that my flat affect and memory condition were a product of simvastatin. Of course I may be rapidly descending into a state of senile dementia and we all should ignore any of my ideas, consider them the ravings of a mad man.

Statins have been shown to improve the survival chances of atherosclerotic patients. I’m one of those. I shouldn’t mess with my meds. q.e.d.

OTOH (as the messagers using a shorthand for the common phrase “on the other hand” say), since I stopped the statins I haven’t felt quite as stupid. OTOH, I stopped taking my statins, so what does that tell you?

I’ve an appointment with the cardio guy soon. In all likelihood I’ll remember to bring this up since I’m not taking the statins. OTOH, I may not live long. Just a joke… macabre sure, but not to be taken seriously. Informed opinions abound regarding the “statin stupids,” my self-diagnosed condition. A few links:

I think I nailed it

Wrote this email in response to a thoughtful, optimistic essay regarding the epigenetic nature of the American character. Sharing it here out of context, but I used so many big words I thought “What the hey! People need to read this!”

I had to put tongue in cheek to reply regarding “national character.” I agree that racial or cultural stereotypes are socio-economic in origin and generally based in ignorance. I don’t quite agree that the positive stereotypes should be parsed differently from the negatory. A stereotype is a stereotype, and they can be used as tools of oppression in different ways. Positive stereotypes buttress arguments for American exceptionalism — not a good thing. Also, the story of the empathizing Americans characterized as warm-hearted and full of goodwill belongs to the twentieth century. I think there’s a whole new story for the 21st… the American character has mutated to some kind of snivelly, whiny, fear-driven slugs with a sense of entitlement that they haven’t earned.

Environmental pressures from Bushism, Corporatism, Terrorism, and bizarro libertarian capitalism have forced the production of socio-cultural enzymes that have torn away vast slices of the American national body’s chromosomes and an unrecognizable monster is emerging. Perhaps the new traits of smug religiosity, hypocrisy, and fear-based belligerence will not be inheritable and so will only be here for a single generation.

I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion that skin color is irrelevant to both problem and solution. If, for example, it could be shown that my fellow scandinavians indeed ARE stolid and stupid, that a rude taciturnity is built into our genes, the epigenetic turning of a subgroup of linguistically deprived Utah pioneers subsisting on a diet of grains and honey from stolid and morose knuckle-draggers to light-hearted gregarious friends and neighbors might be due to some enzyme balance shift caused by diet and excessive sunlight.

The offspring of these people would likely return to their natural condition if returned to a more natural dark and frigid environment with a dietary shift back to salt cod, salt pork, potatoes, and the occasional holiday blood sausage.

So, if we could nail down the genetic predictors of behavior, personality, and modes of social interaction then we should be able to identify the stressors that in all likelihood cause epigenetic shifts of character. For example the Swiss, in their own milieu, are partial to lederhosen and yodeling, while when they are isolated in an urban culture of poverty and oppression they turn into rappers and hip-hop aficionados.

(I’m late for my telomerase injections, so I may have to cut this short.)

Fearing for their safety, USian rescue workers in Haiti are having a hard time organizing work parties to shift rubble, set up field hospitals, distribute food and water. Is this an epigenetic effect, I wonder, or perhaps simply the product of minds so saturated with the propaganda that has been used to justify exploitation that the leaders of US rescue teams are paralyzed into inactivity by their own xenophobia?

How much xenophobia is a genetic “otherization” trait that supports the survival of small groups, and how much is the product of marketing (or propaganda, as they call marketing in the political arena)? Or does the marketing merely underscore and enhance genetic tendency?

Lamarck was fairly evolved for a dude lacking even an electron microscope. Spontaneous generation has always been a favorite idea of mine.

Obama, Bush, Clinton, Aristide, Haiti

Chantal Laurent, The Haitian Blogger, published an informed article yesterday on her blog and in Salon, an article that underscores the irony of Obama’s appointment of Clinton and Bush to lead “an international campaign to help Haiti recover from the earthquake there.” America’s interventionism in Haiti’s affairs, deserves a closer look.

The noble “international community” which is currently scrambling to send its “humanitarian aid” to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti’s people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s phrase) “from absolute misery to a dignified poverty” has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.
– Peter Hallward, The Guardian, January 13, 2024

According to Hallward, “Since the late 1970s, the relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti’s agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums.” He says, “These people were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake resistant houses.” Around 75% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day.

Tom Friedman wrote in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, “‘The Golden Straitjacket is the defining garment of this globalization era. The Cold War had the Mao suit, the Nehru jacket, the Russian fur. Globalization has only the Golden Straitjacket. If your country has not been fitted for one, it will be soon”; and, “Once your country puts on the Golden Straitjacket, its political choices get reduced to Pepsi or Coke – to slight nuances of taste, slight nuances of policy, slight alterations in design to account for local traditions, some loosening here or there, but never any major deviation from the core golden rules. Governments which deviate too far from the core rules will see their investors stampede away, interest rates rise and stock market valuations fall….”

What Clinton and Bush must do is work with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to forgive Haitian debt, to declare a cease fire in that neoliberal assault, to release the country from the bondage of Friedman’s Golden Straitjacket. It would be a nice gesture if they welcomed Jean Bertrand Aristide to join them in helping with Haiti’s reconstruction. If Bush and Clinton can work together for Obama, well… politics do make strange bedfellows.

Down on the farm, administrivia department

I’ve been following the unfolding story of the Trautman farm and their struggle with Wisconsin’s Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Affairs. A recent post inspired an email from Betty, one of my favorite readers. She gave me permission to edit it a little and post it here. Any errors or misstatements in what follows are due to my editing. Betty writes,

I used to be partial to conspiracy theories, but lately I’m more inclined to attribute institutional madness to plain old stupidity and incompetence compounded by the unintended consequences attendant on any government regulation or legislation.

Lord preserve us from incompetence! But, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “The lord helps those who help themselves.” We can help each other through that bureaucratic maze that is bounded by incompetence and stupidity with a well planned law suit.

Here’s how things are rolling for the grass fed beef/organic farmers where I live. Yesterday we drove down to pick up our beef from a small custom organic abattoir where our critters are processed. These guys have their facility way out in the country. On a busy day the owner and a couple of employees may handle a dozen head. There’s a USDA inspector on site.

They report that Homeland Security wants thrice daily sample testing any time they announce an Orange Alert for anything anywhere. At $200 a pop for testing, a 5 day alert will cost ‘em $3000. This is an expense over which they have no control. And it’s all because a rule designed for high production (high risk), high vulnerability facilities is applied to a very low production, low risk, low vulnerability facility.

It’s not nefarious, it’s stupid. Yet that makes it no less dangerous.

Last time I checked, there were fewer than 300 custom butchers left in the entire state of California. Of these, fewer than half have gone to the considerable trouble and expense to maintain Organic Certification.

Looks like our friends at Homeland Security are gonna insure there are even fewer as they ratchet up their response to perceived threats. They can’t “connect the dots” when informed about a guy being trained to light his pants on fire, but sure as hell they can drive another small business working hard to produce healthy food out of business with insane regulations.

Last year I got yet another missive from the US Dept of Agriculture. This one was a questionnaire regarding paperwork requirements. It’s stated purpose was to study how burdensome paperwork reporting requirements by government agencies are to farmers.

OK. I’ve an opinion about that. Let’s see… I regularly respond to information demands from

  • the Bureau of Land Management,
  • the Department of Fish and Game,
  • the Federal Department of Agriculture,
  • the State Department of Agriculture,
  • the State Organic Program Office,
  • the Organic Certification Office,
  • the County Agricultural Commissioner,
  • the Department of Agriculture’s WIC Program,
  • and the certified farmers market program.

I report the number of fruit and nut trees planted or died each year to the County unsecured agricultural property tax folks, and of course the Air Quality Control board needs to know the total size — 9 cubic feet — of the burn pile of weeds and brush we burn once each year. Then there’s the Agriculture Census and, well… I know I’ve missed a few.

So, I turn from the cover page to this questionnaire. It starts of course with the routine boilerplate of veiled threats demanding that I respond under penalty of law. Then I find a 6 (SIX) page double-sided small print, tiny margin questionnaire. Kinda like a long form tax return. The very thing to study “how burdensome paperwork reporting requirements by government agencies are to farmers.”


This fall, my Organic Certifier sends out a heads up that the Animal Welfare Committee of the National Organic Standards Board (oops, that’s one I forgot in the long list above) proposed to add a bunch of new stuff to the National Organic Program Requirements regarding Animal Welfare. Most of the proposed changes would have, if approved, materially degraded the quality of husbandry we provide our livestock by requiring that we implement practices with no basis in science, best practice, or common sense.

Here’s an example:

Current rules say if an animal is ill or injured, one may not withhold appropriate medical treatment just to maintain it’s Organic status. Instead, you’ve gotta treat it. If that necessary treatment is not allowed under Organic standard, then you can’t label product from that animal “Organic.” That’s a simple enough rule. It makes sense. Organically raised animals tend to be really healthy. Illness and injury are rare. When they occur they are serious.

The new proposed regulations would require that in this rare event of an ill or injured animal, medical intervention must first include Homeopathic and Herbal remedy. Only after such nostrums have failed, may scientifically based medical treatment be entertained. So I had to send NOSB a filing saying in part:

“…a recommendation that REQUIRES (through use of the word SHALL), treatments for which no efficacy has ever been proved is fundamentally flawed. Note that I do not doubt the placebo effect of homeopathy on so superstitious a species as humans, but I object to insulting the bovine by presuming they need such nostrums to ‘visualize wellness’. ”

The sloppy, ignorant, superstitious claptrap proposed as legally binding regulation boggles the mind.

Here in the World Headquarters of Sandhill Technologies we think conditions for the family farmer will only get worse. Of course we’re a negative bunch, but pressure from multinational outfits like the Swiss owned Nestle corporation, Dean Foods in the US and Fronterra in New Zealand has driven more and more farmers out of business. Population growth around the world only worsens the ratio of food producers to consumers, and our global solution has been to apply technology and corporate business practices to increase production, improve distribution, and meet the growing demand. Downsides of this approach include a degraded environment, the spread of antibiotic resistant disease, and terrible conditions for the animals. Decreased margins for food producers drive the small guy out of business while encouraging growth of the multinational concerns that can make up for slim margins with volume.

There’s a complex tangle of problems around these issues, and the simple solutions that can be implemented locally are often overlooked or ignored. Scott Trautman, Betty, and thousands of other organic producers have answers. We have to keep the light of public interest shining on them if we don’t want to be swamped with pesticides, hormones, and manure from the genetically engineered crops and concentrated animal feeding operations that are the polar opposites of organic agriculture.

The way to Carnegie Hall

Tamar Jacobson blogs at Mining Nuggets. Today marks the beginning of her sixth year practicing the blogger’s art.

Congratulations for staying the course Tamar! I understand your feelings when you say,

This morning, as I look back at the very beginning of blogging, I feel as if it has been more than just five years. The Internet became a great friend to me. I have learned so much through writing these two blogs, and have connected with amazing people all over the world. Writing in the blogs has given me the expression I desperately needed during some very difficult and lonely days when we first moved to Philadelphia from Buffalo. But more than all that, I discovered that I really and truly like to write. I adore having a public forum to write to. I do not know who reads me, and, although my audience is not as great as many other bloggers I know, it is important for me that others read what I write. At times, it feels as if I have something important to say, and that it is worth sharing with others. Indeed, I want to be heard. I do not want to be invisible with what I say or think …

“Authenticity” is a concept that many find ephemeral these days. Sometimes it is more easily described with an example than with language lubricated by postmodern relativism. You write from the heart and provide us all with a good example of how to share our experiences authentically.

In 2024, as I struggle to revitalize my own blog in an expanded online world, I can wish for no better example of the way forward than “Mining Nuggets.”

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund – FTCLDF

Down on the Trautman Farm

Down on the Trautman Farm

Before New Years Day I wrote here about the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Kafkaesque way they have treated Scott and Julie Trautman. Scott and Julie are certified organic farmers selling grass fed beef. They also have a small dairy herd. Until recently they were able to market their milk to the big homogenizing, pasteurizing operations known as Corporate Milk. Sadly, their desire to also market raw milk to the natural food consumer resulted in a conflict. Here’s what Scott posted on his blog today about how family farmers are fighting back:

How to Help

Every day that goes by, at least one new person comes along, is horrified by our situation, and asks, how can we help?

Thing is, not only our situation is horrifying. We are representative of what is being done to family farms, and what is being done to consumers. We are paying a high price for speaking out. Speaking out against injustice has always had a price.

What is different now – is – we are not alone. And we are not disorganized. So it is not just us against injustice, it is a growing army of people, disgusted with the direction our government is taking, and their corporate ‘leaders’. A variety of tactics, well thought through, designed to sidestep public interest, and even in cases make the public think it’s for their own good. Truly a world of ’1984′: good is bad, and bad is good. 1 plus 1 is 3.

So, what to do?

First: Do not despair. Do not immerse yourself in conspiracy, in bad news, and take your mind to a place that presumes helplessness and evil. It is not an evil world, and we are not helpless. We are far more sensitive to what we invite into our minds than any of us will admit. Do not surround yourself with the bad. Search out the good – in your fellow man, in all its forms.

Second, do what you can. If you despair, you will be left in a state of “why do anything”. Do not give up – do what you can – whatever that is. Many of you have found the satisfaction in communicating with your representatives. With your friends, neighbors, about issues important to you. This is something. Valuing your participation in the world around you – and accepting you have an impact, and every something you do – you cannot presume that it is for nothing. We cannot know what even small acts, how it changes things. And notice how it makes you feel – to do something good. It feels really, really good. Better than any prurient pleasures we are deluded into believing is what feeling good is supposed to be.

Third, educate yourself. Speak with conviction and confidence to those around you. If you are knowledgeable, you will be sought out, you will be listened to. Become the master of your world – and be able to separate the wheat from the chaff; to tell what is the truth and what is someone else’s agenda. Those against will always use emotion and fear – and be very light indeed on facts and common sense. Through knowledge, be able to tell the difference, and do not accept anything at its face value.

Fourth, support those organizations that bring support together. Back to #1: do not despair – as our ‘enemies’ have changed adapted and manipulated the system – so too we have learned what we can do. We look at their strategies, and no, we do not lie, but we do organize and present a unified front, we gather our resources, and with the truth – and people – on our side, we will not be denied. We fight each battle as it comes, and we see this for the war that it is, and we are prepared to fight as long as it takes.

If you want to support ‘us’, Trautman Family Farm, I want YOU to support, with any kind of donation you can afford – whatever you can do, today -

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund -

Without a doubt – this war on family farmers and consumers – against Raw Milk – is a different battle today because of FTCLDF. Picking off farmers one by one – an old and effective tactic – is not working, and will never work again. That is 100% because of FTCLDF. But there are many battles ahead – and FTCLDF has the armaments we need – especially now, legal funds for those farmers bullied by the state.

When we speak together in a unified voice: we are powerful. These lessons we will take with us across all the injustice being done to us – our rights taken from us, our children’s futures stolen – we will organize and we will take it back, issue by issue. Right now: we start with Raw Milk.

So, Wisconsin – Trautman Family Farm supporters – Family Farm supporters – Raw Milk supporters – Your Rights supporters – show you are prepared to do battle – and give what you can today to Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Tell ‘em….

Scott Trautman, Proud Wisconsin Dairyman sent you – and that we stand together!

Let me simply add, “Un pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!”

CIA agents killed in the line of duty

So ‘ere’s to you fuzzy-wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan; You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first class fightin’ man.
– Rudyard Kipling

Since a time before the centuries of failure of the British imperialists to subdue “the wily Pathan”, since the time of Hasan bin Sabah and before, a time stretching back to the second millenium BCE when the Pashtun people were forged in the fire of tribal conflicts and invasions, continuing through the present day, the tribesmen of the Hindu Kush have not made life easy for outsiders seeking to control them.

American and allied forces, mercenaries, and irregulars controlled or directed by clandestine services and armed with the latest high tech weapons are hard pressed to eke out the slightest progress in the campaign against the Taliban. The geography and the close knit cultural ties among the Pashtun people counterbalance the tools of modern warfare.

Mark Mazzetti in the lede to his New York Times story yesterday observed:

The deaths of seven Central Intelligence Agency operatives at a remote base in the mountains of Afghanistan are a pointed example of the civilian spy agency’s transformation in recent years into a paramilitary organization at the vanguard of America’s far-flung wars.

Since the days of the OSS, America’s intelligence services have performed paramilitary operations. The news of CIA casualties in the south Asian conflict while tragic is certainly no surprise. What is perhaps surprising is the agency’s visibility and the public nature of this loss.