December 2006

Two days ago I wrote about multinational corporations lobbying the government to influence laws and policy. I stated that we know there are billions of dollars spent lobbying the government every year. Today I will provide evidence of that statement.

The Lobbying Spending Database contains statistics on the dollars spent yearly lobbying Congress and goverment agencies. In 1998, $1.43B was spent by companies, labor unions and other organizations. In 2005 (the last full year reported) that amount increased to $2.28B.

Among the list of Top Spenders in the time period from 1998 to 2005, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is third (behind the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association), having spent $133,156,515. (more…)

The FDA today in a draft risk assessment found that food from cloned cattle, pigs and goats is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day from conventionally bred animals. This is a big step towards the FDA outright approving the practice and permitting cloned food on the commercial US market without special labeling. For more on the story see this article.

I’ll cut right to the candor. I’m no fan of the FDA. I’m not like most people who think the FDA is some upstanding guardian of our food supply that works day and night to ensure that nothing adverse is permitted for consumption by Americans. Then again, is that really what most people believe? I don’t really know — I’ve never taken a poll and I’ve not really seen the results of any polls that have been taken. But the tendency, at least from my perspective, is that most people trust these governmental oversight bodies virtually without question. The mere thought that the FDA could or would bow to lobbying from multinational corporations insites allegations of conspiratorial thinking and is dismissed without further consideration. We know that the food and drug market is big business (billions and billions of dollars in the U.S. alone). We know there are large multinational corporations in the business of producing food and drugs for sale in the U.S. And we know that lobbying governmental bodies is a daily practice in this country.

Do you suppose that the FDA has never once fallen prey to this type of lobbying? If you believe that you have more faith than I do, but I would suggest that your faith is ill-placed. The love of money is the root of all evil (1Ti.6:10) and there is a lot of money at stake here. Further, if the FDA had never given into lobbying in its history the lobbying would long ago have stopped or taken on a different, more effective form. Lobbying exists because it works. Billions of dollars are spent yearly to lobby the government. You can bet your cloned cattle that lobbying works, which is to say that it impacts the decisions made by the FDA and other governmental oversight bodies.

How does food from cloned animals benefit multinational corporations? Isn’t cloning expensive? No doubt millions have been spent on figuring out how to clone animals and now it can be done. So the money has already been spent and if cloned food is not approved that marks millions of investment and research dollars lost. This alone is a significant driver in ensuring that food from cloned animals is approved.

But what drove the research into cloning? The answer to that is very likely multi-faceted as more than just multinational corporations have an interest in it. But for the multinational corporations in the food and drug business, being able to create your own supply of animals in a lab offers huge ROI. Healthy, well-bred animals are expensive and have significant needs in order to keep them healthy and well-bred (that is to keep breeding well). They need a lot of land to roam and a lot of food to eat. And they take a long time to reproduce. Cloning them in a lab enables you to clone animals quickly and at little cost.

So what’s the big deal? Why not clone animals if food can be produced with less expense? Don’t think for a minute that the cost savings will be passed on to the consumer. What is the quality of that food? Is it healthy? Is it safe? What modifications were made to the genes of the cloned animals? What impact will those modifications have? Has the natural diet of the animals been modified? Do they have a nutritional diet? There’s a multitude of questions to be answered. Do you trust the FDA to answer them all honestly and without bias?

I do not.

Genetically modified food has been on the market for years now with the blessing of the FDA. Are people in this country generally healthy? No sir. Our health is in rapid decline and despite billions of dollars in food and drug research the decline continues. What is the cause of this? One thing is for sure, the recent food and drug advancements haven’t improved matters any, as evidenced by the continued health decline and lack of any upward trend. At best, no link has been provided between recent advancements and health improvements.

So what is the benefit of those millions and millions of R&D dollars? No one has ceased eating, more people are dependent on drugs for all kinds of “benefits” and the profits of multinational corporations are quite healthy. Therein lies the benefit.

The Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI) is a robust set of JavaScript controls and utilities for building interactive web applications. The library is released under the BSD license so it is free for use in all kinds of applications. Some of the available utilities include drag and drop, eventing, animation and a connection manager. The library controls include auto-complete, calendar, container, menu, slider, tree view and tab view.

Aptana is “The Web IDE,” a “robust JavaScript-focused IDE for building dynamic web applications.” It provides full code-assist and JavaScript debugging. It ships (that is, electronically) with some of the YUI libraries so you can quickly create projects leveraging YUI to try them on for size. Aptana is supported on Windows, Mac, Linux, and as an Eclipse plug-in (and thus virtually any modern platform).

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of using either of these tools but now that I know about them I hope to have the pleasure soon. If you’ve used them, tell me what you think.

I never drank coffee growing up, even after reaching the age when it becomes acceptable to drink coffee (whatever age that is). I didn’t drink it when I went to school and I didn’t drink it when I started working after graduation. The exception was that every now and again I might shell out five bucks for a fancy cup of something from the likes of Starbucks and Caribou Coffee. But this was a very rare occurance. It t wasn’t until recently when my in-laws were visiting that I started to drink coffee regularly. Strange how it happened. I knew they liked coffee and the only coffee I ever drank was fancy stuff from the coffee shops, so I went down to the local Caribou Coffee and paid about $8 for half a pound of Mocha Java. I nearly died when she told me it was $12.99/pound and that’s when I settled for half a pound.

I brewed some up that night and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The next morning we brewed it again and then again the next night. Before I knew it I was drinking coffee morning and night and very much enjoying it.

I prefer a good dark roast. I’ve been buying coffee from Trader Joe’s for a while now and I like the Ultra-Dark Sumatra the best. It’s true to its name — very, very dark and full of flavor. I’ve tried Trader Joe’s Yemen Mocha and Mocha Java, both of which are good (Yemen Mocha being better than the Mocha Java) but I think I still prefer the Ultra-Dark Sumatra. It seems to have more flavor and it’s a good bit cheaper, too. With as much as I’m drinking coffee now it’s gotta be exceptionally great to shell out an extra $5/12oz. The crazy thing is I’ll do it just to try something to see if it’s any good. I never, ever would have spent that kind of money on coffee before.

But I sure do like to enjoy a good cup of joe.