Slaughterhouse: What the Meat Industry Hides

Slaughterhouse: What the Meat Industry Hides

Directed by Tras Los Muros (2017)

Film Review

In this documentary, filmmakers have secretly compiled haphazard slaughter techniques in 50 Mexican abattoirs that exported meat to the US between 2015 and 2017. It covers the slaughter of chickens, pigs, horses and cows.

Under Mexican and treaty law, workers are required to employ “humane” slaughter techniques that minimize animal suffering. In most cases, this means the animals must be stunned by electrocution, CO2 asphyxiation or a captive bolt pistol prior to slaughter.

As the video reveals, nearly all aspects of the slaughter process have been mechanized. The failure of stunning, in many cases, leaves many animals to suffer horribly as they are skinned alive.

What the Dog Saw

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

by Malcolm Gladwell

Little, Brown and Company (2009)

Book Review

What the Dog Saw is a collection of articles about mass marketing by New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell. Among others, Caldwell includes articles about the pioneers responsible for the mass marketing of the Veg-O-Matic, Heinz ketchup and do-it-yourself women’s hair coloring. There are also interesting articles about the Catholic doctor who  tried to market the birth control pill to the Vatican as a “natural” contraceptive and the inherent fallibility of using imaging techniques, such as mammography, to diagnose cancer. The preliminary findings Gladwell presents in 2009 would be confirmed by much larger studies in 2014 (see How Mammograms Don’t Save Lives) and 2016 (Does Cancer Screening Save Lives?).

These larger studies don’t support Caldwell’s counter-intuitive conclusion that “mammograms save lives.” In fact they tend to support the opposite conclusion: that except where women are genetically predisposed to breast cancer, mammograms unnecessarily expose women to harmful ionizing radiation.

The Internet: Good, Bad and Ugly

Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World

Directed by Werner Herzog (2016)

Film Review

This is a wide ranging review of benefits and drawbacks of the Internet. The documentary begins by examining how the Internet was gradually created nearly a decade before the first personal computers came to market. During the 1960s, dozens of (mainly government) computers were linked up to communicate with one another. Then in 1969, UCLA joined all the networks together to create the Internet.

The film goes on to reveal how the Internet makes higher education available to hundreds of thousands of low income people, as well as enabling scientists to use the creativity of hundreds of thousands of Internet users to unlock secrets of complex biologic molecules. There are also interesting segments on the use of Internet technology in driverless cars and AI-based robots.

On the darker side are patients suffering from EMF sensitivity disorder, who are forced to seek out the EMF-free zone in Greenbank, West Virginia.* And people seeking treatment for Internet addiction at a Rehab Center near Seattle. I was surprised to learn of video gamers who wear diapers to facilitate their their 40-60 hour marathons. According to Herzog, gamers in Korea have died at their computer when they became too engrossed to eat or drink.

Herzog also investigates the threat periodic solar flares pose to the Internet – and potentially to civilization itself, given that so much of modern infrastructure relies on the Internet.

For me, the segment on hacking is the most interesting part of the film, featuring an interview with the world’s preeiminent hacker Kevin Mitnick. This section segways into an examination of cyberwarfare. The latter, which tends to level the playing field between large and small nations, is rapidly replacing conventional warfare.


*Greenbank is a 100 square mile area surrounding an extremely sensitive radio telescope collecting radio signals from outer space.

The film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, but can be viewed at the Maori TV website for the next two weeks: Lo and Behold the Reveries of the Connected World

NZ Mosque Shooter Either Ex-Military or Trained by Ex-Military?

Status

In my view, the most lucid commentary on yesterday’s mosque shooting in Christchurch comes from international security analyst Dr Paul G Buchanan, director of 36th Parallel Assessments. The latter is a non-partisan non-governmental geopolitical risk and strategic analysis consultancy located in Auckland, New Zealand.

Buchanan, an American expatriate, is a former intelligence and defense policy analyst and consultant to US government security agencies.

As quoted in a Radio New Zealand interview, Buchanan points out that automatic and semi-automatic weapons are extremely hard to come by in New Zealand without a license. “The weapon, from what I can tell, may have been modified. It takes some technical skills to modify a hunting weapon into something that’s semi-automatic. [The shooter] had high capacity magazines and may have used a bump stock which was used by the Las Vegas shooter.

Buchanana adds that the shooter’s skill set indicates he is either ex-military or has learned from someone else who might be ex-military.

His comments also suggest New Zealand intelligence dropped the ball in devoting the  “bulk of” of intelligence gathering and prevention efforts at New Zealand’s Islamic community, rather than right-wing extremists.

“Let’s be very clear,” he continues, “Christchurch has a very active white supremacist (ie anti-Maori, anti Muslim, anti-immigrant) community. A community that has attacked refugees and people of color on multiple occasions over the last 20 years. This is the worst of them.”

Buchanan also mentions the shooter was on numerous global right-wing platforms,  including the platform that was used by the synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh last year.

“Why wasn’t he flagged earlier and this whole episode prevented?” he asks.

After several close encounters with the overt anti-Maori racism pervasive in New Zealand’s law enforcement community, I feel compelled to ask the question more directly: Do NZ security services fail to monitor and clamp down on right wing white supremacists because they possibly share some of the same views?

For me the most distressing aspect of this atrocity is Brenton Tarrant (the alleged shooter), who livestreamed the shootings on social media, being cheered on by at least 100 white supremacists worldwide, including a number who live in New Zealand.

Tarrant was arraigned in court this morning on a charge of murder.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: Inside the Rivalry

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: Inside the Rivalry

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This is an intriguing documentary about the notorious rivalry between Apple founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Despite their personal war over Microsoft’s alleged patent infringements, they collaborated on both the Apple and the MacIntosh computer.

The two men were similar in both dropping out of college and both having big issues with interpersonal relationships. Jobs, together with his friend Steve Wozniak, is credited with inventing the first true personal computer (PC), the Apple, in 1976. Gates and his friend Paul Allen were more focused on developing the software needed to make personal computers user friendly. The first Apple computers ran on Basic, the programming language Gates and Allen created for the Altair microcomputer.

Gates would later develop MS-DOS, an operating system written in Basic. It was designed to run on IBM personal computers and IBM “clones” designed by IBM’s competitors.

Gates, notorious for profiting off the inventions of other inventors (see The Inside Story on Bill Gates and Microsoft), also “appropriated” the graphical user interface Apple created for the MacIntosh in designing the Windows operating system which replaced MS-DOS.

Jobs introduced the Mac, the first PC to employ a graphical user interface (GUI), in 1984. This new feature made the Mac even user friendly (ie usable by people with a non-science background) than the Apple. Jobs always maintained Gates stole the GUI Windows is based on when they collaborated on the Mac.

The film also explores Jobs’ tyrannical management style, which in 1985 led the Apple board to fire him. His subsequent involvement with Pixar, the first company to produce full length animated feature films (eg Toy Story), would make him a billionaire overnight.

Eventually Apple, on the verge of bankruptcy, invited him back and he oversaw the production and release of the fabulously successful ipod, ipad and iphone.

In 2008, Gates began winding down his role at Microsoft to enable him to work full time at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The filmmakers suggest the decision relates in part to growing pressure he was experiencing from anti-trust lawsuits.

Jobs died in 2011.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be seen for free at the Al Jazeera website: Steve Jobs Bill Gates Rivalry

The US Occupation: Japan’s Post War Miracle

Princes of the Yen: Central Banks and the Transformation of the Economy

Directed by Michael Oswald (2014)

Film Review

Based on Richard Werner’s book by the same name, this film examines the economic forces responsible for the Japan’s post war economic miracle. The US occupation of Japan (1945-1952) was characterized by heavy censorship and US control of all political appointments, including central bank governors.

Mindful of the peasant uprising that led to revolution in China, US occupiers immediately implemented major land reform, breaking up large estates to hand the land over to their tenants. In 1951, under US oversight, Japan declared an amnesty for all war criminals. Thus while Nazi war criminals were being tried and hung at Nuremberg (or secretly smuggled into the US or Latin America), Japanese war criminals were forming (with major CIA support) the Liberal Democratic Party, which would rule Japan continuously until 1993.

Because they mainly held war bonds or loans to industries that had been destroyed, private Japanese banks had collapsed. Under US supervision, the Japanese central bank purchased these worthless assets in exchange for bank reserve (a process that would come to be known as quantitative easing).

They then set up a system known as “window guidance” to guarantee the rapid credit creation necessary for economic recovery. Under window guidance, the Bank of Japan issued quarterly directives to each bank on the amount of credit they needed to create for specific industries. The goal was to maintain a war economy with a focus on consumer goods instead of weapons. Growth skyrocketed, producing rapid income recovery with reasonable income equality for Japanese citizens.

By the 1970s, Japan was the world’s second largest economy and held major investments in the US and other western countries. In addition to owning 75% of US treasury bonds, in 1986 Japanese investors owned Columbia Pictures, Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach Golf Course near Monterey, California.

All this changed in the 1990s, when the Bank of Japan colluded with the IMF, World Bank and Goldman Sachs for the right to be independent of the Japanese government like western central banks. As part of this scheme, which would hand Japan’s central bank over to  western speculators, the BOJ deliberately (according to Werner) created a massive asset bubble which collapsed in the mid-1990s. Between 1991 and 1996, 212,000 Japanese companies went bankrupt, stocks and land lost 80% of their value and over 5 million Japanese became unemployed.

The Japanese economy continues to be in recession to the present day.

“Populist Stalinism”? Final Episode of In Search of Putin’s Russia

In Search of Putin’s Russian – Part 4 The State of the Arts

Al Jazeera (20150

Film Review

In this final episode, journalist and filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov interviews the director of a film about the 1939 non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler; the manager of a fringe theater group that puts on pro-gay, pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin plays; visitors to the last remaining Stalin gulag; attendees at a recent pro-Stalin conference; a Russian ultranationalist who advocates the prosecution of pro-homosexuality, pro-Ukraine, pro-multiculturalism, pro-tolerance, pro-liberal and pro-abortion Russians; and a wealthy Moscow “liberal” who believes that wealthy oligarchs, rather than Putin, are the real power behind the Russian government.

  • 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact – the fact that Stalin and Hitler initially collaborated tends to be suppressed in Russian schools and history books. Yet despite a filmmaker’s refusal to make recommended script changes, the film received full funding from the Russian Cinema Fund.
  • Fringe theater – the theater group specializing in pro-gay, pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin plays talks about a police raid and arbitrary eviction from their premises.
  • Stalin Gulag – the Russian government has destroyed all but one of Stalin’s former Gulags. They have also ended regular festivals that formerly occurred at the one that remains.
  • “Populist Stalinism” – Nekrasov explores a bizarre movement within the Orthodox Church to have Stalin proclaimed a saint.
  • Russian ultranationalism – the Duma, as well as Putin’s ruling United Russia Party, are full of ultranationallist conservatives. The rich liberal Nekrasov interviews regards Putin’s embrace of conservative values as opportunism and pandering to Russia’s unwashed masses.