Gerald Ford, 38th US President, Dies

The New York Times:

After a decade of division over Vietnam and two years of trauma over the Watergate scandals, Jerry Ford, as he called himself, radiated a soothing familiarity.

He might have been the nice guy down the street suddenly put in charge of the nation, and if he seemed a bit predictable, he was also safe, reliable and reassuring. He placed no intolerable intellectual or psychological burdens on a weary land, and he lived out a modest philosophy.

President Bush:

During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.

Americans will always admire Gerald Ford’s unflinching performance of duty and the honorable conduct of his administration and the great rectitude of the man himself.

We mourn the loss of such a leader.


Two newly declassified documents from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, released to the National Security Archive, shed light on the Ford administration’s relationship with President Suharto of Indonesia during 1975. Of special importance is the record of Ford’s and Kissinger’s meeting with Suharto in early December 1975. The document shows that Suharto began the invasion [of East Timor] knowing that he had the full approval of the White House.

60,000-100,000 Timorese were killed in the first year of the invasion. Total death toll estimates run as high as 230,000.

Gerald Ford, in an embargoed interview in July 2004:

Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq.

I can understand the theory of wanting to free people…I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.

[tags]gerald ford[/tags]


An Excerpt from “Hiroshima”

This is an excerpt from the BBC documentary Hiroshima.

Terrifying – and terrifyingly relevant, as the world’s nuclear powers, including the United States, refuse to disarm.

The US is even exploring the possibility of building a new generation of nuclear weapons, the so-called “mini” or “bunker busting” nukes. Tony Blair has justified spending up to 20 billion pounds on a new generation of nuclear weapons-carrying submarines because in his mind, it’s uncertain if new nuclear threats will emerge in the future.

Of course, given American support for the two newest nuclear powers on the block, India and Pakistan, the West’s long-standing support for illicitly nuclear-armed Israel, and the threat of American invasion that gives states like Iran a powerful motivation to build nukes, it’s entirely certain that new nuclear threats will indeed emerge over the next few decades.

That means that it is only a matter of time before the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is repeated. Unless we wake up from our slumber one day and depose the leaders who have put us all in such peril.

[tags]wmd, nuclear weapons, Hiroshima[/tags]


Kill the Pigs, Save the Seals

Jimmy Buffet is best known for a bunch of songs that I would probably recognize if I heard them, but off-hand, all I know is that the name sounds familiar.

Since getting famous from his music, Buffet has opened two restaurant chains called Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville after two of his apparently better-known songs (if you’d like to point me to an mp3, feel free).

Buffet is apparently an ocean conservationist who has made “great strides in making people aware of the plight of the manatee”, although presumably he is less fond of the ocean creatures that he serves in his restaurant. Canadian aquatic organisms are breathing a sigh of relief, however, because Buffet has decided to boycott Canadian seafood.

“Margaritaville Cafes will not be purchasing or serving Canadian seafood products until the Canadian government ends the commercial seal hunt permanently”, says Buffet.

Meanwhile, up the coast in North Carolina, massive hog raising operations run by Smithfield Foods are killing millions of pigs and producing vast rivers of toxic and destructive pig shit. From the story in Rolling Stone:

Smithfield estimates that its total sales will reach $11.4 billion this year. So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do — even if it came marginally close to that standard — it would lose money. So many of its contractors allow great volumes of waste to run out of their slope-floored barns and sit blithely in the open, untreated, where the elements break it down and gravity pulls it into groundwater and river systems. Although the company proclaims a culture of environmental responsibility, ostentatious pollution is a linchpin of Smithfield’s business model.

A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.

Smithfield’s pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty fully grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs — anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond.

These pits are a wicked mixture of “bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs”, a malignant concoction that turns pink. You can see it in these Google Maps: one and two.

So toxic is this mixture that if you fall in, you’re literally dead and so is anyone who might jump in to try and save you. So pervasive is the odor of dead pigs and shit that you can smell it from thousands of feet in the air while flying. It’s even dangerous:

Sometimes the stink literally knocks people down: They walk out of the house to get something in the yard and become so nauseous they collapse. When they retain consciousness, they crawl back into the house.

That has happened several times to Julian and Charlotte Savage, an elderly couple whose farmland now abuts a Smithfield sprayfield — one of several meant to absorb the shit of 50,000 hogs. The Savages live in a small, modular kit house. Sitting in the kitchen, Charlotte tells me that she once saw Julian collapse in the yard and ran out and threw a coat over his head and dragged him back inside.

Buffet says that his seafood boycott is not “one nation telling another how to best manage its affairs”, rather, it’s “an effort to make humans more humane in the way they manage the planet”.

Kudos to you, Mr. Buffet, for your concern and your responsibility. I’m looking forward to more boycott announcements from you, starting with pork from Smithfield Foods.

[tags]conservation, nature, environment, pigs, seals[/tags]


Raise the Hammer Turns Two

Raise the Hammer’s second anniversary edition is out. I’ve got a piece called The Digital City where I propose that Hamilton builds a city-wide wireless network so we can all get rid of our cellphones. There’s a whole bunch of other good stuff, including some observations of an American city that are remarkably like alevo’s impression of Washington D.C. when I spoke to him about it some time ago:

The plane ride over was quite the experience. Not so much the customs – don’t get me started on that – but more the little things you notice.

Like – why were only white people flying and riding the planes? And why was every single cashier, airport worker, and flight attendant black?

Happy Birthday RTH!


Opting Out of Christmas

I stalked someone last Saturday.

He was in his early thirties, wearing a toque and a puffy vest, and he was walking through lines of cars in a parking lot.

I was stealthily driving a car, looking for a parking spot at a mall during the Christmas season.

As I coasted through the lot, trying to predict which aisle of cars he was parked in so I could turn up it and grab his spot, I was once again reminded of how much I hate Christmas.

Not the eating food, getting drunk, seeing friends and family Christmas, but the buying loads of gifts part that comes first.

Inside the mall I perused endless rows of merchandise that I knew no friend or family member had any use for. Jolly Christmas music was blaring but the people around me all had anxious frowns.

Each person’s face said they had a lot of people to buy for and no idea what to buy.

The calculus of reciprocation is perfected at Christmas. Every person you buy a gift for knows they have to buy you one too.

Occasions where this breaks down are rare. Last year, my buddy Wayne showed up for a dinner at my mother-in-law’s bearing a gift.

“Shit,” I thought, “I didn’t get him anything”. By dinner-time the host, my wife’s step father, had managed to find an unworn shirt in his closet that we hastily wrapped and presented to Wayne.

Now Wayne is on my list of people to buy presents for, just in case he pulls the same move this year.

In an apparent attempt to simplify things a little, my mother-in-law’s enormous, extended household created a gift exchange system where people draw names each year to determine the givers and receivers of next year’s gifts.

This exchange has become like a black market that exists alongside a legitimate market instead of replacing it. We still give gifts to all the usual people – like my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law’s boyfriend – but now we also give additional gifts to people outside that loop.

This just makes things worse, because if there is anything harder than buying a gift for someone you know who has everything, it’s buying a gift for someone you barely know at all. (I have to admit that some of my favourite gifts were received this way, which just goes to show the value of a fresh perspective.)

It seems to me that opting out of Christmas should be an acceptable and polite, even commendable, action.

The problem is that if I announce I’m not buying gifts for anyone besides my parents and my wife, it likely won’t stop other people from buying gifts for me and then I’ll just look selfish and rude.

Trying to agree on cheaper gifts creates the same problem. My wife and I decided a few weeks ago that we’d go easy on the gifts for each other this year, because we recently went on an expensive trip to Europe.

“By the way,” she announced to me a few days ago. “I spent $100 on your presents, so you better get me something good.”

Then there is the bizarre, rapacious custom of the Christmas tree. The colossal expenditure of resources on gifts, over-eating and alcoholism is apparently not sufficient for Western appetites: we also need to cut down millions of trees.

“I think we should get a fake tree this year,” my wife said in late November.

“Sounds good to me,” I agreed, because it sounded easier than getting a real one, not because I believe that fake trees are better for the environment.

A week later and she’d changed her mind. A real tree had become an urgent necessity.

I protested vigorously. Again, not out of any concern for the environment (“they’re a crop,” I told myself), but because for the two of us, purchasing a Christmas tree is like buying an argument and taking it home.

I vividly recall trying to set up the tree last year. I was on my hands and knees, dripping sweat, with a hammer in one hand and some giant nails in the other, trying to nail the damn thing into the tree stand.

I was covered in sticky sap and I kept getting jabbed by prickly branches.

Meanwhile, my wife was standing as far away as possible from the tree, supporting it with a single pine needle grasped between thumb and forefinger.

“Can you please hold it by the trunk and keep it straight!” I asked in a demanding, impatient tone that immediately kicked off a raging argument.

We managed to avoid getting into an argument over it this year. But I still want to opt out of Christmas.


Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
Email me


Proud contributor to
Director, Web Division at