Monday, June 30, 2003

Good stuff in Slate. The title of the piece says it all. There are a number of examples of this phenomenon over the last eight to ten years - I seem to remember an article in the Post some time ago about Bob Livingston and his view that being a lobbyist was better than being Speaker of the House. So close and yet...

Looking forward to Noah's take on the Delay/K street effort. Great piece in the Post about this last week.

Sunday, June 29, 2003's online primary was covered extensively by The Note and others in the more "mainstream" media, but its worth taking a look at them. They not only registered and encouraged over 300,000 people to vote in an unprecedented online effort, but they also managed to raise $1.7 million for Dem candidates. I worked for two online "political activist" sites (gone in the crash) during the 2000 election cycle, both venture funded and both with unworkable business models. MoveOn, begun as a liberal response to Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, was smart. They started and stayed small and lean, and unlike the other online political sites, they really harnessed the power of the Internet, using technology and the interest of like-minded compatriots to spread their message (and donate money) to whatever cause they were interested in. This successful model will spread across all interest group sectors, and in the post-McCain/Feingold world, will become increasingly powerful.

Also check out the various Dem candidate web sites. Not only informational, but a powerful fundraising tool for the candidates - especially for Howard Dean.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Continuing the thread from below, the NYT had a major story about McDonald's and other burger chains forcing change on the meat industry and the way it treats animals in their factory farms. Temple Grandin is cited for her work, deservedly so. She's an interesting character herself.

Also, today the Times takes a look at the fertilizer spread on fields and the health problems associated with the use of recycled sewer sludge. The runoff (feces, antibiotics, fertilizer) from the factory farms, particularly the enormous cattle feedlots in the Midwest, is making its way into water tables and creating pollution in lakes, rivers and the Gulf of Mexico.

I'm not interested in focussing this blog on these issues, but I did spend almost a year investigating the meat industry and there are a multitude of good stories related to these topics. Estimates (and I think they're low) are that 5,000 people a year die from bad meat, and a lot of them are children. It's only a matter of time until another deadly outbreak, similar to the one in the early 1990's that hit Jack in the Box, occurs again. When it does, it'll be worse, because of the consolidation of slaughter facilities and distribution operations in the meat industry.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

This story in the Washington Post about how McDonald's is asking the meat industry to cut its use of antibiotics in their massive meat and poultry factory farms is another example of how responsible corporations can change broader industry policies. I was a producer on a Frontline doc called "Modern Meat" (see left) and this is one of the issues we took a long look at. The meat industry, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, swore up and down that the widespread use of antibiotics in raising cattle and chickens posed no threat of raising immunity in humans and that cutting back on the use of antibiotics was unnecessary and would raise costs too much. Now that the largest beef buyer in the United States (and one of the largest in the world) has raised concerns about the issue, the meat industry is more than willing to go along. A similar thing happened a few years ago, when McDonald's said it wanted its beef providers to implement "humane slaughter" practices and the major beef companies quickly complied. Prior to McDonald's interest in the subject, the meat industry said it was unnecessary and too expensive to implement such policies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Dylan's Run (see below) is playing at the Dahlonega International Film Festival in Georgia link on June 27th and 29th.
I just returned from a trip to Russia and the Ukraine. It's amazing to see the economic explosion that's taking place in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. Huge apartment and condo complexes are rising all over the outskirts of Moscow, a complete makeover (at least on the surface) of St. Petersburg for the 300th celebration and a lively downtown district in Kiev. The city streets are packed with black mercedes SUV's and BMW sedans (raising interesting questions about what type of economic activity is taking place). The downside is the incredible amount of visual pollution from advertising that seems to mark every available surface, particularly in Moscow. A fascinating time. Tons of intriguing stories.