Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Spicy Supper

Sorry for serving it so late:

"Blame pepper for imperialism, bananas for misery; History would be very different had Western Europe not developed a taste for spices and exotic fruit" by Stephen Kinzer

Strong countries attack weaker ones mainly because they want more of whatever is good to have. Over centuries, that has ranged from women to gold to oil — to food. Culinary appetites have played an important role in shaping history. If people in Western countries had not developed a taste for sugar, spices, and tropical fruits, the world might have evolved quite differently. Restless taste buds have produced much global turmoil.

I'm already going sour on this, a-choo.

Food was drab and tasteless for much of human history. As Europe began awakening into the modern age, people were eager for new sensations. The arrival of exotic spices dazzled them. Pepper is the reason modern imperialism was invented.


For generations after their founding in the early 17th century, two powerful mercantile forces dominated much of the world: the East India Company, based in London, and the Dutch East India Company, based in Amsterdam. They were richer and had greater reach than any government — complete with armies, navies, merchant fleets, fortified ports, plantations, court systems, prisons, currencies, and treaty-making rights. With this authority, granted by the British and Dutch governments, they captured far-flung territories and sowed seeds of conflict in vast areas east of Suez.

Both of these companies were founded to bring pepper to Europe. The first islands they subdued, the Moluccas, are now part of Indonesia but were long known in the West as the Spice Islands. It is a wonderful example of how food can become the lens through which we see foreign lands.

He is right to a certain degree; however, you can $ee what is the bottom line and common denominator here, right?

Let me give you a clue: $$$$$$$$$

Comes with the land and resources, whatever they be.

Europeans went mad for pepper and other spices. That meant ships had to be sent halfway around the world to claim land and suppress unruly natives.

Over time, the shipping routes became as important as the trade itself, and the suppression of unruly natives? Deaths in the millions, a Holocaust™, if you will, and decimation of native populations (this guy, however well-intentioned, skates by it).

Later generations of Europeans and Americans wanted sweets. Traders catered to them by delivering large amounts of sugar from the Caribbean, often in the form of molasses. With their profits, traders bought goods to barter for slaves in Africa, and then brought the slaves to the New World. If our ancestors had not started liking sweet foods and drinking their tea with sugar, one motive for the slave trade would not have existed.

Yeah, all right, I'm not going to get into the Jewish slave traders and the pre$$ shielding of such right now. Do your own research.

Sugar was singularly responsible for the overthrow of at least one government, the monarchy that ruled Hawaii for much of the 19th century. Descendants of New England missionaries assembled sprawling plantations by dispossessing native Hawaiians, but had trouble selling their sugar inside the United States because of tariff barriers. In 1893, with support from Washington, they deposed the native monarchy and proclaimed a new regime under President Sanford Dole. Five years later, Hawaii became part of the United States. That opened the sweet-toothed American market to Hawaiian sugar. Dole’s family made a fortune by introducing Americans to pineapple — duty-free.

An AmeriKan hero is Dole, and the conglomerate has proved quite fruitful.

When I reflect on the Pacific arena, I see shame when it comes to the United States. It begins with the formation of an empire across the vast region back in the early-20th century, when -- yet again -- the American people were lied into war. It was Spain then, and we took over the colonies just as "we" would in later years in Vietnam from the French, another war built upon lies. Then there is the bombing of Cambodia and Laos on top of the two mushroom clouds over Japan. And that's just for starters.

Movin' on....

Production of another tropical fruit, the banana, has left an even darker legacy. The main producer, United Fruit, launched a publicity campaign in 1929 aimed at persuading Americans that bananas are healthful and nutritious. It succeeded, and the company became hugely profitable. In lands from Cuba to Colombia, United Fruit was a symbol of oppression, controlling feudal governments and helping to condemn entire communities to misery. Suffering banana workers, and the repression of those who tried to unionize, have become staples of Latin American popular culture from the murals of Diego Rivera to the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

An AmeriKan corporation a symbol of oppre$$ion? $urely you je$t!

One of the cruelest coups the United States ever engineered was set off by bananas — specifically, by United Fruit. In 1952, after entering into a period of democratic rule, Guatemala became the first country to pass a land reform law reining in United Fruit.

I hate to say it, but that is the basis for most disputes. People just want to be able to live there lives; those that profit from taking it then introduce all sorts of other issues (religion, ethnicity, etc) to obfuscate that fact.

The company appealed to Washington for help. Two of its former lawyers, John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, became secretary of state and CIA director, respectively.

Oh, now there are two names from the past, two criminals responsible for so much misery across the planet. The '50s were a golden era for the CIA. They not only took over news rooms, they were allowed to run amok in the world. Then Eisenhower farts off his "brave" MIC comment as he is leaving,

Thanks for setting the whole thing up, Ike, and costing the next guy is head (when you really think it through).

They staged their coup in 1954. 

I'm having a hard time with the U.S.-initiated coup stuff because I've been taught and told.... you know, we don't do that. Other guy does, the bad guy. Then we must invade and occupy, put the right guy in power, it's a whole complicated thing.

Land reform was reversed, labor unions were banned, and Guatemala fell into a 36-year civil war in which 200,000 perished. If Americans had not developed a taste for bananas — or had been more conscious of how their bananas were produced — this tragedy might have been avoided.


First of all, I rarely eat bananas. They rot too fast. So don't collectively blame me. As for other Americans, those banana ads on TV from Chiquita (aren't they a subsidiary of Dole?) really got to you, huh? And all the health reports coming from government and academia, eat bananas, potassium and all that (I'm not doubting it, I'm just peeling back the propaganda pre$$ banana a bit).

Today we realize the value of eating locally produced food.

Do "we?" What is wrong with my corporately-proce$$ed garbage I call a menu?

We should apply the same principle to our relations with other countries. Call it the “locavore” foreign policy: Look first to ourselves rather than seeking distant resources; recognize how our habits affect the world; and do not allow our changing tastes to incite foreign conflict.

I think it is too late for that regarding this government. 



"Guatemalan leader urged to resign" Associated Press  August 27, 2015

GUATEMALA CITY — Pressure grew Thursday on Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina to resign as business and government offices closed, protesters marched by the thousands, and the attorney general’s office urged him to step down ‘‘to prevent ungovernability that could destabilize the nation.’’

The government comptrollers’ office issued a statement saying Perez Molina, whose government has been shaken by corruption scandals, should resign ‘‘to avoid greater social unrest that could have unpredictable consequences.’’

Guatemala’s congress named a commission of five legislators on Thursday to consider whether to remove the president’s immunity from prosecution, a process somewhat like impeachment. A previous effort failed.

Thousands of protesters marched in the capital following days of intermittent roadblocks by demonstrators who want the president to resign and the Sept. 6 presidential elections to be postponed.

Pollo Campero, the country’s iconic fried chicken chain, joined the stoppage and closed its outlets in Guatemala City on Thursday. Hamburger and pizza chains announced on their Facebook and Web sites that they were also joining the shutdown.


Guatemala still having its problems, I see. 

Hungry for more?

"The Arab Spring was a revolution of the hungry; The Arab world can’t feed itself, and that’s how the region’s dictators like it" by Thanassis Cambanis

It took less than four years for Egypt’s dictatorship to reconstitute itself, crushing the hope for real change among the people. In no small part, the regime’s resilience was due to its firm grasp of bread politics. The ruler who controls the main staples of life — bread and fuel — often controls everything else, too.

Nonetheless, the specter of a “revolution of the hungry” still worries authoritarian rulers today, in Egypt and throughout the Arab world.

Just there?

Roughly put, the idea is shorthand for an uprising that brings together not only the traditional cast of political and religious dissidents but also pits a far greater number of poor, uneducated, and apolitical citizens against the state.

Oh, one of those pesky people's protest I occasionally divine.

Look across the region, and regimes have good reason to be afraid. Even in countries where obesity is widespread, people suffer from low-quality medical care and malnutrition due to a lack of healthy food. 

Is it, or are they just telling you that so your hungry ass will except its meager starvation rations, if any? Or is it the corporately-produced garbage with all its chemicals, modifications, and proce$$ing?

The basic equation is stark: The Arab world cannot feed itself. Rulers obsessed with security have created a twisted web of importers and bakeries whose aim is not to feed the population efficiently or nutritiously but simply to maintain the regime and stave off that much feared revolution of the hungry. Vast subsidies eat up the lion’s share of national budgets.

The leaders and elite cla$$ are dining good, though, so don't you worry.

So far, the bakeries haven’t run out of loaves in two of the region’s biggest bread battlegrounds, Egypt and Syria. But the sense of plenty is only an illusion. Food is expensive, people are poor, and repressive regimes rely on imported wheat financed through foreign aid. It’s an unsustainable and volatile cocktail.

The same could be said of U.S. markets.

“You have a system where access to food is a primary mechanism of social control,” said journalist Annia Ciezadlo, author of the book “Day of Honey,” who has written extensively about food subsidies, unrest, and the use of food as a weapon in the Middle East.

Where isn't it used to control a population (government good, hands out food, even if its outdated crap to kids and corporate garbage)?

And this idea that the U.S. doesn't use food as a weapon.... what do you think sanctions means?

(I know, I know, they don't cut off food; they just cut off the power to buy food. Like some sort of Anti-Chri.... oooooh, spine-tingling shudder).

The Arab uprisings of 2010 and 2011 offered only the most recent glimpse of what it would look like if people got hit where it hurts the most: at the dinner table....

RelatedArab Spring Benefited Israel 

Kind of weird how that all worked out, huh?

Dictators in the Arab world learned that one of the best routes to dominance runs through the bakery. Rulers the world round usually deploy some variant of pocketbook politics, rewarding their loyalists with perks like community centers, jobs, and payola — and punishing opposition areas by scrimping on their basic services like roads and schools. In many Middle Eastern countries, the level of control was more basic: Without the government, citizens would starve.

The brittle, undemocratic regimes had, however, no mechanism of oversight and little resilience to withstand outside shocks. So distant events like a bad crop on the Black Sea or low rainfall in Canada could quickly translate into a political crisis in the Levant or North Africa. In 2008, world food prices spiked, and, once again, bread riots broke out across the Middle East. Regimes scrambled to cover the shortfall with handouts and subsidies, on the assumption that their populations might tolerate repression but not hunger.

Hunger does make people do irrational things.

Indeed, rising commodity prices were one of the triggers in the 2010 to 2011 uprisings.

Is that why the Fed is $hitting a brick?

Protesters in Tunisia brandished baguettes. In Egypt, many of the revolutionary chants talked about food, and a central demand was for “bread, freedom, social justice” (it rhymes in Arabic).

The first Syrians to rise up against Bashar Assad included many poor farmers who had been displaced by drought and the government’s neoliberal disinvestment from agriculture. Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia at the Center for Climate and Security in Washington, D.C., argue that a series of droughts in Syria from 2006 to 2010 created the preconditions for the uprisings — crop failures drove farmers off their land and raised the level of desperation until Syrians directly challenged their ruler.

All of a sudden I'm looking West, and I can see the ruling cla$$'s stomach getting a bit upset.

Saudi Arabia’s ultrarich monarchy calculated that it could survive any challenge from political dissidents critical of the country’s lack of rights and freedoms — as long as it could keep its citizens in material comfort. The king quickly increased handouts to citizens, and after a brief rumble, Saudi Arabians sat out the regional wave of protests that swept through nearly every other Arab state.

Another interesting beneficiary to the whole process, huh?

Yet the obsession with food sovereignty and security remains close to the region’s despots.

Well, other than water..... !!!!! 

Saudi Arabia has purchased land in fertile water-rich countries like Ethiopia in order to secure its food supply.

At the expense of your ordinary Ethiopian?

In Syria, unscrupulous combatants on all sides have made food one of the war’s central battlegrounds. The regime blocks delivery of food aid to rebellious regions; its blockade of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus has also kept out truckloads of UN food aid, causing years of famine in the camp. Further afield, the regime routinely bombs bakeries in areas that fall under rebel control, in a method colloquially referred to as “starve-or-surrender.”

Sort of like the Israeli siege on Gaza.

The Islamic State, for its part, has made control of the food supply a basic part of its blueprint for power, starting with the bakeries and wheat warehouses, and even facilitating the international aid deliveries that have kept some parts of northern Syria from suffering the same fate as Yarmouk.

That would be USraeli-created ISIS™, mind you (with much Saudi help)!!!

The Arab states are the world’s largest net importers of grains, depending on exports from water-rich North America, Europe, and Central Asia.

So it follows that bread riots will break out every time there’s a disruption in the global food supply. Anger will bubble up every time there’s a drought. Or when oil profits fall and it becomes harder to pay for grain imports.

That's a two-fer-two!

The Middle East North Africa region consumes about 44 percent of global net grain imports, according to Eckart Woertz, author of “Oil for Food: The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East”: “Self sufficiency is not an option in the region,” he said in an interview.

It probably was for many of these countries before the U.S. started sending missiles and bombs around the region.

Still, most scholars now accept the idea first proposed by the economist Amartya Sen, that food shortages and famines are usually caused by political mismanagement, not by an actual lack of food.

Yeah, me, too. This whole global genocide for the good of the people because there isn't enough food makes me sick. It's the control and distribution of it that is the problem. \

Meanwhile, the ruling cla$$ wants us all eating insects.

In the Middle East, that means conditions are still ripe for a tempest. “At the end of the day, we can explain the crisis in terms of political economy: corruption, crony networks favored over rural populations. Droughts don’t cause civil war in Los Angeles,” said Woertz, who studies food and security at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, a think tank.

Not yet.

And it can’t be ignored that droughts have been a fact of life in the arid Arab world as long as there has been agriculture, and bread riots on their own have yet to transform a dictatorship into a democracy. That’s because the problem is much larger: People in the Arab world have been kept poorer than they should be by corrupt repressive governments that hog national wealth for a tiny elite. Until that changes, hunger and food insecurity will remain yet another symptom of the region’s terrible governance.

It was a REAL BONUS reading to the end.


My stomach is on fire. Globe never goes down well, even with the spice.