MAY 23, 2003

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Italian proverb for the day

' Buoni avvocati sono cattivi vicini ' - A good lawyer makes a bad neighbour.

Hi there, fans of the politico-culinary paradigm,

"Why did the chicken cross the . . . . " (sound of brakes screeching) . . . SPLAT!!!!

This week I reveal one of the Soup Nazi's secret recipes. And speaking of the Republicans, see what the Democrats have up their sleeve. Another view of SARS. The general theme of this week's newletter seems to be media spin and control.

As the motivational speakers say, have a good strong-end!


William Rivers Pitt Interview with Howard Dean

If you're interested in who the Democrats are preparing to throw against George W. Bush in the 2004 US presidential elections, here is an interview between WILLIAM RIVERS PITT and one of the seven Democratic candidates, GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN, M.D., of Vermont.

"... PITT: For a great many people across the political spectrum, the number one issue of concern is the vast and growing power of corporations within government, and even more so within the media. It can be argued that one of the main reasons why the Bush administration continues to enjoy the approval ratings it does is because the news media has been demonstrably derelict in its duties. Where do you stand on the power of corporations in America, particularly within the media? Do you have any thoughts or ideas on how that might be dealt with?

DEAN: I do. I think, first of all, it is true that the media has a conservative bias, and is being well-funded by conservative people like Rupert Murdoch. There is no question about that. But I also believe that part of the fault belongs to the Democrats, because the Democrats don't stand up and therefore there is no other side to cover. We've got to do that. Now, some of them are doing it during election time, but it's a little late. Here's what we need to do. In politics, sometimes one single event can crystallise what the problem is. For me, when the Cumulus Corporation, which owns a lot of radio stations, kicked the Dixie Chicks off their networks - a couple hundred radio stations - I realised that media corporations have too much power. What they were doing was using a public resource, i.e. the airwaves, and removing the ability to view and represent both sides of an issue.
When you have that kind of power, you have too much power. I believe we need to re-regulate the media, go back to limiting the number of stations that can be controlled in one particular area, so we can be sure that the American people get moderate, conservative and liberal points of view. . . "


Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy
(Buy One, Get One Free)
by Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is the author of the Booker prize-winning novel: The God of Small Things.

" . . . As America's show business gets more and more violent and war-like, and America's wars get more and more like show business, some interesting crossovers are taking place. The designer who built the 250,000 dollar set in Qatar from which General Tommy Franks stage-managed news coverage of Operation Shock and Awe also built sets for Disney, MGM, and "Good Morning America."

It is a cruel irony that the U.S., which has the most ardent, vociferous defenders of the idea of Free Speech, and (until recently) the most elaborate legislation to protect it, has so circumscribed the space in which that freedom can be expressed. In a strange, convoluted way, the sound and fury that accompanies the legal and conceptual defence of Free Speech in America serves to mask the process of the rapid erosion of the possibilities of actually exercising that freedom.

The news and entertainment industry in the U.S. is for the most part controlled by a few major corporations - AOL-Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, News Corporation. Each of these corporations owns and controls TV stations, film studios, record companies, and publishing ventures. Effectively, the exits are sealed.

America's media empire is controlled by a tiny coterie of people. Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Michael Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, has proposed even further deregulation of the communication industry, which will lead to even greater consolidation. (more)



The Soup Nazi's Sweet Potato Soup

Remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld? Well, somebody over there in the good ol' USA got obsessed with learning his recipes and spent a couple of months going to his Soup Kitchen in New York, buying the soups, taking them home, dividing them into small sample portions and trying to break down the ingredients and recipes until he could replicate them! (I know: get a life.) Anyway, during a brief sabbatical from my life, I downloaded four of the recipes and tried them. The following one is really good!

4 sweet potatoes
6 cups water
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 tbles cream
2 teas salt
1/8 teas pepper
dash thyme
dash red chilli flakes
1 cup raw cashews (split)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (200 C) Bake potatoes for 45 minutes until soft. Cool.
2. Peel away skin on potatoes. Mash in large bowl coarsely.
3. Put potato mash into large saucepan over med/high heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir in.
4. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer for 50 - 60 minutes. Cashews should be soft.

Russian-Italian Dressing

My friend, Lin, came up with this simple and wonderful salad dressing the other day. I'm hooked on it. A mix between a Russian dressing and Italian.
Method: In a large bowl, mix a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise with about a half a cup of Balsamic vinegar and add two or three tablespoons of cold-pressed olive oil. A squeeze of lemon juice. Mix well. Throw in a couple of fresh tomatoes that have been cut into sixteenths, or largish pieces. Mix well. Combine this dressing with your fresh lettuce leaves and toss. Add the usual - salt and pepper to taste, fresh herbs.
Emergency Mustard Greens

It's impossible to get that ol' soul food staple, mustard greens, in Australia, so here's a emergency method when you just need that hit: Steam up a pot of ordinary greens: silver beet, collards, spinach, broccoli - whatever you can get. Drain in colander but leave about4 tablespoons of water in the pot. Mix in a half teaspoon of hot English mustard. Toss the greens back in. Voila.

Live World Radio Resource

You can find live online broadcasts from all over the world: Here

SARS: a dose of reality

' I'm writing to respond to Mr Clement Chow of HKPU who wrote May 14 that "panic is saving us" from this "epidemic" of Sars. Mr Chow, in Hong Kong between March 11 and May 13, 225 people allegedly died from "Sars", that's 110 or so per month. In a "normal" year in Hong Kong there are, on average, 3000 deaths from pneumonia or 250 per month.

In other words, this time last year we were 2.2 times more likely to die from "typical" pneumonia than from Sars this year! Where were the masked people and the economy destroying panic then?

In Hong Kong we see an approximate 86% recovery rate with less than 6% of deaths occurring in people under the age of 44. Of the unfortunate people who die, I quote Professor Yuen, the head of microbiology at HKU:

"Most of the Sars patients died because of the serious side effects of the steroids that suppressed their immunity making them more susceptible to infection by other bacteria."

And again from the virology chief at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick M.D:

" Ribavarin (the drug used in HKG to treat Sars patients) has significant toxicity and does more harm than good - it is the only drug conclusively shown ineffective in the experiments on Sars so far."

Now is the time for responsible journalism to counter this epidemic of ignorance infecting peoples minds and devastating the economy of Hong Kong and the companies and individuals based here. This media frenzy is totally disproportionate to the actual threat and is symptomatic of a chronic incapacity to calibrate risk.

To put this in proportion, in the year 2000, a total of 65,313 people in the USA died from influenza or Pneumonia, that's 178 a day. Where was the outcry of epidemic then?

West Nile Fever has killed 280 people and infected over 4000 since August last year, an average of 440 per month, where is the W.H.O travel advisory warning people not to go to the USA thus hurting THEIR economy?

"Sars" is not nearly as threatening as succumbing to the most devastating twin ailments of all time: Ignorance and fear. '

Ben Cook
Deep Water Bay.

And in closing:

How do you know when you're really ugly?
Dogs hump your leg with their eyes closed.