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October 12, 2012

Rob Ford is making Mel Lastman look like a genius

According to Mel Lastman, Mayor Rob Ford is making former Mayor Lastman “look like a genius.”

Mel Lastman, who was Toronto’s outspoken mayor from 1998 to 2003, said Wednesday at a Brampton Bad Boy store opening that Rob Ford’s stubbornness is putting the city in jeopardy.

“All I know is since I’ve left (politics), I look like a genius,” said Lastman, age 79.

“I’m not a genius, obviously, but he makes me look like one. I know him, he’s stubborn and stubborn sometimes is good, but not constantly. You can’t be that stubborn and run a city.”

Since taking the mayoral office in 2010, Ford has had his fair share of public turmoil — controversies, lawsuits, conflict-of-interest, allegations of nepotism and Rob Ford's patented "foot in mouth syndrome".

Lastman, who also was no stranger to controversy during his years in the political realm, said Ford’s reign is dividing the city. Lastman was he first mayor of an amalgamated Toronto — one that incorporated six municipalities and Metro council.

“He’s given credit for things and that’s fine, but the city is all confused. It’s in different camps and it’s crazy to divide it. When I became mayor it was the biggest merger in history,” says Lastman. “I didn’t divide the city, and that’s what is happening now. A mayor should not be any party, as a mayor. He’s got to be an independent and he’s got to be what’s right for the city and it’s not working that way. That makes me sad.”

Truly it is a testament to how dumb and stubborn Rob Ford is. Even when he realizes he has made a dumb mistake, he sticks to his mistake stubbornly because he doesn't want to flip-flop on an issue. So instead he just looks even more stupid for not admitting his mistakes.

Rob Ford may go down in history as the dumbest mayor Toronto has ever seen.

October 2, 2012

Stuckism show in London turns eyes

Stuckism was founded by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish in 1999 with 12 artists to promote contemporary figurative painting and oppose conceptual art. It has since grown to an international art movement of 233 groups in 52 countries. The name was coined after Childish’s ex-girlfriend, Tracey Emin, said he was “Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!” The concept struck, the Stuckism movement brought forth several Stuckist manifestos in an effort to draw other artists to their cause, including one where the term "Remodernism" was coined.

This month the Bermondsey Project Gallery at 46 Willow Walk, London UK will host a special event titled: "Stuckists: Elizabethan Avant-Garde" and will run from Friday the 5th to Sunday the 21st of October, open 7 days a week, 1 – 6 pm. A press launch will be held on Thursday the 4th at 6:30.

For more info about the event visit or phone 020 7036 2416.

The special event will include paintings from over 30 Stuckist artists from the UK and abroad.

For more information on Stuckism we recommend reading "A Stuckist on Stuckism".

If you are looking for more information on other art movements check out the following art history links:

Abstract Expressionism  
American Scene 
Earth Art 
Fantasy Art 
Neo-Gothic Art  
Neo-Pop Art  
Neue Sachlichkeit 
 Pin Up Art  
Pop Art  
Prehistoric Art  
Salon de la Rose Croix 
Social Realism 
Video Art 
Visionary Art 
World of Art

September 23, 2012

Rare fishing cat born in Isle of Man zoo

Fishing cats are twice the size of your standard house cat, their paws are actually webbed, and, as the name suggests, they really love water.

They are a very rare and endangered feline species and now there's one more of these rare and little-known creatures, after a new kitten was born at Curraghs Wildlife Park on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

Curraghs Park staff announced the birth last week, but the kitten is already eight weeks old and is often seen out and about with its mother at the park's Asian Swamp enclosure. It will be weaned in about six months, and mature within the year.

Due to encroachment on the species' native wetlands in southeast Asia, the fishing cat is listed as endangered.

Around 200 are kept in captivity worldwide, and only 10 are born per year. Adult fishing cats can weigh as much as 16 kg (35 lbs) and live up to ten years in captivity.

Curraghs Park staff say the kitten is the second born to a pair at the wildlife park, although its sibling was later taken to another zoo for a breeding program.

The sex of the new arrival has not been revealed, and there's no word on a name.

September 17, 2012

Farmers still getting the short end of the stick

Between droughts and governmental lack of concern over agriculture, farmers are still getting the short end of the stick.

Consider this: As of 2011 over 81% of the American population is urban (meaning they live in cities or towns). Less than 19% of Americans still live on farms or in rural regions. In Canada it is also 81%.

So from a political standpoint who are you going to show favouritism to more? City-Slickers or Farmers? The answer is obviously cities.

Farming is one of the most difficult, and yet most important, careers available, but it is horribly underpaid and there is very little government support for it. Many farmers now work second jobs just to make ends meet because farming by itself doesn't bring in the necessary money to raise a family.

Often just to try and get ahead in life farmers borrow large sums for machinery and equipment, which means they are either borrowing from the government or banks, and if there is a drought or bad weather for several years in a row its pretty much guaranteed the farmers will lose their farms and their homes because of inability to pay back loans.

Let us take for example one piece of machinery commonly used by cattle farmers: Livestock scales are used to weight cattle before or during auction. It is an approx. $1,000 investment to get scales, but the idea is so you can fatten up your cattle to the right size, then send to auction to fetch a good price. Its basically a necessity if you're a cattle or pig farmer.

Now you might think, oh, but how could a drought effect cattle or pig farmers? Well, two ways:

1. Cattle can die from something called "Heat Stress". It is basically heat exhaustion. For pigs they also get Heat Stroke (and sunburns). Preventing Heat Stress means providing shade, improved ventilation and a sufficient quantity of water... which adds up to extra costs and equipment.

2. More droughts = Less food to feed the cattle. If the farm in question grows their own food for the cattle and they aren't growing enough due to a drought, they have to buy extra food for the cattle from other farmers. If there is a huge shortage due to the drought the food has to be shipped even further and will cost a lot more. The prices can end up bankrupting the farmers.

Next lets look at the case of Utah... which as of September 2012 has had all 29 counties declared "drought disaster areas". River beds and groundwater ditches have all dried up.

It is all one big dusty mess.

Since October 2011, only 17.2 inches of rain has fallen on northern Sanpete County in Utah, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is just over half of the previous year's rainfall of 32.5 inches (which was also a poor year for rainfall in Utah).

While many farmers throughout Utah have fallen back on water storage and reservoirs, the farmers in the Sanpete Valley have little to no water storage available. They simply don't have facilities available to store water and then use it for their crops and livestock. The natural springs and runoff from the mountains in Utah that usually supply the region's rivers fell short this year after last winter's meagre snows and early spring snow melt.

Some farmers have multiple basins which they used to use to store water, basically ponds where their livestock could drink. But the ground of those ponds are now cracked and chalky, completely dried up.

It hurts all the farmers too. Utah's wheat production has dropped to 30% of what a normal season would yield. Hay is also down 50%. Many families will be short 50% to 70% of their yearly income because of the drought.

Cattle in the region sell for considerably less since they weigh between 100 and 150 pounds less on the livestock scales than they would have if the family could wait a month to sell them. But they can't wait. They need money for food, to pay the bills, to keep the banks off their backs. They could be making more off the sale if they just had the extra time, but times are tough and when the bank freezes your credit cards you have to sell what you can at dirt cheap prices just to get the banks to unfreeze your credit cards.

The end result is that farmers need machinery like tractors, combines and even livestock scales in order to make a living. And they can't get those things without getting a loan. Every penny counts.

And with global warming and more drought on the horizon farmers aren't getting any help from government buck-passers who blame other levels of government and refuse to help farmers when they're in bed with the banks.

September 14, 2012

The Peugeot Onyx Concept Car

Peugeot stunning new Onyx supercar concept you see on the right here comes the engine from a former Le Mans 24hrs racer: An engine made for both speed and endurance, giving it better fuel efficiency. The concept car is notable for its revolutionary engineering.

You might not realize what you are looking at either. Yes, its a kewl looking concept car... but it is also an engineering marvel. It's a one-off supercar concept designed by a group of car designers exploring the use of unprocessed materials in new ways.

#1. The body of the car isn't aluminum, plastic or carbon fibre. It is hand-finished using pure copper sheet metal, and because it's untreated, the finish will change over the course of time, giving it a new look (like the green copper roofs on government buildings).

#2. The remainder of the bodywork panels are made from carbon fibre, finished in a matt black. Not really that high tech since carbon fibre is pretty par-for-the-course with supercars, but the Onyx sports a double-bubble roof which is fun by itself.

#3. The windows and the roof are made from PolyMethylMethAcrylate (PMMA) - basically, shatter-resistant plastic - an unusual new material.

#4. The Onyx chassis was developed with the help of Peugeot Sport and is constructed from monolithic carbon, and comprises just 12 parts.

#5. It's built with a flat carbon fibre floor like they use in racecars, even if the Onyx has been made "suitable for the road". In total the whole car weighs just 1,100 kg with torsional stiffness said to be ‘optimised'.

#6. The engine under the hood: A 3.7-litre V8 hybrid HDi FAP engine used for Peugeot's Le Mans programme, developing 600bhp transmitted to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox.

#7. An 80bhp boost button, utilising battery power recuperated from brake energy. So its sorta like a hybrid... but made so you can EXTRA fast using the battery energy. And those brakes? 380mm discs at the front and 355mm at the back. Huge if you know anything about automotive brakes.

#8. The interior is compressed and stretched felt (made from boiled wool), formed as a one-piece moulding with no stitching required. Its one large piece including soundproofing, seats, roof and upper console. It is almost alien how easily everything flows without any nuts and bolts.

#9. The dash is made from wood produced from recycled newspapers - complete with digital screens and an aluminum switchgear operating the engine and air-conditioning controls.

So... its part copper, part paper-mache... The interior... the boost function... the shatter resistant plastic...

Its a shame we can't buy it. But maybe some of the ideas will be put into use in future car designs that are actually for sale.

September 12, 2012

Extreme Weather = Economic Catastrophes

Have you noticed the increasing rate of Extreme Weather in the USA and across the globe?

Probably. Especially if you know anything about climate change and global warming.

However lets consider the economic results of these increasing intense and frequent storms.

During the past decade the economic costs of extreme weather has more than tripled. Global weather disasters in 2011 cost the global economy $150 billion USD, which was a 25% increase over 2010 ($120 billion).

In 2011 the USA recorded 14 events that caused over a billion dollars of damage each. Compare that to the previous record year, 2008, when there was just 9 such disasters.

Economic costs, loss of life, destruction of property. These things are only going to get worse.

Especially while right-wing politicians and the oil/coal industries are still tooting the old horn of "economics is more important than environment", not realizing that they are shooting economics in the proverbial foot by ignoring the environment.

September 9, 2012

Renoir found at flea market for $50

A buyer at a Virginia flea market, who paid less than $50 for the box lot that held it, also purchased what is now believed to be a painting by the illustrious French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The newly discovered Renoir is scheduled to be auctioned off on Sept. 29th. The small pastel-coloured painting is believed to be Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine”. It is believed to be valued at $75,000 to $100,000.

Zombie-fied British Royals

Worth a peek.

Zombie-fied Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth from 'Zombiewood' by Canadian artist Rob Sacchetto.

September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton's Speech in support of Barack Obama

Clint Eastwood hands Barack Obama his re-election

Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood's strange and somewhat senile looking speech with a chair has practically handed Barack Obama his re-election.

The speech even overshadowed Mitt Romney's nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, according to a new poll.

According to the Pew Research Center poll, 20% of television viewers said the actor's empty chair performance was the highlight of the convention.

However, only 17% of viewers said the presidential nominee's acceptance speech was the highlight, Politico reports.

A tenth of viewers said Ann Romney's address on the convention's first night was a high point, and nine percent said the same for vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech.

According to the report, other speakers all received less than 3% in the poll, while 20% of viewers said the convention had no highlight whatsoever.

The poll also revealed that fewer Americans watched this year's convention than in 2008.

A majority, 61%, said they watched little or none of the convention, compared with 44% four years ago, when 50% of viewers named then-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech as a convention highlight, and 17% named Arizona Senator John McCain's address.

Coincidentally it was Sarah Palin who hammered the nail in the coffin and practically handed Barack Obama his election... So will history repeat itself? Republican gaffs = Democratic election? We shall see.

In the meantime Clint Eastwood has been a target of paraphrasing, showing what one badly scripted skit can do. During his skit Eastwood basically admitted that the economy's failures was the Bush Administration's fault.

August 31, 2012

Children's Toys for Xmas 2012

Let the Battle of the Toymakers begin!

Seriously, its like gladiators duking it out in a victory or death competition.

Lets go down the list of "hot buys for 2012" shall we?

#1. iPad Mini / Tablets for Kids

If you have small children you should already be aware that giving electronics to children under the age of 9 is basically just guaranteeing that said electronic will BREAK within the first month. I've seen it happen. Little kids are careless. They don't realize how easily these things break and manufacturers seem to be making devices that break easily, thus guaranteeing that you either have to come back and buy another one... or give up completely.

My advice? Don't trust an 8 year old or younger with anything electronic. If you can't trust the kid not to pull a cat's tail (another thing I've seen little kids do regularly), then you definitely cannot trust them with electronics.

Now I admit, some parents out there just love to spoil their kids. They believe it is their god-given-right to spend and spoil their kids as they see fit. But all I am saying is HAVE FUN with the replacement bills when the electronics gets wet, smashed or otherwise broken. Or lost. Misplaced at school. Left on a park bench. Dropped on the subway. You name it, kids will do it.

What is a smarter buy is VTech InnoTab 2 and LeapFrog LeapPad 2. They're educational tablets that are made to be more durable. A much smarter buy than buying an iPad Mini.

NOTE: If you do decide to get an iPad Mini for xmas, remember to get protective stuff for it. eg. Screen shields and a protective case. Your kids will probably still manage to break it eventually (or lose it, get it stolen, etc), but at least it won't be for lack of trying on your part. If you can't trust your kid to feed a puppy, walk ait and not lose it somehow, you probably can't trust them not to set down their gadget in a toystore and promptly forget about it.

#2. The 2012 Furby reboot

After being gone for over a decade this idiotic stuffed toy is back and ready to be a hot selling item. Updated from the original version, this Furby 2.0 has an app connection, softer fur to hide touch sensors and more realistic expressions. The eyes have been completely changed to backlit LCD screens in order to allow the Furby to better look around the room and respond to noises.

#3. My Little Mousie

This company understands that kids are inherently rough on their toys. I have several stuffed animals in a box in my parents' attic which can testify to the abuse children put their toys through. This Premium German sigikid Baby Toys for Canada. The company in question, which you can visit at, sells everything from high durability backpacks, stuffed animals, old fashioned wooden toys, rattles and even toys for nurseries. Its really marketing at the 0 to 2 years old market, but it is certainly a market that is unexploited thus far. See the company quote below:

"Children develop a deep relationship with their toys. They are a child's first love. That's why at My Little Mousie, we believe in high-quality toys that are built to last, well-designed and functional. We specialize in hard-to-find German premium toys. Right now, we offer a unique collection of sigikid products. We offer a unique collection of German premium sigikid baby toys. My Little Mousie is a Vancouver based boutique online store for Canada."

#4. Eco Toys

I actually think this will be a dud.

The tree-huggers (or those people trying to appease them) are pushing green garbage trucks made of plastic. What kids wants a garbage truck for xmas? Get real people.

Want to give the boy (I presume it is a little boy if you're buying them a truck) something they will actually like? Buy a whole collection of Hot Wheels cars. They're classics and always popular. Some of them change colour in water or heat, can be used on a track (like a roller coaster), etc.

Or find one that has a wind-up function. One of my favourite cars when I was that age was a wind-up car that you pulled back two or three times, set it down and then pressed the button on the back and it zoomed off. No batteries required. And it still works even today.

#5. Web Shooting Motorized Spider Man

Say what? Actual webs?

No, not actual webs. Just a piece of white plastic and it doesn't go that far. Still, it will probably sell.

#6. Nintendo 3DS XL

I have a friend who bought her 7-year-old one of these. He broke it in the first month. So she got him another one, but this time she got it second-hand... and he broke it too.

Seriously. You're just throwing your money away on these electronics.

#7. LEGO

Seriously, boys or girls, get them Lego. Doesn't break easily. Hours of fun. A classic toy. Get them a Lego train set with a wind-up motor.


Seriously, you can never have too much Lego. (Unless you step on a Lego brick on the stairs with your bare feet...)

My parents once split up the shopping and they both accidentally got me the exact same Lego spaceship. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever that I had TWO of the same spaceship. (Seriously, one for each hand...) They thought they had goofed and even wanted to return and exchange one of the boxes, but I gleefully ripped them both open and started building.

Seriously, best xmas ever. :)

August 27, 2012

"Arrow" extended preview sets the tone for Smallville replacement

For 10 seasons the TV show "Smallville" graced screens the globe and showed Clark Kent's rise from a lowly farm boy with only a handful of superpowers to the juggernaught that is Superman. The show aired from 2001 to 2011 and even before its finale the producers were planning their next big thing.

One of the most popular characters in Smallville was Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) who appeared in 7 episodes of the 2007 season and later became a recurring character in the 2008 to 2011 seasons. Played by Justin Hartley, the character's skill with the bow and martial arts made him (and on screen romances) a favourite with fans of the TV series.

So much so that it really is no surprise the producers decided to create their replacement for Smallville by making "Arrow". Below is the extended preview trailer for the new TV show.

Our First Thoughts?

#1. Yes, it is a different actor. But who cares? Justin Hartley has gone on to play to a med-student turned doctor in a medical drama (and he probably doesn't want to be typecasted as Green Arrow).

#2. The new show looks freaking awesome. No offense to the Hunger Games fans out there, but Green Arrow's skills make Katniss Everdeen look like an amateur.

#3. If its anything like Smallville then "Arrow" will be a smash success. And considering all the films about archery right now it will probably be pretty fantastic.

The Toronto Public Archery Range overflowing with New Archers

The Toronto Public Archery Range is overflowing with new archers in the wake of all the archery films that came out in 2011 and 2012.

A year ago you could go the archery range, also known as the Seton Park Archery Range, and on a busy day you might see 4 to 6 people there. But in the Summer of 2012 the numbers on a busy day range from 20 to even as high as 30 people there.

The range is so busy that on weekday mornings (eg. 9 AM Tuesday morning) there will be 4 to 6 archers there. What that tells you is that the sport has basically quintupled in popularity compared to a year ago.


#1. The films: Brave, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Hanna.

#2. TV shows: Game of Thrones, Arrow.

#3. The Olympics.

Call it a perfect storm of mass media, but archery is now the coolest sport a person can take up. It makes "paintball" and "frolf" look nerdy in comparison.

If you're interesting in getting archery lessons in Toronto check out the website Cardio Trek.

To learn more about archery in Toronto visit The Toronto Public Archery Range on Facebook.

August 24, 2012

6 Myths about Biofuel

Have you ever thought about switching to biofuel for your car? Well maybe you need a little education in what biofuel actually is.

Myth #1. "Biofuel can be used in any car."

Biofuel is actually "Biodiesel", which means you will need a car which runs on diesel. Diesel vehicles make up a small percentage of the market and most automotive manufacturers don't make diesel versions of their cars.

Myth #2. "Biofuel is green."

Do you know how an internal combustion engine works? It burns the fuel. Ignites it using a spark and the tiny explosion pushes pistons, etc... The point is that it BURNS the fuel and creates carbon dioxide. There is nothing "green" about burning fuels.

Myth #3. "Biofuel is cheaper."

Fuel prices fluctuate, just like grain prices do. Yes, when oil prices are sky high then biofuel will be cheaper. But when grain prices are sky high it will be the opposite. And the demand for biofuel has been forcing grain (and food) prices much higher than they should be. So no, it isn't actually cheaper.

It is true that biofuel used to be cheaper than diesel, back in 2007, but 5 years later the prices have gone up considerably and due to market conditions what happens is that biofuel (*which is really just diesel made using plants*) is now the same price as diesel. Sometimes more.

Myth #4. "Biofuel is greener because its made using plants."

First of all say something is "greener" is a misnomer.
Think about this... you are taking fields of corn (or other suitable plants), turning it into biofuel and then BURNING it. You are basically just setting fire to corn fields. How is that supposed to be green or "greener"? Yes, the plants convert CO2 in the air into plant fibre using photosynthesis, but it really just ends up being "neutral" if you ignore the fuel used to plant the seeds and later harvest all of it, transport it... To say nothing to the damage done to the food industry and starving people who can't afford the rising prices of corn. The end result is that it is not green and it is not "greener".

Add in deforestation of tropical rainforests to plant fields for crops and the damage is bigger than you can ever imagine. Soybeans supply 40 percent of Brazil's biofuels.

Myth #5. "Biofuel is sustainable."

Hahaha! To provide enough biofuel for all of our needs we would need to radically change the way we farm. It would result in increasing the prices of food by many times over. We really don't have the resources to mass produce large amounts of biofuel AND food production at the same time. To be sustainable something needs to be able to be reproduced again and again, in unlimited quantities, without effecting other markets (food production) in such a way that it would be counterproductive, and meet the market demand.

Here is some data:

To produce 5.75 percent of Europe's transport power using biofuel Europe would need to plant 70 percent of its farmland with fuel crops.

Yes, if we turned all the cornfields towards biofuel production we might be able to boost biofuel production. But it will never meet all of the market demand... and it would be disastrous for food prices.

Myth #6. "The biofuel industry isn't controlled by Big Oil."

If only that were true... Big Oil, grain, auto and genetic engineering corporations are forming partnerships, and they are consolidating the research, production, processing and distribution chains of food and fuel systems under one industrial roof. You cannot cut into the action of the oil industry without them turning around and buying out the competition.

For more on this topic read the article below:

The Biofuel Myths

By Eric Holt-Giménez

The term "biofuels" suggests renewable abundance: clean, green, sustainable assurance about technology and progress. This pure image allows industry, politicians, the World Bank, the United Nations and even the International Panel on Climate Change to present fuels made from corn, sugarcane, soy and other crops as the next step in a smooth transition from peak oil to a yet-to-be-defined renewable fuel economy.

But in reality, biofuel draws its power from cornucopian myths and directs our attention away from economic interests that would benefit from the transition, while avoiding discussion of the growing North-South food and energy imbalance.

They obscure the political-economic relationships between land, people, resources and food, and fail to help us understand the profound consequences of the industrial transformation of our food and fuel systems. "Agro-fuels" better describes the industrial interests behind the transformation, and is the term most widely used in the global South

Industrialized countries started the biofuels boom by demanding ambitious renewable-fuel targets. These fuels are to provide 5.75 percent of Europe's transport power by 2010 and 10 percent by 2020. The United States wants 35 billion gallons a year.

These targets far exceed the agricultural capacities of the industrial North. Europe would need to plant 70 percent of its farmland with fuel crops. The entire corn and soy harvest of the United States would need to be processed as ethanol and biodiesel. Converting most arable land to fuel crops would destroy the food systems of the North, so the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries are looking to the South to meet demand.

The rapid capitalization and concentration of power within the biofuels industry is extreme. Over the past three years, venture capital investment in biofuels has increased by 800 percent. Private investment is swamping public research institutions.

Behind the scenes, under the noses of most national antitrust laws, giant oil, grain, auto and genetic engineering corporations are forming partnerships, and they are consolidating the research, production, processing and distribution chains of food and fuel systems under one industrial roof.

Biofuel champions assure us that because fuel crops are renewable, they are environment-friendly, can reduce global warming and will foster rural development. But the tremendous market power of biofuel corporations, coupled with the poor political will of governments to regulate their activities, make this unlikely. We need a public enquiry into the myths:

Biofuels are clean and green.

Because photosynthesis performed by fuel crops removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and can reduce fossil fuel consumption, we are told they are green. But when the full lifecycle of biofuels is considered, from land clearing to consumption, the moderate emission savings are outweighed by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat drainage, cultivation and soil-carbon losses.

Every ton of palm oil generates 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions - 10 times more than petroleum. Tropical forests cleared for sugar cane ethanol emit 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline.

Biofuels will not result in deforestation.

Proponents of biofuels argue that fuel crops planted on ecologically degraded lands will improve rather than destroy the environment. Perhaps the government of Brazil had this in mind when it reclassified some 200 million hectares of dry-tropical forests, grassland and marshes as degraded and apt for cultivation.

In reality, these are the biodiverse ecosystems of the Atlantic Forest, the Cerrado and the Pantanal, occupied by indigenous people, subsistence farmers and extensive cattle ranches. The introduction of agrofuel plantations will push these communities to the agricultural frontier of the Amazon where the devastating patterns of deforestation are well known.

Soybeans supply 40 percent of Brazil's biofuels. NASA has correlated their market price with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest - currently at nearly 325,000 hectares a year.

Biofuels will bring rural development.

In the tropics, 100 hectares dedicated to family farming generates 35 jobs. Oil-palm and sugarcane provide 10 jobs, eucalyptus two, and soybeans a scant half-job per 100 hectares, all poorly paid.

Until recently, biofuels supplied primarily local and subregional markets. Even in the United States, most ethanol plants were small and farmer-owned. With the boom, big industry is moving in, centralizing operations and creating gargantuan economies of scale.

Biofuels producers will be dependent on a cabal of companies for their seed, inputs, services, processing and sale. They are not likely to receive many benefits. Small holders will be forced out of the market and off the land. Hundreds of thousands have already been displaced by the soybean plantations in the "Republic of Soy," a 50-million hectare area in southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay and eastern Bolivia.

Biofuels will not cause hunger.

Hunger results not from scarcity, but poverty. The world's poorest already spend 50 to 80 percent of household income on food. They suffer when high fuel prices push up food prices. Now, because food and fuel crops compete for land and resources, both increase the price of land and water.

The International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that the price of basic staples will increase 20 to 33 percent by 2010 and 26 to 135 percent by 2020. Caloric consumption declines as price rises by a ratio of 1:2.

Limits must be placed on the biofuels industry. The North cannot shift the burden of overconsumption to the South because the tropics have more sunlight, rain and arable land. If biofuels are to be forest- and food-friendly, the grain, cane and palm oil industries need to be regulated, and not piecemeal.

Strong, enforceable standards based on limiting land planted for biofuels are urgently needed, as are antitrust laws powerful enough to prevent the corporate concentration of market power in the industry. Sustainable benefits to the countryside will only accrue if biofuels are a complement to plans for sustainable rural development, not the centerpiece.

A global moratorium on the expansion of biofuels is needed to develop regulatory structures and foster conservation and development alternatives to the transition. We need the time to make a better transition to food and fuel sovereignty.

August 21, 2012

Facebook's share prices crashing

Facebook Incorporated director Peter Thiel has sold most of his stake in Facebook (the world’s largest social-networking website in case you didn't know that already). Facebook had banned insider sales, but the time restriction for that has ended and Peter decided to sell his $395.8 million in stocks and run with the cash. Overall he has made over $1 billion selling off his shares since Facebook's IPO.

Why? Because Peter Thiel was one of Facebook’s earliest investors and knows when the golden goose is about to die. So why not collect his cash and leave before it becomes "officially dead". Thiel sold about 20.1 million shares in the company on August 16th and August 17th.

He started with an original investment of $500,000 in 2004, so in reality Thiel has made a bundle off being a long time investor in the company. In 8 years he turned that $500,000 into over $1,000,000,000. Not bad for being patient and knowing when to sell at the right time.

Meanwhile other investors in Facebook are now losing their shirts. The stock has lost almost half its value since the IPO amid signs are growing that Facebook’s growth is slowing, leveling out and "profit expectations" are much lower than pundits were claiming. In short the company's value was largely on paper and many insiders are now dumping their stakes.

Facebook last week unlocked 271.1 million shares, the first of five insider-sale restrictions scheduled during the company’s first year as a public company. Another 1.44 billion shares will be freed up through November, but by then prices could be a fraction of what the IPO was.

Right now (as I finish this post) the price is down to $19.48 and dropped 10 cents in the last minute.

The Best Cooking Classes in Toronto

By Charles Moffat.

Here are my picks for the best cooking lessons in Toronto.

#1. Luca

Luca offers private cooking lessons in both Italian cooking lessons and also private cooking lessons in general. Why is he my number one pick? 1. He teaches privately. It is more like tutoring so you get 1-on-1 attention, which is rare when most cooking classes are in groups of 6 or more. #2. He really knows his stuff. #3. His prices are fair, so you're getting great value for a fair price. Expect to pay $25 per person plus the cost of food. So depending on the menu it can get pricier, but it is exceptional value.

#2. Arvinda's Healthy Gourmet Indian

I put this one 2nd because I LOVE Indian food. You might already have heard of Arvinda's from the line of Indian spices and curries they sell across Toronto at places like Fiesta Farms, The Big Carrot, and The Cheese Boutique. Arvinda's cooking classes came first, long before the spice belends. Her practical classes ($65-85) cover all the basics of Indian cuisine... including my favourite: Butter Chicken. She also offers a 2-day "India Discovery" workshop ($160) where you learn the basics of cooking Indian food in one day plus a walking tour of Little India where you learn how to shop for Indian food products.

#3. Lyn's Private Vegan Lessons

Okay now technically this isn't really well known as the others. I am basically just plugging a friend of mine who is a vegan cook and recipe writer. She has taught me everything I know about vegan cooking. Check out her website at I also highly recommend her ebook "Conscious Evolution: Vegan Recipes, Life and Consciousness".

The rest of these are in no particular order.

Culinarium - Offers a series of cooking classes ($69) that highlight local and seasonal ingredients you can learn practical skills like working with different meats (poultry, lamb, beef etc), veggies and grains (fall harvest soups), and preserving (jamming, pickling, canning).

The Healthy Butcher - Great if you want to learn about meat. Learn how to break down an elk carcass, spatchcock a chicken or make your own sausages. Classes are either demonstrations or hands-on and generally range from $80-$100. The groups are capped at anywhere from 10-20 people.

The Good Egg - This Kensington Market shop has a great selection of recipe books and supplies. They also offer basic cooking/general interest classes ($75-$100).

Calphalon - Retailers of cookware and knives, their culinary centre at the corner of King & Spadina also offers cooking classes are very expensive, but with a broad selection of classes in the city. Demonstrations are ($70), Hands On ($150), or the more intensive Specialty Class ($200).

Great Cooks - Cooking classes for individuals ($110) or corporate team building (prices vary). Seasonal themes and also basic skills classes.

Nella Cucina - A knife sharpening/rental services and restaurant supply which has a location at Bathurst and Bloor. They also offer classes in Hands On ($75 - $125) and Demonstrations ($75) so you can hone those knife skills.

Toronto District School Board - A cheaper option at $20-30 per class (depending on materials) but their topics include Wine Regions of the World, Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Cake Decorating and Chef on the Run so its also great value.

George Brown Continuing Education - For the more dedicated this college offers evening courses (roughly $200-$400 each) and certificate programs (prices vary). This is really for people intending to become professional chefs. 6 different classes to pick up a certificate in Asian Cuisine, Vegetarian Cuisine, Baking Arts, Cake Decorating, or general Culinary Arts.

St. Lawrence Market Kitchen - On the mezzanine level, south building, you will find a full line of cooking classes. Everything from soups and stews, Thai cookery, working with chocolate, etc. Classes run between 2-3 hours and cost $50.

The Bonnie Stern Cooking School - You could just read her column in the National Post, or you can take her classes for $150 which has a mix of practical cooking, informational, and celebrity chef interview/dinner formats.

Dish Cooking Studio - Ignoring the weird name this catering company, boutique and cafe also offers classes (about $125-$175), and showcase recipes from well-known celebrity chefs.

Viva Tastings - At the St. Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturdays, or their 6 Degrees Underground Supper Club, you will find a variety of cooking classes and corporate team building events, covering everything from basic culinary skills, to entertaining for vegetarians and vegans, to holiday party planning. Each class is $90 and includes a sit-down meal & glass of wine.

August 17, 2012

Feminist musicians sent to prison for 2 years

By Suzanne MacNevin

Three women of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot have been convicted of “hooliganism” today for their anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral. The band held a brief guerrilla performance, a "punk prayer" entreating the Virgin Mary to protect Russia from Vladimir Putin, who at the time was on the verge of winning a new term as Russian president.

Judge Marina Syrova sentenced them to two years in prison, a year less than what the prosecution asked for. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, said they were protesting against close ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox church and did not intend to offend believers.

The three musicians stood in silence in a glass courtroom cage as the judge read out the verdict. They lifted their cuffed hands in salute to acknowledge supporters after the sentencing and smiled to each other.

After the judge finished reading the sentence, which took three hours, many Russians in the court room shouted “Shame!”

Officially the three were charged with "hooliganism connected to religious hatred", but they have been very clear their goals had little to do with the church and more to do Vladimir Putin's iron grip on Russia's government - including the judicial system which has become puppets of the Putin regime.

The judge also said that the songs being performed were "blasphemous". The case has attracted international attention as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

The case is not alone either. Many other incidents have been happening in Russia and the government crackdown on free speech is becoming ever stronger. This case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition political parties, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times from 2,000 rubles to 300,000 rubles. In dollars the fine used to be roughly $60 but is now about $9,000.

Another extreme measure now requires non-government organizations that both engage in vaguely defined political activity and receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” That way anyone who defies the government can now be arrested for being a foreign spy and has already admitted on a government document to being a "foreign agent".

So yeah... Russia is going down the drain and freedom of speech is pretty much disappearing if you live there.

Love, Crime and Flower Thieves

By Suzanne MacNevin

Today I have flowers on the brain.

Police in New York City are trying to track down a plant-obsessed thief who stole flowers from a Court Street bodega in Brooklyn on July 14th. He apparently approached the shop between Congress and Amity streets around midnight, grabbed some flowers sitting outside the storefront and fled. The shop had already been the victims of a flower thief in a previous incident.

Investigators are still working the case, but police shared a possible motive. “It’s not a large quantity of flowers, but I guess he has a girlfriend or something,” he said.

And he is apparently to cheap to just buy flowers or order flower delivery. In this modern day and age you can even be living overseas, and use your credit card to order flowers online.

Really, its not even that news worthy... but you will soon see I am on a flowers theme today.

Next Christian Bale (Batman!!!) is starring in "Flowers of War".

Directed by Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) the film is essentially a Chinese version of Schindler's List (with a dash of The Sound of Music) and will be an epic... judging by the fact it is most expensive film in China's history.

It tells the story of a mercenary and alcoholic mortician called John Miller (Christian Bale), who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time: The Japanese are invading Nanking in 1937, killing, looting and raping without mercy. To prevent the rape and massacre of children his character poses as a priest... which is complicated by his romance with the local leader of the prostitutes who show up at the church seeking sanctuary. Meanwhile the Japanese commander (Atsuro Watabe) wants the orphans to sing and perform for his fellow-officers. But singing isn't what the troops are looking for...

Presumably there is flowers in the plot somewhere. I imagine its mostly a symbolic metaphor.

July 29, 2012

Legally Blind Korean sets Olympic record in Archery

A South Korean man who is legally blind has set a new record in Olympic archery.

In Friday’s ranking round, Korea’s Im Dong-Hyun broke the 72-arrow record he had set in Turkey in May by three points with a score of 699 and combined with teammates Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek, smashing the record for 216 arrows with a total 2,087. That was 18 better than the mark South Korea set in May.

Not bad for an athlete who says he just aims for a “blob of yellow colour” 70 metres away because he’s considered legally blind with 10% vision in his left eye and 20% in his right.

“It’s just the first round so I won’t get too excited about it,” he said.

Meanwhile Canadian Crispin Duenas had a score of 678 and came in 8th place in the opening round. If he can stay in the top group as the eliminations continue he will have a shot at a medal.

“I accomplished the underlying goal of today,” said Duenas, who will face Egypt’s Ahmed El-Nerm in the round of 32 on Monday. “The main goal was just to do my shot, which I’m going to say I did about 80 per cent of the time, the other 20 per cent would have put me up in the top five.”

Learn more about Crispin by reading Canadian Archers at the Olympics.

July 21, 2012

Understanding Gun Crime in Canada

The recent gun violence in Toronto has been in the news a lot lately, mostly the result of gang vs gang violence.

To put this in perspective here is some interesting statistics for gun crime in Canada.

In Canada in 2010 firearms were used in 1501 assaults, 673 threats, 2973 armed robberies, 55 sexual assaults, 187 attempted murders and 154 homicides.

The most common weapon used in homicides is a handgun, followed by a rifle or shotgun, a sawed off rifle or shotgun, and less common types.

Canada's gun crime rate per capita has been dropping steadily since 1975.

Now to put this in perspective compare to the USA, where gun crime has spiked since the recession in 2007-2009 and where homicides are listed in the 10s of thousands, attempted murders are pretty common, and assaults? Pff. America has so many assault victims annually it could fill a Canadian city.

The USA is apparently the kind of place where a gunman will open fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of the new Batman film. The shooter, James Eagan Holmes, killed 12 people and injured 58 others, making it the largest number of casualties during a shooting spree in American history.

Now here is an interesting point: Most shooting sprees are conducted by young men. James Eagan Holmes is 25.

Eric David Harris and Dylan Bennet Klebold (the Columbine High Massacre in 1999) were both 18.

Kimveer Gill (Dawson College shooting in Montreal) was 25.

Marc Lépine (École Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal) was 25.

The lions share of firearms homicides in the USA are by people between the ages of 16 and 25.

Seeing a pattern here?

It would make logical sense that if we simply didn't allow people under the age of 25 to purchase guns that the firearms crime rate in both Canada and the USA would drop significantly. It is self-evident that young men don't have the emotional maturity to have guns.

However preventing gun sales to people under the age of 25 would only solve part of the problem. What about guns that are stolen and unregistered? Most guns that are used in crimes are stolen and unregistered. That means people who own guns legally aren't doing enough to protect them from thieves.

The Benefits of Gun Safes

By Robert Lobitz.

Perhaps you have considered investing in a gun safe for your home or business but are not sure whether it is a worthwhile venture. Learning about some of the advantages of gun safes can help you decide if one would be a sensible purchase and a valuable addition to your gun collection, no matter the size.

We have all heard those tragic stories of a child accidentally shooting himself or another little one, or a teen despondent over a breakup getting ahold of a parent’s shotgun. Of course, if you own guns, your children should be taught at least basic firearm safety from a very young age. Keeping guns locked up in gun safes is an extra measure that will help protect your children, grandchildren and visitors, providing you with an added sense of security.

Another benefit of gun safes is that they safeguard your weapons from would-be thieves. If a burglar breaks into your home and is able to find your guns in a closet or simple cabinet, chances are good he will smash the glass front of the cabinet and take them without a second thought and either sell them in an illegal deal or use them to commit other crimes, which could ultimately be linked back to you. A thief who cases your house or burglarizes you only to find a sturdy, impenetrable safe will not even bother to try.

Gun safes can also protect your firearms from damage. If your home should be the victim of a fire, flood or other disaster, a high-quality safe can prevent your guns from being harmed or completely lost. They can also protect your guns from more minor damage such as dents, dings and mars. In addition, a gun safe may lower your homeowner’s insurance, as the insurance company is less likely to be required to pay for damaged firearms or injuries caused by misuse or mishandling of your guns.

Finally, gun safes can be quite attractive and affordable. If you decide to purchase a gun safe after learning the advantages of owning one, you are sure to find something that suits your style and budget.

July 13, 2012

Toronto hires new fire chief, but still short 100 firefighters

Do you know what a dozen is? Its 12, correct?

Well what if you went to the grocery store and bought a dozen eggs, came home, opened the carton and only found 8 eggs where there was supposed to be 12?

Well that is the situation for Toronto's Firefighters.

Toronto is missing 100 firefighters thanks to Mayor Rob Ford's budget cuts in 2011 (which came into effect in 2012). A lot of firefighters lost their jobs.

And now Toronto is getting a new fire chief. City staff announced yesterday (July 12th) that James (Jim) Sales had been hired as the new fire chief for Toronto. His previous 27 years experience includes serving as the general manager of community operations for the City of Barrie for 2008 - 2012, and the commissioner of community and fire services in Markham from 2001-2008 and previous to that, the fire chief for Markham from 2000-2001... And last but not least fire chief for the City of Edmonton from 1998-2000. Sales started off his career as a firefighter and EMS responder.

And we wish Jim Sales the best of luck (today is Friday the 13th) at his new job because he is going to need it. With a shortage of 100 firefighters what happens when there is a huge emergency?

eg. A huge fire like the 200 Wellesley fire or the huge Queen Street West fire?

Lets take for example the 335 Yonge Street fire from January 2011. It was a 6-alarm fire that took the manpower of 125 firefighters... and it was only a 3-storey building.

200 Wellesley was also a 6-alarm fire and was only a single apartment building. The problem was the firefighters weren't prepared for the size of the building because of how underfunded the Toronto firefighters are.

And now they're even MORE underfunded. Yes, okay, they have a new fire chief. Whoop-dee-do. He was probably hired for his experience in laying out pink slips and cutting back on "the gravy train" as Rob Ford likes to call it.

Yes, it is true that Toronto doesn't have as many fires as we did 100 years ago. People have become smarter, equipment better designed, etc so we have less accidental fires now. More brick and cement buildings helps too. But lets not dwell on the past.

We're talking about right now.

Toronto's fire service is underfunded, understaffed and just to make a quick prediction it wouldn't take much for a disaster to happen.

The 200 Wellesley fire got started due to a cigarette in an overcrowded apartment belonging to a hoarder (you know, the type of person who doesn't throw out old newspapers).

So lets imagine for a moment the same thing happens again. A hoarder leaves for the weekend. They leave a cigarette burning in an ash tray. It slips onto the floor and lights the carpet on fire... next thing you know the stack of newspapers is on fire...

And depending on when anyone notices the fire it could spread pretty quickly.

Now under the current plan being pushed by the city then Toronto's firefighters will just have to work overtime to replace people who were fired and not replaced (yes, the irony of firing firefighters). But consistently working overtime means a tired out workforce. Accidents happen. Higher chance of overworked firefighters being sent into dangerous situations they can't handle.

So taking all of this account what happens when you have understaffed, underfunded, overworked and exhausted firefighters?

Well here is some historical examples:

1906 - San Francisco USA earthquake + fire. The entire city is pretty much destroyed.

1917 - Halifax Canada, the largest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb. Killed 2000 people, injured 9000, burnt most of the city to the ground.

1923 - Kantō Japan earthquake + fire. Over 140,000 people killed in the blaze.

1945 - Tokyo Japan, WWII bombing raid caused the largest urban conflagration in history. Over 100,000 killed.

1947 - Texas City USA ship explosion + fire. 600 people killed.

1948 - Fukui Japan earthquake + fire. 46,000 buildings and houses destroyed.

1953 - Shek Kip Mei Hong Kong fire. 58,000 people homeless.

1961 - Bukit Ho Swee Singapore. 16,000 people homeless.

1988 - Lisbon Portugal fire. Seven square blocks of houses destroyed, 1000s homeless.

1995 - Kobe / Hanshin earthquake + fire. 6,400 people killed.

2003 - Canberra Australia fire, over 500 homes destroyed, 1000s homeless.

2011 - Manila Philippines fire, 8000 people left homeless.

2011 - Kesennuma Japan earthquake + fire. The entire city is pretty much destroyed.

Now admittedly Toronto isn't in a region known for earthquakes like Japan is, nor are we at war, and most of the city is spread out.

But that doesn't mean we should cutback on our firefighters, overwork them and hope that a disaster won't strike. Its the same reason why people get insurance. Firefighters are our insurance in the event a serious fire ever happens.

And it doesn't have to be a huge city wide fire to be a disaster. Even several city blocks would be enough to leave thousands of people homeless and Toronto's infrastructure would be sorely tested.

"Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone." - Jack London after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

July 9, 2012

Toronto Police arrest and beat up black man for playing basketball

In the video below you will see James Bishop being arrested and beaten with batons and attacked by 5 Toronto police officers. The silent security camera video shows that James Bishop was not behaving violently and that the police officers forced him to the ground, pinned him, and then proceeded to beat him a baton.

While three officers hold him down a fourth officer delivers six baton blows and three elbow jabs to the man’s body. A total of seven officers were involved in the incident.

Other players on the basketball court, including James Bishop's son, are visibly troubled by the violence they are seeing and several document what happens on their cellphone cameras. One of the officers then seizes and examines the cellphone after a confrontation with one of the players.

The incident happened in January 2011 and the video was uploaded in July of 2011, but it has taken another year before it started receiving media attention.

James Bishop is now suing Toronto Police and the YMCA, alleging he was the one assaulted while playing basketball with his son, then 11, and was arrested over a “civil dispute” over the status of his YMCA membership which never should have resulted in an arrest.

In a statement of claim filed in June 2012, Bishop, 43, and his family are seeking $2.3 million in damages and name eight officers and an unnamed ninth as defendants, as well as the YMCA and Toronto Police Services Board.

His arrest was a “brutal display of force” and it was “obvious that the intent was to inflict maximum pain" says the suit. James Bishop begged the officers to stop at one point because he could not breathe.

Medical records show he suffered a minor heart attack during the time of the arrest.

The suit also says police seized onlookers’ mobile phones and erased images of the arrest, which “strongly suggest that the police knew that their conduct was illegal.” The security video shows this happening.

Police claim Bishop resisted arrest but the video tells another story.

In the video a YMCA staff can be seen attempting to block one onlooker from documenting the arrest on a cellphone. This suggests the YMCA staff knew what was happening was wrong and were attempting to prevent footage of it.

Although not easy to see in the video, it is revealed in court documents that Constable Glen Espie, the officer who delivered the baton and elbow strikes, used pepper spray on Bishop as well.

All charges against James Bishop for trespassing were later withdrawn when it was revealed that his YMCA membership status was apparently fine and dandy. (The YMCA suspended his membership over a friendly bet on a basketball game, but refused to hear his side of the story.)

The police response for a trespassing call was overblown and has left an entire family “traumatized” says Bishop’s lawyer Osborne Barnwell.

After the incident an officer approached James Bishop's son and deliberately poked him hard in the side with a baton “with intent to hurt” states the suit.

At 43 Division station, Bishop was having chest pain and asked repeatedly to be taken to hospital. A desk sergeant told him “he was fine,” the suit alleges. After a shift change, a black officer took over and following another request by Bishop, an ambulance was called.

Medical records show Bishop had suffered a mild heart attack. He spent two days in hospital under police guard.

Months after the incident the arresting police officers also intimidated James Bishop in a hallway outside court, standing in a “bravado manner” and had their hands “positioned next to their guns,” states his claim, and orchestrated a second arrest against him.

James Bishop was given a copy of the YMCA security video as part of disclosure. He had a friend upload the video, with a title of “Toronto Police Thugs Gang Up & Beat Guy Senseless,” to YouTube.

The incident is remarkably similar to what happened in 2007 when RCMP officers tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekański to death by repeatedly and simultaneously shocking him until his heart gave out. Police like to use the excuse that people are resisting arrest and use that as a green light to victimize and brutalize the person they are arresting.

Robert Dziekański was lost and confused. His death could have been prevented if a Polish interpreter had been made available and if police had simply tried to talk calmly to him, but instead they chose to "taser first and ask questions later". The officers were very trigger happy with the taser however and ended up shocking him to death.

July 6, 2012

How to Destroy your Company's Reputation and its Profits

There are many ways to destroy a company from the inside.
  1. One way is to overspend on advertising.
  2. Another way is to package the product improperly so it ruins the product.
  3. A third way is to take on debts that you can't possibly repay.
  4. eg. Disgraced brewer 'Steelback Brewery' did all three of these thanks to its incompetent and shamelessly self-promoting CEO and drove the company into the ground in 2007.
  5. Another way is to not evolve with the times and changing technology and then fall into debt and eventually bankruptcy. eg. Nortel Telecom.
  6. Another way is to make faulty investments in real estate and other things (and in some cases running a Ponzi scheme) and then try to get a bailout from the federal government.
For fun check out the list of the biggest failed banks on Wikipedia:

Note that they're losses were in the billions. $307 billion for the Washington Mutual in 2008.

Lastly another way to destroy a company is to slowly, piece by piece, destroy a company's quality and reputation. This is what now known as the "the Schlitz mistake" and you can read all about it in the article we've attached below:

The Fall of Schlitz: How Milwaukee's Famous Beer Became Infamous

By Martyn Cornell

You might think it would be good to have your company held up in business schools as a famous example. But that wouldn't be the way the people behind the Schlitz brand feel about it. Because Schlitz is held up as a dreadful warning of how not to do it.

Indeed, the company that now owns Schlitz, once "the beer that made Milwaukee famous," is currently telling drinkers that "our classic 1960's formula is back," the sub-text being that it "now tastes the way it did before we started disastrously mucking about with it 40 years ago, ruining the beer and wrecking the company along the way."

Schlitz's roots were in a Milwaukee restaurant started by 34-year-old August Krug, an immigrant from Bavaria, in 1848. Two years later Krug hired Joseph Schlitz, another German immigrant, from Mainz, to be his bookkeeper. When Krug died in 1856, Schlitz took over the management of the brewery, marrying Krug's widow Anna two years later and changing the name of the business to his own. That same year Krug's 16-year-old nephew, August Uihlein, began working for the brewery. Over the next two decades the brewery grew to be one of the two or three biggest in Milwaukee. Then in 1875 Schlitz was drowned after the ship in which he was travelling on a voyage back to Germany struck rocks off the Scilly Isles. Control of the brewery was inherited by August Uihlein and his three brothers, who had joined him in the business.

The brewery prospered considerably under the Uihleins, springing back after Prohibition, and late in the 1940’s Schlitz became the best-selling brew in the United States – the Wisconsin brewer wrestling the title from Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, the self-styled "King of Beers." The 1950’s saw a continuous assault from Anheuser-Busch to win back the crown of America's favorite. The two brewers swapped the lead between them until 1957, when Budweiser went ahead permanently. The decisions taken by Schlitz's owners, the Uihlein family, to cope with their rival's dominance would eventually "salami slice" their company to death.

By 1967 the company's president and chairman was August Uihlein's grandson, the polo-playing, 6-foot-4–inch-tall Harvard graduate Robert Uihlein Jr., then 51. Robert decided that if he could not sell more been than Anheuser-Busch, he would at least make his company more profitable than his St Louis rival. The first step in Uihlein's plan to save money was a new brewing method Schlitz called "accelerated batch fermentation," or ABF. This cut the brewing time for Schlitz beers from 25 to 21 days, and then from 20 to 15 days, compared to the 32 to 40 days of storage – or "lagering" – used for Budweiser.

The result was that Schlitz was now getting much more beer out of the same amount of plant, with all the boost in margins that meant. At the same time Uihlein instructed his brewers to begin cutting costs by using corn syrup to replace some of the malted barley used to make the beer, and by substituting cheaper hop pellets for fresh hops. The ingredient alterations were meant to be made incrementally, Uihlein's belief apparently being that drinkers would not notice each slight change to the product. Unfortunately, as commentators later pointed out, the steps from A to B and from B to C might have been tiny and unnoticeable, but the steps from A to M added up to a big leap.

At first all seemed to be working. In 1973 Schlitz was able to boast that it had the most efficient breweries in the world, and it was carrying out a rapid expansion of its production capacity. Its profits-to-sales ratio and its utilisation of its plant – in terms of capacity against actual production – were both substantially above the industry average. Market share was growing faster than at either of the other big two American brewers, Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Rivals tried to trip Schlitz up by claiming that its ABF brewing method meant it was selling "green," or too-young beer. Schlitz responded by changing the meaning of ABF from "accelerated batch fermentation" to "accurate balanced fermentation."

Uihlein had already been given a warning about what could happen if drinkers felt a brewer was messing about with beer quality, however. In 1964 Schlitz had acquired the Primo brewery in Hawaii. By 1971 Primo accounted for 70 per cent of all beer sold in Hawaii. Then Schlitz stopped full brewing at the Primo plant, instead shipping dehydrated wort from its brewery in Los Angeles for fermentation in Hawaii. Islanders said the taste of their favorite beer had been altered for the worse with the change, and Primo's market share dropped like a brick to just 20 percent in 1975. Schlitz started full brewing in Hawaii again that year, but sales of Primo never recovered to their previous high.

Back on the mainland, Schlitz had attempted to respond to the growing success of Miller Lite, the first successful low-calorie beer, with the launch late in 1976 of Schlitz Light. But perhaps because drinkers were already suspicious about what went into ordinary Schlitz, Schlitz Light was a failure in an otherwise expanding sector.

Meanwhile Schlitz was running into trouble with its mainstream brand, after an attempt to disguise to consumers what it was putting into its beer. Because it aged its beer less than other brewers, Schlitz had to add silica gel to the product to prevent a haze forming when it was chilled. In 1976 the company began to worry that the United States Food and Drug Administration would compel brewers to list all their ingredients on bottles and cans. Its use of silica gel would show up in harsh contrast to its rivals such as Anheuser-Busch, who aged their beers longer, allowing the protein to settle out naturally, and therefore did not need to use artificial anti-haze products. Anheuser-Busch was sure to point up Schlitz's use of an "unnatural" product in its beers and contrast this with the "all-natural" Budweiser.

Schlitz decided to use another beer stabilizer instead, one that would be filtered out of the final product and thus would not have to be listed as among the ingredients. Unfortunately, what Schlitz's brewing technicians did not know was that the new anti-haze agent, called Chill-garde, would react in the bottles and cans with the foam stabilizer they also used, to cause protein to settle out. At its best this protein looked liked tiny white flakes floating in the beer and at its worst it looked like mucus, or "snot," as one observer bluntly called it.

For months Schlitz kept quiet about the problem, with Uihlein arguing that the haze was not actually physically harmful to drinkers, and in any case not much of the beer would be kept at temperatures at which the haze would form. However, drinkers did complain, sales began to drop and Schlitz had to make a secret recall of 10 million bottles of beer, costing it $1.4 million.

Around the same time Robert Uihlein was diagnosed with leukaemia, dying just a few weeks later. An accountant, Eugene Peters, became the company's CEO, and a geologist, Daniel McKeithan, who was the divorced husband of a big Schlitz shareholder, was appointed chairman.

All Schlitz's problems with its image, caused by Robert Uihlein's tampering with the quality of the beer, were causing the company to start losing its second place in the American beer market to its Milwaukee rival, Miller. Even though Schlitz had increased its share of the U.S. beer market from 7 percent in 1950 to 14 percent in 1977, Budweiser and Miller had grown faster. Peters and McKeithan pushed Schlitz's marketing department to go for a new "high impact" advertising campaign featuring an aggressive-looking boxer who demanded, when asked to swap his Schlitz for another brand: "You want to take away my gusto?" Instead of amusing viewers, the ad put them off: Consumers found it "menacing," and it became known as the "drink Schlitz or I'll kill you" campaign.

By the end of 1977 Schlitz was on the slide, with profits, market share and capacity utilization dropping. Peters resigned after only 11 months and was replaced by Frank Sellinger, the former brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch. Sellinger returned to traditional brewing methods and improved the product. But Schlitz was now operating in the red, and by 1980 its sales had been passed by another Milwaukee rival, Pabst, with a third Wisconsin brewer, Heileman, not far behind.

The end came quickly. In June 1981 Schlitz closed its Milwaukee plant to try to solve what was now an overcapacity problem. In October of that year Heileman made a takeover offer for the still-struggling Schlitz, only for Pabst to put in a rival bid. Both bids were vetoed by the Justice Department on competition grounds, but in June 1982 the Justice Department allowed a $500 million bid by the Detroit brewer Stroh to go through. One analysis has estimated that the Schlitz brand lost more than 90 percent of its value between 1974 and that final year of independence.

However, the debt Stroh took on to pay for acquiring Schlitz was ultimately too much for the Detroit company to carry, and it collapsed in 1999. Ironically, in the fire sale that followed the Schlitz brand was acquired after all by Pabst.

The disastrous effect of deciding to reduce product quality salami slice by salami slice is now known in business circles as "the Schlitz mistake." It has been argued that Robert Uihlein's response to the increased competition from Anheuser-Busch and Miller – cutting costs to increase short-term profits – was a rational decision, and if there had been anything of a strategy of "management of decline" about it, then the complete collapse in shareholder value of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s might have been avoided.

It would have been realistic for Uihlein to conclude in 1970 that the medium to long-term future of the American brewing industry would be one where only two or three big brands would command the vast majority of sales. This is, after all, exactly what did happen, with Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB Miller and MolsonCoors dominating the picture today. It would also have been realistic for Uihlein to conclude that, whatever Schlitz's position was in 1970, there was no guarantee it would end up as one of those surviving two or three beer giants, and it was better to go for maximum profits while allowing the company to run down gently.

However, what Uihlein tried to do was have his brewery cake and eat it too: cut costs, boost short-term profits and still maintain a long-term future for the company. The result was what the airline business calls a "controlled flight into terrain." Cost-cutting cost the company its reputation, something almost impossible to repair for a consumer goods maker, and it destroyed a concern that had once been the biggest in its field.

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