Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Secret Ingredients" - Have Some More Culture

This strip on the relative appeal of akutaq versus "better living through chemistry" ran a few weeks back as a hat-tip to the Alaska Federation of Natives annual statewide convention that was happening at the time in Fairbanks.
I missed out attending it this year, mainly since they canceled the senatorial candidate debate - that was a controversial but not entirely unexpected attempt to stifle awareness of political choice: whereas Scott McAdams represented someone who has genuine understanding and solidarity with Alaska native issues, the Federation sadly saw fit to follow the money and slake shareholder thirst for profits by endorsing Murkowski over perhaps their own best self-interests.

 On a lighter (okay, actually maybe a little heavier) note, after chowing down last night on a pint of Alaska Blueberry from Hot Licks, and given our #1 per-capita ranking in national consumption, let's hear it for larding up in the face of another long Interior winter.

Extended rant below the fold... 

"Eat Shit"
It's important to distinguish between the corporations and the culture: while many of them do great things, to their shame (or lack thereof) some also are unfortunately selling us out via the Federal preferences with no-bid subcontacting loopholes. It's the reason crappy fast-food chain "restaurants," like for example, Taco Bell, mysteriously metastasize up on UAF campus. So a while back I did some poking around, as I was curious as to why certain businesses popped up in the Wood Center, and who actually owned them.
The Small Business Administration’s program to allow “small & disadvantaged” tribally-owned companies exemptions from normal limits on no-bid contracts has allowed for liaisons with giant corporations. Through such subsidiaries they are given access to campuses across America, not to mention lucrative war and disaster profiteering.

Case in point: NANA Regional Corporation is teamed up with Iraq reconstruction contractors and site operations companies that provide “protective services” (mercenary armed guards) and cellular licensing projects among others. On a more local level, NANA Management Services handed over UAF Dining Services – “great food, honest values” – to Sodexo: a corporation with over 7.3 billion in annual revenue and 125,000 employees – which I’m guessing provides “the social experience essential to campus life.”
This is how really “innovative retail brands” like Taco Bell and Starbucks get an infectious toehold on places like UAF campus by piggybacking along on no-bid contracts. Benign little fronts like “Grill 155” are also run by Sodexo, and “Samurai Sams” is a chain of almost a hundred outlets (including seven in Kuwait), and is owned by the Kahala Corporation (which also operates Coldstone Creamery, Blimpie Subs and Taco Time). So much for the ostensible reason behind the Small Business Administration’s mission to help promote the growth of "local entities." Coincidentally enough, even the design of UAF Dining Services’ own website is handled through Sodexo Creative Services.
Two other examples of multinationals taking advantage of, and in my opinion abusing the opportunity of these loopholes: Wackenhut is aligned with Afognak Native Corporation, and stellar global citizens Halliburton is riding on the Olgoonik Corporation’s parkatails. In 1999 Native-owned companies comprised 3% of this program, earning an estimated $195 million: fast forward to 2003 and that figure jumped to 15% and 1.3 billion dollars. If anything, the shareholders are being taken advantage of by this sleight of hand. 

But really, blaming shareholder ignorance and apathy is by no means restricted to these particular corporations, since the overarching philosophy driving these global operations is simply profit at the ultimate expense of local community. Individual villagers have about as much of a say in corporate prostitution as your average urban citizen does (or cares) about the practices of, say, Koch Industries while wiping their Brawny brand butts with Angel Soft toilet paper.

It's unfortunately a pet cause being taken up by more than a few right-wing politicians, but as with their analogous "take back the country" movement, I strongly suspect their underlying motivations aren't exactly altruistic (*Update: ironically, a Democratic Senator just waded into the issue). And to be fair, the majority of the Alaska Native Corporation revenues are not derived from said 8(a) governmental contracts, and they are also responsible for many truly impressive and commendable community efforts in cultural and social causes for rural Alaska.
That said, I'd much rather prefer stinkheads to the utter crap they serve on campus now - and in keeping with the cartoon, much better for you too.


  1. Most of those are either plant-derived or occur naturally in the body anyway--even to the point of being considered vegan. Despite their foreign sounding names, they're mostly emulsifiers or thickeners--pretty much necessary for making ice cream-like products. Crisco stays mostly solid because of partially-hydrogenated oil, which is worse for you than any of the items you listed.

  2. Ha - that's some healthy irony. I suspect even though most additives are naturally occurring, the stuff in modern processed food is made artificially.

    Kinda like the recent Taco Bell "meat" fiasco (re: Alabama's suit charging "taco meat filling" technically isn't "beef").
    No accounting for taste, better living through chemistry aside.