RIGHT IDEA, WRONG REASONS

12 05 2012

By now, everybody knows how Bigmouth Joe Biden came out of the closet on Sunday talk TV, causing Obama to grin sheepishly and admit, “Yes, we have,” followed by a double “thud” as the jaws of Michelle Obama and Jill Biden hit the floor…all those “late night meetings” in the Oval Office and that was what was really going on?

OK, that’s not really what happened, but, in what passes for the minds of millions of reactionary Americans, it might as well have been.  To these folks, endorsing same-sex marriage is just as heinous as actually being in an, er, relationship with someone whose plumbing mirrors, rather than compliments, one’s own.

This momentous announcement has raised cheers, jeers, hopes, leers, fears and expectations all across America.  In the midst of catastrophic climate change, multiple impending resource exhaustions, an out of control financial collapse, and the unprecedented  concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many, the 2012 election is going to be a referendum on–ta da! same sex marriage.   Are we sufficiently distracted yet?

Let me make it clear: I believe that people have a right to marry who they please, regardless of their chromosome profile or their plumbing. For that matter, I believe that the benefits of marriage should be available to any number of people who have enough love, understanding, patience, equanimity, and generosity among themselves to commit that deeply to each other, although I would be the first to admit that, in my observation, the difficulties of intimacy increase exponentially, even when the number involved only increases arithmetically.  Group marriage is not for the faint-hearted!  But I digress.   we’re only talking gender, not number, at least so far.  The gender of the partners in a marriage is not the state’s business, any more than the gender of the partners in any other kind of incorporation.

Religions, on the other hand, have every right in the world to define marriage among their membership, along with the propriety of premarital sex, abortion, contraception, and whether it’s OK to put tab A anywhere other than in slot B.  It is perfectly fine for a religion to decline, or agree, to celebrate same-sex marriage.  In fact, I see it as a clergyperson’s duty to decline to marry any couple, regardless of their sexual identity, who, in the clergyperson’s view, do not have their act together enough to make a good marriage.  That’s what spiritual advisers are for!

This is what is meant by “separation of church and state.”  By the same token, I think it is entirely inappropriate for a religion to attempt to push the state to promulgate secular laws that force every citizen to follow the dictates of one particular religion.  That’s not just about marriage and abortion and other sexual matters, it’s also about, for example, our drug laws, which only make sense in the context of religious prohibition.  There’s no logical reason for them.  But, again, I digress.  I want to stay on the same-sex marriage track.

Question:    What if my religious belief is that the government should enforce my religious beliefs?

Answer:  well, you need your own territory.  Please don’t try to take over mine. OK, back to same-sex marriage in the good ol’, culturally diverse and diverging, USA:

I think the Democrats’ decision to embrace the issue is, at a certain level, extraordinarily cynical. They’re saying to their base, “Forget the fact that we’ve stiff armed you on single payer health care, forget the fact that we’ve continued to feed the massive corporate welfare scheme known as “the defence industry,” forget that we’ve relentlessly and often baselessly prosecuted for “espionage” anyone who has tried to blow the whistle on the many fraudulent schemes and capital crimes fed by “defense” spending, forget the fact that we’ve failed to indict anybody for the massive Wall Street flim-flam that impoverished so many of you while it enriched a few of our major donors. Forget the fact that we have not prosecuted any of the war criminals in the Cheney administration and have gone on and committed even more–and more heinous–war crimes ourselves.  Forget the fact that we’ve instituted increased government surveillance of citizens and decreased surveillance of government by citizens.  Forget the fact that we’ve ignored the substance, and crushed the forms, of genuine popular democracy in America–Occupy Wall Street, this means you!

Forget the fact that we scuttled the Copenhagen climate talks and have been so friendly to the oil, gas, nuclear, and coal interests that we have likely ensured that our descendants and our planet will have a hot, polluted ,miserable future. Forget the fact that we have done absolutely nothing to prepare this country and its citizens for the massive changes the planet is about to undergo.

Forget that we have not done anything to reverse the decision of the fascists on the Supreme Court who unleashed unlimited corporate money into politics (including our own pockets). Forget the fact that, after promising to make decisions based on science rather than ideology, we have only intensified the War on (some) Drugs and acquiesced in the release of corporate-designed, corporate-profiting, dangerous genetically modified organisms into the biosphere.  Forget the fact that, at every turn, we have done more to bail out the wealthy than to offer real assistance to the hard pressed. To sum it up, forget how little, besides public perception, really changed when the reins of power passed from Cheney to Obama–vote for us, because we support same-sex marriage and your right to an abortion, and the Republicans don’t.”

Get ’em by the short hairs, and their hearts and minds will follow, eh Joe and Barack?

music:  Ani DiFranco, “Amendment” (first link to lyrics, second to music)





OBAMONSANTO

8 01 2011

People who like to consider themselves “liberals” and “progressives” and who are still clinging to the idea that Obama is somehow “our man in the White House” are willing to go to great lengths to retain their belief.  And even this hardened Obama skeptic has to admit that he is “kinder and gentler” than his ham-fisted predecessors, whom I was fond of referring to as a ‘junta.”  (After all, Cheney and Bush only got themselves “elected” by jiggering the system, to put it mildly.)  You may have noticed that I don’t refer to “the Biden-Obama junta.”

Whatever their faults, Obama and Biden didn’t mess with the electoral process to get into office.  The Republicans knew it was time to bow out and let the Democrats take the fall–which is what Obama has done.  A Republican health care plan has become “Obamacare.”  The deficit run up by the junta has become “the Obama deficit,” and the Republicans are happily tarring him for it.  The bank bailout engineered by the junta has become “the Obama bailout,” and they are tarring him for that, too.  In return, he has graciously declined to prosecute anyone for malfeasance in the collapse of the Great American Financial Bubble, which was blown by the Cheney-Bush junta but which the former juntoids are cheerfully pinning on Obama.  He’s such a nice guy.

Between 1990 and 1995, nearly 4,000 people, mostly rich white guys, went to jail for their malfeasance in “the Savings and Loan Crisis.”  That little imbroglio burned up about $124 Billion; the 2008 crash has cost at least $2.8 Trillion, 23 times as much.  (23!  That number again! hmmm….).   So…proportionately speaking, if 4,000 people went to jail for defrauding the public of $128B, then there should be about 92,000 people criminally liable for something 23 times as big–wow, that might just about clear out Wall Street–which is probably why it hasn’t happened.

There have been a few showcase trials of fringe Ponzi scheme operators like Bernie Madoff, but, instead of prosecuting the firms behind this shakedown of the world’s economy, “our” President Obama has invited them into the government.  Not only is Goldman-Sachs “too big to fail,” it’s apparently also too big to prosecute.  I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re caught with a hand in the cookie jar, as long as you’ve got the government by the balls with your other hand.

Or consider Obama’s promise to shut down Guantanamo.  He made a half-hearted effort to follow through, but it’s still there, the US military guarding a handful of often innocent people who got caught up in a dragnet and have now been mistreated so badly for so long that 1) we don’t dare release them because they’ll tell on us and 2) even if they didn’t hate America before, we’ve now given them good reason to, and they’ll join the anti-American jihad if the US lets them loose. It’s already happened.

And that leads to the wider issue of our ongoing financial pyromania in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where our tax dollars feed the bonfire we are ostensibly there to extinguish. You tea partiers wanna cut the budget?  Forget about diddling around with Social Security, Medicare, and education–that’s all small potatoes compared to military spending–800 billion dollars, about $7K per household, nearly half of world military spending.  “Our” President Obama ain’t shrinking that, folks.  The empire must be defended, not defunded!

Don’t get me wrong on this.  I’m not in favor of cutting pay for the military rank-and-file. Sure, they’re hired killers, but there’s a lot of worthwhile projects that are crying out for an organized workforce, which could easily be our redirected,  unarmed forces.  Besides, our military, with its health care system, network of PX stores, and subsidized housing, is one of the outstanding examples of socialism in the world today.

I’m talking about discontinuing expensive, high-tech weapons programs that amount to a form of corporate welfare.(Not that I really think our corporate-run state is about to discontinue any form of corporate welfare, but I might as well say it anyway!). Killing Pakistanis with drone aircraft controlled by people in Nevada is, in my admittedly biased opinion, morally abhorrent.  Besides, at a practical level, it opens the door to other countries doing the same thing to us, should the tables turn, as eventually they will.  Do unto others, y’know?  Drones over America!  Think of the possibilities!

OK, so Obama pushed through the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Wonderful.  The military doesn’t care who you want to schtup, as long as you’re willing to pull the trigger for them.  Sonny, I’m old enough to remember when the gay rights movement and the women’s movement’s vision was more about ending the military and the drive to violent conflict than about asserting their right to be hired killers just like the guys, or the straight guys.  “Don’t ask?  Don’t tell?”  Don’t bother!  Whaddaya want in that club for, anyway!? Wake the bleep up!

I digress…

We can also see the continuity between the Cheney and Obama administrations in the realm of agricultural policy, where both have been unstinting in their promotion of Monsanto and its stable of genetically modified crops, despite a great deal of evidence that calls GMO crops into question on a wide variety of grounds.

Monsanto supporters like to bloviate about how Monsanto’s GMO crops are necessary to feed the world, how they are able to increase yields and confer pest resistance, but the fact of the matter is that the primary trait of GMO crops so far is resistance to the effects of …Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide, “Roundup.”  Gee, isn’t that a coincidence?  Monsanto advocates like to claim that the no-till farming enabled by dependence on Roundup for weed control keeps fields from eroding and thus saves the soil.  Well, OK, it may keep it from washing away, but it also alters soil chemistry–it’s a plant poison, after all–and, like a person who takes antibiotics all the time, extensive use of Roundup negatively affects soil fertility and health, encouraging outbreaks of plant disease that are normally kept in check by the micro-organisms Roundup kills.  Not to mention, regular Roundup use has enabled the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds, just as GMO crops created with insect resistance have both prompted the evolution of pesticide-resistant insects, and opened the plants up to attacks from insects that were not problematic before.

And then there’s a little legal nicety:  these seeds are patented, and so farmers cannot legally save seed, as they have done for thousands of years, but must buy seed–expensive seed–every year, along with expensive chemicals…like Roundup.  In India, mounting debt from these practices has contributed to the suicides of hundreds of thousands of small farmers, flooding the country’s cities with even more rural refugees and emptying out the countryside.

Consider this:the pollen from GMO seeds doesn’t keep to itself.  It blows on the wind or gets picked up by bees, and ends up in non-GMO flowers, producing GMO  characteristics in non-GMO seeds.  This is very bad news for anybody who is attempting to grow organic crops anywhere near a GMO field.  The good news is, the courts have decided that Monsanto can’t sue people whose fields their GMO pollen contaminates. The bad news is, it took the Canadian Supreme Court to get Monsanto to back down on this.  If it had come to the US Supreme Court, my guess is they would have backed Monsanto.  Corporations are more equal than people in this country, dontcha know?

Monsanto has won many cases against farmers who attempted to save their own GMO seed, and has hired the company formerly known as Blackwater to spy on anti-GMO activists and  enforce their monopoly–er, patent rights, excuse me.  The Justice Department is looking into whether Monsanto’s tactics are illegal, but, considering Obama’s track record, I doubt that anything will come of this investigation.

There are also major questions about the edibility of GMO crops.  Analysis of Monsanto’s “safety studies” by independent scientists revealed that Monsanto manipulated the data to get the results it wanted, and that GMO crops present a double threat:  “Roundup ready” GMOs incorporate the herbicide into every part of the plant, and thus, when we eat GMO corn, we are eating Roundup.  Yummy!  Even when Roundup is not part of the plant’s makeup, GMO crops produce effects like digestive problems, liver damage, and reproductive difficulties.  Here in the US, where, in 1992, thanks to Dan Quayle, Monsanto easily persuaded the USDA that GMO crops were not substantially different from non-GMO crops and thus did not need to be vetted for health effects, we are now a nation of lab rats for a massive, long-term experiment with eating GMO crops, and our government, as Wikileaks has  revealed, is firmly behind Monsanto’s push to spread GMOs.

OK, back to the Obama administration, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” department: Nina Federoff is Hillary Clinton’s science advisor.  Before that, she was…Condoleeza Rice’s science advisor.  Before that, she worked for an Israeli….biotech firm!  Isn’t that amazing!  She has publicly expressed her disdain for organic farming.  I got news, Ms. Federoff:  organic farming is the only kind of farming that will be possible in the mid- to long-term future, so we’d better start getting good at it.  Dig this, all you folks who think Hillary would be an improvement on Barack!?

Back to Barack:  he put Tom Vilsack, who was the biotech industry’s (like, Monsanto’s) “governor of the year,” in as Secretary of Agriculture.  Vilsack also championed the spread of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Iowa,  and pushed through a law that prevents Iowa counties from banning GMO agriculture.

Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, who, as Bill Clinton’s guy at the FDA, pushed rGBH down America’s throat, is now in charge of food safety.  Doesn’t that make you feel safer?

Roger Beachy, formerly head of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, will serve as the first director of a new federal agriculture agency, the National Institute on Food and Agriculture, which will direct agricultural research grants.  The Danforth Center is heavily funded by… Monsanto.

Islam A. Siddiqui, recently Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America (the organization that sent the First Lady a letter admonishing her for not using pesticides on the White House garden) is now America’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator, who works through the Office of the United States Trade Representative to promote US crops and ag products abroad.  “Croplife America” is a lobbying group that represents…Monsanto.

So there they are, “the rogues’ gallery,” “the usual suspects,” call them what you will. It boils down to another example of how Obama is not a change in direction from the Cheney-Bush junta, just a rebranding of the same basic agenda.  “Too rough?  OK, we’ll ease up a little–but we’re still in control.”

The good news is that Monsanto, like the US government, appears to be a little past the peak of its power.  The patent on Roundup has expired, and Roundup knockoffs are available for a fraction of Monsanto’s price. Farmers are rebelling against the high price of GMO seed.  Despite the US government’s attempts to go on the offensive for Monsanto, worldwide suspicion of GMO crops is growing, especially as more and more science and practical experience calls the wisdom of genetic meddling into question. A recent court ruling halted cultivation of GMO sugar beets, finding that the USDA had paid only “cursory” attention to numerous environmental concerns about the crop.  The court had to do it, because Obamonsanto’s USDA was staying the Bush junta’s course  and  allowing the GMO beets to go ahead.  A similar controversy still rages over whether to allow “Roundup-Ready” alfalfa.

Monsanto will not give up easily.  The company will try, and try, and try again, doing its best to wear down the mere humans who are wary of its profit drive–which is, after all, the central organizing principle in a for-profit corporation.   It is unlikely that Western civilization will come unglued fast enough to prevent a great deal of harm coming from Monsanto’s actions.  This is what happens when profit-driven corporations run amok.

music:  Laurie Anderson, “The Monkey’s Paw





BLOWING OUR WAD

5 04 2008

Some people are scandalized because of all the important social and environmental work that could be accomplished with all the funds we’re wasting on high-tech weaponry, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that most of that money is borrowed, not generated by taxes, and represents artificial inflation of the US economy to the benefit of Bush’s wealthy backers–which, under our current tax structure, we the people of the middle class are going to have to pay for.

Bush Administration Wastes Trillions in Worthless Weapons

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig. Posted April 3, 2008.

A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there, and soon you’re talking real money. But when it comes to reporting on what the Bush war legacy has cost American taxpayers, the media have been shockingly indifferent to the highest run-up in military spending since World War II. Even the devastating defense spending audit released Monday by the Government Accountability Office documenting the enormous waste in every single U.S. advanced weapons system failed to provoke the outrage it, and five equally scathing previous annual audits, deserved.

This is not about the waste of taxpayer dollars — already pushing a trillion — in funding the Iraq war, which, while reprehensible enough, pales in comparison to the big-ticket military systems purchased in the wake of 9/11. In the horror of that moment, the floodgates were lifted and the peace dividend promised with the end of the Cold War was washed away by a doubling of spending on ultra-complex military equipment originally designed to defeat a Soviet enemy that no longer exists, equipment that has no plausible connection with fighting stateless terrorists. Example: the $81-billion submarine pushed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, presumably to fight al-Qaida’s navy.

That’s the huge scandal the media and politicians from both parties have studiously avoided. But as the GAO’s authoritative audit details, the costs are astronomical. The explosion of spending on expensive weaponry after 9/11 had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks of that day. The high-tech planes and ships commissioned for trillions of dollars to defeat an enemy with no navy, air force or army, and using $3 knives as its weapons arsenal, were gifts to the military-industrial complex that will go on giving for decades to come.

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