What Is The Earth Worth?

SUBHEAD: Asking this question again, some years later. Not enough has changed.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 22 April 2014 for the Automatic Earth -
(http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-apr-22-2014-what-is-the-earth-worth-6-years-later/)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2014Year/04/140423fukushimadaini.jpg
Image above: Aerial view of Fukushima Daini (#2) Nuclear Plant less than 10 miles from Fukushima Daiichi (#1). It looks like a clone of the older plant. Daini has four GE Boiling Water Reactors similar to Daichi, but they are a few meters higher above the ocean. Daini survived and is waiting to be put on line again by Prime Minister Senzo Abe. Are we going to relive the Fukushima catastrophe? Yes! If money has its way. From (http://psyandr.narod.ru/Earth/HQ-sat-photos-1.htm). Click to embiggen.

Once more for everyone who’s got even the lightest slightest shade of green in their thoughts and dreams and fingers, I’ll try and address the issue of why going or being green is a futile undertaking as long as it isn’t accompanied by a drive for a radical upheaval of the economic system we live in.

Thinking we can be green – that is to say, achieve anything real when it comes to restoring our habitat to a healthy state – without that upheaval, is a delusion. And delusions, as we all know all too well, can be dangerous.

It’s not possible to “save the planet” while maintaining the economic system we currently have, because that system is based on and around perpetual growth. It’s really as simple as that, and perhaps it’s that very simplicity which fools people into thinking that can’t be all there is to it.

Switching to different fuels, alternative energy forms, is useless in such a system, because there will be a moment when the growth catches up with all preservation measures; it’s not a winnable race.

There will come a time when a choice between preservation and growth must be made, and the latter will always win (as long as the system prevails). It would be very helpful if the environmental movement catches up on the economics aspect, because it’s not going anywhere right now. It’s a feel-good ploy that comforts parts of our guilty minds but won’t bring about what’s needed to eradicate that guilt.

If you’re serious about preserving the world and restoring it to the state your ancestors found it in, it’s going to take a lot more than different lightbulbs or fuels or yearly donations to a “good” cause. That, too, is very simple. You won’t be able to keep living the way you do, and preserve the place you have in your society, your job, your home, your car. That is a heavy price to pay perhaps in your view, but there is no other way. Whether you make that choice is another story altogether. Just don’t think you’re going to come off easy.

What makes it harder is the question whether we, as a species, are capable of pulling this off in the first place. Still, if we can’t even get it right as individuals… But trying to answer what it would all take, in reality, is still preferable than telling ourselves, and each other, and your children, a bunch of fiction-based lies on a daily basis. At least, that’s my take. Either we make an honest attempt or we say “after us the flood”. Trying to find a snug and comfy but cheating place somewhere in between is an insult to ourselves, our ancestors and our progeny.

I read a number of things this morning that, in typical fashion, all sort of touch on all this, as so many do all the time, but still fall short of the logical conclusion. For many, that’s because perpetual growth is a hard to grasp concept, and an economic system based on it is even more difficult, but it’s a terrible shame that it leads to all those well-meaning people producing what is in the end really little more than gibberish. Jeremy Brecher gets it partly right for the Nation,

‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie
While concrete, on-the-ground solutions are essential for knitting together labor and environmental concerns, our movements also need to evolve toward a common program and a common vision. We can present such initiatives as exemplars of a broad public agenda for creating full employment by converting to a climate-safe economy. There are historical precedents for such programs. Just as the New Deal in the Great Depression of the 1930s put millions of unemployed people to work doing the jobs America’s communities needed, so today we need a “Green New Deal” to rebuild our energy, transportation, building, and other systems to drastically reduce the climate-destroying greenhouse gas pollution they pour into the air.

Such a shared program would end the “jobs versus environment” conflict because environmental protection would produce millions of new jobs and expansion of jobs would protect the environment. Such a program provides common ground on which both labor and environmentalists can stand. Such a program can also be the centerpiece of a larger shared vision of a new economy. After all, just expanding the kind of economy we have will just expand the problems of inequality and environmental catastrophe our current economy is already creating. The ultimate solution to the “jobs vs. environment” dilemma is to build a new economy where we all have secure livelihoods based on work that creates the kind of sustainable world we all need.
… but the notion that expansion, any kind of expansion, would protect the environment is dangerous. Expansion is part of the other side’s vocabulary. And using their vocabulary is not a good thing. George Monbiot quotes George Lakoff to make that exact point:

Can You Put A Price On The Beauty Of The Natural World?
George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing elections they should win, explained that attempts to monetise nature are a classic example of people trying to do the right thing without understanding frames: the mental structures that shape the way we perceive the world. As Lakoff points out, you cannot win an argument unless you expound your own values and re-frame the issue around them.

If you adopt the language and values of your opponents “you lose because you are reinforcing their frame”. Costing nature tells us that it possesses no inherent value; that it is worthy of protection only when it performs services for us; that it is replaceable. You demoralise and alienate those who love the natural world while reinforcing the values of those who don’t.
And the rest of Monbiot’s piece is sort of alright, but his from the rooftops support for more nuclear (in Britain) shows that he, like so many others, only gets part of the story.
… the financial case for new roads in the United Kingdom, shaky at the best of times, falls apart if you attach almost any value to the rise in greenhouse gases they cause. Case closed? No: the government now insists [..] that climate change cannot be taken into account when deciding whether or not a road is built. Do you believe that people prepared to cheat to this extent would stop a scheme because one of the government’s committees has attached a voodoo value to a piece of woodland?

It’s more likely that the accounting exercise would be used as a weapon by the developers. The woods are worth £x, but by pure chance the road turns out to be worth £x +1. Beauty, tranquillity, history, place, particularity? Sorry, they’ve already been costed and incorporated into x – end of discussion. The strongest arguments that opponents can deploy – arguments based on values – cannot be heard.
This line of thinking should be applied not just to nature, but to all basic human necessities as well, food, water, shelter, and yes, even the energy that keeps us warm. I have often said that if you allow money into your political system, money will inevitably end up owning that system. And that is true for all resources too: in an economic perpetual growth model, money, if allowed to, will concentrate in just a few institutions and families and eventually own everything. Didn’t Marx, too, say something like that a while back?

And I could go on, but I already wrote it all several times, for instance on May 27 2008, and nothing has changed since. At least not for the good. And so here goes. I wrote this in reaction to an otherwise great article in Der Spiegel entitled: The Price of Survival: What Would It Cost to Save Nature?.

I still really like that Spiegel article, except that it’s wrong on many counts. Here’s from 6 years ago on 5/27/2008 What Is The Earth Worth?  (and yes, I know there are things in it I have mentioned more recently as well).

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Hawaiian civil liberties theatened

SOURCE: John Bond (ewabond@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: The governor or mayor shall be the sole judge of any danger that would constitute a state of emergency.

By Lisa Davidson on 21 April 2014 for Hawaii State Minority -
(Ihttp://senateminority.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/bill-will-compromise-civil-liberties/)


Image above: Military personnel at the state capital in Honolulu, Hawaii. From original article.


Despite a long list of good intentions and numerous supporters, House Bill 849 is a dangerous bill.

Darryl Oliveira, Director of the County of Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency, presented testimony in support, arguing that the bill will provide more power to the counties and clarify the powers of the Governor and Mayors,
 “simplify the law by placing all emergency management authorities in one chapter of the HRS, and establish the Emergency Specialist Reserve Corps (ESRC), a low-cost surge staff to assist state and local government during emergencies … recruited from community members … fully trained and ready to respond during a disaster.”

The Chair of Maui’s County Council, Gladys C. Baisa, added her support, mentioning that:
 “During a time of crisis, no other level of government has better access to critical real-time information than the county … The proposed measure will provide the mayors specific, important powers.” Also, “Civil Defense” is updated to the more contemporary “Emergency Management.” (“Out of the 54 states and territories, only Hawaii uses ‘civil defense…’”) 

William F. Anonsen, Chair of the Civil Defense Advisory Council, pointed out that the new bill updates HRS 127 (Disaster Relief) and HRS 128 (Disaster Emergency Act), which are actually over 60 years old … “written primarily to deal with Post World War II-Cold War nuclear attack threats and civil unrest.”

Also, Hawaii’s population then was less than half of what it is today. Anonsen added,
“Emergency Management is a top priority for the State of Hawaii, given our isolation and vulnerability to a myriad of potential threats both natural and man-made.”

The dangers inherent in the bill are the overly broad definitions of emergency powers. Elaine Dunbar of Lihue defined these as “sweeping powers … if it becomes law it can present seriously harmful repercussions with no recourse to undo in the likely event it is abused.”

Her father was a JAG Officer with the Pentagon, her mother a WAVE and Executive Secretary for a U.S. Congressman, and her brother a former Navy SEAL. She remarked that;
“They did not serve the U.S. government to live to see these types of acts with the potential for so much harm and annihilation of their children’s rights nor those of any others’ children.” 
She added,
“I sincerely believe there are far too many dangerous sections in the bill that need to have closer scrutiny. It is a long draft and maybe there has not been enough time for legislators to give it the attention it requires.” 
 She commented also that the “Preliminary or interlocutory injunctions and temporary restraining orders” should read “Injunctive relief.” Her closing quote:
“There are sections in this that have nothing to do with emergencies or national disasters and are simply power grabs. Legislation this broad needs more time. Please defer.”

Edward T. Teixeira, the former vice director of civil defense, strongly opposes the bill, calling it a,
 “rushed and desperate attempt to reform the state civil defense system by a name change … There are other parts of the proposed bill that address many other critical functions and responsibilities, which should be studied carefully. Passing this bill out of your committee without a thorough review by your committees will be a disservice to the people of the State.”

Specifically, civil liberties may not be observed if an emergency is declared; compulsory immunizations and quarantines can be required; personal property can be “redistributed;” electronic media transmissions can be suspended; even county laws can be suspended. If someone is accused of “hoarding,” all emergency supplies may be taken by the government.

The governor can declare any person, place, or situation a “public nuisance,” authorizing entry to private property without the owner’s permission. Any members of the military or National Guard who are called to assist civil authorities “engaged in emergency functions” can’t be held responsible, criminally or civilly for damage caused “in pursuance of duty …” The public right to gather may be restricted. Forced evacuations are permitted.

 “The governor or mayor shall be the sole judge” of any danger that would constitute a state of emergency.

And during a state of emergency, the governor or mayor can take over any private property they choose to requisition; if the owner is unwilling to accept the compensation value offered, that person will be penalized by a 25% reduction in the compensation amount. If any person violates any emergency rule, they will be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

Then there is an extensive section defining theft and property crimes. Theoretically a hungry person who picks a mango from someone else’s tree can be accused of criminal property damage in the first degree. This section seems to favor the wealthy and persons with extensive property.

Hawaii residents can only hope that some of these issues will be edited and clarified in conference committee, as the resulting chaos could be catastrophic.

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Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC

SUBHEAD:We couldn't afford to take care of Mother Earth anymore. Excuse us while we turn the Pacific Ocean into a radioactive ashtray.

By Juan Wilson on 22 April 2014 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/04/earthday-tpp-fukushima-rimpac.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2014Year/04/140422megatronbig.jpg
Image above: Looks like fun! Poster for ride at General Electric's Universal Studios Hollywood theme park that features the sentient robot Megatron (the Decepticon) as he hunts down you and your family. From (http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/). Click to embiggen.

Well, it's officially Earth Day again - April 22nd - now forty-four years after the first Earth Day. As the website Earthday.org site states:
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news...


Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center. 
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California...


As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies...


Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked."
Earthday has devolved since, especially as our problems with the destruction of the Earth's environment have grown. I guess it is hard to keep up the good fight in the face of the decimation of your allies. In any case, this year on Earthday our progressive President, Barack Obama, is not attending any Earthday ceremonies.

Instead Obama is on his way to Japan to assure its right-wing president that the USA's Pacific Pivot is still on track to fulfill its promises: Contain China's military and economic expansion; deliver the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a corporate globalist takeover) and insure American military allies their full spectrum dominance of the Pacific Ocean. The demonstarion of which is the RIMPAC 2014 naval exercises this summer. 

Oh yeah, this is the year of the 24th biannual Rim of the Pacific navel military exercises. That's the big military operation that will test coordination, communications, equipment, and weapons for over twenty Pacific Rim nations from Asia, Australia, North America, and South America.

Even Norway will attend this year. The whole shebang means the destruction of uncounted (only estimated) numbers of marine mammals, and other ocean mega-fauna. The US Navy and its nuclear aircraft carrier groups lead this parade of death into Pacific Ocean leading to its environmental destruction.

The USS Ronald Reagan
The US Navy announced in February that the USS Ronald Reagan will likely participate in RIMPAC 2014. This radiation contaminated ship may end up being the poster-child for this confluence of bad karma in the Pacific Ocean.

The USS Reagan was in the area of southern Japan in March of 2011 when the earthquake and following tsunami destroyed the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Reagan steamed to a near offshore location to coordinate rescue efforts in Fukushima province. It was caught off-guard downwind of the three nuclear core meltdowns at Fiukshima and was severely damaged (along with its crew). The New York Post reported 12/22/13:
Toxic seawater was sucked into the ship’s desalinization system, flowing out of its faucets and showers — still radioactive — and into the crew member’s bodies. “We were probably floating in contaminated water without knowing it for a day and a half before we got hit by that plume,” said Lindsay Cooper, whose career as a third-class petty officer ended five months after the disaster for health reasons. 
Snow falling on Navy ship caused by Fukushima radioactive steam… “Is that aluminum foil I taste?” – Cooper, who worked up to 18 hours at a time on the flight deck loading supplies onto a steady stream of aid helicopters for four days, all the while drinking out of the two-gallon pouch of water hooked to her gear belt.
By the time the Reagan realized it was contaminated and tried to shift location, the radioactive plume had spread too far to be quickly outrun.
“And then we couldn’t go anywhere. Japan didn’t want us in port, Korea didn’t want us, Guam turned us away. We floated in the water for two and a half months,” until Thailand took them in, she said.
All the while crew members had been suffering from excruciating diarrhea.
“People were s- -tting themselves in the hallways,” Cooper recalled. “Two weeks after that, my lymph nodes in my neck were swollen. By July, my thyroid shut down.”
The USS Reagan had to go to a Navy drydock in Bremerton, Washington for radiation decontamination. It spent a year and a half in Washington before being returned to its home port of San Diego. There it has sat since. The crew that experienced Fukushima has been swapped out and the USS Reagan has been assigned to Yokosuka, Japan in 1015 after it is done taking part in RIMPAC 2014.

What does RIMPAC 2014 American Hegemony, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdown and TPP Corporate Globalism have in common?
They are all aspects of the same thing. They all depend on nuclear power and weapons.
Japan, the third largest economy behind America and China cannot profitably run its heavy industry without nuclear power. Hitachi, Mistubishi, Toyota, Nissan et al, cannot afford to run their manufacturing operations without restarting Japan's nuclear plants.


RIMPAC 2014 American Hegemony
The USS Reagan is a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier leading on of those carrier groups that dominate theworld's oceans. Nimitz class ships are the largest warships ever built. each is powered with two General Electric Corporation  pressurized water nuclear reactors. Other nuclear ships and subs accompany them. They are armed with nuclear weapons and bombs and use depleted uranium tipped shells in their cannons and machine guns.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdown
Fukushima Daiichi is a site of six General Electric boiling water reactors. They are gone but Japan has about 50 sites that have suspended operations. Right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to get them started against the will of the Japanese people who seem to have rejected nuclear power. I'm sure American President Barack Obama sympathizes with Abe and would like to get the nuclear power industry running again in Japan and expanding again in America.

TPP Corporate Globalism
The General Electric Corporation has a lot of manufacturing done for itself in Japan. It also is a major player in the Military Industrial Complex. But unlike many other arms "providers" (like Boeing, or General Dynamics or Ratheon) General Electric is also in the entertainment, leisure, and consumer industries. They own National Broadcasting Corporation, MSNBC, CNBC, Universal Studios, Universal Parks and Resorts, etc. The GE brand loves the TPP with its fascist corporate control of intellectual property, trade names and brands.

The nations participating in the TPP talks are many of the same players involved with roiling the Pacific Ocean with explosives and destructive energy waves through RIMPAC exercises. The TPP purpose is to protect the interests of corporations and their intellectual and otherwise controlled property rights above the mere interests of governments or their peoples.

How do you ensure those corporate rights and privileges - NUCLEAR POWER and NUCLEAR ENERGY.

Sorry Mother Earth. We just couldn't afford to take care of you anymore. Excuse us while we turn the Pacific Ocean into a radioactive ashtray.




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What’s Been & What’s Next

SUBHEAD:  Ukraine is a mirror of ourselves and our sclerotic republic, poised to sink into poverty and disorder.

By James Kunstler on 21 April 2014 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/whats-been-and-whats-next/)


Image above: America reaching for world class poverty in Detroit. From (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2005550/Americas-pay-gap-Inequality-rich-poor-worse-revolutionary-Egypt.html).

The wonder is that more Americans are not ticked off about the state of our country than whatever is happening ten thousand miles away. 

For instance, how come the US Department of Justice is not as avid to prosecute the pervasive racketeering in the US economy as the State Department is for provoking unnecessary wars in foreign lands on the other side of the planet, over matters that have little bearing on life here? 

This racketeering, by the way, amounts to a war against American citizens.

I’m speaking especially of the US military racket, the banking and finance rackets, the health care racket and the college loan racket, all of which have evolved insidiously and elegantly to swindle the public in order to support a claque of American oligarchs. 

In other civilized lands, health care and college are considered the highest priority public goods (i.e. responsibilities of government), and national resources are applied to support them under the theory that bankrupting people for an appendectomy or a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is not in the public interest. 

In our land, that would be considered “socialism.” Instead, we “socialize” the costs of supporting Too Big To Fail banks — so their employees can drive Beemers to their Hamptons summer house parties — and a military machine that goes around the world wrecking one country after another to support a parasitical class of contractors, lobbyists, and bought-off politicians in their northern Virginia McMansions.

Hence, the laughable conceit pinging through the news media lately that some dynastic grifter like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton will slide into the White House in 2016 as easily as a watermelon seed popped into a shot glass. I don’t think it’s going to work out that way. 

The US political system needs to be turned upside down and inside out, and I expect that it will be. Either it happens within the bounds of electoral politics, or you’ll see it playing out in the streets and the windswept plains.

Just a glance around the USA these days ought to nauseate the casual observer. We have an infrastructure for everyday life that is failing in every way imaginable. Are you disturbed by the asteroid belts of vacant strip malls outside your town? Or the empty store fronts along your Main Streets?  

What do you suppose these places will be like in ten years when the mirage of shale oil dissolves in a mist of disappointment and political grievance? How are Americans going to feel, do you suppose, when gasoline just isn’t there at a price they can pay, and they are marooned in delaminating strand-board-and-vinyl houses 23 miles away from anything? 

Does the sheer immersive ugliness of the human imprint on the American landscape not give you the shivers?

Look at the pathetic and disgusting appearance of our cities, which for the most part present themselves as demolition derby arenas or war zones — except the strongholds of the red-white-and-blue oligarchs: Washington, San Francisco, and especially New York, Financialization Central.

What happens at the “magic moment” when Facebook stops being a narcissistic virtual playground for “selfies” and becomes a bulletin board for political revolution? 

Think that can’t happen here? And what if that revolution is a kind that doesn’t appeal to you — say, a revolution of race hatred, or fascist zealotry, or Marxist gangsterism of the type that took Russia hostage for 70 years?

All this is happening, incidentally, because the supposed best minds in our nation are paying no attention whatsoever to the most important story of our lifetime: the winding down of the techno-industrial global economy. 

It doesn’t really matter anymore why they don’t get it. Hubris. Greed. Distraction. Denial. All that matters is that they can’t be depended on and when that happens authority loses legitimacy. And when it comes to that, all bets are off.

The disintegration of Ukraine would be best understood by Americans as a mirror of ourselves and our sclerotic republic, poised to sink into poverty and disorder. Everything we do and say rings hollow now. 

What used to be called The Establishment has run out of ways to even pretend to save itself. We have no idea what’s next, but it’s not going to be more of what’s been.

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Bad news for GMOs

SUBHEAD: Vermont Senate passes mandatory GMO food-labeling law. House now needs to approve senate changes.

By Carey Gillam & Lisa Baertle on 16 April 2014 for Reuters -
(http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/16/usa-gmo-lawmaking-idUSL2N0N819I20140416)


Image above: Congratulations Vermont! From (http://www.realfarmacy.com/vermont-passes-landmark-gmo-labeling-law/).

The Vermont Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would make the state the first in the United States to enact mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops.

"We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this," said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill.

The bill, approved 28-2 by the Senate, has already passed the Vermont House of Representatives. It now goes back to the House to see if members will approve changes made by the Senate.

The law is set to take effect July 1, 2016.

The move in Vermont comes as the developers of genetically modified crops and U.S. grocery manufacturers push for passage of an opposing bill, introduced in Congress last week, that would nullify any state law that requires labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops.

The Vermont law passed by the Senate would do just that - processed foods that contain genetically modified corn, soybeans or other GMO ingredients and sold at retail outlets would have to be labeled as having been produced or partially produced with "genetic engineering."

Andrea Stander, a spokesperson for the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition, said they expect the biotech industry to sue in an attempt to stop enactment of the bill. As such, the language of the bill includes formation of a fund that would pay legal bills.

"It's not just Vermont," said Stander. "This affects everyone who eats. Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we've become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry. People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice."

Consumer groups say labeling is needed because of questions both about the safety of GM crops - known as GMOs - for human health and the environment.

The language of the Vermont bill states that foods made with genetically engineered crops "potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture, and the environment" and should be labeled.

Last October, a group of 93 international scientists issued a statement saying there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they said were false claims the biotech industry was making about a "consensus" on safety.

The group said there needed to be more independent research as studies showing safety tend to be funded and backed by the biotech industry.

But GMO crop developers like Monsanto, and their backers say genetically modified crops are proven safe.

"This debate isn't about food safety," said Karen Batra, spokeswoman for the Biotechnoloy Industry Organization. "Our science experts ... point to more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern."

Batra said mandatory labeling creates needless extra costs and complications for farmers and the food industry.

Ballot measures in California in 2012 and last year in Washington state narrowly lost after Monsanto and other GMO crop developers and members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association poured millions into campaigns to defeat the measures.

The Vermont bill makes it illegal to describe any food product containing GMOs as "natural" or "all natural." Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont's law contains no such trigger clause.



France Bans All GMO Cultivation
SUBHEAD: The French National Assembly has made a sweeping declaration with a new bill, effective immediately. No more genetically modified crops.

By Heather Callagahn on 17 April 2014 for Activist Post - 
(http://www.activistpost.com/2014/04/effective-immediately-france-bans-all.html)


Image above: French anti-GMO poster on display. From original article.

On Tuesday, the French lower house of parliament adopted a law immediately banning cultivation of any GMO corn, due to environmental safety concerns.

Recently, they also made a halt decree to prohibit planting the only GM crop allowed in the EU - Monsanto's MON810 corn, with built-in insect resistance.

Jean-Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, said:

It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.
Farmers and seed companies are challenging the rule, as they have blocked similar decrees before, viewing safety concerns insufficient. But Le Guen bound the rule so that member state decisions could not be litigated against.

The ban heads back to the Senate for final approval - if rejected, the French National Assembly gets to cast the final ruling. Future strains will be banned even if the EU states approve more.

Of course big biotech companies are not satisfied to let bans rest. If companies like Monsanto have any say, they'll be back. The EU actually wants to give them that final say.

Additionally, DuPont and Dow Chemical are poised to crash the EU again, if allowed. They already jointly developed Pioneer 1507 GM corn and most of the member states did not gather enough votes to block it.

It appears these companies have money, power and persistence on their side to keep pushing despite wide-spread consumer and safety concerns.

Sources:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/15/us-france-gmo-idUSBREA3E1NY20140415
http://ecowatch.com/2014/04/16/french-parliament-bans-gmo-corn/



 Russia Completely Bans GMOs
 SUBHEAD: A number of scientists worldwide have clearly outlined the potential dangers associated with consuming GMOs.

By Arjun Wailia on 15 April 2014 for Creative Evolution - 
(https://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/04/15/its-official-russia-completely-bans-gmos/



Image above: Canned corn packaged in Russia. From (http://www.packagingbuzz.com/consumer-products/2014/02/latest-trends-russian-retail-packaging-market/).

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently announced that Russia will no longer import GMO products, stating that the nation has enough space, and enough resources to produce organic food.

If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.” – Medvedev

Russia has been considering joining the long list (and continually growing) of anti-GMO countries  for quite some time now. It does so after a group of Russian scientists urged the government to consider at least a 10-year moratorium on GMOs to thoroughly study their influence on human health.

“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers and obesity among animals. Bio-technologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading. ” Irina Ermakova, VP of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety

A number of scientists worldwide have clearly outlined the potential dangers associated with consuming GMOs. I recently published an article titled “10 Scientific Studies Proving GMOs Can Be Harmful To Human Health,” you can read that in full here.  These are just a select few out of hundreds of studies that are now available in the public domain, it seems that they continue to surface year after year.

Russia completely banning GMOs, such a large, developed nation is a big step forward in creating more awareness with regards to GMOs. Ask yourself, why have so many nations banned GMOs and the pesticides that go with them? It’s because evidence points to the fact that they are not safe, they are young, and we just don’t know enough about them to safely consume them. They just aren’t necessary, so why produce them?

Within the past few years, awareness regarding GMOs has skyrocketed. Activism has played a large role in waking up a large portion of Earths population with regards to GMOs. People are starting to ask questions and seek answers. In doing so, we are all coming to the same conclusion as Russia recently came to.

In February, the State Duma introduced a bill banning the cultivation of GMO food products. President Putin ordered that Russian citizens be protected from GMOs.  The States Agricultural Committee has supported the ban recommendation  from the Russian parliament, and the resolution will come into full effect in July 2014.

This just goes to show what we can do when we come together and demand change and share information on a global scale. Change is happening, and we are waking up to new concepts of our reality every day. GMOs are only the beginning, we have many things to rid our planet of that do not resonate with us and are clearly unnecessary. We are all starting to see through the false justifications for the necessity of GMOs, no longer are we so easily persuaded, no longer do we believe everything we hear and everything we’re presented with. Lets keep it going!

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The Toxic Truth

SOURCE:  Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: There is good science indicating that GMO foods are far different than non-GMO foods.

By Christina Arich on 17 April 2014 for Nation of Change -
(http://www.nationofchange.org/toxic-truth-evidence-gmo-foods-are-far-different-non-gmo-foods-1397747515)


Image above: Illustration of DNA damage from human meddling. From (http://gmofreenevada.org/gmo-facts-and-definitions/).

To get real science about GMOs, you have to consult scientists who aren’t shills for the biotech industry, and several new studies have proven beyond a doubt that genetically modified foods are far different from their non-GMO counterparts.

This is an important time for research like this to be presented to the public since thus far, biotech companies have been relying upon the ‘substantial equivalence rule’ to get approval for their poison crops through government regulatory agencies.

 Substantial equivalence related to GMOs means that governments look at genetically modified organisms in comparison to their non-genetically manipulated brethren to determine if they should be given authorization for release. It was introduced in 1993 by the Organization for Economic Development (an international economic and trade organization, not a health organization with qualified individuals).

Substantial equivalence is not only used by our own U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but also the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization (WTO), and the OECD. Essentially it says that if a GMO seems about the same as a non-GMO food, then it is ‘safe’ for planting.

Additionally, substantial equivalence takes into account that some non GMO foods can contain toxic components just like GMO foods, and can still be consumed without harm to human health. For example, green-skinned potatoes contain solanine which will make the potato taste bitter, and, when consumed in large amounts, can be lethal.

The latest scientific findings; however, prove that GMOs are not equivalent at all to non-GMO, according to the Permaculture Research Institute.

The Institute and others believe this is a faulty concept that allows biotech companies, like Dow and Monsanto, to ignore regulatory requirements that apply to many other food products – from processed chips and cookies to pharmaceuticals, food additives, and even pesticides.

All of these things currently require a wide array of toxicological tests to determine if they are truly safe for human consumption (sometimes ignoring if they are good for the environment, though.)

It isn’t as if our regulatory bodies can be trusted to approve or deny certain foods or drugs anyhow, considering the FDA has given its stamp of approval to numerous painkillers and anti-depressants that cause suicide, while our federal government still bans Cannabis even though it can treat more than 30 diseases. But the rules, as they stand, are very loose, and subject to interpretation so that just about all GMOs can be approved with little due process.
In an Institute post, Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji wrote:
 “In practice, the principle allows the comparison of a GM line to any existing variety within the same species, and even to an abstract entity made up of ingredients from a collection of species. This means that a GM variety can have all the worst traits of many different varieties and still be deemed substantially equivalent.”
Permaculture Research Institute reports on one study which shows how this process is inadequate and very misleading. An Egyptian publication led by Professor El-Sayed Shaltout at Alexandria University, proved that one of Monsanto’s strains of genetically modified corn was substantially non-equivalent and toxic when compared to non-GMO corn varieties.

Yet another study from the Norwegian Centre for Biosafety, led by Thomas Bøhn, tested GMO and non-GMO soybeans and found they were significantly different on multiple counts.
Sirinathsinghji explains:
“Profiling technologies … allow the simultaneous measurement and comparison of thousands of plant components, in this case proteins, without prior knowledge of their identity. These methods are now being employed by independent scientists to provide a more thorough, unbiased and global profile of GM crop composition for risk assessment.”
With findings like these, there should be a substantial overhauling of our regulatory bodies – staring with ousting the ‘experts’ who told us GMO were safe.

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Natural Food Fight


SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: Monsanto, Chemical Companies, Big Agriculture losing the GMO labeling fight.

By Ron Cummins on 17 April 2014 for Nation of Change -
(http://www.nationofchange.org/monsanto-and-big-food-losing-gmo-and-natural-food-fight-1397741911)


Image above: General Mills announced its popular Cheerios cereal will be certified as GMO free. Post Foods also declared that its Grape-Nuts cereal is verified as GMO free. Now the pressure is on Post cereals to announce a GMO free Rice Krispies. From (http://metrofarm.com/michael-olson/gmo-free-cheerios/).

After 20 years of battling Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, food and farm activists in Vermont, backed by a growing Movement across the country, are on the verge of a monumental victory—mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods and a ban on the routine industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural.”

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed H.112 by a vote of 28-2, following up on the passage of a similar bill in the Vermont House last year. The legislation, which requires all GMO foods sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016, will now pass through a House/Senate conference committee before landing on Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk, for final approval.

Strictly speaking, Vermont’s H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law. Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically [engineered, and deceptively labeled as “natural” or “all natural”;] while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets.

As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

Proof of this “skull and crossbones” effect is evident in the European Union, where mandatory labeling, in effect since 1997, has all but driven genetically engineered foods and crops off the market. The only significant remaining GMOs in Europe today are imported grains (corn, soy, canola, cotton seed) primarily from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.

These grains are used for animal feed, hidden from public view by the fact that meat, dairy and eggs derived from animals fed GMOs do not yet have to be labeled in the EU.

Given the imminent passage of the Vermont legislation and the growing strength of America’s anti-GMO and pro-organic Movement, the Gene Giants—Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta—and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), representing Big Food, find themselves in a difficult position.

Early polls indicate that Oregon voters will likely pass a ballot initiative on Nov. 4, 2014, to require mandatory labeling of GMOs in Oregon. Meanwhile, momentum for labeling continues to gather speed in other states as well.

Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws, but these laws contain “trigger” clauses, which prevent them from going into effect until other states mandate labeling as well. Vermont’s law does not contain a “trigger” clause. As soon as the governor signs it, it will have the force of law.

Divisions Between Big Food and the Gene Giants
Given what appears to be the inevitable victory of the consumer Right-to-know Movement, some of the U.S.’s largest food companies have quietly begun distancing themselves from Monsanto and the genetic engineering lobby. General Mills, Post Foods, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and others have begun to make changes in their supply chains in order to eliminate GMOs in some or all of their products. Several hundred companies have enrolled in the Non-GMO Project so they can credibly market their products as GMO-free.

At least 30 members (10 percent of the total membership) of the GMA who contributed money to defeat Proposition 37 in California in November 2012, have held back on making further contributions to stop labeling initiatives in other states. Among the apparent defectors in the GMA ranks are: Mars, Unilever, Smithfield, Heinz, Sara Lee, Dole, Wrigley, and Mead Johnson.  Under pressure from the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Anthony Weil’s natural health and supplements company, Weil Lifestyle, pulled out of the GMA.

Meanwhile a number of the Gene Giants themselves, including Monsanto, appear to be slowly decreasing their investments in gene-spliced GMOs, while increasing their investments in more traditional, and less controversial, cross-breeding and hybrid seed sales.  Still, don’t expect the Gene Giants to give up on the GMO seeds and crops already in production, especially Roundup Ready and Bt-spliced crops, nor those in the pipeline such as 2,4-D “Agent Orange” and Dicamba-resistant corn and soybeans, GE rice, and “RNA interference” crops such as non-browning apples, and fast-growing genetically engineered trees.

America’s giant food companies and their chemical industry allies understand the threat posed by truthful labeling of GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth promoters and toxic chemicals. They understand full well that the GMO monocrops and factory farms that dominate U.S. agriculture not only pose serious health and environmental hazards, but represent a significant public relations liability as well.

This is why the food and GE giants are threatening to sue Vermont and any other state that dares to pass a GMO labeling bill, even though industry lawyers have no doubt informed them that they are unlikely to win in federal court.

This is also why corporate agribusiness is supporting “Ag Gag” state laws making it a crime to photograph or film on factory farms. Why they’re lobbying for state laws that take away the rights of counties and local communities to regulate agricultural practices.

And why they’re supporting secret international trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will, among other provisions, enable multinational corporations to sue and eliminate state and local laws on matters such as GMOs, food safety, and country of origin labeling.

The bottom line is this: Corporate America’s current “business-as-usual” strategies are incompatible with consumers’ right to know, and communities’ and states’ rights to legislate.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Safeway, Del Monte, Nestlé, Unilever, ConAgra, Wal-Mart, and every food manufacturer with GMO-tainted brands, understand they’re not going to be able to label their products as “produced with genetic engineering,” or drop the use of the term “natural” on GMO-tainted products, only in Vermont, while refusing to do so in other states and international markets.

This is why their powerful front group, the GMA, is frantically working in Washington, D.C. to lobby the FDA and the Congress to take away the right of states to require genetically engineered foods and food ingredients to be labeled, and to allow them to continue to label and advertise genetically engineered and chemically-laced foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

Industry’s Last Chance: Indentured Politicians 
Conspiring with the GMA, Monsanto’s minions from both the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress, led by the notorious Koch brothers mouthpiece, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.),  introduced  in early April in the House a GMA-scripted bill to outlaw mandatory state GMO labels and allow the continued use of “natural” or “all natural” product labels on a wide range of Frankenfoods and beverages.

The GMA’s federal offensive to prop up the dangerous and evermore unpopular technology of transgenic foods comes on the heels of two high-profile ballot initiative battles in California (2012), and Washington State (2013), where GMA members were forced to spend almost $70 million to narrowly defeat GMO labeling forces. The 15 largest contributors to stop GMO labeling in California and Washington include the following GMA members:
(1) Monsanto: $13,487,350
(2) Dupont: $9,280,159
(3) Pepsico: $4,837,966
(4) Coca-Cola: $3,210,851
(5) Nestlé: $2,989,806
(6) Bayer CropScience: $2,591,654
(7) Dow Agrosciences: $2,591,654
(4) Kraft Foods (Mondolez International) $2,391,835
(8) BASF Plant Science: $2,500,000
(9) Kraft Foods (now in part Mondolez International) $2,391,835
(10) General Mills: $2,099,570
(11) ConAgra Foods: $2,004,951
(12) Syngenta: $2,000,000
(13) Kellogg's: $1,112,749
(14) Campbell Soup: $982,888
(15) Smucker Company: $904,977

The Fire Next Time
These “dirty tricks,” “dirty money” ballot initiative victories in California and Washington now ring hollow.  If Congress or the FDA, prompted by these same companies, dare to stomp on states’ rights to require GMO labels on GMO food, if they dare to repress the rights of millions of consumers to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, they run the very real risk of detonating an even larger and more vociferous grassroots rebellion, including massive boycotts and a concerted effort to throw “Monsanto’s Minions” out of Congress.

The widespread furor last year over the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” surreptitiously appended to the Appropriations Bill, and then, after massive uproar, subsequently removed, is but a partial foreshadowing of the turmoil yet to come.

Likewise Congress or the FDA should think twice before legally sanctioning the patently outrageous practice of allowing companies to continue to label or advertise GMO or chemically tainted food as “natural” or “all natural.”

Given the fact that 80-90 percent of American consumers want genetically engineered foods to be labeled, as indicated by numerous polls over the last 10 years, and given the fact that it is obviously unethical and fraudulent to label or advertise GMO or heavily chemically processed foods as “natural,” even the FDA has so far declined to come to the rescue of Monsanto and Big Food.

In the face of 65 so far largely successful national class-action lawsuits against food companies accused of fraudulently labeling their GMO or chemically-laced brands as “natural, ”Big Food’s lawyers have asked the FDA to come to their aid. But so far, the FDA has declined to throw gasoline on the fire.

It’s clear why “profit at any cost” big business wants to keep consumers in the dark. They want to maximize their profits. The consumer, the environment, the climate be damned. But let’s review, for the record, why truthful food labeling is so important to us, the overwhelming majority of the people, and to future generations.

Here are three major, indeed life-or-death, issues that drive America’s new anti-GMO and pro-organic food Movement:

  1. There is mounting, and indeed alarming, scientific evidence that genetically engineered foods and crops, and the toxic pesticides, chemicals, and genetic constructs that accompany them, are hazardous. GMOs pose a mortal threat, not only to human and animal health, but also to the environment, biodiversity, the survival of small-scale family farms, and climate stability.

  2. Genetically engineered crops are the technological cornerstone and ideological rationale for our dominant, out-of-control system of industrial agriculture, factory farms, and highly processed junk food. America’s industrial food and farming system is literally destroying public health, the environment, soil fertility and climate stability. As we educate, boycott and mobilize, as we label and drive GMOs off the market, we simultaneously rip the mask off Big Food and chemical corporations, which will ultimately undermine industrial agriculture and speed up the “Great Transition” to a food and farming system that is organic, sustainable and climate stabilizing.
  3. Fraudulent “natural” labels confuse consumers and hold back the growth of true organic alternatives.Consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as "natural," or “all natural”and those nutritionally and environmentally superior products that are "certified organic." Recent polls indicate that many health and green-minded consumers remain confused about the qualitative difference between products labeled or advertised as "natural," versus those labeled as organic. Many believe that "natural" means "almost organic," or that a natural product is even better than organic. Thanks to growing consumer awareness, and four decades of hard work, the organic community has built up a $35-billion "certified organic" food and products sector that prohibits the use of genetic engineering, irradiation, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers. As impressive as this $35-billion Organic Alternative is, it remains overshadowed by the $80 billion in annual spending by consumers on products marketed as "natural." Get rid of fraudulent “natural” labels on GMO and chemically tainted products, and organic sales will skyrocket.

With the passage of the Vermont GMO labeling law, after 20 years of struggle, it’s time to celebrate our common victory. But as we all know, the battle for a new food and farming system, and a sustainable future has just begun.

• Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).

See also: 

Ea O Ka Aina: Cheerios to go GMO free! 1/5/14
The Minneapolis-based company said Thursday that it has been manufacturing its original-flavor Cheerios without GMOs for the past several ...

Ea O Ka Aina: Non-GMO Grape Nuts announced 1/16/14
Post's move closely follows that of General Mills, which released non-GMO original Cheerios in early January....

Let the People Decide

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (kauaibrad@hotmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Should Agro-Chemical Operations be Proven Safe Prior to being used on Kauai?

By Staff on 18 April 2014 for Kauai Rising-
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/04/let-people-decide.html)


Image above: Residents of Kauai display sign chastising Dow, DuPont and Syngenta for trying to overturn pesticide regulations designed to protect the island. From (http://gmosecrets.com/category/pesticides-poisoning-kauai-keiki-families/).

The NEXT STEP
Kauai Charter Amendment to Add Article 33

Let the People Decide:
Should Agro-Chemical Operations be Proven Safe Prior to being used on Kauai?

The Ohana:
Please add your voice to that of this growing coalition of people and organizations as we come together to place this Amendment on the ballot on November 4, 2014.
  • Friends of Navdanya (Vandana Shiva's U.S. Organization)
  • Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice
  • Kauai Fresh Farms
  • Kauai Rising
  • Ohana O'Kauai
  • People for the Preservation of Kauai
  • Regenerations international Botanical Garden
  • Safe Meter Kauai
  • Shaka movement
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • Wai Koa Plantation
ACTION STEPS:
Sign the Petition to Place the Charter Amendment on the Ballot at the following locations:
  • Harvest Market in Hanalei
  • Magic Dragon Today and Art Supply Princeville
  • Kauai Mini Golf and Botanical Gardens Kilauea
  • Small Town Coffee in Kapaa
See updated petition gathering sites at: https://www.facebook.com/events/435175346627970/?ref=22
or contact one of the petition team captains below.
Join one of the Petition gathering Teams around the island by contacting a team captain:
  • Lora Lynne 826-6513 (Northside)
  • Elaine 651-7531 (Kapaa-Moloa'a)
  • Rich 822-0930 (Wailua - Lihue)
  • Siri 634-5514 (Eastside)
  • Janee 652-2526 (Southside)
  • Klayton 652-2425 (Westside)
  • Sandy 320-3878 (Eastside)
To stay updated on events and information add your email address to our contact list by sending an email to:
THE PROCESS:
To place a Charter Amendment on the ballot requires the gathering of 3,000 signatures of Kauai registered voters by the middle of May of 2014 (five thousand signatures or more would create a wonderful momentum as we move toward the November 4th, 2014 election date.)

Placing the Amendment on the ballot allows the people to directly vote in November on whether or not they want to see the Amendment passed. Once passed the Amendment cannot be repealed by the County Council, nor can it be vetoed by the Mayor. It lets the people decide.

To pass the Amendment in the November election requires that a simple majority of the voters who turn out, vote to pass the Amendment.

THE CONTENT:
The Charter Amendment is designed to insure the health and well being of Kauai and its people by requiring that the AgroChemical Businesses on Kauai prove that their operations here are safe prior to implementing them.

View the entire Charter Amendment at www.kauairising.org

MAHALO
As we watch the events of the world we recognize that we are at a tipping point for so many choices facing our world at this time. None is more important in affecting the health and well being of our world and our people than this issue of GMOs, especially here on Kauai, Ground Zero for their GMO research and testing activities.

At this time, more than ever, your voice makes a difference and amplifies the effectiveness of our community's ability to achieve its vision of a healthy, abundant island home for everyone. Mahalo for all that you do bring this vision into manifestation. Your voice really matters!

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USA an Elitist Oligarchy

SUBHEAD: Political scientists show that average American has “near-zero” influence on policy outcomes.

By Jerome Roos on 17 April 2014 for Roar Magazine -
(http://roarmag.org/2014/04/gilens-page-us-oligarchy-elite/)


Image above: CEO's Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs) and Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase) and thirteen other bankers meet at White House with Oabama 2/27/09. From (http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/PFK_3GKtWNb/Obama+Meets+Heads+Major+Banks+White+House/vVu7Lgk1-rP/Jamie+Dimon).

Political scientists show that average American has “near-zero” influence on policy outcomes, but their groundbreaking study is not without problems.


It’s not every day that an academic article in the arcane world of American political science makes headlines around the world, but then again, these aren’t normal days either. On Wednesday, various mainstream media outlets — including even the conservative British daily The Telegraph — ran a series of articles with essentially the same title: “Study finds that US is an oligarchy.” Or, as the Washington Post summed up
“Rich people rule!” The paper, according to the review in the Post, “should reshape how we think about American democracy.”
The conclusion sounds like it could have come straight out of a general assembly or drum circle at Zuccotti Park, but the authors of the paper in question — two Professors of Politics at Princeton and Northwestern University — aren’t quite of the radical dreadlocked variety. No, like Piketty’s book, this article is real “science”. 

It’s even got numbers in it! Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University took a dataset of 1,779 policy issues, ran a bunch of regressions, and basically found that the United States is not a democracy after all:
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
The findings, of course, are both very interesting and very obvious. What Gilens and Page claim to have empirically demonstrated is that policy outcomes by and large favor the interests of business and the wealthiest segment of the population, while the preferences of the vast majority of Americans are of little to no consequence for policy outcomes. 

As the authors show, this new data backs up the conclusions of a number of long-forgotten studies from the 1950s and 1960s — not least the landmark contributions by C.W. Mills and Ralph Miliband — that tried to debunk the assertion of mainstream pluralist scholars that no single interest group dominates US policymaking.
 
But while Gilens and Page’s study will undoubtedly be considered a milestone in the study of business power, there’s also a risk in focusing too narrowly on the elites and their interest groups themselves; namely the risk of losing sight of the broader set of social relations and institutional arrangements in which they are embedded. 

What I am referring to, of course, is the dreaded C-word: capitalism — a term that appears only once in the main body of Gilens and Page’s text, in a superficial reference to The Communist Manifesto, whose claims are quickly dismissed as empirically untestable. 

How can you talk about oligarchy and economic elites without talking about capitalism?
What’s missing from the analysis is therefore precisely what was missing from C.W. Mills’ and Miliband’s studies: an account of the nature of the capitalist state as such. 

By branding the US political system an “oligarchy”, the authors conveniently sidestep an even thornier question: what if oligarchy, as opposed to democracy, is actually the natural political form in capitalist society? 

What if the capitalist state is by its very definition an oligarchic form of domination? If that’s the case, the authors have merely proved the obvious: that the United States is a thoroughly capitalist society. Congratulations for figuring that one out! They should have just called a spade a spade.

That, of course, wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows. But it’s worth noting that this was precisely the critique that Nicos Poulantzas leveled at Ralph Miliband in the New Left Review in the early 1970s — and it doesn’t take an Althusserian structuralist to see that he had a point. 

Miliband’s study of capitalist elites, Poulantzas showed, was very useful for debunking pluralist illusions about the democratic nature of US politics, but by focusing narrowly on elite preferences and the “instrumental” use of political and economic resources to influence policy, Miliband’s empiricism ceded way too much methodological ground to “bourgeois” political science. 

By trying to painstakingly prove the existence of a causal relationship between instrumental elite behavior and policy outcomes, Miliband ended up missing the bigger picture: the class-bias inherent in the capitalist state itself, irrespective of who occupies it.

These methodological and theoretical limitations have consequences that extend far beyond the academic debate: at the end of the day, these are political questions. The way we perceive business power and define the capitalist state will inevitably have serious implications for our political strategies. The danger with empirical studies that narrowly emphasize the role of elites at the expense of the deeper structural sources of capitalist power is that they will end up reinforcing the illusion that simply replacing the elites and “taking money out of politics” would be sufficient to restore democracy to its past glory. 

That, of course, would be profoundly misleading. If we are serious about unseating the oligarchs from power, let’s make sure not to get carried away by the numbers and not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

• Jerome Roos is a PhD candidate in International Political Economy at the European University Institute, and founding editor of ROAR Magazine.

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The End of Employment

SUBHEAD: In nonindustrial societies  individuals consume or barter the product of their own labor.

By John Michael Greer on 16 April 2014 for the Archdruid Report-
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-end-of-employment.html)


Image above: Etchinjg of man bartering with shop keeper. From (http://www.gizmag.com/bitcoin-currency-money-economy-mature/30863/).

Nothing is easier, as the Long Descent begins to pick up speed around us, than giving in to despair—and nothing is more pointless. Those of us who are alive today are faced with the hugely demanding task of coping with the consequences of industrial civilization’s decline and fall, and saving as many as possible of the best achievements of the last few centuries so that they can cushion the descent and enrich the human societies of the far future.  That won’t be easy; so?  

 The same challenge has been faced many times before, and quite often it’s been faced with relative success.

The circumstances of the present case are in some ways more difficult than past equivalents, to be sure, but the tools and the knowledge base available to cope with them are almost incomparably greater. All in all, factoring in the greater challenges and the greater resources, it’s probably fair to suggest that the challenge of our time is about on a par with other eras of decline and fall. 

The only question that still remains to be settled is how many of the people who are awake to the imminence of crisis will rise to the challenge, and how many will fail to do so.

The suicide of peak oil writer Mike Ruppert two days ago puts a bit of additional emphasis on that last point. I never met Ruppert, though we corresponded back in the days when his “From The Wilderness” website was one of the few places on the internet that paid any attention at all to peak oil, and I don’t claim to know what personal demons drove him to put a bullet through his brain.

Over the last eight years, though, as the project of this blog has brought me into contact with more and more people who are grappling with the predicament of our time, I’ve met a great many people whose plans for dealing with a postpeak world amount to much the same thing.  Some of them are quite forthright about it, which at least has the virtue of honesty.  

 Rather more of them conceal the starkness of that choice behind a variety of convenient evasions, the insistence that we’re all going to die soon anyway being far and away the most popular of these just now.

I admit to a certain macabre curiosity about how that will play out in the years ahead.

I’ve suspected for a while now, for example, that the baby boomers will manage one final mediagenic fad on the way out, and the generation that marked its childhood with coonskin caps and hula hoops and its puberty with love beads and Beatlemania will finish with a fad for suicide parties, in which attendees reminisce to the sound of the tunes they loved in high school, then wash down pills with vodka and help each other tie plastic bags over their heads.

Still, I wonder how many people will have second thoughts once every other option has gone whistling down the wind, and fling themselves into an assortment of futile attempts to have their cake when they’ve already eaten it right down to the bare plate. We may see some truly bizarre religious movements, and some truly destructive political ones, before those who go around today insisting that they don’t want to live in a deindustrial world finally get their wish.

There are, of course, plenty of other options. The best choice for most of us, as I’ve noted here in previous posts, follows a strategy I’ve described wryly as “collapse first and avoid the rush:”  getting ahead of the curve of decline, in other words, and downshifting to a much less extravagant lifestyle while there’s still time to pick up the skills and tools needed to do it competently.

Despite the strident insistence from defenders of the status quo that anything less than business as usual amounts to heading straight back to the caves, it’s entirely possible to have a decent and tolerably comfortable life on a tiny fraction of the energy and resource base that middle class Americans think they can’t possibly do without.

Mind you, you have to know how to do it, and that’s not the sort of knowledge you can pick up from a manual, which is why it’s crucial to start now and get through the learning curve while you still have the income and the resources to cushion the impact of the inevitable mistakes.

This is more or less what I’ve been saying for eight years now. The difficulty at this stage in the process, though, is that a growing number of Americans are running out of time. I don’t think it’s escaped the notice of many people in this country that despite all the cheerleading from government officials, despite all the reassurances from dignified and clueless economists, despite all those reams of doctored statistics gobbled down whole by the watchdogs-turned-lapdogs of the media and spewed forth undigested onto the evening news, the US economy is not getting better.  

Outside a few privileged sectors, times are hard and getting harder; more and more Americans are slipping into the bleak category of the long-term unemployed, and a great many of those who can still find employment work at part-time positions for sweatshop wages with no benefits at all.

Despite all the same cheerleading, reassurances, and doctored statistics, furthermore, the US economy is not going to get better: not for more than brief intervals by any measure, and not at all if “better”  means returning to some equivalent of America’s late 20th century boomtime.

Those days are over, and they will not return. That harsh reality is having an immediate impact on some of my readers already, and that impact will only spread as time goes on. For those who have already been caught by the economic downdrafts, it’s arguably too late to collapse first and avoid the rush; willy-nilly, they’re already collapsing as fast as they can, and the rush is picking up speed around them as we speak.

For those who aren’t yet in that situation, the need to make changes while there’s still time to do so is paramount, and a significant number of my readers seem to be aware of this.

One measure of that is the number of requests for personal advice I field, which has gone up steeply in recent months. Those requests cover a pretty fair selection of the whole gamut of human situations in a failing civilization, but one question has been coming up more and more often of late: the question of what jobs might be likely to provide steady employment as the industrial economy comes apart.

That’s a point I’ve been mulling over of late, since its implications intersect the whole tangled web in which our economy and society is snared just now. In particular, it assumes that the current way of bringing work together with workers, and turning the potentials of human mind and muscle toward the production of goods and services, is likely to remain in place for the time being, and it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that this won’t be the case.

It’s important to be clear on exactly what’s being discussed here.

Human beings have always had to produce goods and services to stay alive and keep their families and communities going; that’s not going to change. In nonindustrial societies, though, most work is performed by individuals who consume the product of their own labor, and most of the rest is sold or bartered directly by the people who produce it to the people who consume it. What sets the industrial world apart is that a third party, the employer, inserts himself into this process, hiring people to produce goods and services and then selling those goods and services to buyers. 

That’s employment, in the modern sense of the word; most people think of getting hired by an employer, for a fixed salary or wage, to produce goods and services that the employer then sells to someone else, as the normal and natural state of affairs—but it’s a state of affairs that is already beginning to break down around us, because the surpluses that make that kind of employment economically viable are going away.

Let’s begin with the big picture. In any human society, whether it’s a tribe of hunter-gatherers, an industrial nation-state, or anything else, people apply energy to raw materials to produce goods and services; this is what we mean by the word “economy.” The goods and services that any economy can produce are strictly limited by the energy sources and raw materials that it can access.

A principle that ecologists call Liebig’s law of the minimum is relevant here: the amount of anything  that a given species or ecosystem can produce in a given place and time is limited by whichever resource is in shortest supply.

Most people get that when thinking about the nonhuman world; it makes sense that plants can’t use extra sunlight to make up for a shortage of water, and that you can’t treat soil deficient in phosphates by adding extra nitrates. It’s when you apply this same logic to human societies that the mental gears jam up, because we’ve been told so often that one resource can always be substituted for another that most people believe it without a second thought.

What’s going on here, though, is considerably more subtle than current jargon reflects.

Examine most of the cases of resource substitution that find their way into economics textbooks, and you’ll find that what’s happened is that a process of resource extraction that uses less energy on a scarcer material has been replaced by another process that takes more energy but uses more abundant materials.

The shift from high-quality iron ores to low-grade taconite that reshaped the iron industry in the 20th century, for example, was possible because ever-increasing amounts of highly concentrated energy could be put into the smelting process without making the resulting iron too expensive for the market.

The point made by this and comparable examples is applicable across the board to what I’ve termed technic societies, that subset of human societies—ours is the first, though probably not the last—in which a large fraction of total energy per capita comes from nonbiological sources and is put to work by way of  machines rather than human or animal muscles.  Far more often than not, in such societies, concentrated energy is the limiting resource.

Given an abundant enough supply of concentrated energy at a low enough price, it would be possible to supply a technic society with raw materials by extracting dissolved minerals from seawater or chewing up ordinary rock to get a part per million or so of this or that useful element. Lacking that—and there are good reasons to think that human societies will always be lacking that—access to concentrated energy is where Liebig’s law bites down hard.

Another way to make this same point is to think of how much of any given product a single worker can make in a day using a set of good hand tools, and comparing that to the quantity of the same thing that the same worker could make using the successive generations of factory equipment, from the steam-driven and belt-fed power tools of the late 19th century straight through to the computerized milling machines and assembly-line robots of today.

The difference can be expressed most clearly as a matter of the amount of energy being applied directly and indirectly to the manufacturing process—not merely the energy driving the tools through the manufacturing process, but the energy that goes into  manufacturing and maintaining the tools, supporting the infrastructure needed for manufacture and maintenance, and so on through the whole system involved in the manufacturing process.

Maverick economist E.F. Schumacher, whose work has been discussed in this blog many times already, pointed out that the cost per worker of equipping a workplace is one of the many crucial factors that  mainstream economic thought invariably neglects.

That cost is usually expressed in financial terms, but underlying the abstract tokens we call money is a real cost in energy, expressed in terms of the goods and services that have to be consumed in the process of equipping and maintaining the workplace. If you have energy to spare, that’s not a problem; if you don’t, on the other hand, you’re actually better off using a less complex technology—what Schumacher called “intermediate technology” and the movement in which I studied green wizardry thirty years ago called “appropriate technology.”

The cost per worker of equipping a workplace, in turn, also has a political dimension—a point that Schumacher did not neglect, though nearly all other economists pretend that it doesn’t exist.

The more costly it is to equip a workplace, the more certain it is that workers won’t be able to set themselves up in business, and the more control the very rich will then have over economic production and the supply of jobs.

As Joseph Tainter pointed out in The Collapse of Complex Societies, social complexity correlates precisely with social hierarchy; one of the functions of complexity, in the workplace as elsewhere, is thus to maintain existing social pecking orders.

Schumacher’s arguments, though, focused on the Third World nations of his own time, which had very little manufacturing capacity at all—most of them, remember, had been colonies of European empires, assigned the role of producing raw materials and buying finished products from the imperial center as part of the wealth pump that drove them into grinding poverty while keeping their imperial overlords rich.

He focused on advising client nations on how to build their own economies and extract themselves from the political grip of their former overlords, who were usually all too eager to import high-tech factories which their upper classes inevitably controlled. The situation is considerably more challenging when  your economy is geared to immense surpluses of concentrated energy, and the supply of energy begins to run short—and of course that’s the situation we’re in today.

Even if it were just a matter of replacing factory equipment, that would be a huge challenge, because all those expensive machines—not to mention the infrastructure that manufactures them, maintains them, supplies them, and integrates their products into the wider economy—count as sunk costs, subject to what social psychologists call the “Concorde fallacy,” the conviction that it’s less wasteful to keep on throwing money into a failing project than to cut your losses and do something else.

The real problem is that it’s not just factory equipment; the entire economy has been structured from the ground up to use colossal amounts of highly concentrated energy, and everything that’s been invested in that economy since the beginning of the modern era thus counts as a sunk cost to one degree or another.

What makes this even more challenging is that very few people in the modern industrial world actually produce goods and services for consumers, much less for themselves, by applying energy to raw materials. The vast majority of today’s employees, and in particular all those who have the wealth and influence that come with high social status, don’t do this. 

Executives, brokers, bankers, consultants, analysts, salespeople - well, I could go on for pages: the whole range of what used to be called white-collar jobs exists to support the production of goods and services by the working joes and janes managing all the energy-intensive machinery down there on the shop floor. So does the entire vast maze of the financial industry, and so do the legions of government bureaucrats—local, state, and federal—who manage, regulate, or oversee one or another aspect of economic activity.

All these people are understandably just as interested in keeping their jobs as the working joes and janes down there on the shop floor, and yet the energy surpluses that made it economically viable to perch such an immensely complex infrastructure on top of the production of goods and services for consumers are going away.

The result is a frantic struggle on everyone’s part to make sure that the other guy loses his job first. It’s a struggle that all of them will ultimately lose—as the energy surplus needed to support it dwindles away, so will the entire system that’s perched on that high but precarious support—and so, as long as that system remains in place, getting hired by an employer, paid a regular wage or salary, and given work and a workplace to produce goods and services that the employer then sells to someone else, is going to become increasingly rare and increasingly unrewarding. 

That transformation is already well under way. Nobody I know personally who works for an employer in the sense I’ve just outlined is prospering in today’s American economy.  Most of the people I know who are employees in the usual sense of the word are having their benefits slashed, their working conditions worsened, their hours cut, and their pay reduced by one maneuver or another, and the threat of being laid off is constantly hovering over their heads. 

The few exceptions are treading water and hoping to escape the same fate. None of this is accidental, and none of it is merely the result of greed on the part of the very rich, though admittedly the culture of executive kleptocracy at the upper end of the American social pyramid is making things a good deal worse than they might otherwise be.

The people I know who are prospering right now are those who produce goods and services for their own use, and provide goods and services directly to other people, without having an employer to provide them with work, a workplace, and a regular wage or salary. Some of these people have to stay under the radar screen of the current legal and regulatory system, since the people who work in that system are trying to preserve their own jobs by making life difficult for those who try to do without their services.

Others can do things more openly. All of them have sidestepped as many as possible of the infrastructure services that are supposed to be part of an employee’s working life—for example, they aren’t getting trained at universities, since the US academic industry these days is just another predatory business sector trying to keep itself afloat by running others into the ground, and they aren’t going to banks for working capital for much the same reason.

They’re using their own labor, their own wits, and their own personal connections with potential customers, to find a niche in which they can earn the money (or barter for the goods) they need or want.

I’d like to suggest that this is the wave of the future—not least because this is how economic life normally operates in nonindustrial societies, where the vast majority of people in the workforce are directly engaged in the production of goods and services for themselves and their own customers. 

The surplus that supports all those people in management, finance, and so on is a luxury that nonindustrial societies don’t have. In the most pragmatic of economic senses, collapsing now and avoiding the rush involves getting out of a dying model of economics before it drags you down, and finding your footing in the emerging informal economy while there’s still time to get past the worst of the learning curve.

Playing by the rules of a dying economy, that is, is not a strategy with a high success rate or a long shelf life. Those of my readers who are still employed in the usual sense of the term may choose to hold onto that increasingly rare status, but it’s not wise for them to assume that such arrangements will last indefinitely; using the available money and other resources to get training, tools, and skills for some other way of getting by would probably be a wise strategy.

Those of my readers who have already fallen through the widening cracks of the employment economy will have a harder row to hoe in many cases; for them, the crucial requirement is getting access to food, shelter, and other necessities while figuring out what to do next and getting through any learning curve that might be required.

All these are challenges; still, like the broader challenge of coping with the decline and fall of a civilization, they are challenges that countless other people have met in other places and times.

Those who are willing to set aside currently popular fantasies of entitlement and the fashionable pleasures of despair will likely be in a position to do the same thing this time around, too.
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