Price of Comfort & Convenience

SUBHEAD: As peak oil and climate change loom we manufacture plastic disposable single-serving containers.

 By Chris R. on 5 October 2010 in The Localizer -
(http://thelocalizer.blogspot.com/2010/10/price-of-comfort-and-convenience.html)


Image above: Thermoformed disposable plastic food containers use precious energy and end up promoting unsustainable living. From (http://www.packaging-int.com/article/ingeo-biopackaging-broadens-scope-at-emballage-08.html).
 

 As we know, much of our consumer-driven economy has long been dedicated to delivering to those of us who can pay for it, a lifestyle that is increasingly convenient and comfortable. As many new products (and some services) are introduced, certain facets of our lives are becoming more and more simplified, convenient, and comfortable such as through disposable products.

Examples abound of the plastic disposable single-serving container or towelette that was previously handled with a sturdy glass bottle containing numerous doses or servings or a heavy-duty sponge that had to be rinsed out and stored for later use.

But more and more, most of our products are resembling the use-once-and-toss classification of picnic ware and the volume of garbage headed to the landfill is no doubt increasing as most of these disposable products are either not recycled or are not even recyclable...even if that itself were a worthy goal at this point.

Add to that the shaky new category of biodegradable packaging, surely far less environmentally benign than marketers suggest, and my guess is that most consumers have no clue of the damage they cause. And as the swelling class of consumers ride the demographic wave to retail nirvana, each new generation of modern-day hunter-gatherers leaves in its wake an ever-larger pile of refuse as newer and better products are devised merely for their ease of disposability.

How many happy meal toys do you have left from all of those meals bought at fast food outlets over the years?

Did you decide to keep them when you nostalgically held them in your hand as your moving day packing triage allowed you the time to give great thought to each and every bit of flotsam, jetsam, and dryer lint in your attic, toy bin, or garage?

My guess is that if you keep even one such useless lead and chromium-laden piece of toxic waste, your potential proclivity for hoarding is quite promising.

Even toys bought at retail are taken home for a few days worth of listless play in this unimaginative culture of canned and pre-programmed media-driven entertainment. Each season of action figures or robots become nearly instantaneously out-of-date just like fashion in any other sector of the consumer economy. As this deeply destructive economic model further matures (sic) and evolves, the timeline for product obsolescence becomes ever more compressed, marketing for holidays begins ever earlier, new holidays are invented, and your specific needs are continuously expanded (e.g. Viagra, toe fungus relief, anti-aging cremes).

But a mere glance at the supermarket shelf reveals the wide range of disposable products where there were once more sturdy methods for accomplishing the same task. Swiffers and their cousins Wet Swiffers and Swiffer Dusters replace dust cloths, sponge mops, and feather dusters. Better? Arguably they may be more effective but they're all disposable and end up in landfills "swiftly".

Need some cold medicine? Forget that old glass bottle of cough syrup. Now you can have single-serving cough medicine in "to-go" disposable plastic spoons or sachets. And aren't you supposed to stay in bed and away from the office or school if you're sick? More and more products that previously were measured from jars or cans now have single-serving pouches or powder packs that each result in a small but cumulative presence in the landfill.

On-the-go meals in plastic tubs or boPET polyester film lined containers fill several aisles in grocery stores while home cooked meals become ever more rare. The examples in every facet of living including food preparation and storage, home health, cleaning and home maintenance, recreation, and more are ubiquitous and each and every one of these plastic disposable time-saving or convenience adding devices require fossil fuel to manufacture.

And nearly every one of these petroleum-based products likely ends up in the landfill within six months of their manufacture. Interestingly, today a Wall Street Journal article reports that a purportedly bio-degradable bag made for Frito Lay's Sun Chips was discontinued because it made too much noise....think about that for a second. While we're becoming more and more dependent on these conveniences, using more limited fossil fuels in the process, and fouling our landscapes with higher and broader mounds of garbage, we are also losing on the flip side.

As we rely more and more on convenience goods and packaging, many of us are getting rid of the tools of slow food, the high quality cookware, the canning pots and accessories, and other accoutrements of spending a longer time in the kitchen preparing a well thought out family meal. Likewise, many of us are losing the food preparation and cooking skills that one or more members of every household possessed and which was passed down from generation to generation, many as closely guarded secrets of some specialized dish or recipe.

As much as I enjoyed my mother's shrimp creole, roast beef, or roasted duck, I couldn't begin to fathom how to prepare them like she did and would likely turn to the electronic media to find some recipe to experiment with. This family heirloom knowledge is gone forever, at least for us.

The point of this rather circuitous post is that our cultural behaviors, rooted in a misguided belief in perpetual growth and "progress" are creating devastation in all facets of life and living, choking ecosystems, creating floating islands at sea, killing wildlife, and making our landscapes look more and more like third-world smoldering dumps or sewage-laden canals.

The creation of ever more types of waste for more fleeting convenience, regardless of the necessity derived from our hectic pointless lifestyles, is literally covering the planet with plastic, on land and at sea. As peak petroleum looms as a dire threat to the shaky stability of our civilization, we use this dwindling resource to manufacture single-serving containers of liquid candy or disposable fast-food meal toys.

Surely this hints at some form of psychosis, doesn't it? And as our lifestyles beg further time-saving conveniences, we lose the skills, knowledge, and culture that many of our parents and their ancestors took great trouble to try to pass along to us for further generations.

As peak oil and other threats to our troubled civilization strip away our ability to produce such extravagances, hopefully we will be left with a sufficient skill base and a clean enough environment in which we can begin to feed ourselves with local food and build communities anew without the toxicity of the current culture.

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A Climate Wake-up Call

SUBHEAD: We fail to recognize our salvation for what it is, believing it to be dystopia instead of utopia. Image above: LA freeway as sunset shrouded in smog. From (http://caaneo.ca/about/blog/driving/road-nightmares-stressful-places-to-drive). By Guy McPherson on 1 October 2010 in Transition Voice - (http://transitionvoice.com/a-climate-wake-up-call)

Imagine this scenario. Your medical doctor informs you:

“You need to stop all industrial activities immediately, or you’ll be dead in twenty years. And so will your five-year-old child. Eventually, of course, you will die anyway — after all, nobody gets out alive — but your death is guaranteed if you do not stop relying on fossil fuels for travel, heating and cooling, water from the tap, and food from the grocery store.”

Naturally, you go straight from the clinic to the nearest store. You need liquor, and time to ponder whether the trade-off is worth it.

About three years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced we were committed to warming the planet by about one degree Celsius by the end of this century. Never mind that we were almost there when they reached this profound conclusion. Simply for elucidating the obvious, the IPCC was granted a share of the Nobel Peace Prize (climate crusader Al Gore received the other half).

Two degrees, four degrees, no more please

About two years ago, the Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research provided an update, indicating that, in the absence of complete economic collapse, we’re committed to a global average temperature increase of two degrees Celsius. Considering the associated feedbacks, such an increase likely spells extinction of the Homo sapiens sapiens, the “wise” ape.

After all, such a rapid and profound increase in the global average temperature probably leads to release of methane hydrates from the deep sea, combustion of peat from the world’s northern regions, and reduced albedo (the latter a result of reduced cover of ice and snow). Each of these feedbacks enhances the likelihood of “runaway” greenhouse gasses once we cross the Rubicon of two degrees. But the models also fail to include an important point: we can and almost certainly will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering amount within the next few years.

Late last year, the United Nations Environment Programme concluded we’re committed to an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, thus leaving little doubt about human extinction by then unless we change course quickly and dramatically. A few weeks later, Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme indicated we can kiss goodbye two degrees as a target: four is the new two, and it’s coming by mid-century. In a typical disconnect from reality, the latest scenarios do not include potential tipping points such as the release of carbon from northern permafrost or the melting of undersea methane hydrates. Importantly, they also fail to include the prospect of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which certainly will occur when the ongoing economic collapse is complete.

Even an occasional article in the mainstream media indicates a few media outlets know an increase of four degrees Celsius likely spells the end of the line for our species. But these outlets rarely express knowledge of economic collapse, assuming economic growth will continue indefinitely. Giving the response I’ve come to expect from politicians, the Obama administration calls any attempt to reduce emissions “not grounded in political reality.”

No cutting carbon An article in the renowned Proceedings of the National Academy of Science throws a bucket of salt into the open wound of imminent extinction. An article in the 10 February 2009 issue concludes that anthropogenic climate change is essentially irreversible: atmospheric carbon dioxide persists at least a thousand years. Today’s atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 392 parts per million is here to stay, yet most climate scientists concur that human societies cannot persist, long-term, at concentrations exceeding 350 ppm.

Have you noticed a set of patterns? Each assessment is quickly eclipsed by another, fundamentally more dire set of scenarios. Every scenario is far too optimistic because each is based on conservative approaches to scenario development. And every bit of dire news is met by the same political response.

Is there any doubt we will try to kill every species on the planet, including our own, by the middle of this century? At this point, it is absolutely necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, to bring down the industrial economy. It’s no longer merely the lives of your grandchildren we’re talking about. Depending on your age, it’s the lives of your children or you. If you’re 60 or younger, it’s you.

In 2002, as I edited a book about global climate change, I concluded we had set events in motion that would cause our own extinction, probably by 2030. I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. But about five years ago, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time. My pessimism about our climate future was verified in November 2009, when a paper in the vaunted journal Climatic Change concluded that the only way to stave off runaway greenhouse and the consequent extinction of our species is to terminate the industrial economy. I’m an optimist, so my response is, “yes, we can!”

Industry vs. Humanity

If we abandon the industrial culture of death, we might persist until your children are old enough to die a “normal” death. But the odds are long and the time short. Although he likely is a decent man by most measures, Barack Obama epitomizes the actions of every politician in the industrialized world by ensuring, with every political act, a miserable future and insufferable death for his wife and children. In this case, resistance is imperative not merely for our privileges and rights, but also for our survival.

Now I mourn because the solution is right in front of us, yet we run from it. We fail to recognize our salvation for what it is, believing it to be dystopia instead of utopia. Are we waiting for the last human on the planet to start the crusade? Or will we terminate the industrial economy and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% within the next few years? My hope is for the latter.

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Suffocated by Bag Issue

SUBHEAD: When people try to do the ecological right thing without a clue as to due diligence. Image above: Plastic bags out of control. From (http://greencotton.wordpress.com/2008/04). By Andy Parx on 6 October 2010 in Parx News Daily - (http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2010/10/suffocated.html) One thing we might not have made clear in our three prior posts on apparent efforts to undermine Kaua`i Ordinance 885 restricting the use of plastic grocery bags is that there is a two prong test for acceptable “plastic” bags. The ordinance allows only "biodegradable bags" which according to the ordinance “means a bag that (1) contains no polymers derived from fossil fuels; and (2) is intended for single use and will decompose in a natural setting at a rate comparable to other biodegradable materials such as paper, leaves, and food waste.” The second is important too because any bags that merchants use must be certified to meet both standards. As we said Monday researcher Brad Parsons has been diligently doing the job the Department of Public Works should be doing and will present the following testimony today. Keep the two prong test in mind as you read what he found out. See ya on the other side.
Aloha Councilmembers: Over the past week, since the last Council meeting regarding Ordinance 885, I have spent probably 50 hours researching the plastic bag issue. I may not get a chance to say or write everything I found, but here are a few notes, and I will try to write up everything I found after today and submit it to you. First, after almost literally scouring the planet, I did NOT definitively find a poly bag for sale on the market that meets both of Ordinance 885's requirements, those being that it have no fossil fuel polymers (equivalent to ASTM D 6866 industry standard) and that it be compostable at a natural rate as with paper, leaves, and food waste (equivalent to ASTM D 6400 industry standard). I also heavily research the two industry standards, NOT national standards referenced in the prior sentence. The compostable standard ASTM D 6400 is what is used only in San Francisco, California state law, and Minnesota state law for poly bags. It is used in those two states only regarding poly bags. There are many bags on the market that meet the compostable standard ASTM D 6400. The limiting industry standard of the two is ASTM D 6866 the renewable content standard. Of the 19 other jurisdictions in the U.S. with some form of a poly bag ban, I did not find one other jurisdiction that specifically mentions a legal standard of allowing poly bags with no fossil fuel content. What I did find is at least two bioresins out there that are 100% biobased (that is the term under D 6866 for a polymer that has no fossil fuel content) made by 1) The company Braskem out of Brazil made 100% from sugarcane called green polyethylene. Braskem is in a JV with Proctor & Gamble to distribute products from this, and 2) the company NatureWorks LLC out of Minnesota who's Ingeo biopolymer is 100% biobased from corn. NatureWorks did refer me to two bag makers that they supply. Of those two, there is the possibility that one of them, Indaco of Canada makes a bag called "Bag to Nature" (about 11 cents per bag) that MIGHT be compostable AND 100% biobased. Indaco starts with a bioresin from NatureWorks LLC that is 100% biobased, but if they add their own polymers that have fossil fuel content, then even their "Bag to Nature" would not be 100% biobased and not meet Ordinance 885's unique requirements. I did also come across one other interesting poly bag maker in Minnesota, in Northern Technologies Natur-Tec "Natur-Bag". The "Natur-Bag" is compostable but not 100% biobased, but I did have a chance to have a long conversation with a Rick Lombardo of Northern Tech this morning that was very helpful and will pass on his contact information in my full written testimony to you in the next few days. Lastly, I did come across 2 Chinese companies who's claims are not tested, but which may have a bioresin approaching 100% biobased by Wuhan Huali in a corn-based resin, and Tianan Biologic Material Co. in a bioresin apparently derived from bacteria. In the course of this search I did also make contact with the only Biodegradable Products Institute approved ASTM D 6400 testing lab on the West Coast, Soil Control Lab, and exchanged a number of useful emails with their lab director Mike Galloway and also made contact and exchanged email and phone conversations with the only lab in the U.S., Beta Analytic, based out of Florida and Europe, that does systematic testing for ASTM D 6866. The useful feedback and documentation they have provided to me, I will include in my next writeup on this. There are a number of other details that I will try to mention in my testimony or include in my follow-up writing. Brad Parsons
Today’s council meeting should be a real doozie as the DPW will be forced to explain why they spent a few days short of a full year futzing around and coming up with nothing while Brad Parsons spent a few days doing their job for them. But one thing we will probably not find out today is exactly who approached County Attorney Al Castillo to try to go behind closed doors apparently to sabotage the ordinance’s implementation. Castillo has refused to say who it was but we sure would like to ask if might have been a certain councilmember who has recused himself due to a conflict of interest due to his employment with Big Save Markets. A number of readers have suggested and even alleged this is true but none could provide definitive evidence as to whether Mr. Kawakami used his position as a councilperson to influence the county attorney to put a monkey wrench in the works- which might be seen as a use his position to further a private interest in violation of the county’s code of ethics. We’re certainly not saying we have any knowledge that it was Kawakami who brought the matter to Castillo’s attention but we’d love to have the both of them answer the question as to whether they have discussed implementation of the bill, especially given Kawakami’s recusal on the matter.
Noisy, 'Green' Bag Dumped By Bruce Horovitz on 3 October 2010 in USA Today - (http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-10-05-sunchips05_ST_N.htm)
Frito-Lay is preparing to quietly sack its "green" but noisy SunChips bag.

Roughly 18 months after Frito-Lay, with great fanfare, launched a biodegradable SunChips bag made from plant material that was billed as 100% compostable, the company is yanking the noisy material from the packages of five of six SunChips flavors immediately.

The company is returning them to their former bags that can't be recycled — but won't wake the neighbors — while it works frantically to come up with a new, quieter eco-friendly bag.

The noise of the bag — due to an unusual molecular structure that makes the bag more rigid — has been compared to everything from lawnmowers to jet engines. There's even an active Facebook group with more than 44,000 friends that goes by the name of "Sorry But I Can't Hear You Over This SunChips Bag."

"Clearly, we'd received consumer feedback that it was noisy," says Aurora Gonzalez, a Frito-Lay spokeswoman. "We recognized from the beginning that the bag felt, looked and sounded different."

The bag illustrates the sometimes unexpected bumps that can trip up companies trying to do the right thing environmentally. SunChips sales have declined more than 11% over the past 52 weeks (excluding Wal-Mart, which doesn't share its data), reports SymphonyIRI Group, the market research specialist.

While consumers say they want companies to be more environmentally conscious, consumer pressure continues to be strong for companies' products to be convenient, predictable and consumer-friendly.

"Everybody seems to be on the bandwagon for environmentally friendly packaging," says JoAnn Hines, a packaging consultant who refers to herself as the Packaging Diva. "But the problem is that bags like this come out without researching all the consequences."

Consumers can be of two minds, too, she adds. While most mothers say they want "greener packaging," Hines says, mothers also are the biggest purchasers of single-serve chip bags.

Environmentalists hope Frito-Lay executives don't give up on a compostable SunChips bag.

"We need a system where composting becomes business as usual in the U.S.," says Gwen Ruta, head of corporate partnerships for the Environmental Defense Fund. "I hope SunChips can move us in that direction."

Frito-Lay says it's trying.

"We are on a journey with compostable packaging," says Gonzalez. Frito-Lay is showing its commitment by sticking with the noisy but compostable packaging for the sixth flavor, its top-selling Original, she says.

"We are applying what we have learned from this first generation to get to the next generation of environmentally friendly packaging," says Gonzalez.

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Koloa Field System

SUBHEAD: A lecture and walking tour of the ancient Koloa area farming system, one of the most productive in Hawaii.

By Jeri DePietro on 6 October 2010 for Island Breath - 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2010/10/koloa-field-system.html)

 
Image above: Aerial view of part of Hawaiian archaeological sites bounded by Hapa Trail (foreground), Poipu Bypass West (background) and old cane railroad right of way between mill and Koloa landing (right).  

The public is invited to a lecture and walking tour providing information on the historic agricultural lifestyle of Hawaiians on Kauai's south shore. Guest speaker Dr. Hal Hammatt will give the first lecture ever on the entire Koloa Field System Complex, stretching west from Kukui`ula Harbor to Weliweli in the east. The lecture will cover descriptions of sites located in the Koloa Field System and will highlight different sites to be seen on Friday morning's tour of four archeological preserves and Hapa Trail.  

WHAT:
Free public lecture on archaeological sites in Koloa/Poipu.  

WHEN:
Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 6:30pm  

WHERE:
Koloa Neighborhood Center

 DETAILS:
Refreshments will be provided after the lecture. Sponsored by Hui Malama O Koloa and Koloa Community Association. Join us on Friday for a field trip to visit several of these sites. Dr. Hal Hammatt will conduct a tour of the area, pointing out the sites described in Thursday evening's lecture and the Koloa Neighborhood Center. Participants are advised to wear hats, walking shoes and sunscreen. Water will be provided along the tour and refreshments will be provided at the tours conclusion. The tour is open to the public free of charge.  

WHAT:
Free walking tour of archeological preserves and Hapa Trail.  

WHEN:
Friday, 15 October 2010 at 10:00am  

WHERE:
Meet at Kiahuna Golf Course parking lot.  

DETAILS: Things to bring on the tour:
  • Hat and sunscreen.
  • Water will be provided throughout the entire tour
  • Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the tour
  • Talk story time with Dr. Hammatt at end of tour
Talk on the entire complex of the Koloa Field System from Kukuila to Weliweli focuses on:
Different archaeological sites Unique irrigation system different crops grown abundantly animal corrals Why is the Koloa System highly regarded How the food was distributed Role in supplying ships at Hanakape Providing food for the 49ers in the California Gold Rush Tour of Archaeological Preserves in the Koloa Field System
There is a treasure trove of archaeological sites in Popu. The area is much more than a resort destination for visitors. The history of the area is fascinating. There were salt beds for making pakai, Pa a laka hula mound where hula icon olani Luahine learned hula and practiced. This was a strategic area in the civil wars of Kaua ibetween island chiefs, and much more. These events are presented in conjunction with the Society of Hawaiian Archaeologist Conference featuring top archaeologist in Hawaii, greater Polynesia and Micronesia. The tour lecture sponsored by Hui Malama o Koloa and the Koloa Community Association.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Early Hawaiian Agriculture 1/1/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hapa Trail Defilement 7/19/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Knudsen to spoil Poipu 1/18/09

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Monsanto's Fortunes Sour

SOURCE: Diana Labedz (DianaLaBedz@aol.com)
SUBHEAD: Monsanto is facing myriad problems, and it's stock price has fallen significantly.

 
Image above: Farmer Jerry McCulley refills his sprayer with the weed killer glyphosate on a farm near Auburn, Illinois. From NYT article.  

By Andrew Pollack on 4 October 2010 for New York Times - 
  (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/business/05monsanto.html)

As recently as late December, Monsanto was named “company of the year” by Forbes magazine. Last week, the company earned a different accolade from Jim Cramer, the television stock market commentator. “This may be the worst stock of 2010,” he proclaimed. Monsanto, the giant of agricultural biotechnology, has been buffeted by setbacks this year that have prompted analysts to question whether its winning streak from creating ever more expensive genetically engineered crops is coming to an end.

 The company’s stock, which rose steadily over several years to peak at around $145 a share in mid-2008, closed Monday at $47.77, having fallen about 42 percent since the beginning of the year. Its earnings for the fiscal year that ended in August, which will be announced Wednesday, are expected to be well below projections made at the beginning of the year, and the company has abandoned its profit goal for 2012 as well.

The latest blow came last week, when early returns from this year’s harvest showed that Monsanto’s newest product, SmartStax corn, which contains an unprecedented eight inserted genes, was providing yields no higher than the company’s less expensive corn that contains only three foreign genes.

 Monsanto has already been forced to sharply cut prices on SmartStax and on its newest soybean seeds, called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, as sales fell below projections. But there is more. Sales of Monsanto’s Roundup, the widely used herbicide, has collapsed this year under an onslaught of low-priced generics made in China.

Weeds are growing resistant to Roundup, dampening the future of the entire Roundup Ready crop franchise. And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations. Until now, Monsanto’s main challenge has come from opponents of genetically modified crops, who have slowed their adoption in Europe and some other regions.

Now, however, the outspoken critics also include farmers and investors who were once in Monsanto’s camp. “My personal view is that they overplayed their hand,” William R. Young, managing director of ChemSpeak and a consultant to investors in the chemical industry, said of Monsanto. “They are going to have to demonstrate to the farmer the advantage of their products.”

Brett D. Begemann, Monsanto’s executive vice president for seeds and traits, said the setbacks were not reflective of systemic management problems and that the company was already moving to deal with them. “Farmers clearly gave us some feedback that we have made adjustments from,” he said in an interview Monday.

 Mr. Begemann said that Monsanto used to introduce new seeds at a price that gave farmers two thirds and Monsanto one third of the extra profits that would come from higher yields or lower pest-control costs. But with SmartStax corn and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, the company’s pricing aimed for a 50-50 split. That backfired as American farmers grew only 6 million acres of Roundup Ready 2 soybeans this year, below the company’s goal of 8 million to 10 million acres, and only 3 million acres of SmartStax corn, below the goal of 4 million. So now Monsanto is moving back to the older arrangement.

SmartStax seed for planting next year will be priced at about only $8 an acre more than other seeds, down from about a $24 premium for this year’s seeds, Mr. Begemann said. The company will also offer credits for free seed to farmers who planted SmartStax this year and were disappointed. Monsanto has also moved to offer farmers more varieties with fewer inserted genes. Some farmers have said they often have to buy traits they do not need — such as protection from the corn rootworm in regions where that pest is not a problem — in order to get the best varieties. This issue has surfaced in the antitrust investigation.

Monsanto’s arch rival, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred, has also capitalized on the limited variety under a campaign called “right product, right acre.” “If they don’t have a need for rootworm then we won’t have that trait in that product,” Paul E. Schickler, the president of Pioneer, said in an interview. After years of rapidly losing market share in corn seeds to Monsanto, Pioneer says it has gained back 4 percentage points in the last two years, to 34 percent. Monsanto puts its market share at 36 percent in 2009 and says it has remained flat this year. In soybeans, Pioneer puts its share at 31 percent, up 7 percent over the last two years; Monsanto puts its share at 28 percent last year and said it has dropped some this year.

Monsanto had a similar problem with lower-than-expected yields on Roundup Ready 2 soybeans last year, when the crop was first planted commercially, forcing it to slash the premium it charges. But this year, the yield appears to be meeting expectations, according to OTR Global, a market research firm that surveys farmers and seed dealers.

That could bode well for SmartStax next year. One reason is that the Roundup Ready 2 gene is now offered in more varieties, making it better suited to more growing conditions. The yield of a crop is mainly determined by the seed’s intrinsic properties, not the inserted genes. An insect protection gene will not make a poor variety a high yielder any more than spiffy shoes will turn a slow runner into Usain Bolt. In the first year of a new product, few varieties contain the new gene.

Still, Mosanto is bound at some point to face diminishing returns from its strategy of putting more and more insect-resistance and herbicide-resistance genes into the same crop, at ever increasing prices. Growth might have to eventually come from new traits, such as a drought-tolerant corn the company hopes to introduce in 2012.

“Technologically, they are still the market leader,” said Laurence Alexander, an analyst at Jefferies & Company. “The main issue going forward is do they get paid for the technology they deliver. The jury is still out on that one. It’s going to take a year or two of data to reassure people.”

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Bad Paperwork & Foreclosure Crisis

SUBHEAD: Flawed bank paperwork on titles aggravates a housing market recovery.
Image above: Adams Country sheriff's deputy, center, looks on after an eviction team carried out a family's belongings during a foreclosure eviction in Adams County, Colorado. From (http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/photos/2009/02/019188.html). [Editor's note: Further backing up the prior post "To the Vanishing Point" by aways witty Mr. J. Kunstler. Today from the New York Times and CNBC]
By Gretchen Morgenson on 4 October 2010 for New York Times -
(http://www.cnbc.com//id/39499044)
As some of the nation’s largest lenders have conceded that their foreclosure procedures might have been improperly handled, lawsuits have revealed myriad missteps in crucial documents. The flawed practices that GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have recently begun investigating are so prevalent, lawyers and legal experts say, that additional lenders and loan servicers are likely to halt foreclosure proceedings and may have to reconsider past evictions. Problems emerging in courts across the nation are varied but all involve documents that must be submitted before foreclosures can proceed legally. Homeowners, lawyers and analysts have been citing such problems for the last few years, but it appears to have reached such intensity recently that banks are beginning to re-examine whether all of the foreclosure papers were prepared properly. In some cases, documents have been signed by employees who say they have not verified crucial information like amounts owed by borrowers. Other problems involve questionable legal notarization of documents, in which, for example, the notarizations predate the actual preparation of documents — suggesting that signatures were never actually reviewed by a notary. Other problems occurred when notarizations took place so far from where the documents were signed that it was highly unlikely that the notaries witnessed the signings, as the law requires. On still other important documents, a single official’s name is signed in such radically different ways that some appear to be forgeries. Additional problems have emerged when multiple banks have all argued that they have the right to foreclose on the same property, a result of a murky trail of documentation and ownership. There is no doubt that the enormous increase in foreclosures in recent years has strained the resources of lenders and their legal representatives, creating challenges that any institution might find overwhelming. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the percentage of loans that were delinquent by 90 days or more stood at 9.5 percent in the first quarter of 2010, up from 4 percent in the same period of 2008. But analysts say that the wave of defaults still does not excuse lenders’ failures to meet their legal obligations before trying to remove defaulting borrowers from their homes. “It reflects the hubris that as long as the money was going through the pipeline, these companies didn’t really have to make sure the documents were in order,” said Kathleen C. Engel, dean for intellectual law at Suffolk University Law School and an expert in mortgage law. “Suddenly they have a lot at stake, and playing fast and loose is going to be more costly than it was in the past.” Attorneys general in at least six states, including Massachusetts, Iowa, Florida and Illinois, are investigating improper foreclosure practices. Last week, Jennifer Brunner, the secretary of state of Ohio, referred examples of what her office considers possible notary abuse by Chase Home Mortgage to federal prosecutors for investigation. The implications are not yet clear for borrowers who have been evicted from their homes as a result of improper filings. But legal experts say that courts may impose sanctions on lenders or their representatives or may force banks to pay borrowers’ legal costs in these cases. Judges may dismiss the foreclosures altogether, barring lenders from refiling and awarding the home to the borrower. That would create a loss for the lender or investor holding the note underlying the property. Almost certainly, lawyers say, lawsuits on behalf of borrowers will multiply. In Florida, problems with foreclosure cases are especially acute. A recent sample of foreclosure cases in the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida showed that 20 percent of those set for summary judgment involved deficient documents, according to chief judge Lee E. Haworth. “We have sent repeated notices to law firms saying, ‘You are not following the rules, and if you don’t clean up your act, we are going to impose sanctions on you,’ ” Mr. Haworth said in an interview. “They say, ‘We’ll fix it, we’ll fix it, we’ll fix it.’ But they don’t.” As a result, Mr. Haworth said, on Sept. 17, Harry Rapkin, a judge overseeing foreclosures in the district, dismissed 61 foreclosure cases. The plaintiffs can refile but they need to pay new filing fees, Mr. Haworth said. The byzantine mortgage securitization process that helped inflate the housing bubble allowed home loans to change hands so many times before they were eventually pooled and sold to investors that it is now extremely difficult to track exactly which lenders have claims to a home. Many lenders or loan servicers that begin the foreclosure process after a borrower defaults do not produce documentation proving that they have the legal right to foreclosure, known as standing. As a substitute, the banks usually present affidavits attesting to ownership of the note signed by an employee of a legal services firm acting as an agent for the lender or loan servicer. Such affidavits allow foreclosures to proceed, but because they are often dubiously prepared, many questions have arisen about their validity. Although lawyers for troubled borrowers have contended for years that banks in many cases have not properly documented their rights to foreclose, the issue erupted in mid-September when GMAC said it was halting foreclosure proceedings in 23 states because of problems with its legal practices. The move by GMAC followed testimony by an employee who signed affidavits for the lender; he said that he executed 400 of them each day without reading them or verifying that the information in them was correct. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America followed with similar announcements. But these three large lenders are not the only companies employing people who have failed to verify crucial aspects of a foreclosure case, court documents show. Last May, Herman John Kennerty, a loan administration manager in the default document group of Wells Fargo Mortgage, testified to lawyers representing a troubled borrower that he typically signed 50 to 150 foreclosure documents a day. In that case, in King County Superior Court in Seattle, he also stated that he did not independently verify the information to which he was attesting. Wells Fargo did not respond to requests for comment. In other cases, judges are finding that banks’ claims of standing in a foreclosure case can conflict with other evidence. Last Thursday, Paul F. Isaacs, a judge in Bourbon County Circuit Court in Kentucky, reversed a ruling he had made in August giving Bank of New York Mellon the right to foreclose on a couple’s home. According to court filings, Mr. Isaacs had relied on the bank’s documentation that it said showed it held the note underlying the property in a trust. But after the borrowers supplied evidence indicating that the note may in fact reside in a different trust, the judge reversed himself. The court will revisit the matter soon. Bank of New York said it was reviewing the ruling and could not comment. Another problematic case involves a foreclosure action taken by Deutsche Bank against a borrower in the Bronx in New York. The bank says it has the right to foreclose because the mortgage was assigned to it on Oct. 15, 2009. But according to court filings made by David B. Shaev, a lawyer at Shaev & Fleischman who represents the borrower, the assignment to Deutsche Bank is riddled with problems. First, the company that Deutsche said had assigned it the mortgage, the Sand Canyon Corporation, no longer had any rights to the underlying property when the transfer was supposed to have occurred. Additional questions have arisen over the signature verifying an assignment of the mortgage. Court documents show that Tywanna Thomas, assistant vice president of American Home Mortgage Servicing, assigned the mortgage from Sand Canyon to Deutsche Bank in October 2009. On assignments of mortgages in other cases, Ms. Thomas’s signatures differ so wildly that it appears that three people signed the documents using Ms. Thomas’s name. Given the differences in the signatures, Mr. Shaev filed court papers last July contending that the assignment is a sham, “prepared to create an appearance of a creditor as a real party in interest/standing, when in fact it is likely that the chain of title required in these matters was not performed, lost or both.” Mr. Shaev also asked the judge overseeing the case, Shelley C. Chapman, to order Ms. Thomas to appear to answer questions the lawyer has raised. John Gallagher, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank, which is trustee for the securitization that holds the note in this case, said companies servicing mortgage loans engaged the law firms that oversee foreclosure proceedings. “Loan servicers are obligated to adhere to all legal requirements,” he said, “and Deutsche Bank, as trustee, has consistently informed servicers that they are required to execute these actions in a proper and timely manner.” Reached by phone on Saturday, Ms. Thomas declined to comment. The United States Trustee, a unit of the Justice Department, is also weighing in on dubious court documents filed by lenders. Last January, it supported a request by Silvia Nuer, a borrower in foreclosure in the Bronx, for sanctions against JPMorgan Chase. In testimony, a lawyer for Chase conceded that a law firm that had previously represented the bank, the Steven J. Baum firm of Buffalo, had filed inaccurate documents as it sought to take over the property from Ms. Nuer. The Chase lawyer told a judge last January that his predecessors had combed through the chain of title on the property and could not find a proper assignment. The firm found “something didn’t happen that needed to be fixed,” he explained, and then, according to court documents, it prepared inaccurate documents to fill in the gaps. The Baum firm did not return calls to comment. A lawyer for the United States Trustee said that the Nuer case “does not represent an isolated example of misconduct by Chase in the Southern District of New York.” Chase declined to comment. “The servicers have it in their control to get the right documents and do this properly, but it is so much cheaper to run it through a foreclosure mill,” said Linda M. Tirelli, a lawyer in White Plains who represents Ms. Nuer in the case against Chase. “This is not about getting a free house for my client. It’s about a level playing field. If I submitted false documents like this to the court, I’d have my license handed to me.”
Slowing the Runaway Foreclosure Train By Barry Ritholtz on 4 October 2010 for CNBC -
“Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade"... Richard Kessler, an attorney in Sarasota, Florida, who conducted a study that found errors in about three-fourths of court filings related to home repossessions. The out of control foreclosure machinery has officially been brought into the shop for repairs.
The real estate financing industry appears to have brought the same technical expertise that allowed automated underwriting of mortgages to an automated foreclosure process: Structurally flawed, rife with errors, guaranteed to fail — and in need if an immediate overhaul. As we have seen, homeowners without mortgages have lost their home to foreclosure. That this legal impossibility actually occurred reveals the foreclosure process, especially in Florida (but other states as well) as little more than a legal conveyor belt, bereft of oversight, manned by parasitic law firms and overwhelmed bankers. This more than merely “flawed paperwork” — the entire process is problematic. It has reached such depths that numerous banks have voluntarily stopped foreclosures while they review their internal processes, and the methods used by local law firms they hire. Called Foreclosure mills, many of these firms employ illegal methods to their legal practices. They use robo-signers instead of reviewing documents reviewed by lawyers; they hire process servers with histories of fraud and criminality. In the pursuit of foreclosure profits, they have tried to turn the practice of law into a clerical act of foreclosure, repossession, and resale — consequences be damned.
It is like Lucy on the chocolate factory line, only with homes being repossessed instead of bon bons on a conveyor belt slipping by unwrapped.
We have continually argued all of the HAMP and foreclosure abatement programs are ultimately counter-productive, and benefit the banks, not the home owners. I have called for allowing the process to proceed naturally, letting prices fall to where they will. Further, We have never opposed the foreclosure process as a price discovery mechanism. But what is going on in Florida and elsewhere is a national embarrassment. What is required here is a full blown investigation from the US Attorney’s office. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Kunstler - To the Vanishing Point 10/4/10 .

To the Vanishing Point

SUBHEAD: Someday somebody with a badge is going to demand a look inside the bank vaults and examine the paper they are hiding. Image above: View of suburbia along I-5 heading north from Seattle. From GoogleEarth. [Editor's note: A significant element of Kunstler's blog today alludes to the problem bankers face with only having partial or no clear title to properties they are foreclosing on, (this is due to multiple and partial mortgages packaged and resold as investment instruments by speculative banksters). The titles of many homes heading to foreclosure have been diced and tossed like a salad and may never be sorted out again. This will act as momentum to some massive financial failures ahead.] By James Kunstler on 4 October 2010 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/10/posting-a-little-late-this-morning.html) Last evening at twilight I was driving my rent-a-car up Interstate Five north of Seattle with a vivid testicular fear of being trapped in the very metaphor of a failing society racing into a dark future. All around me loomed the monuments of an out-of-control financial credit Moloch - the tilt-up chain store boxes with their giant logos glowing against the distant craggy peaks of the Cascades (many of them active volcanoes which, like Mt. Saint Helens, might blow their tops any day). At every compass point sprawled the McHousing pods of American dream mortgage time-bombs silently blowing families to financial smithereens, and banks with them, including, incidentally last Friday, the state of Washington's own Shoreline Bank just off I-5 north of Seattle, seized by the FDIC. My way was lighted, as darkness finally stole in, by the endlessly replicated dispensaries of fast food-dom (pizza-burgers-chicken-fries-and-shakes) provoking this nation of overfed clowns to ever-greater feats of gluttony, medical catastrophe, and bankruptcy. And, of course, these were my fellow-travelers in the perpetual stream of cars plying this great thoroughfare of the tragic western littoral, burning up gasoline that had traveled all the way from the sands of Abqaiq or from some sweltering platform off the Niger Delta, where dangerous, angry, armed men in Zodiac boats plot mayhem nearby among the mangrove thickets. Not to mention the row-upon-row of idle cars parked in the lagoons surrounding the countless malls and strip-malls and auto dealerships that flanked I-5 for fifty miles north of Seattle. Cars, cars, cars, as far as the eye could see where the sodium-vapor lamps cut through the crepuscular murk. Sasquatch was a no-show. But Sasquatch don't drive.
This was the week when the US housing fiasco got even more extra-special interesting as the Bank of America suspended mortgage foreclosures in twenty-three states, and the Connecticut Attorney General (Richard Blumenthal, who is running for Chris Dodd's senate seat) declared a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures (a political ploy do ya think?). Also of interest, Ally Financial suspended foreclosures in twenty-three states - and note, by the way, that Ally is the mutant offspring of the bailed-out General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), which also spawned the infamous DiTech Mortgage finance company (remember those non-stop TV commercials a few years back) which specialized in jumbo NINJA loans (No Income No Job or Assets). A conspiracy theorist would be in nirvana with all this, but it was just plain vanilla fraud in a time when fraud was over-taking apple pie and Mom as the defining quality of our national character.
The net effect of all this is that the real estate industry in America just got a whole lot more desperate on Friday. What's with suspending all these foreclosures? Generally it's about the slovenly (and possibly felonious) paperwork associated with so many home loans doled out in the recent bubble years, above and beyond, you understand, the complete absence of due diligence in evaluating borrowers - but that aspect has been so well known for so long, and so blatantly ignored by the legal authorities that it has merely entered the realm of humorous American folklore like Br'er Rabbit and the Chickens - too quaint to prosecute.
This new subplot concerning the paperwork itself, however, complicates things more than anyone expected, and real suddenly. So eager were the originators to pump-and-dump mortgages - to write up loans and immediately re-sell them to the chumps at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and elsewhere - that they got ludicrously sloppy. Instead of mortgage applicatons being signed by notaries, the lenders just set up signature boiler rooms where unauthorized factotums signed them by the forklift-load without anyone so much as glancing at the pages within. Whoops....
Enter the lawyers for the foreclosees. Their mission: to either assist their clients in evading foreclosure, or at least stalling the process indefinitely, allowing said clients to occupy a property as a sort of court-sanctioned squatter possibly forever. For one thing, it's probably cheaper to pay a lawyer a couple of thousand bucks to roll his hoop through the courts for a year than to actually fork over a $4,500 mortgage nut each month on an under-water five BR four bath vinyl-and-chipboard contemporary - with the possible bonus outcome of the house's title becoming so hopelessly lost and unproduceable that two generations of title insurance investigators will squander their whole working lifetimes in fruitless searching... and by then, perhaps, the whole sordid, messy business will be forgotten, like an old forgotten patent suit filed decades ago by lawyers for a poor swindled nearsighted engineer, who has been pushing up daisies now in a lonely Michigan bone orchard since Alan Greenspan blew his last clarinet lick at the Five Spot.
The title insurance business will take a dim view of these monkeyshines, you may be sure, but by then they will be out of business, too. And then won't it be fun imagining some future when every attempt to transfer property is just a shot in the dark... or else property won't be transferred at all, at least not legally. It seems we're developing a whole new and interesting relationship with the rule of law in this country. Increasingly, it's become optional. And what you finally get when you opt for that is a lawless society where people simply grab what they want via the barrel of a gun and smash whatever gets in their way. Our nostalgia for the Wild West may suffer as this occurs and no one is able to live a settled secure life anymore in the USA.
This new anarchy in the troubled housing / mortgage nexus comes at a very interesting time, too: just when the public is about to elect a new national legislature full of characters with a very squishy idea of the rule of law. Many of them conflate it with the theocratic rule of Jesus. Maybe Baptist ministers and snake handlers will start showing up in the probate courts to sort these matters out. America is increasingly looking like the saloon in one of the earlier installments of Star Wars, where the most improbable creatures mingle and frequently bust up the place for no apparent reason other than they felt like it.
Coming back to Earth though, one can only see more Big Trouble ahead for the Big Banks in all this mortgage hugger-mugger, and of course the country as a whole. Sooner or later, somebody with a badge is going to demand to look inside their vaults and examine the paper they are hiding in there. And when that day comes, the truth will be revealed about the greatest self-swindling of any nation in the long, groaning history of the world. Nobody among the community of other nations will want to do anymore business with us - including the sale of any oil, and won't that be a funky day? .

A Terrible Dependency of Mind

SUBHEAD: There are no political solutions to the collapsing system. Turn off the TV set and get to work with neighbors. Image above: Neighbors sandbag 12th Street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, against flooding in June 2008. From (http://www.redcrossmedia.com/2008-06-11_IowaMR.html). By Kurt Cobb on 3 October 2010 in Resource Insights - (http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2010/10/terrible-dependency-of-mind.html) As I watched snippets of President Obama's town hall-style meetings around the country recently, I was struck by how often questioners demonstrated the mindset that solutions to their problems will come from some central authority, in this case, the federal government. It's not surprising to see this in the modern industrial state. The other central authority would be large, globe-spanning corporations that provide the essentials of modern life including food, fuel, transportation, and a wide array of industrial and consumer goods. They even supply much of the entertainment. I see no easy way for a modern person, especially someone living in an urban setting--as the vast majority of people in the United States do--to avoid such dependencies altogether for now. To disengage from them completely would mean certain death for many if not most. For nearly everyone alive in wealthy countries there has never been a time when we were not faced with extreme dependence on the two most centralizing forces of the modern era, central government and behemoth corporations. So, given the current economic mess it seems natural for people to turn to the twin citadels of central power and demand that they alleviate our suffering. This demand assumes that those running our governments and corporations have the ability and the desire to respond to such suffering. In a world where various occupational niches are disappearing never to return, the extreme specialization which has become the norm in modern labor has doomed many to long-term unemployment. The market no longer needs them because they have the wrong skills or because demand for what they do is very low. And, the promise that the economic downturn will be temporary further enslaves the minds of those already out of work and out of luck. It deals them a second blow of suffering, the second being the false hope that things can return to what passed for normal in, say, 2006. This terrible dependency of mind results in paralysis for some and rage for others. It leads people to believe that someone else can fix what ails them. They assume that they have little power to solve their own problems in ways that don't involve central authorities. And now, like children throwing tantrums to punish their parents, America's voters appear ready to throw out the current governing party because of its inability to resolve their suffering. They do not recognize that neither party can now steer a corrupt and bankrupt central government toward solutions to our difficulties. In part that's because the government has become the lapdog of self-serving corporate managers who take no responsibility for our current predicament and therefore see little role for themselves in addressing it. Those who have labored now for years in the relocalization movement generally recognize this dependence of mind and attempt to fight it. They fight it not merely with mental exercises, but, more importantly, with action that leads to a degree of self-sufficiency and a healthy mutuality among neighbors, friends and other community members. In America there has always been the necessary cultural framework for this. And, we have not forgotten how to do it. But we have forgotten that we know how to do it. It is one of the main tasks of the peak oil and sustainability movements to reawaken that knowledge. Once reawakened a person faced with such scenes as we saw on television in these town hall meetings will understand the pain. But that person will seek to alleviate it by turning off the TV set and getting down to work alongside fellow community members. .

Steady State Agriculture

SUBHEAD: Factory-farm agriculture is a major climate destabilizer. We need food and agriculture in a steady state economy. Image above: Inside a typical pig farm production factory. Very unsustainable farming. From (http://animalblawg.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/ohio-issue-2-aftermath). By Brent Blackwelder on 3 October 2010 in SteadyState.org - (http://steadystate.org/food-and-agriculture-in-a-steady-state-economy)

The annual book festival of the Library of Congress just featured Jonathan Safran Foer who spoke about his book Eating Animals. He writes about his grandmother who survived World War II on the run from the Germans, scavenging from garbage cans and always on the verge of starvation. However, she refused to eat a piece of pork given her by a kindly farmer because “if nothing matters, nothing is worth saving.”

This fall (what better time than harvest season?), I will focus my Daly News essays on the ethics and policies that would characterize food production in a steady state economy. These essays will offer answers to questions such as: What would people eat and how would it be grown? Would almost everyone be a vegetarian or vegan? Would genetically engineered food play a big role? What about farm subsidies and the role of biofuels? How many of the current agricultural practices in the United States would even continue as part of a steady state economy?

Since sustainable scale is the most important feature of a steady state economy (i.e., the economy must fit within the capacity of the ecosystems that contain it), the first issue to investigate is how environmental systems are responding to agricultural practices – in particular, the effects of agricultural practices on climate. There is growing evidence that animal agriculture is the number one cause of global climate destabilization, contributing more than all global transport put together. Former World Bank ecologist Robert Goodland has produced an analysis showing that at least half of the human-caused greenhouse gases come from the production of domesticated animals. Livestock and their byproducts account for over 32.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, or roughly 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gases (see Worldwatch Nov./Dec. 2009).

Here is the unsettling irony: factory-farm dominated agriculture, as a major climate destabilizer, is creating long-term weather changes that compromise the ability of the earth to produce food.

Plant ecologists estimate that for every 1 degree Celsius temperature increase, grain yields drop 10%. Climate disruption has led to serious melting of snowpacks and glaciers in most places. In the Western U.S. where snowpacks store about 75% of the water supply, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that climate change could reduce this to 40% by 2060. Similar concerns exist for the great Asian rivers like the Ganges and the Mekong that originate in the Tibetan plateau.

These impacts are not being imposed on a planet whose soils and grasslands are in wonderful condition and whose groundwater has been safeguarded and not pumped beyond recharge. These impacts are not being imposed on a planet whose human population has stabilized but rather is likely to reach 9-11 billion by 2050.

In contrast to this grim picture of the agricultural capacity of the planet, many encouraging trends in food production are emerging. Examples include growth of organic food consumption, expansion of farmers markets, the local food movement, the slow food movement, the food-miles movement, and initiatives to get healthy food into schools – all of which are heading in promising directions.

A steady state economy would bolster these trends. It would move away from control of food by transnational corporations and toward an increased number and diversity of small and medium-sized farms, and healthy rural communities. Revamped agricultural systems would provide many varieties of food in ways that conserve soil and water and maintain long-term fertility of the land.

These promising developments are taking place not because of, but in spite of, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has for the most part been a giant promoter of animal slum operations and presider over the demise of the family farm.

Over 10 million animals are slaughtered for food each year in the U.S. in factory slum operations that produce over 95% of the nation’s meat. It is abundantly clear that meat-dominated megafarm agriculture is not sustainable (even from the climate/energy standpoint alone), and it could not be part of the food system in a steady state economy.

A steady state economy would not feature perverse subsidies as a cornerstone of the economy. Yet in the U.S. a curious mathematical formula governs the dispensing of subsidies: the more environmentally damaging and harmful to public health the practice or project, the larger the state and federal handouts.

Thus, industrial agriculture enjoys all sorts of subsidies from the Farm Bill. Its extensive use of energy-intensive pesticides and fertilizers is supported by the numerous subsidies the fossil fuel industry receives. Gigantic animal factory slums not only get subsidized, but they externalize their environmental and health costs onto their neighbors and the public. Time magazine documented the competition among states to see who could dole out the most tax money to lure one of these animal slum operations into their state. In contrast, the encouraging trends in agriculture that I cited receive very little governmental support.

Note: CASSE also has a briefing paper on the topic of agriculture in a steady state economy.

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Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck

SUBHEAD: "Right Wing Radio Duck" is a loving tribute to Disney's animation parodying the deceitful and sinister message of Glenn Beck. Image above: Still from title of YouTube video "Right wing Radio Duck". By Jonathan McIntosh on 2 October 2010 on YouTube - (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfuwNU0jsk0) This is a re-imagined Donald Duck cartoon remix constructed using dozens of classic Walt Disney cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s. Donald's life is turned upside-down by the current economic crisis and he finds himself unemployed and falling behind on his house payments. As his frustration turns into despair Donald discovers a seemingly sympathetic voice coming from his radio named Glenn Beck. • English captions are now working in case you're not fluent in duck-speak This transformative remix work constitutes a fair-use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law. "Right Wing Radio Duck" by Jonathan McIntosh is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 License - permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. • Please link back to my website: http://www.rebelliouspixels.com • Learn about fair-use at the Center for Social Media: http://centerforsocialmedia.org • Learn about transformative works at the OTW: http://transformativeworks.org • Useful Media Matters archive of Glenn Beck clips: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/ Video above: "Right Wing Radio Duck" cartoon by Jonathan McIntosh. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfuwNU0jsk0). .

Al Qaeda on Climate Change

SUBHEAD: Even Osama Bin Laden has a clue as to the suffering caused by Climate Change. Case in point Pakistan flooding.
Image above: A Pakistani woman awaits rescue after home was destroyed in August. From (http://www.news.com.au/world/pakistans-flood-death-toll-passes-1300-as-us-sends-aid/story-e6frfkyi-1225899784012). By Daniel Kessler on 2 October 2010 for TreeHugger -
(http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/10/bin-laden-floods-climate.php) Even a guy in a cave can tell that climate change is happening now and that it is having horrible effects. In this case, the guy in a cave is Osama Bin Laden, who in his latest sound recording has lamented the effects of climate change to the planet (Reuters 10/01/10), including how a worsening climate is caused the floods in Pakistan, where Bin Laden is believed to be hiding. The tape is authentic, according to the the watchdog group SiteIntelGroup.com:
"The number of victims caused by climate change is very big" -- "bigger than the victims of wars. The huge climate change is affecting our nation and is causing great catastrophes throughout the Islamic world."
He goes on to that he "calls for generous souls and brave men to take serious and prompt action to provide relief for their Muslim brothers in Pakistan."
Bin Laden has commented on global warming in the past, putting much of the blame at the feet of President George W. Bush for failing to institute policies to reign in greenhouse gases. Of course, Bin Laden endorsed John Kerry for President in 2004, which probably hurt Kerry, who is committed to climate action. In the previous tape, Bin Laden, speaking about Kyoto, said:
"However, George Bush junior, preceded by Congress, dismissed the agreement to placate giant corporations."
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Diana LaBedz - Position Paper

SOURCE: Karin Medigovich (karinmedigo@gmail.com) SUBHEAD: Diana LeBedz, Kauai candidate for Mayor, takes a stand on important local issues. Image above: Diana LaBedz. From (http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_8a582c44-c3da-11df-9496-001cc4c002e0.html?mode=image&photo=2) By Karin Mediggovitch on 3 October 2010 for Diana4Mayor - Diana LaBedz is running for Mayor of Kauai on the Democratic ticket. The following are Diana's basic positions on Kauai issues. For more detailed information on each subject, go to Diana Labedz for Mayor (http://diana4mayor.wiki.zoho.com/) Diana’s position on: GMO: Diana will be promoting small family farms and organic agriculture. Chemical, mono crop, genetically modified organism, agriculture have negative effects on soil, air, pollinators and human health. General Plan: The need to follow the General Zoning Plan. "Rebuild, Renovate and Restore" Cannabis Laws: Diana Advocates for the growing of hemp and the decriminalization of the use of Marijuana. This issue is also about liberty and the sovereign right of each of us to make personal choices -- Education: Education: Our immediate need to address and improve the Kauai educational system. Water: Diana will ask for a volunteer ban on the use of bottled water and instituting a Maximum Reduce, Re-Use, Re-cycle system. Plastic bottles are toxic to our bodies and the environment. County Manager: Diana supports establishing a county manager system. Land/Culture Protection: The need to protect Hawaiian lands and the Hawaiian Culture. Kekaha Shrimp Farm: Demanding that the proposed Kekaha shrimp farm have a zero ocean discharge. Larson’s Beach: Diana supports continued open access to Larsen's Beach. Bus System: Increase the bus system to Sunday and week nights till 10:00 PM County Parks: Keep the county parks open at night. Diana LaBedz, running for Mayor of Kauai on the Democratic ticket, has been a leader in environmental issues both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland. She is a founding member of various groups, including the Kaua‘i Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, The ECO-Roundtable, and the Vegetarian Society of Hawai‘i (Kaua‘i chapter). Diana, working with other environmental leaders, newly formed Kauai Whale Ohana, with the intention of protecting Humpback Whales in Hawai'ian waters. The Hawai'ian Humpback Whale Sanctuary has never included all areas used by whales, nor has the sanctuary itself been set up to enact any rules or regulations designed to protect whales. She also produced and hosted a weekly environmental TV show in Southern California as well as an environmental radio show, “Kaua‘i’s Earth Connection,” on KKCR. Environmentalist and Kekaha resident Diana LaBedz intends to run without the aid of manufactured campaign signs, which she says are not recyclable and end up in the landfill at campaign’s end. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Diana LaBedz for Mayor 9/5/10 Ea O Ka Aina: LaBedz running for Mayor 7/16/10 .

Impending Collapse of Israel

SUBHEAD: The Palestinians are advised to sign nothing with Israel and wait for Zionism to collapse.

By Francis Boyle on 2 October 2010 for Dissident Voice -
(http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/10/the-impending-collapse-of-israel-in-palestine/#more-22728)
Image above: Phoenix rising is part of a Palestinian mural on Israeli security wall. From (http://osieonline.com/Home_Page.html).

[IB Editor's note: Prof. Francis Boyle has been a lawyer representing the Palestinians at the Hague (World Court) as well as an advisor to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. See Island Breath:Francis Boyle on Kauai 12/28/04)]
On November 15, 1988 the Palestine National Council (P.N.C.) meeting in Algiers proclaimed the Palestinian Declaration of Independence that created the independent state of Palestine. Today the State of Palestine is bilaterally recognized de jure by about 130 states.

Palestine has de facto diplomatic recognition from most of Europe. It was only massive political pressure applied by the U.S. government that prevented European states from according to Palestine de jure diplomatic recognition. Palestine is a member state of the League of Arab States and of the Islamic Conference Organization. When the International Court of Justice in The Hague—the so-called World Court of the United Nations System—conducted its legal proceedings on Israel’s apartheid wall on the West Bank, the World Court invited the State of Palestine to participate in the proceedings. In other words, the International Court of Justice recognized the State of Palestine. Palestine has Observer State Status with the United Nations Organization, and basically all the rights of a U.N. Member State except the right to vote.

Effectively, Palestine has de facto U.N. Membership. The only thing keeping Palestine from de jure U.N. Membership is the implicit threat of a veto at the U.N. Security Council by the United States, which is clearly illegal. Someday Palestine shall be a full-fledged U.N. Member State. From a world-order perspective, the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence created a remarkable opportunity for peace with Israel because therein the P.N.C. explicitly accepted the U.N. General Assembly’s Partition Resolution 181(II) of 1947 that called for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in the Mandate for Palestine, together with an international trusteeship for the City of Jerusalem, in order to resolve their basic conflict:

 Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination following upon U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty and national independence.

The significance of the P.N.C.’s acceptance of the Partition Resolution in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence itself could not be over-emphasized. Prior thereto, from the perspective of the Palestinian People the Partition Resolution had been deemed to be a criminal act that was perpetrated upon them by the United Nations Organization in gross violation of their fundamental right to self-determination as recognized by the United Nations Charter and general principles of public international law. The acceptance of the Partition Resolution in their actual Declaration of Independence signaled the genuine desire by the Palestinian People to transcend the past century of bitter conflict with the Jewish People living illegally in their midst in order to reach an historic accommodation with them on the basis of a two-state solution.

The very fact that this acceptance of Partition Resolution 181 was set forth in their Declaration of Independence indicated the degree of sincerity with which the Palestinian People accepted Israel. The Declaration of Independence was the foundational document for the State of Palestine. It was intended to be determinative, definitive, and irreversible. As the P.N.C. well knew at the time, their Declaration of Independence was not something that could be amended or bargained away. Nonetheless, the Palestinians have now fruitlessly spent the past twenty-two years trying to negotiate in good faith with Israel over the two-state solution set forth in Resolution 181. They have gotten absolutely nowhere. Israel has never demonstrated one iota of good faith when it came to negotiating a comprehensive Middle Peace settlement with the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution.

Even the 1993 Oslo Agreement was nothing more than an Israeli-drafted interim Bantustan arrangement for five years that was rejected in Washington, D.C. by the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations for that precise reason. Both Israel and the United States now want to make the Oslo Bantustan permanent and, incidental thereto, destroy the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as required by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 1948 and general principles of public international law. In this regard, shortly before he died on September 24, 2007, I called up the former Head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations, Dr. Haidar Abdul Shaffi at his home in Gaza in order to review the entire situation with him. According to Dr. Haidar:
“The Zionists have not changed their objectives since the Basel Conference of 1897!” 
In other words, the Zionists want a “Greater” Israel on all of the Mandate for Palestine together with as much ethnic cleansing of Palestinians out of Palestine that the Zionists believe they can get away with internationally. After twenty-two years of getting nowhere but further screwed to Israel’s apartheid wall on the West Bank and strangulated in Gaza, it is now time for the Palestinians to adopt a new strategy, which I most respectfully recommend here for them to consider: Sign nothing and let Israel collapse!

Recently it was reported that the United States’ own Central Intelligence Agency predicted the collapse of Israel within twenty years. My most respectful advice to the Palestinians is to let Israel so collapse! For the Palestinians to sign any type of comprehensive peace treaty with Israel would only shore up, consolidate, and guarantee the existence of Zionism and Zionists in Palestine forever. Why would the Palestinians want to do that? Without approval by the Palestinians in writing, Zionism and Israel in Palestine will collapse.

So the Palestinians must not sign any Middle East Peace Treaty with Israel, but rather must keep the pressure on Israel for the collapse of Zionism over the next two decades as predicted by the Central Intelligence Agency. The correct historical analogue here is not apartheid South Africa, but instead the genocidal Yugoslavia that collapsed as a State, lost its U.N. Membership, and no longer exists as a State for that very reason. All the demographic forces are in favor of the Palestinians and against the Zionists.

The United States government is tired of its blank-check support for Israel because this policy seriously undermines and conflicts with America’s imperial objective to obtain the oil and gas lying beneath Arab and Muslim states by hook or by crook. Israel is ridden with and paralyzed by so many internal contradictions and conflicts that they are too numerous to list here. Indeed, from the very moment of its inception as a direct result of the Zionists’ genocidal al Nakba in 1948, Israel has been the proverbial failed state, and still is so today. Israel would have never come into existence without the support of Western colonial imperial powers throughout the twentieth century. And the same is true today.

Without the political, economic, diplomatic, and military support provided primarily by the United States, and to a lesser extent by Britain, France, and Germany, Israel would immediately collapse. The international Campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S.) against Israel is quickly whittling away Israel’s domestic support in those countries. Israel’s own serial barbarous atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinians and the Lebanese have revealed the true face of Zionism for the entire world to see: genocide.

In fact, Israel has never been a State but just an Army masquerading as a State — a Potemkin Village of a State. Israel is the archetypal Great Band of Robbers described by St. Augustine in Book 4, Chapter 4 of The City of God: Kingdoms without justice are similar to robber barons. And so if justice is left out, what are kingdoms except great robber bands? For what are robber bands except little kingdoms? The band also is a group of men governed by the orders of a leader, bound by social compact, and its booty is divided according to a law agreed upon.

If by repeatedly adding desperate men this plague grows to the point where it holds territory and establishes a fixed seat, seizes cites and subdues peoples, then it more conspicuously assumes the name of kingdom, and this name is now openly granted to it, not for any subtraction of cupidity, but by addition of impunity….

All of these political, economic, military, diplomatic, sociological, psychological, and demographic forces are working in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel and the Zionists in Palestine. It will take a few more years for these historical forces to predominate and then to prevail. But the proverbial handwriting is on the wall for the Zionist Enterprise in Palestine for the entire world to see, including and especially the C.I.A. Even large numbers of Zionists living in Israel have already prepared their parachutes, and their exit plans, and their landing zones to go elsewhere in the world.

There is no reason for the Palestinians to give the Zionists a new lease on life in Palestine by signing any sort of peace treaty with Israel. It is obvious that soon Zionism will enter into Trotsky’s “ashcan” of history along with every other nationalistic “ism” that has plagued humankind during the twentieth century: Nazism, Fascism, Francoism, Phalangism, Stalinism, Maoism, etc. The only thing that could save Zionism in Palestine is for the Palestinians to conclude any type of so-called comprehensive Middle East Peace treaty with Israel.

It is for precisely that reason then that the Palestinians must sign nothing and let Israel collapse of its own weight over the next two decades. Millions of Palestinians have waited in refugee camps since 1948 in order to return to their homes, that is for 62 years. They can wait a little longer until Israel collapses within 20 years. Otherwise, for the Palestinians to sign a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel means that they will never be able to return to their homes as required by Resolution 194 of 1948. History and demography are on the side of Palestine and the Palestinians against Israel and the Zionists.

But the Palestinians must allow history and demography a little bit more time in order to produce the collapse of Israel and Zionism in Palestine. Twenty years is but the blink of an eye in the millennia-long history of the Palestinian People, who are the original indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. God had no right to steal Palestine from the Palestinians and give Palestine to the Jews to begin with. A fortiori the United Nations had no right to steal Palestine from the Palestinians and give Palestine to the Zionists in 1947. In the meantime, the Palestinians must keep up the pressure on Israel, Zionism and the Zionists in Palestine.

The Palestinians have a perfect right under international law to resist an illegal, colonial, genocidal, criminal, military occupation regimé of their lands and of their homes and of their People that goes back to 1948 so long as it is done in a manner consistent with the requirements of international humanitarian law.

Simultaneously, the Palestinians must continue to build their state from the ground up as they have been doing successfully since the first Intifada began in 1987 with its grassroots Unified Leadership of the Intifada. Internationally, the Palestinians must continue their diplomatic and political and legal offensive against Israel. Palestine has gained enormous ground since November 15, 1988 when the P.N.C. proclaimed the independent State of Palestine. Palestine will continue to gain more support internationally over the next two decades, including the accelerating B.D.S. campaign that will delegitimize Israel and Zionism all around the world.

At the same time, Israel will continue its rapid descent into pariah state status along the lines of the genocidal Yugoslavia that collapsed as a state and no longer exists. Israel will meet the same fate as the genocidal Yugoslavia provided the Palestinians do not sign any type of international peace agreement with Israel. When Israel collapses, most Zionists will have already left or will soon leave for other states around the world. The Palestinians will then be able to claim all of the historic Mandate for Palestine as their State, including the entire City of Jerusalem as their Capital. Palestine will then be able to invite all of its refugees to return to their homes pursuant to Resolution 194.

Some Jews will remain in Palestine either voluntarily or involuntarily. Palestine and the Palestinians will treat the remaining Jews fairly. Palestine and the Palestinians will not do to the Jews what Israel, Zionism, and the Zionists have done to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians must sign nothing and let Israel collapse!


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