Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 8, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
“The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty but to have a slave of his own.”
― Sir Richard Francis Burton, 1821-90
‘Twas a week in which a US President made a deal to bring a hostage home and got nothing but criticism for his trouble. The world celebrated the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Obama and Putin spoke privately. Poroshenko, the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, was sworn in as president. Open Carry Tarrant County continued to “educate the public” by dropping in fully armed at restaurants; a Ukrainian jet killed eight in Luhansk; Verizon had a big sad because Netflix told the truth about its bandwidth-throttling; GM recalled another 106,000 vehicles; a Vermont gun store laid off 41 and blamed Obama, who may also be responsible for the resurgence of polio, decreased sunspot activity, an outbreak of genital herpes and a US plague lab in Kazakhstan. Kenyan police seized hundreds of elephant tusks, the Thai military swept the country for weapons, and Brazil’s “love hotels” were refurbished for the World Cup. But we won’t be talking about any of that. Because this is That Was The Week in Doom, where we look for themes, context, and any good excuse for a rant. We’ll look at capitalism’s assault on our food supply, on the very notion of national self-determination, and at the elite’s favored tool for control, “privatization.”
Last month, Vermont became the first state to mandate that genetic modified organisms be labeled on food sold to consumers. which will go into effect in 2016 The state is already preparing to defend the new law from the legal challenges sure to follow. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has already announced plans to sue, and we’re sure that Monsanto and Syngenta will be close behind. The GMO lobby wants this kicked up to the federal level, where friendly legislators, already on their kness in front of their corporate donors, will quid their pro quo by enacting industry-friendly legislation while slurping up “campaign contributions.” And with former Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor named head of the FDA, who knows what lucky numbers we’ll pull in the upcoming genetic lottery?
After a stint as a Monsanto attorney, and later working as an FDA regulator, Taylor was in charge of a radical reinterpretation of something called the “Delaney clause,” a 1958 regulation which heretofore had prevented any chemical from being added to any processed food if the agent had been found to be carcinogenic:
As analytical instrumentation increased in power and more and more agents were found to be carcinogenic at very low levels, the agencies had developed a quantitative risk assessment approach to interpreting the Delaney Clause, which stated that if a carcinogen was present at levels less than 1 in 1,000,000 parts, the risk of that carcinogen was “de minimis” and it could be allowed on the market. In the article, Taylor presented arguments in favor of this approach. Advocates in favor of organic food have criticized Taylor for taking this stance and have attributed the stance not to a good faith effort to reasonably regulate, but to an alleged desire to benefit Monsanto financially.
Astonishing, yes? Taylor also has his fingerprints on a notice stating that milk from cows treated with BGH did not have to be so labeled.
(If you are unfamiliar with the issues pertaining to GMOs, find an effective summary at the GMO Free USA website. Suffice to say that GMOs, created and patented by chemical and biotech companies, are banned or restricted in over 60 countries.)
GMOs are created through splicing a gene from one species into the DNA of another that would not ordinarily occur in nature. Thus a cold water fish gene can be spliced into a tomato and make the tomato resistant to cold. What could possibly go wrong?
Yet one of the most troubling things that crossed my desk this week was this item:
Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov fed GMO soy to hamsters. He had four groups. One was fed real food. The second was fed real food that had been sprayed with the same pesticide associated with the GMO soy. The will third group was fed GMO soy. And the fourth was fed a diet high in GMO soy. The GMO soy diet after three generations produced offspring nearly incapable of reproducing themselves. In the fourth group’s third generation only one female was capable of giving birth and 25% of her offspring died prematurely, Hair started growing in the mouths of her pups, They were stunted and sterile. Their internal organs including the testes, spleen and uterus were smaller than those of the other hamsters. . . Scientists who appeared on TV were flooded with calls from ranchers who had sterile animals which they attributed to GMO feed. An English scientist who reproduced the GMO rat experiments using potatoes was fired within days of announcing his results.
But it gets worse for Americans just entering childbearing years.
In 2001 Mitch Hein was President of Epicyte, a San Diego bio-tech firm that made a protein that sterilized men and women who ate the corn his company had genetically engineered. Epicyte had gone to Mexico and found a rare protein in women that was known as causing immune infertility. The protein attacked sperm and prevented impregnation. When this Epicyte protein was spliced by them into corn and fed to men, it attacked their sperm and made them infertile. In women this protein attacks sperm making normal conception impossible. This protein has spread by normal plant pollination. It would now be a herculean task to remove from our food supply.
For its part, Monsanto denies ever having worked with Epicyte or its successor, and denies splicing any sperm-killers. This from Ray Dobert, Ph.D., Monsanto’s Biotech Regulatory Policy Lead:
…No, none of our products have ever contained genes encoding for anti-sperm antibodies. To answer your specific question about Epicyte: we did not have any agreements with Epicyte or Biolex Therapeutics (the company that acquired Epicyte in 2004) to conduct joint research or develop products. Claims that Monsanto was involved in the research or development of food crops containing antibodies that kill or block sperm are incorrect.
You be the judge. But if you’re bringing corn to the cookout, make it organic.
Implications of Em-pah
Recently in Information Clearinghouse, Prof. James Petras published, “The Ascent of a New Power Bloc Capitalists, Technocrats and Fanatics.” In it Petras describes how a new power alliance of these three is emerging on a global scale, already flexing its muscles.
Emerging across the globe, far right populism is no longer at the margins of acceptable political discourse, but center stage, much like the American Tea Party. Their energy provides an opening for capitalists to extend their own agenda through the employment of techno-elites to manage, while the enthusiasms of the useful idiots of the right provide electoral access to power.
Here’s how it works:
Today capitalism depends on two seemingly disparate forces. The irrational appeal of ethno-religious supremacists and narrowly trained elite technocrats to advance the rule of capital.
Ethno-religious fanatics seek to promote bonds between the corporate-warlord elite and the masses, by appealing to their ‘common’ religious ethnic identities. The technocrats serve the elite by developing the information systems, formulating the images and messages deceiving and manipulating the masses and designing their economic programs.
The political leaders meet with the corporate elite and warlords to set the political-economic agenda, deciding when to rely on the technocrats and when to moderate or unleash the ethno-religious fanatics.
Imperialism operates via the marriage of science and ethno-religious fanaticism- and both are harnessed to capitalist domination and exploitation.
Petras cites the examples of the recent election of Modi in India, the rule of Erdogan in Turkey, and the Israeli apartheid state. Common elements include links to big capital, police state repression, and endless privatization of public spaces and resources. Sound familiar? Petras further explains how the Euro American Empire will eagerly employ any armed gaggle of fundamentalists in order to achieve its short-term aims: neo-nazis in Ukraine, Al Qaeda in Libya, fundamentalist terrorists in Syria – bedfellows all. And then, once achieved, these “strategic allies” are expendable:
Their tactical alliances with the riff-raff endure until they secure control over the state and eliminate their adversaries. Then the imperialist seek to demote, co-opt, marginalize or eliminate their ‘inconvenient’ allies. The falling out comes about when the fundamentalists seek to restrict foreign capital and impose restrictions on imperial control over resources and territory. At first the empire builders seek ‘opportunists’ among the riff-raff, those willing to sacrifice their ‘ideals’ for money and office. Those who refuse are relegated to secondary positions distant from strategic decision-making or to remote outposts. Those who resist are assassinated or jailed.
The disposal of the riff-raff serves the empire on two counts. It provides the client regime with a fig leaf of respectability and disarms western critics targeting the extremist component of the junta.
Sometimes the rabble have their own ideas and decline to be used by the empire builders, preferring to run things themselves. As in Libya with the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, or the Right Sector riots against the Kiev junta, they refuse to give way and take matters into their own hands. The “Benghazi” story is actually much deeper than right wingers trying to damage Hillary Clinton, and deeply pernicious in what it says about Empire. Petras’ article is worth a read.
The Privatization Scam
Privatization is a necessary tool of the corporate state. An article from Nation of Change exposes the damages done by five different privatization scams being imposed on taxpayers. And scams they are. And guess who’s behind them?
For years we’ve been told that privatization is The Answer. That government is too inefficient, too expensive, too hidebound and resistant to change. If we would only “privatize,” “outsource,” or otherwise find ways to funnel our tax money into private hands, then magic efficiencies will occur, hungry children will miraculously be fed, and choirs of angels will chirp on every corner.
Utter bullshit. Privatization is late stage capitalism’s scheme to return a profit in an era when legitimate profits can no longer be made due to limited growth. So there’s money to be made in selling off the common inheritance of the people, if only you can manage to get your grubby hands on the peoples’ boodle.
The authors have identified five privatization stories gone horribly wrong. Would you be terribly surprised to learn that the names of several Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks, plus the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are prominently mentioned? Thought not. The long–story–short of it is that nonprofits and government are organized to serve a mission, whereas private enterprise is organized to deliver a profit to the owners/shareholders. Guess who guarantees that profit?
In Virginia, urban transportation needs have languished unfunded for a number of years, held hostage by a Republican controlled legislature who prefer “holding the line on taxes” to spending tax dollars on Democrat-controlled cities. The solution? Privatization. In 2011, the regime of disgraced former Republican Governor Bob “Transvaginal Ultrasound” McDonnell succeeded in leasing the bridge tunnels linking Norfolk and Portsmouth to a foreign third-party for 58 years in return for $2.1 bn in construction. The agreement also conveys the ability to set tolls and rates to the private entity. The contract even stipulates that if the private company suffers losses because Virginia builds another crossing, they will be made whole. Guaranteed profits, and built in risk mitigation. Beautiful if you’re a crony, but it sure sucks to live in Portsmouth.
Be assured that any local pol who proposes “privatization” of some government function is intent on selling off the public trust in return for compensation. This is what capitalism looks like when legitimate growth will not deliver expected returns; you’ve got to steal from somebody. “Starve the Beast,” indeed.
Short takes from the week:
And yes, the US is apparently running a bubonic plague lab in Kazakhstan.
This week, the CIA made its first tweet and attempted to reveal a sense of humor. Reviews were mixed:
Department of you can’t make this stuff up.
Pity the youth ministry. It’s a real struggle recruiting kids to your cause. You know who else struggled to recruit the young people? Life Savers Ministries of Opelika, Alabama, sure does.
Via the Columbus, Ga., Ledger-Enquirer: A billboard at the Village Mall in Auburn, Ala., features five smiling kids beneath a quote from Adolf Hitler: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”
According to Lamar Advertising’s Montgomery office, the billboard was rented out by Life Savers Ministries, based in Opelika, Ala.Worse still, the quote—with an attribution, in red, to der führer—sits just above the well-known Bible verse from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The billboard went up Friday and will be taken down Tuesday, per LSM’s request.
“We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion. … Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said, ‘Children are our most valuable resource,'” founder James Anderegg told the Ledger-Enquirer.
Ya think? Know who else had honorable intentions?
CINCINNATI (AP) — One man hit another while newly graduated kindergarten students were celebrating with punch and cookies, triggering a melee that involved up to 20 people and resulted in the lockdown of an elementary school near Cincinnati, authorities said Tuesday.
Mount Healthy Schools Superintendent Lori Handler ordered the lockdown because parents were panicking and school officials wanted to make sure no one else wandered into the fight scene. She said some 150 children were with their families in the school cafeteria when the fight broke out over an apparent domestic dispute.
“People never cease to amaze me,” Handler said. “It was a beautiful ceremony, with grandparents, parents, the 5-year-olds … then out of the blue, the man hit another man in the face. I was absolutely shocked.” Police were seeking Raymond Walker, 33, on charges of assault and inducing panic. No other arrests were made.
“We’re going to prosecute to the fullest extent possible,” Handler said. “We are sending a strong message that you cannot act that way around 5-year-old children.”
Right. Unless you want to act like a five-year-old and show up with your AR-15.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of women both young and young at heart.