Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reagan the false idol

I grew up with Ronald Reagan for president. I remember the hope, the optimism and the charges against the liberals. I was conservative then. I really believed that Reagan was going to clean things up. But then there was the Savings and Loan Scandal. People got killed over that, but you didn't see that in the mainstream news. To learn about that, you had to read a book. There was Iran-Contra and many more. Reagan even put the unions on a slide to oblivion, a move that was disastrous for the middle class. So Reagan was far from perfect and maybe he was starting to slide into dementia towards the end of his term. But there are some on the right who want to idolize him. I don't.

Some say that we experienced the greatest economic boom ever under Reagan. Actually, we didn't. Reagan wasn't the greatest job creator. That was Clinton. Even President Carter was a better job creator than Reagan. Obama is having a tough time, but that is because he has a Tea Party faction in Congress that is defying him at every opportunity rather than working with him. Why? They idolize Reagan.

They sincerely believe that Reagan was the bomb, that Reagan did for our country what no other president could do. But they refuse to admit the truth: the conservative agenda is not about free markets. It's about economic policy that drives money up to the top, rather than allowing everyone to participate in a prosperous economy.

Economists are going over the history and they are seeing the failure of neoliberalism, the economic policies that support the wealthy and leave everyone else out to dry. Under Carter and Clinton, we were creating jobs. Historians and economists have documented an interesting trend: Democrat presidents are far better at creating jobs than Republicans. This has held true pretty much since the Great Depression.

Why is this? I see the Republican Party, as of now, as the party of the wealthy. Wealthy people hold capital and capital does not like labor. Labor is expensive because they're humans and employees need insurance. But if assets can be rented, borrowed, consumed, well, capital loves that. Much of that borrowing and using can be tracked by computers, and all we really need is customer service, right?

A look at the fastest growing jobs shows that there is very little building going on and lots of service. God forbid us from investing in infrastructure say the Republicans in Congress (In my state, at least, Republicans believe in infrastructure). We have crumbling bridges and roads all over our country and yet, hardly anyone in Congress is talking about rebuilding our bridges and roads. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Most of the damage was caused by inadequate care of the levees. Had the levees been maintained properly under Bush, New Orleans would not have been flooded.

See the difference in priorities? Conservatives are very busy taking profits out of the country and will put profits before infrastructure. They seem more concerned with what has been taken away in taxes than with what they have been given by work, luck and circumstance.

Reagan was not a god, and much of what is said about him and his policies is myth, unsupported by a thorough economic analysis. Remember that the next time you are confronted with the prospect of voting for a candidate who idolizes Reagan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Smooth English

As an impressionable young boy, I had the good fortune to be exposed to the Schoolhouse Rock videos that were prominently featured on the ABC television network. I can remember titles like "My Hero Zero" a story about the powers of ten, "I'm Just a Bill" a civics lesson and "Interjections!". But the one video that made the greatest impression on me was Conjunction Junction, the story of conjunctions. Looking back, I'm surprised that any television network would air such high order thinking in front of kids. I mean, who needs critical thinking skills when you're trying to sell something?

What are conjunctions? They are just some of the little words between other words, phrases and clauses. As the video "Conjunction Junction" shows us, words like "but", "or", and "and" allow us to string words together to communicate a thought. As I write or speak, I look for places where they are needed to make sure that what I say is clear, so that I'm properly understood.

This article is wider in scope than just conjunctions. I think of all the 1, 2, 3 and even 4 letter words that I tend to find missing in articles I read on the internet. Words like "a", "is", "that", "was", "be", and of course, "the". Those little words are the grease in what I write and what I read.

When I write a complex sentence, I read it aloud in my head to make sure that it flows nicely, just like they taught me in school. I want you to be able to read my prose without stopping to think, "Hey! You're missing a word! Now I have to fill it in for myself!" See? The preceding quoted passage had a few more of those itty-bitty words.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to make a sentence flow better in text. But what about speech? I used to be a member of Toastmasters and there, I became acquainted with the "Ah counter". In Toastmasters, I became painfully aware of the dreaded Ahs, Ums and Hmms, in speech. Whenever I did that during a speech, I heard someone dropping a coin in a can to remind me of what I just did.

Those sounds are not words, but we use them to pause our speech and give us more time to access memory or formulate new thoughts while keeping our hands on the virtual podium before us while we talk to our friends and family. I call that behavior, "holding the floor". That one exercise in Toastmasters created discipline in my speech that has never left me since. Even in casual conversation, you won't hear me saying any of that because I want every word to count.

Just as I speak, when I write, I want every word to count, too. I want every passage to be smooth and unbroken in your mind as you read them. If you're correcting my grammar in your mind while you read my words, you won't enjoy the article quite as without correcting me. So look for those little words the next time you read or write anything, anywhere. You'll find that those little words make every passage a little easier to traverse.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fiction: Awake in a clean world again, Part 1

Jack wakes up to a bright, clean room. Soft white light fills the room as sunlight bounces from wall to wall. The scene is eerie, almost as if Jack is in heaven, but he's not really sure.

As he squints from the bright sunlight, Jack scans the room for anything familiar. Although he has memories of his home in Carmel, California, he doesn't see any sign of his comfortable abode off Pacific Coast Highway. The sheets, the blanket, the walls, even the bed frame are all white. Jack is the only color in the room save for a screen showing what appears to be his pulse. He smells what seems to be iodine wafting into the room. That smells like a hospital and another memory stirs in his mind.

He has a faint memory of cancer. It was advanced and during his last waking hours, before the big sleep, he had a conversation.

"What do you mean I have cancer?" he asks, hardly containing his shock, his grief, as all of the ramifications that come with the diagnosis filled his mind. He ate well, he exercised, no drinking no smoking, nothing, really. Except maybe some aging.

"Jack, we've gone over everything 3 times just to be sure. We caught it early, but it's aggressive and at this point in time, there is no cure." Dr. Klugman was firm in his resolve to help Jack recover from the shock of the diagnosis, but unable to do more than play messenger. Another day, another diagnosis, and it was wearing thin on him. "We'll do what we can to extend your life, but I'm sorry, Jack. There isn't much we can do."

Jack had the means and the determination to beat this. He had spent months doing his own research to see if there was a way out. There was none. Except time.

Jack had heard about cryogenics and searched for weeks to find the right outfit to do the job. He just wanted to stay alive long enough to find a cure. He had seen his friends go through the same trial. Diagnosis, surgery, chemo. They all lived seemingly happy lives thereafter with no recurrence, no complications. But when his turn came up, well, it just wasn't that simple.

He met with his family and put all of his affairs in order. His wife Theresa cried and knew that this was the end, at least for him. She begged him not to do it, not to go in the deep freeze, but he was undeterred. They were still fairly young and Jack figured that cryogenics would slow the cancer long enough for someone to find a cure.

What he had depended on was odds, long odds, with a fervent hope that he wouldn't be waiting that long to find a cure. He remembered going under, but after being awake for awhile, still unsure how long he had been under. There were no calendars in the room, only clocks. It was 9:30 in the morning and the day felt young. His eyes had adjusted to the light and looked out the window. No landscape, but there, the sky...it was bluer than he could remember. So where is everybody....?

The door to his room was ajar, he began to notice that he could hear activity outside, voices, footsteps, clattering of hardware and bottles, doors sliding open and shut. The scope of his attention was starting to expand as he sized up his surroundings again with better vision. Suddenly, a sharp pang hit his gut. He was hungry. Surely someone must have noticed that he's awake with all this gear taped to him.

He could now clearly see the tiny screens showing his heartbeat, his breathing, his blood pressure. It was all green and he was glad. There was water in a glass on the table nearby. He reached for it, grasped it and failed to retrieve it as it tumbled to the floor in a crash.

A nurse stepped in. "Good morning, Jack. Are you OK?"

"I'm fine, thanks. Just a bit groggy. Hungry. Thirsty. Can I have a glass of water?"

The nurse was attentive and reviewed the screens as she poured another glass of water for Jack. She handed it to Jack and this time, Jack got a firm grip on the glass and started with sips. Then glugs and in a few swigs, finished the glass off with a sigh. "This water tastes almost sweet. It's like I haven't had water in a long, long time. What's in it?"

"Just water, but you really didn't need it. You've been on an IV since we revived you." The nurse had a curious expression. Jack knew he was under observation, but was not entirely sure what she was looking for. She was slim from walking room to room every day, but she looked a bit tired. Jack thought that maybe she was burdened with the fatigue of seeing so many people die in these rooms.

"Your charts look good, Jack. How do you feel?"

"Oh, I'm OK, I guess. I just feel a little weird in this room. Kind of like I don't really belong here. Where am I?"

The nurse drew a breath through her lips and looked at him carefully. "You're in Missoula, Montana."

Missoula, Missoula, Missoula, he wondered to himself. Now just how did he get here again? He tried to scavenge his memory but all he remembered was talking about cryogenics.

A lot has changed since he went to sleep that fateful day. As the nurse disconnects the IV, she notes his vital signs and smiles at him. "We've notified a doctor that you're awake. He should be here in about 20 minutes. Would you like something to read, or maybe to watch TV?"

Jack considered the options for a moment and settled on something to read. "Sure, if you have a few magazines, I'd like to browse while I'm waiting."

The nurse left the room and came back with a tablet. Now Jack was curious because this was no ordinary tablet, to him, anyway. It was thin and flexible, like a sheet of mylar. But sure enough it had a display and responded to his touch. The nurse slipped away as Jack absorbed himself in the tablet.

The tablet was intuitive and responded well to his touch. He had used tablets before and was comfortable using his fingers to navigate. "The date. What's the date today?" That's what he wanted to know.

He found that he could browse the web. He looked for a familiar news source. "Where the hell is Google!?! I can't find Google!" But he did manage to find Time Magazine. He found a story, the byline and the date. It was...

Friday, August 22, 2014

A tiny town in Maine takes on Time-Warner Cable and wins

Rockport, Maine isn't a very big town. With 3300 people, it hardly counts as a blip in a nation of 300 million. Struggling to get decent speeds from the government-protected, local private monopoly ISP, Time-Warner, the citizens of Rockport took matters into their own hands and built the network they wanted despite Time-Warner Cable.

In order to finance the construction of the network, they raised their own taxes. They voted twice to get the laws just right. Then they worked with a private firm to do the engineering and get it right. The total cost was about $60k, and it will only service 70 homes on a 1.2 mile network. But now they have a foundation to build upon should they decide to expand.

I've read about many other networks on a much larger scale, the most famous of which is the network built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by the Electric Power Board (EPB). Such networks are becoming more common. Unfortunately, the bigger networks meet with all kinds of resistance from the incumbents. From legislation to litigation, community broadband gets hammered by private interests seeking to extend or maintain their private monopolies - that local governments protect through franchise agreements.

So I am surprised to see that this very small town was able to see their network through to completion. Perhaps it was easier because, if TWC didn't see enough money to build a decent network there, in Rockport, then perhaps it wasn't worth the fight to stop them, either. Rockport now has a network that provides symmetrical gigabit access for only $70 a month - far outperforming the TWC network that the carrier was unwilling to improve.

It might be cliche to say that the community broadband movement is the nightmare incumbent carriers were hoping to avoid, but it's here, that nightmare. Let's not forget that incumbent carriers were handed the monopolies they have, on a silver platter, more than 20 years ago. It was a gift that just kept on giving. But the cable and telco monopolies refused to give back. Worse, they refused to keep up with the rest of the world.

To add insult to injury, Comcast and Verizon throttled big internet players like Netflix and asked for more money to keep Netflix customers happy. The foot-dragging and anti-competitive practices of the incumbent carriers is very well documented. But we don't have to put up with it much longer.

Yes, they can file lawsuits, but they always lose. No community broadband project has ever been completely defeated by litigation. Oh, that'll slow them down, but eventually, they come back.

Yes, they can work with ALEC to write and pass legislation that stifles community broadband efforts at the state level, but look at what incumbent carriers like Comcast and Verizon are fighting: jobs, economic progress, better access to the worldwide community, a voice in government. Yes, Comcast would prefer its profits over a better economy.

In Missoula, Montana, they are also pursuing a fiber project. At the same time, Google Fiber has been investigating setting up shop there, too. But people local to the area are beginning to question the wisdom of getting involved with Google Fiber. Maybe they heard about Provo, and how Provo sold it's network to Google Fiber for a dollar and still has to pay off a mountain of debt left over from a failed network effort by Utopia. Had they waited, they might have had a chance to work with Macquarie Capital in a much better deal.

Community broadband isn't a fad. It is a rational response to incumbent service providers that have taken the public trust for granted. When citizens have been shorted by companies like Comcast, Verizon, Time-Warner and AT&T, those same citizens have every right to pool their resources in their local government to build a better network. Just like they did in Rockport, Maine.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reading upon sight

I remember my first reading classes. I was one of the early birds and got into the early reading groups in 1st grade. I don't remember the process of learning to read so well, other than that we read in groups and that I started to get into it with enthusiasm. I can remember at some point, starting to alter my voice for humor, something my teacher, Mrs. Sweeney, seemed to frown upon.

I also remember the I Can Read Book Club. Books like "Johnny the Firecat" would come in the mail with my name on it. I had no idea that Mom had set up a subscription for me, but I loved getting those books in the mail.

There is something that I noticed about reading, around the time that Dad decided that in order to take a nap, I needed to sit in the corner when I made any noise that happened to disturb his sleep. There were items nearby with words on them, words that I could read. I was bored, so I just kept reading them over and over again.

What was significant about this experience is that I discovered that I could not look at a word without reading it. Reading was automatic for me and anytime I saw a word, I read it and could hear the voice in my head go off with the sound of the word, whatever that might be. No word passes my eyes without reading it. Unless it's advertising. Then I find ways to avoid reading or to focus somewhere else.

It is estimated that there are 3 billion people on the planet who do not know how to read. That suggests that reading is not something we're necessarily evolved to do. We've adapted to reading for communication and education. Honestly, I could not imagine what life would be like without reading, other than, it would be be like grinding dirt all day. Hard, manual labor, for no particular purpose other than just survival. I'd be alive, but not living.

I've known some who were functionally illiterate when they graduated high school, but somehow they made it. Not knowing how to read today is worse than not knowing how to type. I took typing just to meet girls in school, with a voice in the back of my head saying that someday, I may need to know how to type. Today, I work as a writer, well not really a writer, but my job requires me to read and write emails, service request logs and other forms of communication.

Technology requires us to read in order to use it. Just to get started, we have to read instructions to know how to use it, too. Despite the criticism pointed at the internet, many have recognized that the internet, the world wide web, and the proliferation of free software with all the coding required to create it and maintain it, has fostered a sort of revolution or renaissance of literacy. The internet is, as one researcher put it, "saturated in text", and only the most literate societies can enjoy it. The US is one of those societies.

The implications of this reading revolution are profound and few if any of us will know all of the implications for quite some time. People read the internet in a way that is different than print. I like to read the internet because it feels more alive than print. Even printed books converted to PDF that can be read on a screen are not quite as appealing as reading a website with a recent article. Like today.

Without this "second nature" of reading that I experience when I do read, I could not really enjoy the internet in all of its permutations. Sure, I could watch video, listen to music or voice, and maybe even play games. But my mind wanders and wants to know more.

I've found that although I can watch video and learn something from it, reading offers a special experience that I can't get from video. For one, I am hard of hearing, so I never miss a word when I read. Second, when I hear the words as I read them, in my own voice, I'm asking questions that I could not ask while listening to someone else talk. Comprehension is a very big part of taking in new information, and I find that comprehension is far easier while reading than while listening.

So when you're in a waiting room, or standing in line somewhere, try to look at a sign without reading it. If you can't help but hear the words you see in your mind, you have a gift that will never stop giving. If you have kids, you can give it to them, too. It's automatic once you learn how to do it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Media consolidation - just another reason for community broadband

There is no question that media consolidation has been a problem in this country, no less the world. Media consolidation is very well documented and estimates indicate that we have consolidated 50 companies in the 1980s to 7 now. In other words, every major news outlet that we can find can be traced to a parent company in that group of 7. Media consolidation is covered in depth at the FreePress website.

Some say that nothing in politics happens by accident. Then it might not be an accident that we have experienced so much media consolidation. Remember, when there is consolidation in an industry, there is much less competition. Perchance, I found myself watching the morning news on the weekend with my wife. I found that there wasn't very much news. Mostly, it was a sort of variety show with two very happy anchors sharing banter and jokes with their correspondents around town. What was on the screen reminded me very much of watching open-access cable TV, you know, like Wayne's World.

That kind of attitude about TV by the people on the set suggests that there really isn't that much competition between television networks. Checking the listings, the next program was a paid advertising program, that is a 1-hour show that is nothing but paid advertising. The channel lineup has many more paid advertising channels than I can remember. Those paid advertising channels are the Shopping Channel, QVC, and so on. That's a very different landscape than what I remember as a young man, or as a kid.

Two of the big 7, Comcast and Time-Warner are not just media companies, they are internet service providers as well. They are in a position to dictate terms to their customers given the vast size of their monopoly. In recent months, Comcast and Time-Warner have even proposed a merger of two titans into one company. The guys at TechDirt have run the numbers and estimate that Comcast/Time-Warner would have 47% of the high-speed internet market, and that is a very conservative estimate. Comcast has already admitted that Verizon is it's only real competitor, and it's worth nothing that both of them are protected by government franchise agreements with cities all over the country. They are not just private monopolies, they are government protected private monopolies.

These same two companies have already been found to be slowing traffic from Netflix in order to get more money from Netflix. Who knows what else they are doing in order to tip the scales in their favor. We know that they have very powerful lobbies in Congress and in state legislatures, too.

As an example, take a look at DNS, the Domain Name Service, on the internet. DNS converts the domain name that you enter into a browser into an Internet Protocol address. For example, Google.com translates to 74.125.239.46 - this is what is returned by the ping command. Comcast could alter the DNS service so that a website they don't want you to see doesn't exist as far as they are concerned.

Now I have no proof that they are doing that, but I would not be surprised if that is what they are doing. I don't use the DNS of any internet service providers anymore because I'm suspicious of their drive for complete and total monopoly power. I use Google DNS (8.8.8.8/8.8.4.4) or OpenDNS (208.67.222.222/208.67.220.220). I've been using one of those two for years.

Currently, there is a fight brewing over a relatively recent development: community broadband. For a few years, under the radar, cities that could not get high speed service began to build their own networks after years of begging the incumbents to provide better service. Companies like AT&T, Time-Warner, Comcast and Verizon, refused to do so with impunity and with local monopoly power.

The most notable example of community broadband is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they built their own community owned network with the local power utility, EPB. By 2010, they had 100mbs, roughly 33 times faster than surrounding areas. Now they have gigabit speeds, 300 times faster than the surrounding areas for $70 a month. Residents nearby have made numerous requests for the same service, only to be told that a state law prevents them from expanding service. Who wrote these laws? The cable and phone companies, completely mortified at the thought of competition, through their favorite proxy, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

This sort of legislation was cooked up by conservatives under the guise of, "Incompetent governments should not be competing with private enterprise with our tax dollars". Yet, time and time again, people willingly vote for higher taxes to pay for a community network. I know I would. Whatever it takes to get away from Comcast and Centurylink, I will do.

As it stands now, more than 400 cities and towns have built their own networks to get that freedom from the incumbent carriers. What I find really interesting is that private enterprise is afraid to compete with an incompetent government in the broadband market. This fear seems very disproportionate in areas where there is limited to zero service and no competition. What is it that the cable company fears when citizens raise their own taxes to build their own network? After all, the cable and telcos had what they wanted handed to them: a competition free service area with a captured audience. Disintermediation.

In many communities with community broadband, internet access is considered a utility. Let's compare Comcast to a water utility just for a thought experiment. When build a new home, I go to the city to make sure that I get water service, and I get it, right? If I want to use more water, I can get it, right?

But when I want internet access, I have to go to Comcast, the only carrier in town. Oh, sure, I could use Centurylink, but Comcast and Centurylink already have an implicit agreement on territories, so if I want faster service, I have to go to Comcast. But what if a board of directors in New York has decided on a policy that identifies my part of town as a low value neighborhood? What if when I get to the counter at the local Comcast offices, they tell me not only that I can't get their service, but that they have no plans to offer service at my address? Where do I go to get service?

Oh, that's right. I can go to Centurylink and get 5mbs - but no more than that. But then I discover that Centurylink offers crappy service and there is no alternative. This is what community broadband is all about. It's not about competing with cable or telephone companies. Community broadband is about providing a service, that incumbents are unwilling to provide.

On my street, I have Comcast and Centurylink. Centurylink only offers 5mbs and of that, they only guarantee 80%, which is effectively, 4mbs. With Comcast, I had to wait a year and half to get service with periodic phone calls and emails. It was only when I found someone up to the challenge of getting me hooked up did I get service from Comcast. Above 5mbs, Comcast has no competition on my street.

So when Marsha Blackburn offers an amendment that excludes funding for any action on the part of the FCC that would pre-empt state laws that limit or prohibit community broadband, and every House Republican votes in favor of that, we know where they stand. In the pockets of incumbent carriers. Sure, they could paint this as a states rights issue, but really, for them, it is an incumbent carrier rights issue.

In every case where community broadband has been deployed, the deployment agency has done well, customers are happy, incumbents have improved service and dropped their prices, and jobs have been created. Marsha Blackburn and everyone who voted for her amendment, including my own Democrat representative, Jim Matheson, vote against community choice. They apparently don't want communities to decide for themselves how to get access to the internet. They don't want to see better broadband service creating jobs, helping communities to compete in a global economy.

When communities cannot get the high speed internet access they need to create jobs, grow their economies and compete with the world, they have every right to build their own networks with their own money. That is what the incumbent providers like Comcast are set against.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where's the accountability with GMOs?

I've participated in many, many debates on the pros and cons of GMOs. I'm a skeptic. I'm not totally convinced that GMOs are safe and I believe that they need to be labeled, clearly, with references so that every shopper can make up their own minds about consumption. I also believe that the patent protection should be removed and that strict liability should be applied to their producers and distributors and even the farmers. Yes, the farmers. Once everyone involved is clear about liability and where it points when someone gets hurt, either directly or indirectly, I doubt very seriously that many would want to sell them for fear of ginormous lawsuits.

Proponents of GMOs believe that it's a grand idea to shoot isolated genes into foreign genomes, get a patent on the seed for some novel benefit that has yet to be proven, and collect royalties from anyone who grows seeds with the same genes, even if by accident downwind. Injecting isolated genes into a foreign cell is just one way to do it. They use viruses to insert a desired gene into a foreign cell's DNA, too.

First, let's dispense with the notion that these novel "inventions" deserve any patent protection at all. The means and methods used to transplant foreign genes are not so novel. It turns out that gene migration is quite common in nature. Genes migrate from one species to another through many vectors, including viruses. GMO scientists are doing nothing new that hasn't already been done by nature.

If ADM were truly feeding the world with their toxic chemical laden agriculture, we would not see reports from the UN, supposed bastion of commercial power and protection, reminding us that small scale, organic farming is the best way to feed the world. There is even mounting evidence that organic farming can help to reverse global warming through carbon sequestration. Note that most pesticides and herbicides come from petroleum bases and that comes from oil, and the oil, mostly comes from the middle east. Buying organic reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

Let's not forget that the sole purpose of the gene, any gene, is to replicate. Every genome in every animal has one prime directive that rises above all other causes: replication. Genes replicate by design and will find every practical means to replicate. We know that humans will make any excuse to replicate, and that arises from the power of genes.

Since genes by their very nature replicate, there is no reason to think that patents are required to spread the benefits of the so-called inventions from the likes of Monsanto, ADM and Dow. Once created, replication will take over. Besides, whatever research such companies do has already been paid for by tax dollars, that by happy coincidence, come from average people like you and me. Only 9% of federal revenue is from corporations. You know who pays the rest.

The sole reason for the existence of the patent system is to advance the sciences and the arts. The people who advocated for the patent system when this country was born believed that innovations would proliferate with patent protection. Unfortunately, even highly respected authorities have trouble showing anything more than "common sense" to support the maintenance of a patent system. For some reason, it's really hard to find empirical evidence to show that patent protection actually increases the rate of innovation. Two authors of a report from the Federal Reserve Bank find that the evidence in support of a patent system is so unconvincing, that they recommend the abolition of patents. All of them. I agree with them.

In any case, the gene patents at stake in soy and corn (to name two) not only fail to advance the sciences and the arts, they are giving rise to seed monopolies that place control of our food supplies in the hands of a very few, very powerful interests. That set does not include average Americans.

The use of these GMO seeds is concurrent with increasing use of weed killers, particularly, glyphosphate, a product from Monsanto. Dow Chemical is offering seeds that protect against Agent Orange. They want to use Agent Orange to kill weeds within our crops?

Few if any of the GMO apologists are talking about the superweeds that are created when the weeds finally develop resistance to the weed killers. Funny how they didn't mention that in the face of adversity, life adapts. Who will pay to deal with the invasive species that arise from over use of toxic weed killers? The chemical companies? I doubt it. Remember, they don't want the food labeled. That means they don't want to assume any liability whatsoever for the potential damage from GMO consumption. It would follow that they don't want to assume liability for their weed killers, too.

The monoculture that arises from very large scale farming is the reason we are led to believe that we need GMOs. The monoculture creates a big fat target for pests and viruses. You know, like Windows. Windows holds a 95% share of desktops in computers. Windows is more widely studied by criminals than any other operating system because it's everywhere. The monoculture of Windows has made it easy to hack for fun and profit.

The same has become true of the giant farms and their monoculture crops. Large scale agriculture has given rise to acres of farmland where all the food has essentially the same genes. This makes for real fun for viruses, which can spread quickly on that farmland because everything growing there has the same genes. In the wild, viruses can't spread that quickly because of the diversity of the genes out there. The monoculture farms we have now are not natural.

Small scale organic farming would create biodiversity in our farmland. Small scale farming would also spread out the risk of farming failures from a few really big farms to millions of little farms everywhere. The concentration of farming is not only bad for business, it's bad for national security. Millions of little neighborhood farms everywhere mitigates the risk of large scale farm failures in the event of a terrorist attack on them, something we need to do if we're really serious about limiting terrorism.

Despite all this, big business has a really hard time taking responsibility for the damage they create as they pursue the big bucks. Once power is accumulated among the chosen few, they will fight any effort to redistribute that power with all their might. The primary purpose of large scale farming isn't about feeding people. It's about power over people.

It's worth nothing that this isn't just a problem with newfangled tech like GMOs. This seeming lack of responsibility is duly noted in the oil industry, too. BP had to be wrestled to the ground by the Obama administration before they became willing to put any money into cleanup and reparations for the Deepwater oil spill. If there were no public outcry, I doubt anything would have been done.

When asked about safety, Monsanto will promptly point to their lap dog, the Food and Drug Administration and say, "See that little puppy over there? They're responsible for making sure our food supply is safe. Why don't you talk to them?" Monsanto can count on their captured regulatory agency for protection from liability for their own products. All they have to do is hold out the promise of a cushy job in a corner office somewhere to a hapless regulator and they get their wish.

I've been around long enough to see that the Reagan Revolution, after 30 years, has brought us monopoly capitalism. Monopoly capitalism means that the corporations don't have to listen to the people for their protection comes from the government. It is only when governments and corporations are reminded by the people where the real power comes from, that they listen.

Every state constitution will tell you that all power resides in The People - its usually right in the preamble, you know, at the beginning, so it must be really important. The People have to remind the leaders about this from time to time. Howard Zinn says that protest is what we see when the institutions that are supposed to serve us, courts, legislatures and administrations are insufficient to respond to grievances. We're seeing this over and over, from the World Trade Organization whenever they have a meeting somewhere to Ferguson, Missouri. We saw hundreds of thousands of people gather in protest of the Iraq War, a war over oil. The same oil that is the base stock for the pesticides used on our farms, for crops that require special genes to survive the pesticide.

I can't remember where I saw it, but I saw a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson where he said "we should not become tyrants of the land". Genetically modified organisms and their corresponding chemical pesticides are the ultimate expression of the tyranny that Jefferson warned us about. With that tyranny comes zero accountability from the people who impose that tyranny upon others.