Monday, October 27, 2014

Everything you know about genetically modified food is wrong

An increasing amount of the foodstuffs that Americans consume are so-called “Genetically Modified Organisms” (or GMOs), that is, plants and animals that have had foreign genes inserted into them by some process other than traditional selective breeding.

The public debate is between so-called conservatives who insist as a matter of religious faith that GMO foods cannot be harmful and that they will be essential in allowing the rich to add yet more billions to the global population.  (Of course, these conservatives also insist that GMO foods not be labeled – because that would limit the freedom of large corporations to choose to sell GMO foods to people who might not want to buy them.  It’s all about the freedom to choose, you see). 

And the other side of the 'debate' consists of so-called liberals who insist as a matter of religious faith that GMO foods must be harmful (“Frankenfoods”), and demand that all those billions of new people can be easily accommodated if only they would eat more organically-certified granola at Whole Foods (‘Whole Paycheck’).

As usual the grounds of the public debate are insane.  For one, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GMO FOOD.  At least, there is not GMO food as a single thing.  To debate whether GMO food is good or bad is as lunatic as debating whether chemicals are good or bad.  That depends on the chemicals in question, doesn’t it?

Now the genetic blueprint of a plant or animal is coded by a pattern of nucleic acids in its DNA.  That by itself doesn’t matter.  Imagine that you have two printed pages, that are made of identical paper and ink.  One page describes a recipe for chocolate cake, and the other page the manufacturing process for the lethal poison tetrodotoxin (that is found in puffer fish).  The two pages are not different – if you were to eat them, the effect would be the same.  It is only the products of the instructions that are different.

Granted that there might possibly be some mischief that biology could get up to with viruses hacking out bits of the genetic code from GMO foods, still the nucleic acids in the DNA of normal and GMO foods will be digested by you absolutely equally, no matter what they code for or how these genes were inserted.

The trick is that the information in the nucleic acids get translated into proteins – and these ARE different.  These proteins can be enzymes, which can among other things produce even more different kinds of chemicals, including chemicals other than proteins.  And these very much can affect you.

So GMO foods are not a single thing.  They are a thousand things.  We should refer to them as foods that contain chemicals that human beings have never in all of history been exposed to, and these chemicals are present in random mixtures and amounts from one GMO foodstuff to another.  You cannot test GMO foods as a single entity, the idea is absurd.

Imagine a laboratory with ten thousand different chemicals in ten thousand test tubes.  Someone takes a random sampling of these and mixes them up in a single cup.  Five drops from tube 101, three drops from tube 5443, etc.  Now, would you drink it?  Would you let your children drink it?  Why not, you can’t PROVE that it’s dangerous, can you?  Because you have no idea what’s in it and nothing has been tested – so no, you can’t prove that something bad will happen.  Perhaps it won’t.  The human body has many wonderful systems for detoxifying different chemicals.  But you’d still be stupid to do so.

And suppose that someone did perform an exhaustive test on this one mixture, and found that it was indeed safe.  That’s just for that one mixture.  You have not proven that all random mixtures of chemicals are safe, have you? 

If you were so foolish to drink a random mixture of chemicals, the odds are that you wouldn’t drop dead instantly.  You might get sick to your stomach, you might get a headache or a skin rash.  You might be 5% more likely to get cancer in ten years.  Or to become allergic to something.  Or have 2% less memory capacity.  Or be perfectly fine.  In other words, the effects, if any, would most likely be subtle and hard to track. 

Now imagine that you are eating random mixtures of chemicals all the time, without even knowing it.  You develop a weird food allergy, or get cancer.  There is no way for you to link this with any specific GMO food that you might or might not have eaten in the past.  And barring some horrific outbreak of something truly injurious, if GMO foods do harm the public health it will likely be almost impossible to prove the link – because the effects will be subtle and varied, because GMO foods are not a single thing, because we won’t have records of who ate what GMO food when.

And don't even get me started on 'bio-pharming'.  Yes, let's engineer cows that produce powerful drugs or industrial chemicals in their milk.  There is no possibility of that milk getting into the human food supply.  There is no possibility of animal breeders losing track and allowing genes for these drugs to get into the general herds.  Mistakes will never ahppen.  

Now some people say that we need GMO foods to feed the world.  Rubbish.  GMO foods may be somewhat profitable for farmers today, because they can make weeding more efficient, but there is ZERO record of GMO foods significantly increasing crop yields per acre.  ZERO.  It’s a myth.  If you want to stamp out hunger, stop the rich from maximizing population growth.  It’s that simple.  Stop bringing GMO foods into it.

No, in the long run the reason that big business wants GMO foods is to copy-protect the food supply.  The goal is to make it impossible for farmers to grow their own seed, and to force them to buy their seeds from a large monopolistic agribusiness.  To this end, it is irrelevant if the GMO plants are better or not.  It is enough that they be patented or copyrighted.

Remember, if pollen from a GMO crop contaminates a non-GMO field, the farmer with the contaminated crops is guilty of intellectual property theft (I am not making this up).  GMO crops will also increasingly be made sterile – and cross-pollinated crops will also likely be sterile.

If farmers have to buy their seed from a monopoly agribusiness, the price of these seeds will shoot up – and the incentive to improve the seeds will disappear, because monopolies don’t need to invest in product improvements.  One is reminded that the old railway monopolies didn’t produce economies of scale, they only produced steadily more expensive and less efficient transportation.  Because they didn’t need to do anything else.

Think also what this means if most crops don’t produce viable seeds and farmers must buy their seeds from an agribusiness.  What if something goes wrong?  You have a potential single-point failure mode.  What if one year some scientist hits the wrong button on the computer terminal and six months later 70% of the wheat crops fail?  You don’t get a rapid do-over during the growing season. 

I have a modest proposal.  If someday something like this happens, and centralized seed production results in a disaster, that all the proponents of GMO foods and their children and grandchildren be locked up and allowed to starve.  What, you say it’s unfair to punish the families of these people for choices that they themselves didn’t make?  Well, is it fair to penalize your family for choices you didn’t make?  Seems like rough justice to me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Obama must be impeached before it is too late

The title of this post might seem to be a little sensationalist, perhaps even over-the-top.  I assure you that it is not.

Obama is far from the powerless hapless lame-duck president that the corporate press portrays him as.  Obama is almost completely unrestrained by either law or by consideration for his fellow citizens.  Obama is increasingly acting in a lawless manner, he is starting to realize that he can just ignore the laws, do whatever he pleases, and justify himself with transparent word-games or legal sleight-of-hand.  He is opening the borders of the United States to a massive invasion by the overpopulated third world.  Two more years of this and it is likely that a population explosion will have been initiated that no change of government could stop (look up ‘demographic momentum’ on Wikipedia).  The United States will then become just another overpopulated third-world sweatshop of poverty and misery, like India or Pakistan.  And that will be that.

Often in politics the pendulum swings back and forth.  There is an era when the oligarchs rule, and workers are poor, and then there is a reaction, the oligarchs are restrained and workers do better, until eventually the oligarchs ascend again.  Yes this sort of cycle often happens in societies.  Unless it doesn’t.  Sometimes the pendulum swings to one side and it doesn’t come back.  This looks to be one of those times.

Don’t worry about Ebola, or the Islamic caliphate, or the budget deficit, or gay marriage, or any of that.  Not that these things aren’t of consequence, but when someone is threatening to shoot you in the head you don’t waste your time worrying about an overdue cable-TV bill.  Worry about a billion people and more jammed into the United States.  Worry about wages reduced to a dollar an hour or less.  Worry about water shortages, and food shortages, and rampant homelessness.  Worry about cities falling apart, about the national unity fractured into squabbling ethnic racist enclaves.  Worry about hopelessness and despair without end.  Worry about becoming part of the third world.

In Joseph Heller’s book “Catch 22”, there is what he calls “Catch 22B”, which goes, that the people in power can do anything that you can’t stop them from doing.  Obama is starting to really feel this.

It started out with small  things, like administrative changes to Obamacare.  But now, as he realizes that he can do absolutely anything and nobody will stop him, he is getting ready to go for all of it.  So for example: Obama has completely opened the southern border of the United States to illegal immigrants.  He claims that he has to because of some law stating that unaccompanied minors not from Mexico cannot be turned away.  However, most of the people he is letting in are either adults or accompanied children.  The law is not making him do anything.  He’s using that as a fig leaf for what is essentially lawless behavior.

So now Obama is planning to let in 100,000 Haitian nationals and give them work permits and residency.  He will likely claim that there is some law somewhere that allows or requires him to do so, but the reality is that he’s just doing it on his own because nobody can stop him.

We hear that after the midterm elections Obama is planning on giving green cards and grants of permanent residency to effectively an unlimited number of illegal immigrants.  He will claim that somewhere in the vast corpus of federal law there is some loophole that gives him the authority to do this, but again, this is basically lawless.

The rumors come thick and fast.  Obama will change numerical caps on immigration to count, not people, but heads of households.  He will grant automatic refugee status to anyone coming from a poor country.  He will administratively refuse to respect the already too-generous limits on the importation of foreign workers via H1B and other visas (Indeed, he may be doing this now.  How could we know?).  And so on and so forth. 

If someone steals your car, there are police who will arrest them.  If the mayor of a city embezzles funds or otherwise abuses their office, there are higher authorities that can censure them.  If the chief executive of the United States decides to ignore the law, there is no higher authority.  Obama can do anything he wants to at all.  Sure, he will be unpopular.  You think he cares?  He has two years to commit the United States to an irreversible population explosion.  That might be just long enough.

The utter contempt which Obama holds for the American people becomes clearer with every day.  A deadly disease may perhaps be making inroads into the United States – and he’s off to golf with his rich buddies.  His soirees in New York city wining and dining with billionaires causes the average New Yorker to sit for hours in horrible gridlock – and he jokes about it.  ‘Traffic jams?  I didn’t have any problems with the traffic!  <laughter>  Pass the champagne.’  He’s never going to have to face the voters again, and he don’t need no steenkin’ Congress to enact his agenda. 

The only recourse to a president that is refusing to uphold the law is impeachment.  It’s a shame that Bill Clinton being impeached over the Monica Lewinsky affair has trivialized the concept (although that impeachment did inadvertently prevent Bill Clinton from ending Social Security – but I digress).  It’s also a shame that the Republicans started to mutter about impeachment over relatively minor things: that has perversely somewhat immunized Obama from the threat. But we are not talking about lying about oral sex, or changing obscure details in the health insurance laws.  We are, really and truly, talking about treason.  We are talking about failing to uphold the single most important function of government, which is to defend the nation from foreign invasion.  This is what impeachment is for.

One wonders, if Obama was impeached, what if he said “f*ck you?”   What would we do about that?  What if he had the justice department arrest any senators likely to vote against him for obscure campaign finance law violations?  Perhaps that is impossible now.  Perhaps it will be impossible in two years. But the thing is, the longer you tolerate lawless behavior, the less the law is respected, until a day comes that the law as written has no force at all.  At that point the law is only what the rich and powerful say that it is.  And unless you yourself are rich and powerful, you won’t enjoy it.

You might say that impeachment is unthinkable.  If so, then that is because everyone says it is.  The way to make impeachment thinkable, is to keep raising the issue and act as if it is indeed thinkable.  If enough people do so, then it will be. 

Remember, impeachment does not require that the president be guilty of any crime.  It is enough that the American people feel that he is not doing what they want done.  Obama's current four year term was not granted to him by divine right.  Obama is - or he should be - nothing more than a temporarily appointed manager of the executive branch.  If the American people decide, for whatever reason, that Obama is not defending their interests, then impeaching him should be as straightforward as firing a manager who fails to follow instructions.

Of course, if Obama is impeached we will end up with Joe ‘the senator from Mastercard’ Biden, who is just as vile a grifter as Obama though less eloquent.  (However, that might be a good thing.  Better a stupid enemy than a smart one).  But the example would likely restrain Biden, as well as embolden Congress to be more assertive in defending the national interest.  In any event, one problem at a time. 

A foolish politeness is the hobgoblin of sheep and other domestic animals.  To be led to the slaughter with nary a complaint because you are worried about seeming cranky is base masochism.  If you are an American citizen, you are urged to personally call your elected representatives, and demand that Obama’s lawless open-borders immigration policies be stopped, by impeachment if necessary.  You are also urged to never vote for anyone in favor of open borders – and that very much includes people like John McCain and Marco Rubio, who will pose as immigration restrictionists when the election is coming, and then turn around and knife the American worker in the back when it is politically safe for them to do so.

Nobody can read minds.  If a politician says that he has changed his mind about an issue are they lying, or telling the truth?  One can only say that the surest way to predict if a politician will betray you is if they have betrayed you in the past.

Two years to go until Obama retires to his gated community.  Increasingly this looks like  two years too many.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Obama is letting diseases enter the United States not out of incompetence, but because he has other priorities.

Barack Obama has refused to prevent foreign nationals from places where the Ebola virus are endemic entering the United States.  It has recently been in the news that a Liberian National flew here, lied about his contact with Ebola, and came here likely to get free medical care courtesy of the US taxpayer.  In the process he ran up a hell of a medical bill, and has already spread the disease to US citizens.

It should be noted that African countries from Kenya to South Africa to Nigeria etc. have closed off travel from countries with endemic Ebola, and it seems to be working.  So African countries close their borders to disease to protect their citizens, but the US border remains wide open.  How's that for a kick in the head?

But it gets better.  Recent news has it that Obama has been actually speeding up the process of giving entry visas to people who want to come here from Liberia!  There are also reports that Obama is considering setting up programs where anyone sick with Ebola can come to the United States for treatment - and of course they will doubtless be able to bring  along their family members, all of whom will be allowed to stay permanently...

I hope that the Ebola virus does not spread widely throughout the United States, but that is the extent of the US government’s plan.  Hope.  (Hey, now Obama’s campaign slogan is finally starting to make sense!)  Maybe Ebola won’t be as contagious in a first world setting as some fear, and all those millions of African refugees swarming into this country won’t set off a pandemic.  Or maybe they will.  I guess we will all find out.

Similarly, the enterovirus D68 has until recently been rare in the United States.  However, it's been endemic in Central America.  

This virus only became significant in the United States after Obama started accepting tens of thousands of accompanied (yes, accompanied, thank you very much) illegal immigrant children from Central America and placing them in schools all across the United States and exempting them from any health screenings.  

Now the federal government could dispel the suspicion that it caused this outbreak of D68 in a second, by showing us a map of places where the illegal immigrant children have been placed and the sites of D68 outbreak foci.  But they won't.  Which sure suggests that they have something to hide.  (Or that they just don’t care what the American people think – that fits as well, I must admit).

Even if you believe that the United States somehow needs to accept the surplus populations of Central America, that doesn't mean that you can't do health screenings.  But that would take some effort and time set up.  Which would, at least temporarily, slow down the rate at which these foreign nationals can enter the United States.  Which would slow down the rate at which wages for the many are pushed down, and profits for the few raised up.  Which is the entire story.

The post-1970 change in the previously restrictive US immigration policy has so far increased the population of the United States by about 80 million more than it otherwise would be, and has significantly reduced wages and increased profits.  However, we have a long way to go to before we reach the levels of impoverishment seen in places like India.  It would really take a population of over a billion to drive the United States down to that level.  That's the plan. 

So people fleeing the ebola epidemic in Liberia are allowed in.  People fleeing the poverty and violence that come from too-rapid population growth are all allowed in.  Guest workers skilled and unskilled are all allowed in - along with their families, and they are allowed to stay permanently.  Women fleeing sexual harassment at the hands of male family members - and said abusive males will also be allowed to follow them here as well (to avoid splitting up families, you know).  People who win US citizenship as a lottery prize.  Gang members.  Physicists.  Sinners.  Saints.  The healthy.  The sick.  Muslim fanatics that hate America.  Russian hockey players.  The point is to just jam in as many people as possible as fast as possible by as many means as possible.  It's all about the numbers.  

The faster you can jam in more people, the faster wages will fall and profits will rise.  It will also accelerate the point of no return, where even if the American people regain control of their government, the population will be so large that permanent poverty will be locked in place.  

Obama is allowing people carrying diseases for which Americans have neither innate immunity nor vaccinations into the country en masse.  That is a fact.  However it works out, this is certainly a great risk to the health of US citizens.  He is not doing this because he is incompetent or stupid.  He’s not doing it because he hates Americans and wants them to die.  He’s doing it because the rich want open borders and they want Obama to dump as many people into the labor market as fast as possible.  Any bad side effects of this are just the cost of business.  Nothing personal.

When white slaveowners in the ante-bellum American south imported black slaves from Africa, it wasn’t because they hated blacks.  It was because they wanted the easy profits that come from cheap labor.  I mean, without imported slaves, the plantation lifestyle would have been impossible – instead, you would have had middle-class family-owned farms like in the Midwest (and look how badly that turned out).

Now when slaves were shipped from Africa, the mortality rates on the voyages were often atrociously high.  But the slaveship captains were neither stupid nor needlessly cruel: it was all about maximizing profits.  Suppose that, for a given ship and amount of supplies, if you ship 300 slaves, 100 of them die, and 200 survive.  On the other hand, suppose that you ship 100 slaves, and all of them survive.  Well, 200 is more than 100.  That’s it.  Nothing personal.

The terrorists of the 9/11 attacks on the United States were mostly illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Such an attack could never have occurred a decade or two before, when the laws against illegal immigration were actually enforced.  In fact, some of the illegal immigrant terrorists only got on the planes because they had been issued valid US driver’s licenses!  Now I don’t think that George W. Bush wanted terrorists to attack the United States.  It’s just that he had other priorities. 

You might ask, but what if the rich themselves, or their children, get sick?  Good question. 

First, the rich live in gated communities far from the teeming masses, and you can bet the federal government won’t force their children’s schools to accept medically unscreened illegal immigrants.  They fly on private planes from private terminals – no mass exposure there.  And if they do still manage to get sick they will get the best medical care, no questions asked.  

If the policies of the rich make things really bad, the rich can always take their loot and move to some nice safe country with enforced borders.  Kind of like the cruise ship captain that let his boat founder and then was the first into the life rafts.

But if some of the rich themselves do succumb to a disease that they allowed to spread, well, if that risk is the cost of remaining rich then it’s a choice the rich will make.

I am reminded of the following section from Joseph Heller’s book Catch 22.  Nately had been shot while on a bombing mission with Yossarian, and when Yossarian opened the medical kit, he found that it was empty: Milo Minderbinder had stolen the supplies and left behind paper shares of stock in his syndicate.

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Nately died a wealthy man, Yossarian. He had over sixty shares in the syndicate.
Yossarian: What difference does that make? He's dead.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his family will get it.
Yossarian: He didn't have time to have a family.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his parents will get it.
Yossarian: They don't need it, they're rich.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then they'll understand.

You may think this view of the rich is unrealistically harsh, even cartoonish.  I assure you that it is not.  Consider.  In the ante-bellum American south rich planters maintained people in brutal abject slavery for the sole purpose of lowering their labor costs.  They fought a bloody war to maintain their slavery-dependent profits.  Many of them sacrificed their own sons in this cause. 

Think about that as you read the headlines about Ebola and enterovirus D68 and Dengue fever and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and Chagas and Yellow Fever and Chikungunya and scabies and all the other diseases that are, all of a sudden,  ‘mysteriously’ becoming more common in the United States….

But keep your eye on the prize.  Obama knows that the main event is not Ebola, but the numbers.  In India today there are half a billion people suffering from chronic malnutrition, they live lives that are as miserable as any slave laborer, but with effectively no hope of rescue.  This didn't occur because of Ebola.  This occurred because the Indian government encouraged people to have far more children than they could afford to support.  And whether the hordes of third world refugees that Obama is allowing to enter the Untied States do or do not significantly increase diseases here, they absolutely WILL increase the numbers, which will eventually crush the average American down to the level of India.  

Do not fear Ebola.  Obama's allowing Ebola to enter the United States is more of a warning, a symbol of his total disrespect for the American people.  The main thing is the numbers.  Think on the hopeless misery of the people living in India and Pakistan and Egypt etc.etc.  It can happen here.  And if Obama and his plutocrat sugar daddies get their way, it will.