Category Archives: Science

Industrial Farming: Expensive, Inefficient and Dangerous

But let’s do it anyway, shall we? Let’s eliminate family farms despite the fact that on only 25% of the planet’s arable land, family farms provide about 70% of the world’s food while the industrial farms of Big Agro own 75% of the land and produce only 30% of the food supply.

Yessir, that’s the right system for us.

The world is increasingly hungry because small farmers are losing access to farmland. Small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland, a new report reveals. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.

“Small farmers are losing land at a tremendous rate. It’s a land reform movement in reverse,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers, which released the report Thursday.

Nothing about this way of handling a basic human need makes sense. The rationale for allowing industrial farming has always been its supposed efficiency and ability to increase the food supply. Yet a new study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization shows quite clearly that industrial agriculture is inefficient, wasteful, dangerous, and a breeding ground for speculators. So why are we doing it? All over the world?

If all farms in Central America matched the output of small farms the region would produce three times as much food, the report said.

“Every day we are exposed to the systematic expulsion from our land,” said Marina Dos Santos of the National Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement.

We’re doing it because we’ve given up fighting the money. They own the world’s governments, they make the rules, they do whatever makes the most profit the quickest, and we get out of their way and let them do it even though it means destroying more than building and we get starved in the process.

Might be we ought to reconsider that strategy before we’re all living on cat food.

 

BP Dumps on Gulf Clean-up

BP has decided that it’s done with that “responsibility thang.”

In an op-ed article this month in Gulf Coast newspapers, John Mingé, the chairman of BP America, highlighted the coast’s record tourism numbers, emphasized the $27 billion BP had spent and dismissed environmentalists skeptical of the gulf’s recovery as advocates using the spill “to raise money for their causes.”

They took a lot of credit in their PR for their continuing resolve to stick with the clean-up after they damn near destroyed the whole Gulf Of Mexico. They were, they said, “committed to returning the Gulf to its previous greatness” Or words to that effect repeated again…and again and again…over the past years. Until now. Continue reading

BP Bail Fail – UPDATED

The corporation that virtually destroyed half the Gulf of Mexico by spilling millions of tons of oil into it tried this week to get out of its responsibility – and previous agreement – to pay for at least some of the damage it caused.

Last week, [the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals] rejected [British Petroleum]’s attempt to stop businesses in the Gulf from collecting on losses resulting from the 2010 oil disaster. BP claimed that the companies were trying to recover “fictitious losses,” but the New Orleans court didn’t buy it. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges upheld an earlier ruling against BP, and said that an injunction on BP payments to Gulf businesses should be lifted. These payments are part of a settlement that BP agreed to back in 2012 – a settlement that the oil company said was “good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf, and in the best interests of BP’s stakeholders.”

This is just s-o-o-o corporate America. First they lowball damage estimates, then they make promises they have no intention of keeping, then they attack the victims by claiming they’re perpetrating fraud, and finally they send their high-priced lawyers to convince the courts to let them off the hook when the damages turn out to cost more than their original, absurdly low, estimate. Corporate America takes NO responsibility for its actions unless forced to by the courts (an increasingly rare outcome, btw) and even then never stop trying to get out from under. Continue reading

Chickenshit Democrats Attack Food Supply…Again. Literally. (Updated)

This is almost unbelievable.

Chicken contaminated with chicken manure is one likely result to come from the ag department’s dangerous and ridiculous determination to privatize poultry inspection in some 200 processing plants across the country. Currently, government inspectors – who’re professionally-trained in food safety – are stationed along the processing lines in the factory operations of such giants as Tyson Foods. They examine the birds for diseases and visible defects, including – yes – contamination by feces.

But the Obamacans have a “modernization” plan to remove these skilled, independent inspectors and let corporations police their own lines with untrained company hirelings. In addition, the privatization scheme would allow the poultry plants to speed up their lines to an absurd 175-birds-per-minute!

I said almost unbelievable. If I hadn’t, years ago, given up on Obama proving to be something other than a tame corporate shill, this would feel like a betrayal. As it is, I just sighed, “Of course.”

More of the Myth and one of the reasons corporate-owned Pubs spent so much spreading it around. “Govt is bad, corporations can do a better job policing themselves if we just leave them alone” is the kind of thinking that certainly makes it easier for corporations to dump govt inspections (after having paid the appropriate bribes to the appropriate officials and pols, of course), which means, of course, there will be no inspections at all, thus no possibility that profits will be lost due to nasty govt refusing to let them sell – at full price, mind you – spoiled food or food full of, you know, poisons and nuclear waste and shit and what not. Of course.

Apparently it isn’t enough for the Democrats to let agrocorps make our food unsafe, now they have to let them make it lethal. I hope the Dems are getting a good price for poisoning us. Because that’s what’s important here.


Update:

Obviously this is less important than it might at first appear.

Among the ostensibly “non-essential” services on hold during the government shutdown is the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspection program. Within the country, as the Huffington Post points out, that means as many as 80 food production facilities each day may be going uninspected (although an FDA spokesman clarified that an unclear portion of those will be carried out by state agriculture and public health departments).

Yes. Well.

 

Chickens, Roost – You Know the Drill

Apparently it’s finally dawning on Republicans that redistricting to win seats has its limitations. There comes a point when even your supporters have had enough destruction and death.

Their problems are threefold and intertwined. First, the GOP has become effectively agenda-less, advocating policies that lack popular support, and that they quite possibly couldn’t execute even if they controlled the government entirely.

Second, as Politico honchos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen explain, “The party is hurting itself even more with the very voters they need to start winning back: Hispanics, blacks, gays, women and swing voters of all stripes.” That’s partially a consequence of theiragenda-less-ness, and partially a consequence of its members’ propensity to say things and advocate ideas that further alienate women and minorities.

Third, a combination of chance and poor decisions will turn the coming midterm into a referendum on issues custom tailored to energize Democratic demographics that tend to sit out midterms.

Actually there are four problems, not three. Number 4 is that it isn’t just that their policies “lack popular support”. It’s that their policies are batshit crazy and as destructive as a plague. Continue reading

You Dare Punish BP? BP Sue!

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that British Petroleum, fresh from their sterling response to their destruction of the Gulf of Mexico by pumping oil all into it – and over it and under it and next to it and… – namely, “God did it, not us, so how come we have to pay?”, is suing the US for refusing to give it more chances to spill just as much oil in other places, too.

BP sued the U.S. government on Monday over its decision to bar the British oil giant from new federal contracts to supply fuel and other services following the company’s agreement to plead guilty to manslaughter and obstruction charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The company said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Houston that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to suspend the company from such contracts and its continued enforcement of that order is arbitrary, capricious and “an abuse of discretion.”

“Abuse of discretion”. That’s, like, if your boss rapes you at a company party but then he apologizes afterward, it’s an “abuse of discretion” to report him to the police anyway because he’s, like, totally sorry, dude, so it’s completely unfair to hold him responsible just because he, you know, did it. Continue reading

The Crackpot Consensus

One of the most challenging aspects of adjusting to the NAO’s is the fact that so many of them are, well, stupid. Todd Akin’s absurd belief that women have some sort of magical control over their bodies if only they’d decide to use it is just the tip of a very large, annoying, and dangerous iceberg. The Times’ Timothy Egan gives a chapter and verse or two that barely scratch the surface but make the point quite clearly: many of the most powerful people in the country, all of them major puppets of the oligarchs, have demonstrated again and again that they have great faith but zero actual knowledge. Continue reading

A Life of Sacrifice

All the great philosophers and theologians since the time of the [early] Greeks have lauded the sacrifice of one’s self and one’s possessions for the sake of the greater good of others as the most honorable action a man can take. Therefore, the great thinkers of the modern rich right wing have implemented a society which makes it not only a privilege for you to sacrifice for the greater oligarchic good but a necessity, thus insuring your entrance into, if not saintliness then at least acceptability within the servant class.

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing the Constitutionality of Obama’s health care bill can be seen as a case in point. With no effort on your part and despite whatever qualms you may have about the way the bill tends to subvert, deny or delay actual treatment, you will be required to pay health insurance corpo’s a sizable chunk of your income for advising you that your illness isn’t covered. (That’s apparently in the Constitution somewhere.)

In this way you will be allowed to sacrifice not just your income but your health for the good of insurance corpo’s whose profits are not yet obscene enough to cause riots. Which seems to be their goal.

Don’t let yourselves be taken in by the appearance of unrestricted greed. Remember, they’re doing it for you, not to you.

This Will Not Happen

There’s a new analysis of the Gulf oil spill that makes plain the reasons for it are, as many of us said, systemic. Not an accident, not a once-in-a-lifetime concatenation of incompetence, faulty equipment, and mismanagement, no, the direct result of BAU. The report calls for massive new regulation of the oil industry. The reason I know this will not happen is that Harry Reid promises to get right on it. QED.

Sky Ant

(Via Avedon)

Obama Embraces the Right-Wing Fantasy of Massive Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

Barack Obama’s Blue Dog Presidency took another step toward Bushist crackpottery yesterday when he actively and enthusiastically reached to to Bushist crackpots by embracing a theme almost as close to their dear little paranoid hearts as voter fraud and SocSec fraud: the supposedly massive fraud in Medicare and Medicaid that has for 30 years been their go-to reason for killing both programs.

President Barack Obama made his case for an overhaul of the U.S. medical system to Missouri voters, emphasizing his efforts to curb waste and fraud in government health programs. obama.jpeg

“The health-care system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care and they’re lost each and every year to fraud, to abuse, to massive subsidies that line the pockets of the insurance industry,” he said yesterday at a high school in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, Missouri.

Obama is trying to rally public support for the biggest changes to U.S. health care in 45 years in the face of unanimous Republican opposition. He said his proposals show there are ways to pay for expanding insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans without running up the federal budget deficit.

“So much of the money currently in our health-care system is being misspent,” he said. “If we can have a smarter health- care system, then yes, we can provide help to middle-class folks who need it and, at the same time, actually reduce the burden on taxpayers.”

His spirited endorsement included some of the same probably bogus figures in the charges Republicans have been making for decades – figures they’ve never been able to back up with evidence. The Pres claims he has such evidence through a pilot program in several states.

Last year, the Medicare and Medicaid programs for seniors and low-income Americans made $54 billion in unwarranted payments to healthcare providers, according to White House.

To combat the problem, Obama has proposed expanding a program to reward private bounty hunters who find waste by auditing government payments through what are called “payment recapture audits.”

The White House reported that a pilot program in California, New York and Texas yielded $900 million in Medicare savings between 2005 and 2009.

Gee, I hate to say it but this all sounds very familiar. Isn’t there someone else who used to be president who made unsourced claims based on interior White House studies we never saw that were supposedly prepared by people who were never named?

Whenever FoxNews or George W or Darth Cheney wanted to beef up their credibility when they made incredible statements of fantasy as if they were fact, they, too, would, like, pick a big number – say, a BILLION – and subtract 100 million or so from it so it would sound real. “$897MIL” sounds so much more believable, like numbers were actually crunched to produce it. Except that we would find out months – or years – later that they’d simply made the numbers up, that those “facts” had never existed in the real world.

So before I get all excited about how badly we’re being ripped of by our elderly parents and grandparents, I’d like to a) know who ran this pilot program, b) see the study numbers that reached that conclusion, and c) find out how exactly these paragons of virtue defined “waste”. After all, to a health insurance company any money whatever spent on anybody over 65 is a “waste” since they’re just going to die in a few years anyway.

None of this information was included in either news report. None. Maybe because it doesn’t exist.

Yah think?

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Obama Tries to Shame Health Insurance Execs; Next Up, He Tries to Chop Down a Redwood With a Herring

So H&HS Sec Kathleen Sibelius (no known relation to the famous Finnish composer) is having this meeting with top health insurance execs, trying to convince them that, you know, their industry needs regulating.

So President Obama decides to help and interrupts the meeting to read them a letter from a woman who suffered from predatory acts by her insurance company – namely, paying $11K in premiums and medical costs while her so-called “insurance” company paid out less than a $grand.

Apparently his object was to shame them. I’m dying to know how that worked out for him.

Really.

I am.

I can’t imagine.

Another Great Idea From Our Brilliant GOP

Lee Judge, Kansas City Star

Actually, if it meant the Dems were going to turn a corporate-friendly giveaway into a citizen-friendly public health service, I’d be all in favor. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Pubs have in mind.

Planting Flowers In a Strip-Mine

But it’s still an improvement, right? And that’s all that matters.

Big Pharma Lobbyist’s Resignation “Hurts” Healthcare Reform

Reuters is reporting that ex-Pub Congressman and ace corporate flack Billy Tauzin has resigned as head of PhARMA, the most powerful non-bankers’ lobby in the country. Continue reading