Resilient Suburbia

SUBHEAD: Suburbia could be more self-sufficient, healthy, productive, and life-affirming than we know today.

By Morgan Maiolei on 21 July 2016 for Strong Towns -

Image above: Huntington Woods, Michigan, ranked in top 20 suburbs in America by Business Insider. From (

This week, Strong Towns' members and readers respond to the questions: Is it possible and/or worthwhile to retrofit suburbia/big box stores, or would we be better off abandoning underused suburban spaces? How might we go about retrofitting big box stores for future use?

Here is Morgan Maiolie's answer.
“It’s worth questioning whether it makes sense to expend our limited time, attention, and funds to retrofit what is certainly an expansive misallocation of resources.”
Talented designers and planners have shown us that it’s possible to retrofit suburbia. Although the scale at which we’ll be able to do this has yet to be seen, that it can be accomplished is clear. A more interesting question, and the one I want to tackle, is “How should we retrofit suburbia?” but, first, I’ll briefly address why we should bother in the first place.

It’s worth questioning whether it makes sense to expend our limited time, attention, and funds to retrofit what is certainly an expansive misallocation of resources. The suburbia we’ve built is costly to maintain in both infrastructure and energy.

It is an uncomfortable environment, poor in walkability and civic life, that sentences its denizens to ever-increasing hours of car commutes.

It generates a sedentary lifestyle and cuts rapaciously into valuable habitat, creating health impacts that transcend human communities to adversely affect other species (and which then, because we are part of an interconnected ecosystem, reverberate back to damage our own).

Suburbia’s cost, discomfort, and adverse health impacts make the case only that we should stop building in this way for the future, however. Whether we should leave the suburban investment we’ve already made is a different question altogether and my answer is a staunch, No.

Although it’s tempting to picture packing up and leaving suburbia to peacefully degrade, we shouldn’t. More, we wouldn’t like what would happen if we did.

Our economic markets are directly tied to suburbia’s success and to abandon it would be to collapse the financial system as we know it. A great many members of our society have invested in this form of development, and, if it becomes untenable and its homes worthless, it would be impossible to finance the development of more sustainable urban forms; not to mention the hardship we’d bring upon a large segment of our society.

Jeff Vail calls this suburbia’s  Catch-22: it isn’t possible to finance suburban alternatives because the credit markets that would do so are tied to suburbia’s longevity and value. That we have no financial choice other than to ride out our investment in suburbia isn’t the only reason to keep it, however. Suburbia’s weaknesses are great, but surmountable, and its sprawling form might offer unique advantages.

Image above: Maple Heights is thought to be in the top ten worst suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. From (

Suburbia's Weaknesses
To begin, suburbia’s most glaring weakness as a car-dependent system may not be as intractable as we think. In his four-part series for The Oil Drum, Jeff Vail makes the convincing case that a willingness to accept slight inconvenience in the form of ridesharing, mass transit, biking and less frequent deliveries would make a significant enough reduction in the cost and greenhouse gas emissions of suburban transportation to overcome the benefits of leaving our suburban infrastructure behind.

A larger hurdle than transportation is the inherent energy inefficiency of suburbia’s loosely-spread form and large, detached buildings. Compared to denser, insolation-constrained urban development, however, suburbia stands to see much more dramatic gains from solar power innovation. If advances in sustainable technology continue, suburbia could offset its inefficiency to our centralized systems by producing a greater amount of its own power.

Even if sustainable technology advances slow, the technologies we already have in solar hot water, passive heating and cooling, increasing insulation and demand-controlled ventilation are promising means for suburbia to reduce consumption and provide localized power to a majority of suburban homes and businesses.

Suburbia is also better-positioned than urbia to produce food locally, reducing its dependence on frequent, centralized food shipments. A carefully-tended 1/4th-acre suburban lot can realistically meet 25% of the caloric needs of a family of four. Brad Lancaster, a master gardener working in the unforgiving climate of Tucson, Arizona, has seen much greater yields, turning a 1/6th-acre lot into a forest of food production using only rainwater and graywater. Lancaster’s garden provides nearly half the food for his four-person family and, while this is not to say food production at that scale is easy, it implies that the rest of the country’s suburbs in more forgiving climates have significant growing potential.
Image above: Features of a revitalized American suburb featuring water collection, power generation, food growing, small manufacturing and a distributed economy. Illustration by Morgan Maiolei. From original article. Click to enlarge

Suburbia's Advantages

Moving beyond its weaknesses, suburbia’s decentralized form offers a unique advantage in economic innovation. Urban societies are coordinated, centralized systems that are structurally more dependent on top-down control, which tends to create barriers to innovation. By contrast, suburbia is a decentralized rhizome of almost uniformly distributed dwelling and ownership. Such distributed systems have historically excelled at innovation.

In his book, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff relates that the decentralized mediaeval bazaar was such a powerful force of middle class growth and innovation that feudal lords created hierarchical corporations to quell it. Distributed, non-hierarchical economic systems are powerful because they are chaotic but smart; what they lose in regularity, they gain in unimpeded, open-source production.

Combine this with modern technology's ability to connect us to new ideas and expand our capacity for fabrication through 3D printing and open-source plans (see: 100,000 Garages), and a future begins to take shape that elevates suburbia above an urban center’s bedroom community to a unique economic engine in its own right.

Suburbia already has many of the characteristics to support a distributed society of makers. Its form is one of ample space; lawns for gardening, garages for building, and enough residential square footage to spare for commercial enterprise and denser living.

I am writing from New Orleans, where many historic homes too expensive for single family occupancy have been converted to businesses and multifamily dwellings. It’s not a stretch to picture the same transition in suburban McMansions if the right market signals are in place.

Suburbia also offers large, flexible big boxes in spades. Where big box stores are currently utilized by a car culture of large-scale, one-stop consumerism, their innate flexibility gives them the ability to transition to hubs of local production and civic space. In this context, big boxes could constitute the physical framework for community cooperatives to compliment individual, distributed business.

Big box stores can easily, and in many cases have already, been reimagined as libraries, schools, shared workshops, fabrication facilities, and year-round farmer’s markets. The U.S. has seen over a dozen big box Walmarts transition to churches.

When we picture a retrofit of suburban development, we often picture its conversion to a New Urbanist paradise; former suburban sprawl densified into an 1800s-esk town center surrounded by close-knit neighborhoods that follow the same economic model as the urban behemoth they were built to serve.

But to take suburbia back in time is a failure of imagination. We would do better to address suburbia’s weaknesses in transportation, energy efficiency, and health without throwing away the economic opportunities its form provides.

If we capitalize on suburbia’s strengths and think creatively about its evolution, we could position it as a form of development much more self-sufficient, healthy, productive, and life-affirming than the suburbia we know today.

Note: This article is informed to a large extent by Jeff Vail’s prescient and insightful presentation, Rescuing Suburbia, delivered at the 2010 ASPO-USA conference in Washington, D.C. You can watch Vail’s presentation at and read his summary and slides at

Wikileaks has Clinton Foundation dirt

SOURCE: Russ Pascatore (
SUBHEAD: Assange says his next leak will guarantee an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

By Shockwave on 22 July 2016 for Silence Is Consent -

Image above: Julien Assange holds leaks concerning Hillary Clinton, and Clinton Foundation. From original article.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his next leak will virtually guarantee an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

In a recent interview with ITV, Assange said the whistleblowing website will soon be leaking documents that will provide “enough evidence” for the Department of Justice to indict the presumptive Democratic nominee. WikiLeaks has already published 30,322 emails from Clinton’s private email server, spanning from June 30, 2010 to August 12, 2014.

While Assange didn’t specify what exactly was in the emails, he did tell ITV that WikiLeaks had “accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton, which could proceed to an indictment.”

Assange hinted that the emails slated for publication contain additional information about the Clinton Foundation. He also reminded ITV’s Robert Peston that previously released emails contained one damning piece of communication from Clinton, instructing a staffer to remove the classification settings from an official State Department communication and send it through a “nonsecure”

Assange then pointed out that the Obama administration has previously prosecuted numerous whistleblowers for violating the government’s procedures for handling classified documents.

In regard to the ongoing FBI investigation, however, Assange expressed a lack of confidence in the Obama administration’s Justice Department to indict the former Secretary of State.

“[Attorney General Loretta Lynch] is not going to indict Hillary Clinton. It’s not possible that could happen. But the FBI could push for new concessions from the Clinton government in exchange for its lack of indictment.”

WikiLeaks has long been a thorn in the side of the former Secretary of State, who called on President Obama to prosecute the whistleblowing site after its 2010 leak of State Department cables. Julian Assange remains confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in downtown London, as Ecuador has promised to not hand over the WikiLeaks founder to US authorities.-

See more at (

Video above: From original article and (


DNC Chair resigns after WikiLeaks

SUBHEAD: Debbie Wasserman Schultz steps down after DNC emails indicate bias towards Hillary Clinton.

By Tyler Durden on 25 July 2016 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns after DNC emails leaked.  From (

The Democratic party was in turmoil on Sunday afternoon, when just hours ahead of the Democratic National Convention which begins on Monday on Philadelphia, the chair of the Party - DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz - resigned amid a furor over the humiliating Wikileaks email release, hoping to head off a growing rebellion by Bernie Sanders.

In a statement, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the best way for the party to accomplish its goal of putting Clinton in the White House was for her to step down. Sanders had demanded earlier in the day that Wasserman Schultz resign.

"Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention," Wasserman Schultz said in a lengthy statement Sunday announcing her resignation. "I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans."

"We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had," she added.

Wasserman Schultz had became toxic to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who accused her rigging the Democratic presidential nominating process in favor of Clinton. But many Democrats had privately lost confidence in her leadership as well. 

 Emails posted online by Wikileaks and apparently stolen by hackers allegedly working for the Russian government (who as we noted earlier thoroughly denied such allegations) showed a plot by Democratic officials to damage Sanders.

The furor was a blow to a party keen on projecting stability in contrast to the volatility of the Republican National Convention. According to some, the DNC is now on pace to be far more scandalous than anything the republicans could have come up with, while the number of Bernie Sanders protesters overshadows the protesters that had attended the RNC in Celveland .
And in a shocking 'beyond caring what the average joe thinks' move, Hillary Clinton announced that Debbie Wasserman Schultz will serve as an honorary chair on Clinton's campaign, almost as if she is doing her best to provoke Bernie Sanders fans.
Hillary Clinton thanked her "longtime friend" Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the Florida congresswoman's decision to step down as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
"I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year's historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week's events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership," she said.

"There's simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie--which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign's 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states."


Can hemp save small farms?

SUBHEAD: As tobacco declines, some hope that hemp can be a “gateway crop” to financial sustainability.

By Catherine V. Moore on 20 July 2016 for Yes Magazine -

Image above: Lora Smith of Big Switch Farm holds a bundle of hemp. From original article.

At the birth of any industry, uncertainty abounds. So does opportunity, say Kentuckians like Joe Schroeder of Freedom Seed and Feed, who is among those growing industrial hemp and advocating for others in Appalachia to do the same.

“It’s really speculative,” says Schroeder. “But people are making a lot of money, and that money is real.”

But don’t take that talk of money to mean Schroeder is greedy. At a time when the region’s collapsing coal and tobacco industries have left gaping holes in central Appalachia’s economy, at least some of Kentucky’s hemp experimenters want to maximize the benefit to as many local people as possible.

Hemp was so important to early America that colonists in Virginia were required to grow it. A short boom during World War II notwithstanding, the shift to cotton and the anti-marijuana movement put an end to the industry by the mid-20th century.

But in 2014, a new farm bill cleared the way for states to begin research-driven pilot programs to test the crop’s viability in producing fiber, medication, and food. Twenty-seven states, including Kentucky, have passed their own pro-hemp legislation so far. And yet the plant remains a Schedule I controlled substance, in the same category as heroin, LSD, and bath salts.

That’s why Jane Herrod feels like she’s starting from scratch, even though hemp was grown on her family farm near Lexington, Kentucky, as far back as the early 1800s. Hemp may be rife with legal contradiction, but things don’t appear so complicated this afternoon at her farm. The cows graze. The Kentucky River flows. And Herrod, a middle-aged woman with close-cropped grey hair and a deep tan, looks out across her pastureland with obvious joy. She loves this land, and she’s not giving up on it.

Kentucky is home to a vast patchwork of small former tobacco farms like Herrod’s. Beginning in the 1930s, a system of quotas and other price supports from the federal government made tobacco a pretty secure crop to grow, even on a small number of acres. But all that came to a halt in 2004, when these tobacco-friendly policies were discontinued.

A payment system was set up to assist tobacco farmers until they could figure out a replacement crop, but that ended in 2014. Now, with smoking in decline and imported tobacco on the rise, the industry is down to less than a quarter of its size a few decades ago. But the land, much of the infrastructure, and at least some of the farmers are still there.

Hemp advocates hope that reintroducing the crop will help farmers like Herrod keep her 10 tillable acres in production and make money too. But whether and how hemp can justify itself financially on a small farm are open questions and critical ones for Kentuckians to answer if they are to significantly benefit from the potential new industry.

Last year, Herrod hosted a small test plot of hemp on her land, and now she’s applying to grow two acres of the plant for cannabidiol (CBD) oil, one of the highest-value hemp products being tested.

 The oil is used to treat epilepsy and has shown potential for Crohn’s disease, cancer, and autism. She and other growers and processors must go through a lengthy permitting process run by Kentucky’s agriculture department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This year, 166 applications were approved in the state.

Though she doesn’t expect to get rich, Herrod believes the high-value CBD oil could bring in enough income for her to start building other enterprises and investing in infrastructure on her farm so that she can pass it on to her kids as the income-generating business it used to be. For this reason, some are describing hemp as a “gateway crop” that could help keep family farms viable.

Another strong motivator for Herrod is the opportunity to grow something that heals and feeds people instead of poisoning them. Herrod’s mother, who passed the tobacco farm down to her daughter, died of lung cancer caused by the very crop she raised. Edible hemp seed, on the other hand, packs in omega-3s and -6s, nutritious oils that facilitate healthy nerves. And its flowers contain a host of biochemicals that are being tested for medicinal uses. For all these reasons, Herrod says she’s ready to turn over a new leaf.

“There’s not a negative thing about the plant that I can see, other than you might not be able to make money with it,” Herrod says, laughing. “But I’m going to find out.”

Hemp is defined in the farm bill as cannabis that’s less than 0.3 percent THC content by weight. THC, of course, is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, which contains 10 percent THC on average.

It’s easy to see why boosters describe hemp as a kind of miracle plant. It’s a sector filled with a certain amount of utopian thinking, especially from marijuana legalization advocates. But not all of the boosters are partaking.

A 1998 study by North Dakota State University estimates that hemp has 25,000 uses, which include food, green building materials, textiles, paper, fuel, body care products, and as a replacement for plastic and fiberglass. BMW even used it in the door panels of its new electric car.

That’s why farmers in China and Europe have been growing hemp for decades. But in the United States, the federal government still considers it a narcotic. And that makes it harder to find buyers, get insurance, and obtain seed.

A flier for prospective hemp growers put out by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture warns that “markets are limited; revenues should not be counted on.” Likewise, a report by the Congressional Research Service last year said it’s impossible to make predictions about sales and employment. Still, the same report describes a “mostly positive market outlook” for hemp, citing “rising consumer demand and the potential range of product uses.”

Right now, how much a farmer can make on hemp depends on what they’re growing it for, and whom you’re asking. Hemp is grown mainly for its fiber, seed, or flowers. The fiber is most often used in textiles or building materials, while seeds are made into nutritious oil, snacks, or livestock feed. Flowers are harvested for pharmaceutical products, including CBD oil.

A 2013 economic study on hemp by the University of Kentucky assumes that farmers can get between 50 and 80 cents per pound for seed. Freedom Seed and Feed, on the other hand, reports getting $12 per pound for the protein-rich, organic hemp seed they sell to a local granola maker.

Meanwhile, the Hemp Industries Association estimates that Americans purchased $620 million in hemp products in 2014. China is America’s biggest supplier of fiber, while Canada provides most of the seed and oilcake (a byproduct of pressing hemp seeds for oil).

Since there’s more money in seed and oil than in fiber, Canada will likely be the major competitor for U.S. hemp farmers. Canada legalized hemp in 1998, so farmers there are now 17 years ahead of American ones.

What kind of money are those Canadian farmers making? According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, the average hemp grower earned about $550 per acre, annually, for seed. That’s about half of what Kentucky farmers are expecting to earn.

But a huge industrial farm growing oilseed in Canada for a commodity market looks a lot different than Big Switch Farm, nestled in a sloping valley in Jackson County, Kentucky, where Joe Schroeder is harvesting his last sliver of a hemp test plot on a shimmering October morning. His Ray-Bans and blue flannel shirt conceal a farmer’s tan as deep as Jane Herrod’s. The crucial question for both hemp-curious farmers: How small is too small?

Image above: Jane Herrod hopes that high-value CDB oil will help her small farm turn a profit. Photo by Catherine V. Moore. From original article.

Running a chainsaw across a swath of rangy hemp plants, Schroeder is right in the middle of trying to figure out just that. He seeded his test plots at different rates of density to study which ones maximized yield and, more broadly, the economics of growing hemp seed for food and fiber on a small scale. His permit is for five acres, which 18 straight days of rain and one pesky groundhog have not helped.

Schroeder is chief operating officer of Freedom Seed and Feed, one of a handful of private, “values-driven” companies to crop up in the Kentucky hemp play. The company works with nontraditional farmers in the Amish community, who grew 60 acres last year, some in high-CBD varieties. Meanwhile, Schroeder’s business partner, Mike Lewis, is working to turn Kentucky’s war veterans into hemp farmers.

“I have an aspirational approach to the market,” says Schroeder. “A lot of this is about the market you make.”

Freedom Feed and Seed's business model is based on differentiating itself from commodity-based agriculture, which produces high volumes of raw product. Instead, Schroeder’s company is catering to specialized buyers and developing products that fetch higher prices. It simply doesn’t make sense, Schroeder’s logic goes, for a former tobacco farmer on five acres in Kentucky to compete with a grower on a thousand acres in Canada.

The fact that the industry’s in its infancy creates additional opportunities. “We’re going to be able to push for a standard that farmers can survive at,” says Schroeder. “If they get rich too, then that’s a consequence we could deal with.”

One way to ensure farmers get their fair share, Schroeder believes, is to organize cooperatives modeled on those that existed in the tobacco era. These structures offered farmers collective control over who to sell to and at what price, in addition to lowering the cost of production through shared infrastructure and group purchasing. That kind of advocacy is exactly what hemp farmers need to navigate an emerging market, says Schroeder.

The industry may also be able to get help from Washington, D.C. Federal funding is now available to support struggling, coal-reliant communities in Appalachia. Why not use some of this money to, for example, build a hemp processing plant in the layoff-riddled coal country of eastern Kentucky, putting people to work and capturing more of the plant’s value within the region?

Some relatively established companies, like GenCanna Global, are already investing in Kentucky’s fledgling industry.

“What we’ve decided to do at GenCanna with our farmers is make them partners,” says Chris Stubbs, GenCanna’s chief science officer. “They are going to participate in the value chain all the way through.”

In that profit-sharing partnership, GenCanna brings its technical knowledge, materials, and investment. The company has in some cases paid farmers’ rent, covered the expense of retrofitting their operation to grow hemp, and even cut their payroll checks. The growers bring their local knowledge, land, and existing infrastructure. Both parties learn from each other and share in the profits.

The net result, says founder and CEO Matty Mangone-Miranda, is an acceleration of the industry and a move away from existing agriculture models in which the farmer is used and underappreciated. GenCanna estimates that the company touches a couple hundred people at all levels, including everyone from production managers and seasonal workers to research scientists. Mangone-Miranda expects to work with more than 30 farms this season, ranging in size from three to 130 acres.

The small scale of the farms in Kentucky, compared to the average commodity-growing farm, means the company will be able to pay more attention to detail, which in the long term will translate into higher quality—like a microbrew, says Mangone-Miranda.

But that would be a microbrew that’s classified as a Schedule I narcotic. When you ask Kentuckians what they need to make hemp a success, their first answer is always to take the plant off the federal list of controlled substances. That’s exactly what the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would do. Its supporters include both Bernie Sanders and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, as co-sponsors.

The bill was introduced in the Senate last year and now sits in the judiciary committee, awaiting further action. The five-year window opened by the 2014 farm bill for hemp experimentation will expire in two years. At that point, congress will renegotiate a new farm bill, and anything could happen.

Last year, Freedom Feed and Seed helped produce an American flag made out of American hemp by American hands, a project they say is a metaphor for what they’re trying to do: extend the American dream of honest pay for honest work to people who have long been left out. The collaboration called on artisans, textile producers, veterans-turned-farmers, and private and nonprofit partners throughout the tobacco belt and beyond.

The flag flew over the stage at the 2015 Farm Aid concert as a reminder of America’s grassroots production power. As a prototype, it was one of a kind and absurdly expensive to make. But as a talking point for the potential rebirth of an industry, it served its purpose.


Is being anti GMO anti science?

SUBHEAD: And more importantly, are the arguments for the safety of GMO "science" really scientific? 

By Curt Kobb on 24 July 2016 for Resource Insights -

Image above: Discerning safety of an apple. Go for the 94750 barcode. From (

It's all the rage to call people who oppose the cultivation of genetically engineered crops anti-science. But if science is an open enterprise, then it should welcome discussion and challenges to any prevailing idea.

We should, however, remember that in this case genetic engineering of crops is not merely a scientific enterprise; it's big business. A lot of people have a lot to lose if the public rejects genetically engineered foods, often referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We are not by any measure in the preliminary phases of this technology. We are not considering it or calmly debating it before its release. We have long since been launched into an uncontrolled mass experiment, the results of which are unknown.

Knowledge is admittedly a double-edged sword. One might argue that any scientific advance brings risks. I would agree. Understanding nuclear fission and then nuclear fusion led to the atomic bomb and then the hydrogen bomb.

More than 30 years ago millions of people across the world flocked to the nuclear freeze movement out of fear that newly elected American president Ronald Reagan would seek a nuclear buildup and a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Were these millions anti-scientific or the voice of reason?

Nuclear discoveries also led to the widespread application of nuclear fission as a source of heat for electricity generating plants, the dangers of which have most recently been on display at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. The results of our grand nuclear experiment are ongoing.

Opposition to practical applications of scientific discoveries cannot willy nilly be labeled anti-science. We now know how to clone humans, but so far, human society has chosen to prohibit this use of cloning.

One does not have to be anti-science to mount a reasoned case for such a prohibition. The American Association for the Advancement of Science opposes reproductive cloning, while supporting stem cell research and research on therapeutic cloning (the production of replacement tissues for humans).

The vast majority of those who want GMO foods labeled or their cultivation banned do not advocate an end to genetic research. They are not anti-scientific. They have legitimate concerns about the safety of crops derived from a specific application of this research, both for humans and for the broader environment.

Let's see if the arguments used to label those who oppose GMOs as anti-science make sense.

1. Lots of scientists endorse the safety and promise of GMOs.
This argument was most recently trotted out as a petition directed at Greenpeace, asking the organization to cease its opposition to GMOs and more specifically to what is called Golden Rice, a rice that produces its own Vitamin A. (Vitamin A deficiency remains a problem in parts of Asia).

It is understandable that those involved in a political debate over the regulation and even prohibition of GMOs will seek visible shows of support from others who are like-minded. This is part of the persuasion process.

But does this prove that those who oppose GMOs are anti-science? More to the point, are scientists who question the safety of GMOs anti-science even as they continue their scientific research?

We must be careful to distinguish research designed merely to understand the workings of the physical world from an endorsement of specific applications of our knowledge to products and practices. There is a big difference between science and applied science.

This is where the problem of what a friend of mine calls the Midgley Effect arises. Thomas Midgley Jr. was a renown American chemist in the first half of the 20th century. He was asked to find compounds that could be added to gasoline to reduce "knocking" in engines (which can cause damage). Midgley's solution was tetraethyllead which became the basis for leaded gasoline.

Midgley assured the public that leaded gasoline was safe. In fact, Midgley was given the prestigious William H. Nichols Medal by the American Chemical Society in 1923 for his breakthrough. Despite concerns about the release of lead into the environment and deaths at a pilot plant, the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service both concluded that there was no evidence that leaded gasoline would cause human health problems. Thus, yet another uncontrolled mass experiment began with humans as the subjects.

Only unrelated research on the age of the Earth revealed abnormally high levels of lead in the environment which interfered with such age calculations and led to concerns about leaded gasoline--which, of course, was eventually banned.

But Midgley's work on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as refrigerants was probably even more significant. At the time existing refrigerants--fluids that circulate in refrigerators and draw heat away from their interiors--were corrosive or flammable. The industry wanted something that wasn't either.

Midgley's solution was a set of inert compounds that would easily vaporize and recondense called chlorofluorocarbons and that eventually went by the trade name Freon.

Nonflammable, noncorrosive, nontoxic to humans and able to circulate in refrigerators for years, even decades without breaking down, his discovery found wide application in refrigeration and eventually air conditioning. So safe were CFCs deemed that they were used in aerosol spray cans and even asthma inhalers.

For his work on CFCs Midgley received another award, the Perkin Medal from the Society of Chemical Industry in 1937.

If chemist F. Sherwood Rowland had not asked in the early 1970s where CFCs go once they are released, we might now be living without the better part of the Earth's ozone layer.

 His work alerted the world that CFCs were indeed quite long-lived as advertised, were making their way continuously to the Earth's ozone layer and were systematically destroying it. Without the ozone layer much greater ultraviolet radiation would hit the Earth and endanger all living things. CFCs were ultimately banned by the Montreal Protocol.

Shall we consider the scientist who discovered the deleterious effect of CFCs on the ozone layer anti-science? Shall we consider the geochemist who discovered the widespread dissemination of lead in the environment that was linked to leaded gasoline anti-science?

Of course not. Pointing out potential and actual dangers of a specific application of scientific research in not anti-science at all.

In these cases we must remember that lots of people who called themselves scientists assured us that leaded gasoline and CFCs were safe. But, they were wrong, grievously wrong. And, we must remember that it took decades to uncover the widespread damage being done by both.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) long ago ruled that GMO foods are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GMO counterparts and therefore do NOT require any testing. Those supporting the widespread dissemination of GMOs could be very wrong as well. There isn't enough information to know what the ultimate results will be for human and animal health.

What is more interesting is that the authors of the petition mentioned above have essentially admitted that we are doing an uncontrolled experiment on humans (because governments required no controlled studies). They write:
But the science telling us GM [genetically modified] crops and foods are safe has been confirmed by vast experience. Humans have eaten hundreds of billions of GM based meals in the past 20 years without a single case of any problems resulting from GM.
The petition writers, of course, do not adduce any evidence that there has not been a single case of a problem with genetically engineered foods. They merely assert it. I would hazard a guess that they did not do an exhaustive survey to find any cases.

This leads us to the second claim that is supposed to prove that somebody is anti-science if he or she opposes GMOs.

2. There is no evidence that GMOs are harmful.
Anecdotal evidence and even some scientific studies suggest that GMOs may be harmful in one or more these three categories. Even if that evidence is valid, it begs the question, How harmful? Do the supposed benefits of GMOs outweigh any alleged or actual harm?

The problem with engaging assertion number 2 above is that it is an inversion of responsibility. The GMO industry and its supporters assume that it is the responsibility of the public to discover any harm and to document it sufficiently to prove that harm.

But the real responsibility ought to lie with the industry. Typically, the way this is done is that the government requires studies under controlled conditions to establish the safety of a product. Individual consumers and independent researchers don't have the financial and technical resources to do this.

If the industry wants to warrant that GMOs are safe for human consumption, it should have to follow protocols designed for novel products which it wants to introduce into the human body. These protocols are generally reserved for new drugs. But some scientists in the FDA suggested that just such protocols would be necessary to assure that GMOs are safe before their release to the public. (They were overruled.)

The industry assures us that GMOs are not novel. After all, the FDA ruled that GMOs are "substantially equivalent." On that basis all patents for GMOs crops would be invalid since they are not novel. But it is precisely based on the novelty of specific genetic alterations of plants that the GMO companies have successfully obtained patents on their products.

If GMO plants are indeed novel as the companies insist when they go to the patent office, then they ought to be obliged to prove they are safe under established protocols for novel products designed for human consumption.

Don't let the industry get away with this inversion of responsibility. Can the industry really make the claim that those who oppose GMOs because the foods derived form them are not properly tested are anti-science? Isn't the industry really anti-science for opposing the testing of novel foods in the same way the drug companies are obliged to test novel compounds? Isn't the industry being anti-science by claiming that GMOs are not novel? (Maybe that's just straight out lying.)

There is a third claim that is supposed to demonstrate that those who oppose GMOs are both anti-science and ignorant.

3. GMO crops are no more risky than crops by crossbreeding.
This is a clever argument indeed. For it tries to get the listener to accept the equivalence of the two types of genetic alteration. But they are not equivalent. And, the key reason is not the one cited most often by GMO critics, namely transgene splicing, the splicing of genes from completely different categories (from a fish to a tomato to cite a real example).

While it's theoretically possible for such gene transfers to take place in nature, they are highly unlikely. (How often is a fish in the wild going to come into contact with a tomato?)

What is more important is that humans have ample experience with crossbreeding. The fact that humans are still here in the numbers that they are testifies to the safety of crossbreeding which has been practiced for a very long time.

This does not testify to safety in every instance, but to safety in general. Historically, crossbred plants are tested in small areas to see whether thrive and to see how they interact with other plants. These small experiments keep any mistakes contained.

GMO crops on the other hand are poorly tested[1] and then introduced practically worldwide within a few years. If there is a hidden adverse interaction with the environment, we will be subject to worldwide effects before we are aware. Those effects might take years to become apparent. And, it might take us years to trace those effects to GMO crops. The adverse environmental effects of GMOs will not be contained. There will be no small mistakes.

Since our experience with GMOs is limited, there has been very little time to discover unintended consequences. The fact that GMO crops to date have not produced catastrophic systemic failures in farm fields or in the surrounding environment does not prove that the next new GMO crop won't produce such a failure or that existing GMO crops under some as yet unencountered situation won't produce such failures.

Now, here's the key point: Because we cannot from experience judge the risks of GMOs to the broader environment (as we can with crossbreeding), and we cannot anticipate all the interactions between GMOs and the environment, THERE IS A NONZERO RISK OF SYSTEMIC CATASTROPHE, namely, worldwide crop failure or systemic ruination of adjacent ecosystems.

The proponents will say that the risk of such systemic effects is small. But it does not matter how small that risk is if we intend to keep subjecting the environment to novel crop genes. If the risk is nonzero and we metaphorically pull the gene gun trigger enough times, we will eventually create systemic ruin.

We are playing a game of Russian roulette with the many genetic engineering techniques we are now employing. Techniques which have a nonzero risk of creating systemic ruin should be banned. Ruin is too great a price to pay no matter how big the perceived benefits are (and the supposed benefits of GMOs are hotly disputed).

The foregoing discussion is really a reiteration of something I've covered before based on the work of risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb explains why the precautionary principle should apply to GMOs.

Perhaps risk is not the purview of the pure scientist. But it certainly must be the purview of the applied scientist. To misunderstand risk in the worldwide dissemination of genetically novel crops is to set oneself up to be the next Thomas Midgley and to risk the lives and livelihoods of millions, even billions of people based on a mere feeling that what one is doing is low risk.

[1] The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires field testing of GMO plants to determine whether they have the potential to harm other plants. The genetic contamination of non-GMO plants (through the exchange of pollen) which is prevalent worldwide seems of little concern to the USDA which seems not to regard this as a harm to other plants. This is particularly a problem for organic growers who are forbidden to use GMO crops and those conventional growers seeking non-GMO verification of their crops.

The FDA regulates as a pesticide any GMO plant which produces its own pesticide (as many of them do) and determines whether ingesting that pesticide in the amounts in the plant poses a hazard to human health--not particularly appetizing. A summary of these regulations can be found on p. 4 of this document.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now, The Oil Drum,, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at


DNC fixed race for Hillary

SUBHEAD: Leaked DNC emails confirm Democrats rigged primary, reveal extensive media collusion.

By Tyler Durden on 24 July 2016 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: From (

There are three key findings to emerge from yesterday's dump of leaked DNC emails released by Wikileaks:
  • There had been a plot designed to smear Bernie Sanders and to hand the Democratic nomination to Hillary on a silver platter
  • There has been repeated collusion between the DNC and the media
  • There has been questionable fundraising for both Hillary Clinton and the DNC
First, a quick recap for those who missed the original report, yesterday Wikileaks released over 19,000 emails and more than 8,000 attachments from the Democratic National Committee. This is what the whistleblower organization reported:

WikiLeaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the top of the US Democratic National Committee -- part one of our new Hillary Leaks series. The leaks come from the accounts of seven key figures in the DNC: Communications Director Luis Miranda (10770 emails), National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails), Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3095 emails), Finanace Director of Data & Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish (1472 emails), Finance Director Allen Zachary (1611 emails), Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails) and Northern California Finance Director Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails). The emails cover the period from January last year until 25 May this year.d
Subsequently, the Romanian hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 (who has denied he works with the Russian government), who has already released hundreds of hacked DNC emails previously, told The Hill he leaked the documents to Wikileaks.

An initial read of the thousands of emails in the data dump reveals top officials at the Democratic National Committee privately plotting to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, confirming a long-running allegation by the Sanders campaign who has claimed that the DNC and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had tipped the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton during the party’s presidential primary. They also reveal instances of media collusion as well as various questionable instances of fundraising.
Plotting Against Bernie Sanders

In an email from early May, DNC CFO Brad Marshall wrote about a plot to question Sanders’s religion. While not naming the Vermont senator directly, it talks about a man of “Jewish heritage” Marshall believes to be an atheist. It makes reference to voters in Kentucky and West Virginia, two states that were holding upcoming primary elections. 

“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” the email says.
“AMEN,” DNC Chief Executive Officer Amy K. Dacey replied.

Marshall did not respond to a request for comment. But he did tell The Intercept, which first noticed the email, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate."

In an email that concerned Sanders out-polling Clinton in Rhode Island, where the state reportedly only had a fraction of voting stations open, one staffer took a contemptuous tone of Sanders’ supporters,  speaking about them more as a nuisance than an arm of the party. “If she outperforms this polling, the Bernie camp will go nuts and allege misconduct,” the staffer writes, “They’ll probably complain regardless, actually.”

Another email shows similar 'us and them' language being directed at Sanders supporters. “We have the Sanders folks admitting that they lost fair and square, not because we 'rigged' anything,” the email said. “Clinton likely to win the state convention with a slim margin and we'll send a release with final delegate numbers.”

An email titled 'Bernie narrative' sent by DNC National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach to Miranda indicates that top officials in the party were trying to find an angle to disparage the Vermont senator in the media.

“Wondering if there's a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” Paustenbach wrote in the May 21 message. “Specifically, [Debbie Wasserman Schultz] had to call Bernie directly in order to get the campaign to do things because they'd either ignored or forgotten to something critical.”
“It's not a DNC conspiracy, it's because they never had their act together,” Paustenbach suggested.

Wasserman Schultz seemed to have already counted Sanders out of the race in a May 21 email, when there were still nine primaries to go. “This is a silly story,” the chairwoman said. “He isn't going to be president.”

In another email, Paustenbach informed her that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the candidate should continue to the convention, Wasserman Shultz said: “He is an ASS,” referring to Weaver. The chairwoman made her opinion clear about Sanders in an message concerning the candidate alleging that the party hadn’t been fair to him.

“Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do,” she said.

Collusion with Clinton and the media
A communication from late May laid out the pros and cons of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accepting an invitation to CBS’s 'Face the Nation', and indicated that the DNC was plotting its moves based on what would be amenable to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Clinton campaign is a mess, they’re afraid of their own shadow and didn’t like that we engaged,” DNC communications director Luis Miranda wrote. “But they’ll be unhappy regardless, so better to get out there and do some strong pivots and land good punches on Trump. They can’t tell us NOT to do TV right now, we shouldn’t pull ourselves out until they actually do.”

“It’s clear that Bernie messed up and that we’re on the right side of history,” Miranda wrote in another bullet point, referring to the Nevada convention.

“Let's take this offline,” Wasserman Schultz said in response. “I basically agree with you."

Wasserman Schultz and Miranda brainstormed ideas to attack Sanders’ position on the Israel/Palestine conflict with her communications team in one thread, with Wasserman Schultz saying that "the Israel stuff is disturbing” in reference to Sanders’ platform committee appointees attempts to include language denouncing the occupation of Palestinian territory in the Democratic platform.

The chairwoman says that the idea “HFA,” or Hillary For America, originally proposed the idea of using Israel/Palestine as “an ideal issue to marginalize Sanders on,” suggesting that the DNC were exchanging communications about anti-Sanders strategies with the Clinton campaign.

The DNC also made a secret “agreement” with Kenneth Vogel, an influential report for Politico. An email from late April with the subject line "per agreement... any thoughts appreciated" shows that Vogel sent an advanced copy of a story about Hillary Clinton’s fundraising to the DNC even before his editor even saw it.

“Vogel gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors as long as I didn't share it,” DNC press secretary Mark Paustenbach wrote to  Miranda. “Let me know if you see anything that's missing and I'll push back.”

The published version of the story did not appear to have any significant edits from and was not favorable to the Clinton campaign, but the sending of a full, advanced copy to the subject of a story is considered to be a violation of journalistic ethics.

A source with familiar with the interaction between Politico and the DNC told RT America that the message was sent to officials to ensure accuracy in the story, and that it would have been difficult to ask for piecemeal clarifications due to its complexity. The “agreement,” in fact, referred to the DNC promising not to pass the story to a more favorable news outlet who might publish before  Politco.

Another email released in the Friday leak indicates that the DNC was in close contact with news websites on articles related to the Democratic Party. A Real Clear Politics article said that Sanders supporters were causing a lack of unity at the Nevada Democratic Convention.

“This headline needs to be changed,”  Wasserman Schultz wrote to Miranda.

“We need to push back... Patrice, what happened, DNC had nothing to do with this, right?” Miranda replied, referring to DNC Director of Party Affairs Patrice Taylor. Taylor responded saying that the article should be changed the event was run by the state party and the disorder “sounds like internal issues amount [sic] Sanders supporters.”

“Walter, please connect with Stewart and get him to push back,” Miranda wrote. The last email on the thread says: “Done. Article has been updated.”

Further evidence of the DNC's extensive "content control" over mass media was revealed when Wasserman Schultz sent an email to NBC anchor Chuck Todd with the subject line "Chuck, this must stop," and set up a time for the two to talk about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski calling on Wasserman Schultz to step down.

In another email chain, Miranda said Brzezinski was willing to talk with Wasserman Schultz. "She's already served as a judge and jury without even bothering to talk to me. Not sure why I should trust having a conversation with her would make any difference. Or that she even matters, to be frank," Wasserman Schultz wrote back after a brief exchange.

In response to a New York Times story about Sanders's defiance in the wake May's unruly Democratic state convention in Nevada, Wasserman Schultz wrote: "Every time they get caught doing something wrong, they use the tactic of blaming me. Not working this time."

To be sure, there has been a long trail of instances that confirmed Wasserman Schultz's clear and repeated bias, as noted most recently in "DNC Head Threatened To Kick Michigan Mayor Out Of Debate For Cheering Bernie Sanders", however this is the first time primary sourced evidence has justified such allegations.

There seems to be clear bias in the aggregate as well. Searches of the database shows an apparent bias by DNC officials against Sanders just by how closely either campaign was monitored. A search of “Sanders supporters” yields 306 messages, while a search of “Clinton supporters” shows only 65 results. A search of “his campaign” yields 780 messages, while “her campaign” only brings up a paltry 120 results.

Questionable Fundraising
According to the Daily Beast, the DNC blocked Roy Black from hosting a potential Barack Obama fundraising event. Black is the lawyer of billionaire and level-three sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, after reports on Epstein’s trial from The Daily Beast and other outlets. The email states the DNC would still allow Black to donate and attend future events.

In an email thread from May 12th of this year, titled “Host for POTUS in Miami,” DNC finance assistant Karina Marquez originally asked the committee’s vetting team to “vet the following folks for POTUS please.” The list of six possible hosts for the event included Black and his wife Lea, who is a star on Real Housewives of Miami. 

“We were also asked to vet the following for POTUS hosting. The only issue is Roy Black,” DNC Deputy Compliance Officer Kevin Snowden wrote back. “New issues have come up since his last vet in February 2016.”

In a third email, DNC deputy finance director Laura Lopez clarified: “Roy Black has been submitted to potentially attend meetings with (Jim) Messina—there isn’t an event code yet. He and his wife co-hosted a fundraiser for POTUS in 2007, all the stories are new since then.” Messina is the CEO of the Messina Group political strategy firm and led President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.

“All the stories” refer to, in part, a 2011 Daily Beast investigation called “Behind Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s Sweetheart Deal” which was cited in a follow-up story in the New York Daily News, and other articles that are later embedded into the email thread. To close off the chain, White House political advisor Bobby Schmuck responded that he agreed with DNC compliance director Alan Reed. “No hosting, fine to attend,” he wrote.

President Obama attended a Miami fundraiser at the home of Robert Rubenstein, one of the five other names listed in the vetting email, on the weekend of June 3rd, and Black was allowed to attend.
Black’s client Epstein was convicted of soliciting sex from an underage girl in 2008 and paid out settlements to “scores of alleged victims who said he serially molested them."  President Bill Clinton was said to have flown on Epstein’s private jet, dubbed the “Lolita Express,” up to 26 times, sometimes eschewing Secret Service protection.

There were further revelations.
An internal email from DNC spokesman Eric Walker mocked a Buzzfeed news report analyzing the DNC and the Republican National Committee’s potentially weak cybersecurity.

Another email shows DNC staffers’ fake craigslist job posting made for women who wish to apply to jobs at one of Trump’s organizations. The fake position, titled a Honey Bunny, requires the prospective applicant to, among other tasks, refrain from gaining weight, be open to public humiliation and be alright with groping or kissing by her boss.

Another email between DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan and DNC’s Northern California finance director Erik Stowe has Kaplan coarsely describing a conference call with President Barack Obama on National Small Business Week as related to “small business sh*t.”

With the leaks coming just days before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia it may reignite controversy over the DNC's handling of Sanders as well as media "objectivity" and Democrat fundraising, three of the most sensitive issue plaguing the Democratic party, and could potentially lead to an exodus of disappointed Bernie supporters into Trump's camp.


Tell Obama to veto GMO DARK bill

SUBHEAD: The Dark Act  bill is sitting on President Obama's desk waiting to be signed! This is our last chance!

By Staff on 22 July 2016 for Food Democracy Now -

Image above: Obama's promise to support GMO labeling. From Food Democracy Now.

Monsanto's DARK Act has landed on President Obama's desk 3 DAYS ago and he still hasn't signed it!

This outrageous bill has passed both the Senate and the House and the only thing standing in our way from it becoming the law of the land is President Obama actually signing the bill. The White House phones have been ringing off the hook for weeks as hundreds of thousands of Americans outraged over this terrible, unconstitutional bill have been voicing their opposition.

We need everyone who can act today to sign this letter or make a call to remind President Obama to stand up for the American people — It's time to put an end to the corporate corruption of our democracy and our food supply!

Tell President Obama to VETO Senate Bill 764 Monsanto's Corporate Coup and STAND UP for our basic rights and our democracy! The White House needs to hear from you today - CALL (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 -  Every voice counts!

While Congress has a long history of being in bed with Monsanto and the junk food companies, First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic garden on the White House lawn and has tried to promote healthy food as a solution to our nation's growing obesity problem and to motivate children to eat healthier food.

Just as impressive, while on the campaign trail President Obama stood up to Big Food and told a group of Iowa farmers that if elected President he would actually label "genetically modified foods, because Americans should know what they're buying!"

We couldn't agree more! Which is why we're sending this email today to have your remind him of his courageous pledge to label GMOs foods back in 2007 - when most Americans had never even heard of Monsanto or GMOs!

We know, with everything happening in Washington DC it's easy to be cynical, but after he was elected, President Obama was asked if he'd actually follow through on his promise.

Obama's response was "Show me the Movement. Make me do it". And these past 7 years - that's exactly what We've done!

Please take a few seconds today and watch this historic 2007 video where a young Senator from Illinois made the first pledge of a Presidential candidate EVER to Promise to Label GMOs!

Now's the time Mr. President , stand up for ALL Americans and - VETO S. 764 - and help us win honest labels!

Rush an urgent message to President Obama to veto Monsanto's Corporate Coup S. 764 and TAKE A Stand for REAL GMO Labels! Every voice counts!

Please help us flood the White House with calls today (202-456-1111) asking Obama to stand with Americans who want real labels - Tell President Obama to veto S. 764.

Please SHARE this Important message to President Obama far and wide with friends and family today!
Facebook link here - (
And sign a White House Petition here: (

Now that both chambers of Congress have passed S. 764 aka Monsanto's Corporate Coup, the only thing left before it becomes law is it being signed by President Obama. And we need your help to make sure he understands this does not represent what 90% of the American public actually wants.

Republicans and Democrats have Climbed into Bed to Protect Monsanto and Big Food, but that doesn't mean that President Obama has to sign this terrible bill.

As a Constitutional law professor, President Obama knows better than anyone else how important it is to make sure that our laws are written fairly and properly protect the rights of the American public. It's time to end Monsanto's corruption of our democracy!

Tell President Obama to VETO S 764 and put an END to Monsanto's Corporate Coup! Every voice counts! (

The bill is now on President Obama's desk and could be signed into law at any moment! The White House needs to hear from you today!

Please share with your friends and call your Members of Congress today! Every voice counts!

Remember, democracy is like a muscle, either you use it or you lose it!

Video above: Obama's promise to support GMO labeling. From (

Additional Information:
1. "Show Me the Movement!", Center for a Livable Future, March 24, 2009
2. See how your Senator Voted on this procedural motion to Kill States’ Rights and Vermont’s Historic GMO Labeling Law!
3. “FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise'”, The Hill, June 30, 2016
4. "What Senate Backers Aren't Saying About the GMO "compromise" bill", The Hill, July 1, 2016
5. Agribusiness: Money to Congress, OpenSecrets


Nationalism, Hitler, Nixon & Trump

SUBHEAD: Trump's words spread a sense of economic anxiety and national humiliation.

By Nadia Prupis on 22 July 2016 for Common Dreams -

Image above: Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for president on July 21, 2016. From original article by (

Trump's speech triggers alarm bells as he  "signals his determination to exploit fears of violence as part of crusade to seize the White House."

It's official. Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president.

Reactions abounded late Thursday after the (racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and misogynistic) real estate mogul accepted the party's nomination in a rambling, hour-and-fifteen-minute long speech.

Some noted the parallels to Richard Nixon's infamous 1968 "law and order" speech; others pointed out the fascist undertones of Trump's declaration that "I alone can fix this." Few were thrilled that former KKK grand wizard David Duke praised the speech on Twitter.

As The Nation's John Nichols said Thursday night, the speech ultimately signaled Trump's "determination to exploit fears of violence as part of crusade to seize the White House from the Democrats."
Nichols wrote:
Richard Nixon accepted the Republican nomination for president on a Thursday night in the long hot summer of 1968 with a speech that signaled his determination to exploit fears of violence as part of crusade to seize the White House from the Democrats.

[....] The permissive '60s would end, Nixon argued, with the transition of power from a Democratic administration to a Republican who was prepared to crack down on violence.

"Tonight, it is time for some honest talk about the problem of order in the United States," declared Nixon in 1968.

"It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation," declared Trump in 2016.

"The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead," Trump told Republican delegates in 2016.

"When the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness…then it's time for new leadership for the United States of America," Nixon told Republican delegates in 1968.
Trevor Timm made similar comparisons. In a column for the Guardian on Friday, he wrote:
The parallels with a man who presided over another era in which there were widespread allegations of police brutality and killings of unarmed African Americans seem compelling.

But if you take a detailed look back at Nixon's 1968 campaign for president, the analogy runs much deeper than his not-so-coded language attacking racial minorities. As each day passes, Trump's success looks more and more similar to Nixon's rise to power.
But the alarm bells did not stop with Nixon comparisons. On Twitter, prominent activist and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza said, "I don't know what I'm watching right now but I imagine this is the kind of speech Hitler would make."

"When Trump says law and order what he means is shut down #BlackLivesMatter," she tweeted. "He meant law and order for whites, martial law for everyone else."
At The Root, Danielle C. Belton summed up:
Trump said, "[O]ur plan will put America first. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo."

Mmm, nationalism. That's never caused any problems. I hate to bring up the "F" word, but what a fascist thing to say, future "Dear Leader."
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said in a statement issued Thursday, "The terrorist on our televisions tonight was Donald Trump. He pledged to fight for Americans, while threatening the vast majority of this country with imprisonment, deportation and a culture of abject fear. His doublespeak belies his true nature: a charlatan who will embolden racists and destroy communities of color. He is a disgrace.

White people of conscience must forcefully reject this hatred immediately."

Yet while the speech seemed "self-evidently absurd to liberal listeners," writes Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future, "it's likely to resonate very well among the white, largely male demographic his campaign has targeted."

Eskow noted the rhetorical trajectory of the speech, which "suddenly pivoted from real-world complaints" like poverty, unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure to "something much more abstract—and nationalistic," something that would appeal to his "decimated" base that is "desperate and frightened and looking for answers." Eskow wrote:
Trump spoke to their economic injuries in classic authoritarian style:
"Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another. One after another! We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint."

For Trump, the sexualized image of humiliation—"to their knees"—is surely no accident. (Remember this?) Weimar Republic comparisons may come too cheaply, but this marriage of economic anxiety and national humiliation is strikingly reminiscent of someone else's rhetoric—and I think you know who I mean.
That's what makes Trump's core message—putting "America First"—so dangerous, Eskow says.
"At the mention of this phrase," Eskow writes, "born of anti-Semitism and unwillingness to fight Hitler's Germany, the crowd erupted in wild cheers: USA! USA!"


Trump's GOP party ruined by Cruz

SUBHEAD: An angry political scene at GOP convention like nothing  seen in a generation.

By Tyler Durden on 21 July 2016 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: Ted Cruz in speech that didn't endorse Trump for president at GOP national Convention. From (

In some ways, the scandal that took place last night at the Republican national convention, was not a surprise.

Reportedly those who mattered, knew in advance what was coming.  As Bloomberg writes, earlier in the day, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said he would be personally viewing the Cruz speech in advance.

"I'm comfortable that Senator Cruz is going to talk about his vision for America," Manafort said. "He'll give a sign of where he is on Donald Trump that will be pleasing to the Trump campaign and to  Republicans." Cruz told Trump two days ago he wouldn't be endorsing him Wednesday night, and that the Trump folks knew what to expect in his speech, according to Cruz strategist Jason Johnson.

This goes to a question Bloomberg posed shortly after the speech: "the problem for Trump wasn't just the lack of an endorsement from Cruz. The speech raised questions about why Trump -- who has campaigned on his extraordinary negotiating skills -- allowed Cruz to take stage."

"Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!" Trump said late Wednesday on Twitter.

However, for many when Ted Cruz decided to snub Donald Trump with his refusal to officially endorse the presidential candidate, it was a stunning surprise, and led the
crowd in Cleveland to erupt in a chorus of boos while the political media exploded.

Surprising or not, the outpouring of condemnations was fast and furious.

In Bloomberg's take of the night's events, Cruz, infamous in the Senate for a reputation of looking out only for himself, proved again that he was willing to go it alone as the party rallied around Trump during an evening of speeches from Republican heavyweights and some of its most ambitious politicians. 

Cruz's speech seemed to amount to a political bet that Trump will lose the election, and that opting not to throw his lot in with the nominee will preserve his fortunes in 2020. Unclear is whether the gambit will backfire on Cruz by prompting Republicans to blame him for refusing to get in line and help unite the party when it mattered most.
The Hill's take is even more dire: "The Republican National Convention careened off the rails here on Wednesday night as Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump from the stage and was met with deafening boos.  It was an extraordinary scene of disunity, the like of which has not been seen at a party convention in a generation.

The chaos on the convention floor — which included angry words of recrimination from prominent Republicans in the immediate aftermath — totally overshadowed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s acceptance of the GOP’s vice presidential nomination."
It also dealt a shattering blow to hopes on the part of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee that the GOP would unite here after a long and bitter primary season.
Roger Stone, a former advisor and longtime friend of Trump, called Cruz a “dumb son of a bitch” in a convention center interview with The Hill just after the Texan’s speech ended. Stone added that Cruz was “a despicable human being” and insisted that “no voter gives a crap about what Ted Cruz does — the only person this hurts is Ted Cruz.”

As we reported last night, in another sign of the dark tone of the night, security guards had to escort Ted Cruz’s wife out of the Quicken Loans Arena for her own safety. Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a close Cruz confidant who was sitting with Heidi Cruz as her husband spoke, told reporters he saw Trump supporters threatening her. "People behind her were getting very ugly and physically approaching her and [Cruz's father] Rafael," he said. "It was not a pretty situation, and the decision was instantly made to not talk to media and get immediately out of the arena."

The key moments of Cruz’s speech, particularly his urging of attendees to “vote your conscience,” will be replayed endlessly on cable news for at least the next 24 hours. So too will the scenes that followed.

For those who missed it, things escalated fast: as the speech wound toward its conclusion and delegates realized that Cruz would make no endorsement, Trump loyalists sprang to their feet, shouting their displeasure.

Some people on the convention floor yelled “Lyin’ Ted” and “Go home!” while others gesticulated wildly. CNN’s Anderson Cooper said on-air that there were also reports “that Ted Cruz went up to one of the donor boxes and was accosted by Trump supporters yelling in his face. One person had to be apparently restrained because they were so angry."

The furor erupted just as the convention seemed to be recovering from the controversy over Melania Trump’s Monday address, which a Trump speechwriter admitted plagiarized from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech. The good news is that the Melania flap is now long forgotten, having been replaced by the Cruz-related uproar.

Within moments of the speech ending, big-name Republicans were excoriating Cruz. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom Trump had seriously considered naming as his running mate, told CNN’s Dana Bash that the Texas senator’s speech was “awful and selfish.

New York Congressman Peter King told NBC News that Cruz was “a fraud, he’s a liar, he’s self-centered and disqualified himself from ever being considered for president of the United States.”

It wasn't all criticism, however, and some defenders of Cruz emerged. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, standing with his wife and the Utah delegation told The Hill, "People will have to speak for themselves. I personally don't do that. I don't boo people at my own political convention because they're not my candidate.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich sought to calm the shocked crowd with his own speech before Pence appeared. Gingrich insisted that Cruz’s comments had been misunderstood.  But teleprompters in the arena included a line in Gingrich’s prepared remarks that he had to excise on the fly, since it had clearly been written under the assumption that Cruz would endorse Trump.  Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker reported that the line was “Senator Ted Cruz in particular made the key point that we need to elect the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”

Pence emerged into an arena that was still unsettled by the Cruz shocker. He delivered a smooth speech that was punctuated by several moments of winning self-deprecation in its early stages.  At the conclusion Pence insisted that “We have but one choice and that man is ready, this team is ready, our party is ready, and when we elect Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States, together we will make America great again.”

At that point, Trump himself joined Pence on stage and embraced him, drawing roars of approval from the crowd.

But even the feel-good end to the night would not escape the shock of what had gone before.

As The Hill concludes, this was a night that shook the Republican Party badly — and caused undisguised jubilation among Democrats. Soon after Cruz finished speaking, a three-word tweet was published on Hillary Clinton’s account. “Vote your conscience,” it read.


Clinton's banking Buddy Kaine

SUBHEAD: Kaine signs letter to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and small banks avoid consumer protection.

By Zach Carter on 20 July 2016 for Huffington Post  -

Image above: Looks like Kaine is taking selfie with Hillary Clinton at a recent Virginia rally. From original article).

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is on Hillary Clinton’s short list of potential vice presidential nominees. He’s also actively pushing bank deregulation this week as he campaigns for the job.

Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks ― one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is believed to be weighing Kaine among a handful of other potential VP choices. Her pick is widely viewed in Washington as a sign of her governing intentions. The former secretary of state has spent weeks attempting to woo progressive supporters of vanquished primary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Choosing from one of the handful of names on her short list ― Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) or Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), for instance ― would signal that her camp is taking progressive concerns seriously.

Kaine, by contrast, is setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party. He has championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that both Sanders and Warren oppose, and he is now publicly siding with bank deregulation advocates at the height of Clinton’s veepstakes.

The big bank letter would help major firms including Capital One, PNC Bank and U.S. Bank, all of which control hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Such large “regional banks,” Kaine writes, are being discriminated against based solely on the fact that they are so big. 

In a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry and FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg, Kaine argues that it is unfair for these large banks to be required to calculate and report their liquidity ― a critical measure of risk ― on a daily basis. Kaine wants to change that reporting to once a month. Kaine, along with Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.), argues that bigger banks don’t necessarily carry bigger risks, and thus shouldn’t face more aggressive oversight. 

“This distinction is applied unevenly across regional institutions despite similar risk profiles, simply by virtue of an asset threshold,” the letter reads. Translation: just because they’re big, doesn’t mean they should be regulated more closely.

Kaine and his coauthors do draw an exception to this principle for “systemically important” banks ― a term that usually means the six largest banks in the country: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. These should be regulated closely. Firms controlling over $400 billion, not so much.

On the small bank side, Kaine pressed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray to exempt “community banks and credit unions” from new rules. Doing so would leave these institutions, which include banks with up to $10 billion in assets, more lightly regulated than they were before the financial crisis. The letter, sent on Monday, was signed by 69 other senators.

Small banks were not, for the most part, involved in the subprime mortgage crisis. But many commit other consumer protection abuses. These violations do not spark massive financial downturns, but they can be real problems for the households that get ripped off. 

As Kaine joins the deregulatory fight, several other lawmakers are pushing the CFPB in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, 28 senators sent a letter to the agency urging them to toughen up their new rule against abusive payday lending. Kaine didn’t sign it.

A spokesperson for Kaine told HuffPost that Kaine is working on his own separate “Virginia-focused” letter on payday lending in support of the CFPB rule that he hopes will come out before the election.

 Kaine signals support for banks
 SUBHEAD: How Tim Kaine is signaling that he'll be 'an asset with banking interests on the fundraising trail'

By Deidre Fulton on 21 July 2016 for Common Dreams -

Sounding another alarm for progressives wary of the Democratic establishment's support for Wall Street, the man said to be leading the pack of potential Hillary Clinton running mates—Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine—has just this week sent a clear message to big banks: He's in their corner.

Kaine, who is reportedly Bill Clinton's favorite for the vice presidential slot, signed onto two letters on Monday pushing for financial deregulation—letters that show the Clinton camp "how Kaine could be an asset with banking interests on the fundraising trail," according to David Dayen at The Intercept on Wednesday.

The news should "disqualify" Kaine from the ticket, one prominent progressive group declared Thursday.

The first missive, signed by 16 Democrats and every Republican senator, calls on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to exempt community banks and credit unions from certain regulations.

As Dayen explains:
While this seems benign, tailoring rules that exempt large classes of financial institutions leaves consumers vulnerable to deceptive practices. A rule of this type could allow community banks and credit unions to sell high-risk mortgages or personal loans without the disclosure and ability to pay rules in place across the industry.
The second letter (pdf) deals with even bigger regional institutions, as it is aimed at helping "major firms including Capital One, PNC Bank and U.S. Bank, all of which control hundreds of billions of dollars in assets," according to the Huffington Post

Signed by Kaine and three other Democratic senators—Mark Warner (Va.), Gary Peters (Mich.), and Bob Casey (Pa.)—the letter to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Martin Gruenberg "argues that it is unfair for these large banks to be required to calculate and report their liquidity―a critical measure of risk―on a daily basis," HuffPo's Zach Carter continues. 

"This distinction is applied unevenly across regional institutions despite similar risk profiles, simply by virtue of an asset threshold," the letter reads.

Or, as Carter puts it, translating the senators' bottom line: "just because they're big, doesn't mean they should be regulated more closely."

But in fact, Dayen points out, "[i]n an interconnected financial system, a large regional bank that gets into trouble has as much chance of creating ripple effects as a mega-bank. It's unclear why they should be exempted from regulations deemed appropriate for all facets of the financial sector."

On top of these salvos on behalf of the banking industry, the Huffington Post notes that Kaine did not sign onto a third letter sent Wednesday from 28 senators urging the CFPB to crack down on abusive payday lenders and in turn, protect consumers.

That all this took place while Kaine is presumably being vetted for VP "could show potential financial industry donors that he is willing to serve as an ally on their regulatory issues," Dayen wrote, especially because Clinton has been pushed to the left by Bernie Sanders on Wall Street.

Given existing concerns around Kaine's support for the Trans Pacific Partnership and other so-called "free trade" deals, plus his mixed record on reproductive rights and now new proof of his bending to bankers, it's no wonder RootsAction co-founder and Bernie Sanders delegate Norman Solomon told Common Dreams on Wednesday that choosing the Virginia senator or someone like him "would be a very pronounced middle finger to the 13 million people who voted for Bernie."

Indeed, in a press statement on Thursday, critics of the Democratic Party's superdelegate system said Kaine's position at the top of the VP list provides "a perfect example of why the party needs to create policies and pick candidates who reflect the will of the voters, not the will of elites and special interests that the superdelegate system has come to embody."

"Superdelegates are the embodiment of a system that is rigged in favor of the powerful at the expense of the powerless," said Maine state representative Diane Russell, who originated an amendment to abolish superdelegates that will be taken up by the DNC Rules Committee on Saturday, "and there isn't a more powerful industry in America than the big banks."

And Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain said in a statement Thursday:
"Let's be really clear: It should be disqualifying for any potential Democratic vice presidential candidate to be part of a lobbyist-driven effort to help banks dodge consumer protection standards and regulations designed to prevent banks from destroying our economy."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Clinton's GMO buddy Valsack 7/20/16