Friday, September 21, 2012

Chronicle Joins Dark Side to Keep Consumers in the Dark

In today's SF Chronicle, an editorial urges a no vote on Proposition 37, the GMO labeling measure on the November ballot. Prop. 37 would require all food sold in stores in California containing genetically modified organisms or GMOs to disclose that clearly on the label.  It's a modest step for consumer awareness.  Don't you want to know what you are eating and feeding to your kids?

The makers of these organisms, engineered into plants to make them more pesticide resistant, give them longer shelf lives, and otherwise modify their genetic make up chemically, are spending major bucks to come up with spurious arguments why this simple measure is bad for the consumers.  Who is behind the No of Prop. 37 campaign? major chemical companies like Dow, Monsanto and others, who stand to profit big time by keeping you, the consumer, in the dark.   They apparently don't think "better living through chemistry" is a motto that will win the hearts and minds of the American people in the 21st century so now they bring up the specter of citizen lawsuits, and the unscrupulous lawyers who will take advantage of the law to make millions for themselves and drive mom and pop retailers out of business.

Or that's the line in today's Chronicle editorial:  "We do not have an issue with the concept of letting Californians know whether the food they eat has been genetically modified in some way....Perhaps the main problem with Prop. 37 is that it invites citizen lawsuits as a primary means of enforcing the labeling law."

They then cite what they claim to be abuses of California's Prop. 65, which requires notice of toxic materials like lead and cancer causing chemicals in products sold in California.  Yes, we all know there are those who exploit the law for their own benefit. It happens with all aspects of life.   But that does not justify the greater evil of allowing unchecked chemically altered foods to be foisted upon unsuspecting consumers with no consequence.
And without citizen lawsuits, with the possibility of recovering attorney's fees, who would bring scofflaws to task?  That's why these provisions are put into laws like the California Environmental Quality Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air act.  When these laws are broken, people, the environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and yes, the food we eat, all suffer.  Who better to be able to stop violations than the citizens designed to be protected. The chemical companies won't do it.  And allowing recovery of attorney fees makes it possible for ordinary people who can't afford to hire attorneys to fight long battles against much better funded opponents to protect them from potentially life-threatening, environment-damaging toxins.
A flimsy excuse for not voting for a sensible law that, after all, only labels what's in the product. it doesn't outlaw GMO's.  Monsanto and Dow and can continue their food experiments to their hearts' content.  They just have to tell us which foods they are experimenting on.  I guess their biggest fear is an informed public will choose not to use their family as guinea pigs in the chemical companies' experiment.
To read the other side of the story, go to     

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Debra Defends Romney on the 47% - with about 47% enthusiasm

Trying hard to justify Romney's blooper

Here she goes again. In today’s Chronicle, Debra Saunders, who I believe is secretly pulling out her hair by its roots over having to yet again, defend her boy Romney, as the good little Republican she is, uses some convoluted reasoning to tell us that Romney’s statement at that now infamous fundraiser, caught on video, and broadcast all over the internet and picked up by both the mainstream and the down stream media all week – and who took that video anyway and how did it find its way to Mother Jones I wonder?)  about 47% of Americans not paying taxes is “in the right neighborhood.” (Poor choice of words, as Romney’s neighborhood is on the other side of the tracks and up the hill from the people he purports to be talking about. I guess he has a good telescope to keep an eye on the peons below.)

While acknowledging it was a mistake to lump in the likes of senior citizens who have worked their whole life paying into the system, and now live on their meager Social Security, she says Romney “also hit on a truth: the percent of filers who pay payroll taxes for Social Security, but not federal income taxes has grown a lot.”

Taxes are taxes are taxes

Note:    Payroll taxes ARE income taxes. They come out of your income.  They go into a federal pot.  They may or may not be around to help you when you reach the age of retirement.  (Not, if Ryan/Romney have their way – they’d rather you put your money in the all mighty market and let the whims of economic forces, which the people who live in their neighborhood control, determine whether you get a pot of gold or potluck at the end of your working days). And only about 17% of people pay neither of these taxes. These include the elderly and the "working poor."

Saunders concedes Washington had good reason to provide some tax relief for the working poor, but parrots Romney’s belief that this somehow results in “over half of voters [supporting] any scheme designed to expand the federal government secure in the knowledge that they likely will not have to pay for it.”

Huh?  Where did that come from?   Over half the voters want the government to expand the government?  Which part of the government?  The military? I don’t think so.  Homeland security?  Probably not that either.   Maybe the part that builds roads and bridges, and puts out fires and catches criminals, and protects our air and water and food safety.    Those could all use shoring up.   But the part about not having to pay for it comes right out of the air. Or the Romney talking points.
The working poor pay taxes. Plain and simple. Stop lying about that.  Even if they get some federal breaks, they pay FICA, they pay sales tax, they pay property tax (and don’t tell me that if they rent, they don’t. Savvy landlords factor their tax load into that rent, and in poorest neighborhoods, abuses abound). And don't get me started on retires. They paid their whole working life into the system.  Do  Debra and her man Romney really expect us to believe these folks want more government without having to pay for it? 

The price of civilization

As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Paying taxes is the price of admission to a civilized society ”  (or some variation on that. In a legal opinion he said: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" and he is reported to have said (in a book by Justice Felix Frankfurter on Holmes' life) to a young secretary:  "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." 

What kind of society do we want?  Do we really want only pharmaceutical companies researching drugs to cure diseases? Do we want private toll roads?   Private fire departments?  Sick people too poor to pay for private insurance or private doctors, spreading germs to all?  Kids too ignorant to get any kind of job because their parents can’t send them to the private schools?  Or maybe we do. Maybe we want kids to work in factories for a pittance, like Romney saw in China, where the barbed wire is to keep people out, because a pittance looks good when you’re starving on the street.

The big lie - Tax cuts for the rich create jobs

And one last point. Debra lambasts the Obama proposal for increased taxes on the rich, reading from her Republican playbook, that to do so would “give business another reason to sit on their capital instead if hiring new workers.” Well, Debra, or someone, anyone, please show me the jobs, created in this country because of the Bush tax cuts.  Where are they, what are they?  According to one report by Forbes writer Rick Ungar (admittedly calling himself the "token leftie, much as Debra refers to herself as the "token Republican") in July of this year, during the Bush years, the increase in employment in the United States was between 4.5 and 7%.   That's a lot less than in the years without major tax cuts for the wealthy. So much for "job creators." 

As Ungar says:  Putting more money in the pockets of the wealthy may create a few jobs for the foreign bankers who get to count the extra money funneled into into the off-shore accounts of the rich, but there is nothing in the way of actual data to support the notion that putting more money into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans will inure to the benefit of those looking for work.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Organic is Better - Let me count the ways

A few days ago, my husband, who is not a true blue organic fan, told me his lips had been tingling for two days.  He thought maybe he was getting the dreaded cold sore, but nothing developed and the tingling continued.  Then it dawned on him.  The thing that had triggered the mystery lip-discomfort.  He had eaten a prune the night before.

 "was it organic?" I asked.

"No," he said sheepishly.

"Pesticide residue," I said.

"But I washed it." said he.

"Doesn't matter, if it was over-doused with poison."

"Yuck," he said.

Pesticide residue in our food is just one of the reasons that eating organic food is better for you. Despite what you might have read in the newspapers lately about there being no more nutrition in organic food than in conventionally grown food (a dubious claim, if you read the literature and comments closely), consider these other reasons to grow and eat organic:
  • Better for the land.  Soil that is not saturated with pesticides is more healthy, using natural mulch for fertilizer and no pesticides to linger in the ground, leach out to the water table or run-off to nearby streams and lakes.
  • Better for the people who grow and pick the produce we eat. Farmworkers have long been on the front line of the pesticide load.  Several of the early farmworker struggles were over the use of heavy pesticides in the fields. Farmworkers and their families experienced higher rates of cancer and reproductive disorders than the general population.Have we really forgotten all that?
  • No GMO's (genetically modified organisms), which is better for the health of the land as well as the people eating the food. Why? GMO food has been "modified" to resist pesticides that kills weeds and bugs, so the pesticide load is likely to be high, not to mention the issue of mutations in insect and plant life that adapt to the new conditions. 
  • Promotes local agriculture over agribiz.  Wouldn't you like to know where your food comes from? Smaller farms growing organic produce just makes more sense.  Get to know your local farmers, if you live in a productive area of the Country, and most areas are productive at least part of the year. Even if they don't grow purely organically, chances are they will uses fewer pesticides and artificial fertilizers, and if not, start pressuring them as consumers and neighbors.  Support your local food economy and it will support you.