Friday, May 31, 2013

Genetically Modified Wheat Has Probably Escaped Monsanto and Is Living in the Wild

This is Serious Stuff – No Joking on This Topic

Science now has the power to genetically modify crops, without having the knowledge to understand what they are doing or to know all of the ramifications of doing so.  This presents a particular type of horror, that mankind could literally genetically destroy the basic foodstuffs of humanity.  Really, that is possible.  Heck, chemical weapons research in the U. S. and other countries has likely already developed the technology to do it.  Skeptical?  The U. S. and other countries have developed the technology to destroy life on Earth with nuclear weapons, why not with chemical ones?

With the Monsanto Corporation we have a study in greed.  The company has a corporate mission to make genetically modified seeds.  The problem they are addressing is that in order to control weeds, herbicides are sprayed on fields.  But herbicides are too stupid to know the difference between weeds and crops.  So Monsanto is working to generically modify seeds so that they will resist the herbicides. They have already done this with soybeans, and now almost all soybeans planted are genetically modified crops.  

Monsanto tried this with wheat, but discontinued the program.  One reason was probably that many countries will not allow the import of genetically modified wheat, and the U. S. exports a lot of wheat.  So what has now happened years after the program was stopped?  This has happened.

USDA says unapproved genetically engineered wheat discovered in Oregon field


Any problems, well not according to the government, you know, the people everyone trusts completely.

The tests confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its Roundup Ready herbicides and were tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application.

The Agriculture Department said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests with the same glyphosate-resistant wheat variety. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

During that testing and application process, the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the variety found in Oregon and said it was as safe as conventional varieties of wheat.

And Monsanto has no problems here.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Monsanto noted that this is the first report since its program was discontinued.

“While USDA’s results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited,” the company said.

Oh really, and how does Monsanto know that?  They don’t of course, they are just trying to avoid a bad situation.  After all, until this strain was discovered in Oregon they didn't know that any modified seed had escaped.  

So what could go wrong here?  Well the genetically modified wheat that has escaped from Monsanto could contaminate the U. S. wheat crop.  The genetically modified wheat that has escaped could mutate into a strain of wheat that seriously injuries or kills humans?  The genetically modified wheat that has escaped could evolve into a strain that renders wheat sterile, thus ending wheat as a foodstuff with calamitous resuslts.

Is this likely?  Probably not, but consider this.  If Monsanto has allowed one strain of genetically modified wheat into the environment, what else have they allowed to contaminate the food system?  It took a long time for anyone to find out that this strain was out there, and Monsanto has shown that they cannot be trusted to contain their experiments. 

No one should take comfort in the fact that nothing has happened, yet.  A few years have gone by, a nano-second in the time span of nature, which works in units of thousands or millions of years.  That a problem could take years or decades to develop is not unusual, in fact a lengthy delay is what would be expected.  Corporate greed and stupidity may well have poisoned the future.

Monsanto has now been shown to be a company that cannot be trusted, and if the Obama Administration had any of the desire to regulate business that its critics accuse it of, it would shut down Monsanto's testing, research or involvement in any genetically modified experiments.  And it would notify the company that the government will hold Monsanto responsible for any damage it does to the foodstocks, to the environment and to U. S. trade in wheat.  But of course none of this will happen, and even if it did the business friendly courts would not uphold making Monsanto or any other company responsible for its actions.  The concept of personal responsibility applies only to low income people who are supposed to take care of their own problems.

The national press is currently consumed with a somewhat phony IRS scandal.  If the national press were a real news system, it would be consumed with this story. But then if the national press were a real news system a lot of things would be different, and people like Michele Bachmann would have been laughed out of the Congress years ago.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Bankrupt Michigan School District Teachers Offer to Work for Free

Now That’s What We’re Talking About

This Forum is often critical of teacher’s unions because correctly or incorrectly it often appears that the unions place the welfare and economic well being of their members ahead of educating children.  This is destructive, not only to the children and their parents but to the unions as well.  It is a self defeating strategy.  It is idiotic.  Nobody wins.

So when teachers in the Buena Vista school district in Michigan offered to help the bankrupt system by offering to work for free, this Forum applauds them.  Did they work for free?  Well, no.

The school district asked the state for a bailout, but Michigan officials initially declined, citing various legal obstacles. Teachers offered to work without pay to keep the schools open, but the school board refused, offering their own legal reasons. 

Now we are not sure what those ‘legal reasons’ were, but they had better be darn good ones, because the people citing those legal reasons are not suffering.  The children are suffering, and adults who penalize children for the mistakes of adults are pretty poor specimens of homo sapiens.

And yes Michigan is run by Republicans.  And yes the Governor is a conservative who doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about the problem.

Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer has askedGov. Rick Snyder to provide emergency funds to the district, according to the Detroit News.

Snyder said Thursday he hopes to quickly resolve the financial crisis that caused the small Saginaw County system to lay off employees and close its doors. But the rainy day fund won't be used to bailout Buena Vista schools, Snyder said, because "that's not what the rainy day fund is really intended for."

"There's a lot of discussion going on this topic and I hope we have a resolution," he said. "The most important thing is how do we make sure these kids can finish the school year."

What, you expected that he would help?  C’mon man.

A Chance, A Small Chance That Courts Will Rule That College Marketing Organizations and Private Firms Cannot Appropriate a College Athlete’s Persona Without Compensation

And a Long Long Battle To Come

Ryan Hart was a quarterback at Rutgers University a while back.  And without his permission and without compensating him the EA Company took his likeness and inserted it into a football video game.  Now this is obviously wrong.  No business has the right to make money by duplicating the likeness of a person without permission or compensation.  So Mr. Hart sued.

After several years, and after a lower court had dismissed his case, Mr. Hart won a victory in the Third Circuit.  No he didn’t win his case, he just won the right to pursue his case.

Mr. Hart, and no this Forum will not
compensate him for using his likeness
The video game industry is not off the hook just yet. Former Rutgers football player, Ryan Hart, just got the go ahead from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to continue his Electronic Arts lawsuit. Hart had sued EA for misappropriation of his likeness in their NCAA Football video games depicting a college football player similar to him when he played.

EA said they had the right under the first amendment, freedom of expression, to use Mr. Hart in a video game, just like books and movies can portray real people without their permission and portray fictional characters without violating copyright laws. 

But clearly this is different.  They are simply appropriating his likeness, in effect making him star in a video game even though he has not consented to do so.  Yes Mr. Hart was an amateur athlete, but that does not mean he is not entitled to his rights.

It will take great persistence and many years to settle this issue.  And given the business friendly attitude of courts, it is more likely than not Mr. Hart will lose.  But we wish him well and wish him success.  The exploitation of college athletes, which makes millions for the schools and their partners and nothing, absolutely nothing for the athletes is wrong, just plain wrong.  It is morally wrong, it is legally wrong and it is completely wrong.

Other than that we don’t have a very strong opinion on the subject.

Here They Come – The 2016 Republican Presidential Field is Starting to Take Shape

No It’s Not Too Early – the 2012 Election is Over 6 Months Old

It is impossible to read the political news without being hammered about the news of the potential 2016 Republican candidates. Yes the race has begun, the ambition is so strong in many of the men who would seek the office that they cannot help themselves.  Here is what we know so far.

Certain Candidates:

  1. Florida Senator Marco Rubio:  Sen. Rubio is setting himself out as the responsible Republican on immigration and the outreach candidate to the Hispanic community.  The Hispanic community knows that Sen. Rubio’s Hispanic heritage is Cuban, and that he really doesn’t care about the rest of them.  So Mr. Rubio is going to have to strengthen the charade.

  1. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:  Mr. Bush has seen Sen. Rubio jump out in front of the potential Florida candidates, so he is busily putting himself in the news, albeit not in the best way.  He had to retract the positions in his book just after it was published.  Based on the success of Mitt Romney in getting the nomination by being totally inconsistent Mr. Bush obviously thinks he has little to worry about in that regard.

  1. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul:  Mr. Paul has been basking in the glow of his real filibuster against President Obama and the news coverage that for some reason has been focusing on him. .  People who take him and his issues seriously have expressed good thoughts about Sen. Paul, and will do so until they actually take a look at the rest of his record and positions.

  1. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:  Mr. Jindal is positioning himself to run as a successful Governor who, if his policy in Louisiana is ever implemented, will have shifted the tax burden from the wealthy in his state to the lower and middle income groups.  This will make him highly admired in the Republican Party.

Considering Candidacy:

  1. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:  Gov. Christie’s strategy is moderate his views to win over-whelming re-election in a Democratic state and thus position himself as a candidate who can win in the general election.  Republicans may be thirsty enough for a victory to buy that line, but probably not. They value purity over electability.  

  1. Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan:  As the defeated VP candidate Rep. Ryan has a natural claim to the nomination.  His fortunes will depend upon how well the Ryan budget is accepted, which cuts spending to such a degree that it supposedly (but does not ) balance the budget in 10 years.  The key to the Ryan candidacy, fooling some of the people all of the time.  But people are catching on, so far Mr. Ryan is a non-entity.

  1. Texas Governor Rick Perry:  Gov. Perry may have the Presidential bug, or he may have been cured of that disease by his disastrous 2012 campaign.  He does not appear to have learned anything, so he may run the same campaign in 2016 that he ran in 2012, with the same results expected.

  1. Retiring Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell:  Gov. McDonnell is a strident conservative who learned to present himself as a slightly less conservative Governor.  He has a lot of baggage with women from his past positions, but he will have three years with nothing to do but campaign, and may decide that the way to be the VP nominee is to be a slightly failed Presidential candidate.  On the other hand he is now mired in a gifts scandal, and his Republican successor is a radical right winger, so he may soon be mired in obscurity.
Then there is also Ben Carson (who?)  This soon to be retired apparently brilliant neurosurgeon wants to base tax policy on the Bible, and thus has endeared himself to the serious side of Conservatism.  .  There is also Rick Santorum, after all, somebody has to represented the anti-gay bigots of the Republican party.  And of course Michele Bachmann was out there, really out there but she decided to follow the Sarah Palin model and quit.

The view here, a Jeb Bush/Un-named woman ticket is a sure bet.  Well, actually a long shot.  Well, really no chance.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Breaking News – Michele Bachmann Will Not Seek Re-Election to the House of Representatives

The Good Guys Have a Rare Win

Ms. Bachmann Now Free to Make Millions From Right Wing Groups

The dislike of almost everyone except hard line Conservatives for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann does not stem from her conservative politics, but from her tactics.  Ms. Bachman in many cases just made stuff up in order to attack her opponents and support her positions. Her nastiness is legion.   Her brief run for the Presidency was an embarrassment even to Republicans.

Now comes the news that Ms. Bachmann, facing an FBI ethics investigation and a well financed, highly motivated opponent in the upcoming 2014 election has decided to quit.

With an early morning video message to supporters, embattled Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she would not run for re-election next year.

"My dear friends, after a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year that I will not seek a fifth congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the Sixth District of Minnesota," Bachmann said in the Wednesday morning video. "I've never considered holding public office to be an occupation."

The high-profile congresswoman had a narrow re-election last year and is under federal investigation for her 2012 presidential campaign. A recent poll found that a rematch with her 2012 Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, was a dead heat. 

In a polished video message, which included her personal list of what she believes she accomplished during her eight years in Washington, she said supporters could "rest assured" that neither of those challenges influenced her decisions.

The future for Ms. Bachmann is certainly one of making a huge amount of money by appearing on Fox News and by giving speeches around the countries to well financed conservative groups and organizations.  Initially the media will report these speeches, which will have to have increasingly inflammatory and inaccurate rhetoric, but soon afterwards Ms. Bachmann will simply fade away and become largely irrelevant.  Sort of like that other person of similar characteristics, uh, what was her name, Sally or Susan or Sarah something.

The Bank of England Head Wants Everyone to Stop “Demonizing” Bankers

Apparently Not Their Fault the System is Rotten

One thing everyone knows from the last election in the U. S. is that the Wall Street crowd, bankers and hedge fund managers and the like have a pretty thin skin.  They regard any criticism of themselves for the recent and current financial sector scandals by anyone as totally outlandish. After all they were not responsible for the near fatal crash of the financial system, the "system" was responsible.  And so despite the tremendous financial success they experienced under President Obama, they deserted his campaign and spent millions trying to defeat him. 

Apparently this same attitude rules the day in England, where the head of the Bank of England went on a major whine to protest people who blame bankers for the failure of the banking system.

In a valedictory interview he said: “Don’t demonise individuals here. This wasn’t a problem of individuals, this was a problem of failure of a system. 

Now we admit to being confused here.  Isn’t something like a banking system made up of and controlled by, well, bankers?  And aren't these bankers individuals?  Apparently not, apparently the “system” exists independent of any individuals, sort of like a cyborg or something out of a zombie movie.

But everyone should feel badly that the bankers have hurt feelings, and everyone should only hope that the millions and millions they have taken in compensation and the millions and millions they will take in future compensation is enough to offset their pain.

Further Proof New York State Politics is the Weirdest in the Country – Democrat Vito Lopez to Resign From Assembly Over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

And Here’s What He Will Do Next

One of the joys of leaving New York State, which The Dismal Political Economist did about nine years ago is leaving New York State politics and governance.  Yes there was the Eliot Spitzer disaster, but what really happens is that corruption runs rampant in the state legislature.  At any given point in time most of the Assembly or Senate members are either under indictment, are going to be under indictment, are being investigated in order to see if they should be indicted or wearing wires to record other members so they can be indicted.

But occasionally a member has to leave the legislature for just awful behavior.

Mr. Lopez - Looking Confused, Just Like the Rest of Us - On His Behavior

State Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, the once-powerful Brooklyn Democratic leader who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, said on Friday that he would resign.  .  .

The allegations against Mr. Lopez first became public last August, when the Assemblycensured him for sexually harassing two women who worked for him. The New York Times later reported that the Assembly had previously settled two other harassment allegations against Mr. Lopez, but had not made those settlements public and had not referred the allegations to a legislative ethics committee. Then this week, the anger over Mr. Lopez’s conduct intensified after the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics issued a report detailing the behavior alleged by multiple women, and on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Silver, both Democrats, said they wanted the Assembly to expel Mr. Lopez.

Now in most jurisdictions this would be the end of one’s public career.  But remember, this is New York.

But his offer only inflamed an uproar over his behavior because, a few words later, he said the resignation would not take effect for five weeks, and then he would run for a seat on the New York City Council.

That’s right, Mr. Lopez is resigning from the New York State Assembly after multiple accusations of in order to run for the New York City Council.  Kinda makes everyone wish they were registered to vote in that election.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Naïve Sen. John McCain in Syria to Try for Support for Syrian Rebels

No, These Are Not All Nice People – They Are a Disparate Group, Some of Whom Are Al Qaeda Supported

For Senator John McCain there seems to be no war that he does not like, no conflict that he does not want to involve U. S. troops.  The various debacles in the Middle East are all in part a result of Mr. McCain and his ‘let’s go to war’ cohorts involvement in situations which they just did not understand.  Now Mr. McCain is at it again.

New York Times

May 27, 2013, 3:49 pm

McCain Travels to Syria to Meet With Rebel Forces

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has called for the United States to intervene militarily in Syria, traveled to Syria on Monday to meet with rebel forces fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a spokesman for Mr. McCain. It was the first time that a United States senator had gone to Syria to meet with the rebels since the conflict there began two years ago.
Mr. McCain entered Syria from southern Turkey, according to his spokesman, Brian Rogers, who added that the senator had been in the region to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan over the weekend.
The problem here is that like many other people who see the world as simply black and white, Mr. McCain does not understand that the rebel forces in Syria are not a single group of freedom fighters.  Instead they are a complex mixture of sects, some of whom really, really hate us and some of whom are really, really a bunch of bad people.

AS THE civil war in Syria has dragged on, the rebels have become more Islamist and extreme. For Western governments pondering whether to arm them, Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front) is the biggest worry. Its global jihadist ideology justifies violence to bring about a nation where all Muslims unite. It enjoys murky sources of private funding, including regular payments from al-Qaeda in Iraq. Ahrar al-Sham has more local aims, but its comrades are also vehemently Islamist. Other umbrella groups, such as Liwa al-Tawhid in Aleppo, Syria’s embattled second city, are harder to classify, in part because they serve as franchises or bring together smaller groups with a range of ideas.

The Farouq Battalions, whose territorial reach goes from Homs to Hasaka in the north-east, is another mixed bag, ranging from Islamists to people with no particular ideology. The Supreme Military Command, led by General Salim Idriss, a Sunni defector from President Assad’s army, includes some able commanders but still lacks the cash and arms to match either the regime’s forces or Jabhat al-Nusra, which ignores the military command. Ominously, rebels from more secular-minded or more moderately Islamist groups speak openly of a second war to come—against Jabhat al-Nusra. 

Thanks in large part to the wrong headed policy of the United States in the 1950’s when it deposed an elected government in Iran and installed the Shah, there is now in the nation of Iran a government that could well unleash a region wide war in the area.

So if Mr. McCain is successful, here’s the group he could bring to power.

For Western governments pondering whether to arm the rebels rather than merely advise them and provide non-lethal support, Jabhat al-Nusra is the biggest worry. By some estimates, it now has 6,000 carefully vetted men, mainly Syrians but under foreign leadership. Its global jihadist ideology justifies violence to bring about a nation where all Muslims unite. “Most groups are a reaction to the regime, whereas we are fighting for a vision,” explains one of its fighters.

Look Senator McCain, while you are in the Middle East take a look at your work in Iraq.  Not a pretty picture, is it.

New York Times

At Least 53 Are Killed in Bombings in Baghdad

European Pressphoto Agency
The scene of a car bombing in central Baghdad on Monday. A wave of attacks in Shiite neighborhoods added to fears of renewed sectarian fighting.

American Air Carriers Fall Behind in Competition to Provide Even Worse Service

Somehow We Think They Will Catch Up

Flying in the United States is a chore, a loathsome experience that almost everyone does only because they have to do it.  And of course baggage, if checked, has an even worse ride.  A lot of times it ends up at a different place than its owners.

Couple flown to wrong continent after airline error
The couple had hoped to land in Dakar, on the Senegalese coast (left), but instead they ended up in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka Photo: AP/ Alamy

Only 7,000 miles apart, and they look so much alike it is easy to make that mistake

Now a Turkish Airline has decided to up the game, and instead of losing baggage and sending it to the wrong airport, it loses passengers and sends them to the wrong airport.

Sandy Valdiviseo and her husband Triet Vo were intending to fly from Los Angeles to Dakar in Senegal with Turkish Airlines. However, instead they ended up almost 7,000 miles away – on an entirely different continent – in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, after the airport codes were mixed up, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The couple has been offered compensation

"We are very, very sorry that this happened," a Turkish Airlines spokeswoman said. The couple have since been offered two free economy-class tickets to anywhere on the airline’s flight network.

And the airline added that yes they can go anywhere they want to that we fly to, but just because they want to go to a place doesn’t mean we will take them there. They have to take their chances, just like any other airline passenger.

A spokesperson for U. S. based airlines said that while the U. S. carriers were behind in the race to send passengers to the wrong airport, “we are dedicated to becoming the leader in losing passengers and sending them some place other than what their ticket says.  And if it is our fault, we will charge them only the coach fare, not the first class rate to get them back to where they were supposed to be, assuming we can do that.”

Conservatives in North Carolina Just Cannot Stop – Now They Want to Increase Smoking

Public Health Be Damned – This is About Freedom to Get and Give Lung Cancer

When the good citizens of North Carolina turned control of the state over the ultra right wing Republicans they probably felt they would get all of that “local government control” that many people want.  By electing Conservatives they must have felt that finally the state would let localities operate more freely.  After all, that is the Conservative way.

Of course, it is not.  Conservatives don’t object to centralized governmental control, they just object when it doesn’t suit their purposes.  And now apparently their purposes are to increase smoking, so they want to override any local ordinances or laws that restrict smoking in public places.

The very picture of freedom
Senate Bill 703, which passed the Senate Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources Committee, prohibits local governments and community colleges from regulating outdoor smoking in a manner that’s more restrictive than state law. It is just the latest way state lawmakers are taking action to overturn or limit local policies they oppose.
Because state law doesn’t impose restrictions on smoking outdoors, the measure would nullify other anti-smoking laws for publicly owned open spaces such as parks, beaches and community college campuses.

Oh and here is the reasoning.

“Around the state, a number of localities and other institutions are trying to take this legal product and say you can’t consume it outdoors,” said Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson Republican, the bill sponsor. “I just personally find that objectionable.”

Well Mr. Newton, folks like us, folks in the majority find it objectionable that you want more people to be exposed to second hand smoke, and more young people to see other people smoking and think it is ok and we certainly find it objectionable that you would use the power of state government to override what local folks want to do, when that is exactly the opposite of your so-called Conservatism.

Oh and just in case anyone thinks this is an isolated case of hypocrisy, there is this.

Republican legislative leaders pushed to approve measures to void the city of Raleigh’s lease on the Dix property, transfer control of the Charlotte airport to a regional authority, redraw Wake County school board districts, give the state all environmental regulatory power and limit local governments’ ability to impose design standards on homes.
House lawmakers continued the effort this week, giving final approval Tuesday to a measure that limits the ability of cities and counties to ensure the safety of low-income housing and crack down on neighborhoods with high crime rates.

A day earlier, the House passed legislation 73-41 to prevent local governments from automatically deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, a move that would affect firefighters and police officers.

Another provision in the bill restricts a locality from requiring a business to assume any liability for its carbon footprint. If approved, it would end Durham County’s commuter ordinance that requires businesses to implement plans to manage its employees’ transportation needs.

But this might turn out good in the end.  As we said, North Carolina voters are not getting what they thought they got, and given the moribund Democratic Party in the state getting Republicans to defeat themselves may be the state’s only hope.  The Dems certainly are not going to do it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

If You Are From New York . . .

This Rhymes

For a story about Katz this Forum will make an exception to its 'no food' rule.

During World War II, then-owner Harry Tarowski hung a sign encouraging parents to “send a salami to your boy in the Army.” The sign still hangs in the deli today.

  • Courtesy of Katz’s Delicatessen

  • Courtesy of Katz’s Delicatessen

During World War II, then-owner Harry Tarowski hung a sign encouraging parents to “send a salami to your boy in the Army.” The sign still hangs in the deli today.

Washington Post Conservative Columnist George Will Defends Wants Many Instances of Sexual Harassment Protected Under the Doctrine of Free Speech

And Completely Fabricates a Department of Education Policy on the Subject

The concept of free speech is dear to the renown conservative columnist George Will.  For example he wants billionaires to have the right to speak so freely and so loudly and so often that they drown out other speech.  To him that is what the Constitution stands for.

Mr. Will’s latest fulmination is against the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.  That office investigated sexual harassment policies at the University of MinnesotaMr. Will is aghast.

Many scandals mean merely cursory scrutiny of most. Now, notice the scant attention being given to an assault on civil liberties by the misconceived Education Department’s misnamed Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Responding to what it considers the University of Montana’s defective handling of complaints about sexual assaults, OCR, in conjunction with the Justice Department, sent the university a letter intended as a “blueprint” for institutions nationwide when handling sexual harassment, too. The letter, sent on May 9, encourages (see below) adoption of speech codes — actually, censorship regimes — to punish students who:

Make “sexual or dirty jokes” that are “unwelcome.” Or disseminate “sexual rumors” (even if true) that are “unwelcome.” Or make “unwelcome” sexual invitations. Or engage in the “unwelcome” circulation or showing of “e-mails or Web sites of a sexual nature.” Or display or distribute “sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials” that are “unwelcome.”

So presumably Mr. Will thinks that it is okay for students to make unwelcome sexual speech, that a person's right to speak freely is above that of a person’s right to be free of sexual harassment. But the real issue here is that Mr. Will has largely fabricated his entire case; it has no basis in reality or what actually took place between the Department of Education and the University.

The document that is the source of Mr. Will’s consternation is this letter from the Department of Education to the University of Minnesota.  Unlike Mr. Will, we have actually read the material, and without repeating it in detail (it is like, really boring legal stuff), it does none of the things that Mr. Will accuses it of.  There is no speech code.  There is no censorship.  All of that is made up by Mr. Will to support an argument that apparently cannot be supported by the fact.   The letter simply documents the lack of the University’s adequacy for dealing with accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and tells the University what it must do to make things right.

In fact, nowhere does Mr. Will quote from or reference the document.  Instead he uses the undocumented analysis of other conservatives who think that free speech is an unbridled license to attack and assault.

Mr. Will, of course, is immune from any problems in this area, non one is harrassing him, and his defense of free speech as the right to verbally assault individuals after those individuals have loudly and clearly expressed a desire not to be verbally assaulted is just one more way in which his conservatism is wrong.  Wrong morally, wrong ethically and even wrong Constitutionally.  There are limits on the right of speech to harm others, such as libel, defamation, crying fire in a crowded theater and the like. 

If Mr. Will was really interested in protecting free speech he would use his efforts and influence to prohibit those who abuse that freedom from acting in such a way that a reaction is to overly regulate speech.  But Mr. Will is just too offended that free speech is the victim when one person continually and obsessively verbally attacks another person. 

And why, why is Mr. Will still granted appearance on a major TV news show?

Blame the Victim in the Trayvon Martin Case Is Now Fully Underway

And Lawyers Wonder Why They Are Compared Unfavorably to Weasels

And the Weasels Aren't Real Happy About It Either

After being away from the news for many months, as well it should have been, the Trayvon Martin death and the trial of his killer, George Zimmerman are now back in the news.  Pre-trial stuff is under way, and the defense has a great strategy, in addition to actual assassination (accidental or not), Trayvon Martin is now to be subject to character assassination.

Defense attorneys want to show a jury text messages and unsavory photos of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen slain in one of the nation's most sensational and race-sensitive killings.

As far as judging the guilt or innocence of Mr. Zimmerman, this Forum is more than willing to wait for the trial and the prosecution’s case, and it is possible this will turn out to have been a tragic accident and not a pre-meditated killing.  But as far as the guilt of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers in engaging in atrocious, irrelevant and offensive tactics, well everyone is ready to judge them guilty right now.  Consider this.

The defense team posted the new evidence online along with a number of other materials. The photos of Trayvon include his student identification card for Dr. Michael M. Krop High School and pictures of him wearing what appears to be gold teeth.

Other photos show him with his middle fingers up at the camera, standing in between two other young men. Still other photos show Trayvon in more innocuous settings, such as one that shows him standing in an embrace with his older brother. Another shows him horseback riding.

Other photos, which the O'Mara said came from Trayvon's phone, show a hand holding a gun as well as what appears to be a marijuana plant. The defense's potential evidence also shows Stephen Martin, Witness 25, Trayvon's cousin, posing with his shirt off and with what looks like a wrestling title belt.

Wow, gold teeth, and a hand holding a gun in a picture on his cell phone.  And his cousin has his shirt off and a wrestliing title belt!    Since all of this is completely and totally and absolutely irrelevant one assumes that the judge will toss all of this out, and not allow any of this garbage to go before a jury.  There mere fact that Mr. Zimmerman’s attorneys are going this route is another tragedy for the Martin family, a huge black mark on the legal profession, and just another reminder that the legal community needs to better police itself.  Legal ethics should not be an oxymoron, but it is for these attorneys. 

Washington State Now Knows the Cost of Not Spending Money on Maintaining Infrastructure

Here’s a Great Idea – Let’s Just Let the Bridges Collapse

Conservatives hate, they hate a lot of things but mainly what they hate is government.  And they really hate government spending, you know, taxing hard earned monies and using it for education, public safety and even transportation.

So the lack of government spending on maintaining and supporting transportation just showed up, big time, in Washington State.  Here is what used to be an Interstate highway bridge.

Anybody see the problem here, anybody?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Unexpected Great News From the Boy Scout Decision to Allow Gay Members

Now All the Scouts Need to Do is Get Rid of the Rest of Their Discrimination

The Boy Scouts of America made news recently by deciding to withdraw the ban on gay young men joining the organization.  Although why gay young men would want to join an organization that still harbors anti-gay prejudice in the form of not allowing gay men and women to be leaders in the organization, at least if they want to join they can.

And the good news for Scouting just keeps on coming.  As a result of the lifting of the ban it looks like a number of folks who retain their prejudices are going to leave the Boy Scouts.

The Rev. John De Celles at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church in Springfield had told congregants in a recent newsletter that the policy change “would be a statement that ‘gay is okay’ ” and that the parish by September would work to create a new scouting group “that will defend Christian values.” But De Celles did not return phone messages Friday, nor did staff at the Immanuel Bible Church — also in Springfield — where a parent active in Scouting said it was likely the program would shut down at the end of 2013, before the new policy kicks in Jan. 1.

. . .

Several conservative religious denominations, including the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, have already formed their own Scouts-like organizations. The most visible movement against lifting the ban was a national group called On My Honor, whose leadership said it would hold a meeting next month in Louisville “with other likeminded organizations, parents and [Boy Scouts of America] members” to create an alternate group.

Well first of all this is news that the Boy Scouts are a Christian organization, we always thought they were non-sectarian.  But anyone who doesn’t see equality as a virtue that Boy Scouts should have is not only welcome to leave but they will also be doing a service to the Boy Scouts by leaving.

As for the members of the gay community, even though the Scouts will retain some of their anti-gay policies, they are going to pitch in and help despite the ban on gay adult leaders.

Gay advocates said they would now turn to helping the Scouts.

“Pro-equality groups are planning to encourage youth, including gay youth, to join and participate in the Boy Scouts. As they demonstrate their dedication to the program, hopefully it can change the culture of the organization from the inside,” said Ross Murray, a spokesman for GLAAD. “I will say, however, the ban on gay adult leaders is still a major barrier for many families and organizations.”

Hm, wonder which of the two groups most exemplifies the values of the Boy Scout program, the religious and morally rightous who want to exclude people they don’t like from Scouting, or the gay community which will pitch in and help despite the remaining discrimination from the Scouts?

Not a hard question, is it?

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Whether or Not Greece (the Western New York Town, Not the Country) May Have Christian Prayers at Town Board Meetings

Uh Oh – A Strike for Religious Freedom or A Move Towards Government Imposed Religion?

Almost all governmental bodies open their sessions with prayer.  This is acceptable, both in law and in tradition.  But it is not acceptable for the prayers to turn into religious services of one particular religion.  The town of Greece, New York, a very nice community outside of Rochester did just that, and now the case is headed for the Supreme Court.

The town board of Greece opened its sessions with Christian prayers for almost a decade.  Then one year it allowed four persons from other religions to give the prayers, and after that reverted back to the practice of allowing only Christian religious prayers.  Some citizens of the town brought action in Federal court to stop this, and the Federal court dismissed the suit.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that while prayers, even sectarian praying was acceptable, having only prayers that verged on services from one religion was a de facto establishment of religion that was not Constitutional.

The 2nd Circuit went to great lengths to make a narrow decision, arguing that the town simply did not have the right to allow almost total exclusivity to one religion.

What we do hold is that a legislative prayer practice that, however well-intentioned, conveys to a reasonable objective observer under the totality of the circumstances an official affiliation with a particular religion violates the clear command of the Establishment Clause.

Where the overwhelming predominance of prayers offered are associated, often in an  explicitly sectarian way, with a particular creed, and where the town takes no steps to avoid the identification, but rather conveys the impression that town officials themselves identify with the sectarian prayers and that residents in attendance are expected to participate in them, a reasonable objective observer would perceive such an affiliation.

That the Supreme Court will take this case is highly disturbing.  First of all the issue is not “ripe”, because the 2nd Circuit simply sent the case back to the lower Court for a new ruling.  And given the desire on the part of so-called conservative Justices on the Supreme Court to invalidate the Establishment clause and have sectarian religion as a part of government it may well be that they see this as a vehicle with which to enshrine a religion into government operations.

The case is yet another example of Conservatives who will not be conservative.  Those who profess a deep love of the Constitution, i.e., Conservatives should abhor a violation of the Bill of Rights.  But because this violation is something supported by Conservatives, they will only condemn the actions of a court to uphold and defend the Constitution.  They want violations when it supports their policy, in this case, government endorsement of a particular religion and of religious practices.

Justices Scalia and Thomas will see no problem with what the Town of Greece is doing.  After all if they are establishing religion, it is the religion of Justices Scalia and Thomas, and so they see no harm in imposing their religion on others.  In their minds their religion is the 'right' religion.

Very, very scary.

This Forum is Sad to Report the Death of Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan

Not Physical Death, Death as a Serious Political Commentator

Peggy Noonan is a former Ronald Reagan speech writer and uncritical advocate of the late actor/President and currently occupies the Saturday columnist spot for the Wall Street Journal.  Despite her background as a Reagan apologist, in past years some of her columns have shown some thought, some keen observations and most importantly, a willingness to look critically at both Republicans and Democrats, often with the soft touch of irony rather than the harsh rhetoric of a polemicist.

But sadly that Peggy Noonan has departed.  We don’t know if it was a natural death of her keen political insight, or a death mandated by the editors of the Wall Street Journal who are loathe to print any opinion except those that agree with their position that Democrats in general and Mr. Obama in particular are the devil incarnate.  But for whatever reason Ms. Noonan has now joined the mindless, thoughtless robots of all Obama criticism, all the time.

Ms. Noonan has currently worked herself into a spewing rage about the so-called abuses of the IRS and is now arguing that freedom loving Conservatives everywhere are being hounded by the government.  Of course, other than the fact that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative sounding groups for investigation of their request for tax exempt status, an investigation that the groups themselves requested, she has nothing but anecdotal blather from right wing sources.  Her most recent column is largely filled with the unsupported allegations from an attorney representing a conservative who has sued the IRS.

So RIP intelligent, semi-objective Ms. Noonan.  And thanks for warning us that ultra radical Ms. Noonan has now taken over the body.  And we are sorry we cannot attend your coming out party that the editors of the WSJ will be throwing for you.  We would like to be there but so far our invitation has not arrived in the mail.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Want More Poison Sprayed on Your Food – Here it Comes

Eat Now – Repent Later With All Sorts of Health Issues

One of the great myths of modern society is that man is smarter than nature.  For example, if there are insects which devour a large portion of a crop man can poison those insects by spraying the crops or putting poison in the ground, and there are no side effects.


Putting poison on foods results in putting poison on food. 

But mankind is really smart, which means we will just make genetically modified plants that resist the insects.

Until recently, corn farmers in the U.S. had largely abandoned soil insecticides, thanks mostly to a widely adopted genetic trait developed by Monsanto Co.  that causes corn seeds to generate their own pest-killing toxins, but which the Environmental Protection Agency says doesn't hurt humans.

The modified seeds, first introduced in 2003, proved to be largely effective against the corn rootworm, a voracious bug that is the main scourge of the nation's largest crop. Today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two-thirds of all corn grown in the U.S. includes a rootworm-targeting gene known as Bt.

Problem solved, unless you are one of those crazies who doesn’t want to eat genetically modified food, in which case too bad, the government says its safe.  Of course that is the same government that operates the Defense Department and manages the IRS.

So what’s the problem now, well PROBLEM UNSOLVED

Aaron Gassmann/Iowa State University
Corn that has fallen over or 'lodged' as a result of rootworm damage.

In 2011, however, entomologists at Iowa State University and the University of Illinois started to document rootworms that were immune to the Monsanto gene, and have found these resistant pests scattered across the Midwest.

Gosh, it’s called evolution, and despite the ultra Conservatives who say it doesn’t exist (and who then can’t explain how rootworms could change, rootworms are not intelligent beings after all, they are about as intelligent as Conservatives) it does.  So what happens now?

Insecticide sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness.

The sales are a boon for big pesticide makers, such as American Vanguard Corp. and Syngenta  But it has sparked fresh concerns among environmental groups and some scientists that one of the most widely touted benefits of genetically modified crops—that they reduce the need for chemical pest control—is unraveling. At the same time, the resurgence of insecticides could expose both farmers and beneficial insects to potential harm.

Oh, but is it safe?  Well how could putting huge amounts of poison into the soil where food crops are grown be a bad thing?  And besides, isn’t the government looking out for everyone here?

The government doesn't track insecticide use annually

Oh, maybe not.

Now this problem could be largely solved with things like crop rotation and other good farming techniques.  But corn is priced very high right now, and farmers make a lot of money from planting it.  So if they have to poison the ground, well that's just a cost the rest of us will have to bear.