Posted by: quiscus | October 11, 2010

October 11, 2010

1.  Let’s hope so:

The Sun Is Fading on Biotechnology


Biotechnology may have had its day in the sun, but that light is fading. The New York Times reported Monsanto’s stock dropped from a peak of $145 a share in 2008 to under $48 a share on Monday. The Christian Science Monitor noted that “the rapid increase in the percentage of US farm acres planted with biotech crops has slowed. It rose only 1 percent last year, from 85 percent to 86 percent, the smallest increase since 2001.”

Cataloguing the problems of the biotech industry, CSM states:


“Corn Belt farmers complain loudly about the soaring cost of seed. The federal government is investigating the industry for anticompetitive practices. Farmers are grappling increasingly with weeds that have grown resistant to Roundup, an herbicide widely used with genetically modified crops, and genetic contamination of conventional crops.”


Even the United Nations rebuked biotechnology this year when it concluded that agroecology “improves food production and farmers’ incomes while at the same time protecting the soil, water and climate.”

2.  “Professional Leftist Michael Hayden praises Obama’s “continuity”

The parallel is too obvious to require elaboration:  there is no shortage of Democrats and progressives who hurled all sorts of accusatory rhetoric at Bush and Cheney for — as Hayden put it — “state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners,” etc., yet now either turn a blind eye to or actively defend Obama as he does exactly the same thing, and sometimes worse.  It’s certainly true that there has been far more dissent to Obama’s actions in these areas from prominent progressive commentators than there ever was conservative dissent to Bush, but the vast bulk of Democrats who screamed such bloody murder about these policies during the Bush years are steadfastly silent or, worse, even supportive now that Obama is doing them.  I can’t think of anything more absurd than the claim that Democrats currently defending Obama’s assassination program would be defending Bush if he asserted the same unchecked power; there’d be no rhetorical limit on the accusations they’d be hurling if it were Bush and Cheney asserting the power to order the CIA to assassinate American citizens without due process and far from any battlefield.


Civil liberties and a belief in the need to check government power is something many people care about only when the other party is in control.  They seem to believe that there are two kinds of leaders — Good ones (their party) and Bad ones (the other party) — and it’s only when the latter wield power that safeguards and checks are necessary.  Good leaders, by definition, are entitled to trust and faith that they will wield power appropriately and for Good ends, thus rendering unnecessary things like accountability, transparency, oversight and even due process.  Of course, the core premise of our government from the start was that political power will be inevitably abused if it is exercised without constraints, that nothing is more irrational or destructive than placing blind faith in political leaders to exercise unchecked power magnanimously.  But the temptation to want to follow Leaders blindly — to believe in their core Goodness and to thus vest them with unverified trust — is almost as compelling a part of human nature as the abuse of power when exercised without checks and in the dark.


That’s why self-anointed defenders of the Constitution are instantly transformed into authoritarians and back again every time there is a change of party control:  many people don’t believe in these principles generally, but only when political leaders they dislike are in power.  The problem, though, is that endorsing civil liberties abuses because one’s own Party is in power virtually ensures that those abuses will become permanent, available to future leaders from the other Party as well.  That was the argument which fell on deaf ears when made to cheering Bush supporters, and it’s barely more effective now.”


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