Carbon Monoxide

Etenesh Mersha, 46, meanwhile, made a fateful decision, one repeated by scores of Texas residents who lost electricity that week. Desperate to warm up, she went into their attached garage and turned the key to start her car. As the engine hummed, it provided power to run the car’s heater and charge her phone while she talked to a friend in Colorado — at the same time, filling her garage and home with a poisonous gas.

propublica.org

The number of deaths from the Winter storm that passed through Texas and the rest of the nation back in February is almost certainly an undercount. There were 86 deaths that occurred in Travis county in that timeframe, and yet only twelve deaths are claimed as storm-related. I simply don’t accept the number as reported by Republican controlled Texas state agencies.

I find it hard to believe that so many people died of carbon monoxide poisoning. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because I was almost killed by carbon monoxide poisoning when I was night stocking at the Piggly Wiggly in San Angelo. They had decided to remodel the store, and they were running gas-powered concrete saws to cut in new refrigerant lines to the new display cases. They didn’t want people to just walk into the store at night, so they locked all the doors and started up the saws. They couldn’t figure out why we all got headaches and had to go home.

Maybe it is because the heat exchanger on our upstairs furnace leaked due to the previous owner welding a crack in the furnace rather than replacing it. We almost died that time as well, until I noticed that I was having the same symptoms that I had when they were cutting the floors that time in the 80’s.

American media is replete with stories about people committing suicide by sitting in their cars in an enclosed garage. I have a hard time believing that most people hadn’t been exposed to the knowledge that carbon monoxide is a killer and that you shouldn’t burn fossil fuels in an enclosed space because of carbon monoxide buildup. Then I remember my own near-misses with the gas, and I am thankful that we put carbon monoxide sensors up in the house after we found out about the leaky heat exchanger.

Knowledge is power. Even this latest winter storm reveals this fact. Knowing the facts about the machines you use and their effects on your environment will keep you from dying. You certainly can’t rely on your government to tell you these things, especially not in Texas.

Lawmakers this year are considering a broader modernization of state building codes that is unrelated to February’s storm. If the measure passes, it would require carbon monoxide alarms in some new homes and apartments, but not those built or renovated before 2022. And it would allow local governments to opt out.

propublica.org

The Enron Legacy

there were many factors that went into creating the energy disaster with which Texans are now dealing. But at least in one respect, the problems in Texas are a product of an approach to the energy business that Lone Star State companies like Enron pursued at the end of the 20th century.

wapo

Ken Lay was George Bush’s best friend, back when George Bush was governor of Texas. That was what Ken Lay would tell you, if he was still alive today. The story is more slanted now that Ken Lay has been convicted of felony crimes and his flagship business, Enron, went bankrupt and took $40 billion dollars and the fortunes of thousands with it. Also, Ken Lay is conveniently dead of natural causes, so it is easy to blame him for all of the greed that was behind the drive to deregulate the energy sector in the United States.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (book) (movie)
Movieclips Classic TrailersEnron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) – Nov 20, 2013

It is because of Ken Lay’s friendship with Governor and then President Bush that the Texas and California electrical grids ended up being the mess that they are today. It’s just taken longer for Texas’ grid to fall apart than it did California’s, which has been on the ropes since Enron arranged for it to start suffering rolling blackouts back at the turn of the century.

I watched/read The Smartest Guys in the Room when the movie/book came out back in 2005. The story itself was just another nail in the coffin of my belief in market solutions, the death of my libertarian delusions. Every time that the fraudsters finally convince someone in authority to deregulate, it doesn’t take long to prove that government regulation had been there for a very good reason after all. Enron bought energy companies and then created energy markets for their power to be sold on. That was what those regulations stood in the way of, huge profits on Wall Street.

One of the last acts of desperation in the failing business that Enron became after its meteoric rise on the stock market was to turn off power generation in California’s electrical market in order to drive up the price of electricity and put money in the pockets of Enron executives and traders. Enron created rolling blackouts on purpose in order to profit from the suffering of California citizens. One of the last acts of desperation of the Texas Public Utility Commision during the recent winter storm was to set the price of electricity high enough on the Texas market to inspire power generators to turn on their excess capacity and flood the Texas power grid in their time of need. It’s just too bad that there wasn’t any capacity to be had because the power generators hadn’t bothered to insure against freezing by weatherizing their supply systems. Just too bad that electric energy generators and their investors were more interested in profiting off of the suffering of Texas citizens than they were in spending money weatherizing against winter storms that they hoped would never show up, but still manage to show up about every ten years anyway.

KUT 90.5 – Texas’ Power Grid Was 4 Minutes And 37 Seconds Away From Collapsing. Here’s How It Happened – February 24, 2021

kut.org

Shares of Macquarie rose 3.4% in Sydney on Monday after the company raised its profit outlook. They are now down 2.8% over the past 12 months.

One customer told the Dallas Morning News that his electric bill for five days stood at $5,000, the amount he would normally pay for several years of power. Another told the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate that he had been charged more than $16,000 for February.

wsj.com

It is also too bad that Texas’ hostility to federal regulation caused it to seek an isolated grid through ERCOT, which meant that most of Texas went without power when it’s isolated grid went down and no one could send it power to keep it afloat. Unless you were lucky and lived around El Paso, which (along with Amarillo and the panhandle) are not under ERCOT and consequently only saw minor interruptions in service.

This is what happens when you make the essentials for survival into profit-driven commodities; commodities that no one can understand how to profit from unless they are scarce enough to drive demand over available supply. When there is more demand than there is supply of the essentials some people won’t survive. The death toll across Texas due to the winter storm and resulting power outages is still unknown but is likely to be well over 100 people, and a bank in Australia made 200 million off of those deaths.

Texas is misnamed. Texas (tejas) supposedly means friend or ally. Nothing could be further from the truth than seeing Texas as your friend or ally. That is the ploy of the confidence man, the demand to trust him even though he seems to be oilier than all get out. The Texas mascot should be the irresponsible teen who wants to shirk all the day long because he can. It should be the grasshopper that whiles the summer away instead of storing food for the winter. Like the grasshopper and the irresponsible teen, Texas is always unprepared for adversity because of these infantile behavior patterns. Texas is a great place to be young and healthy, because there are no worries about tomorrow here, and no requirement to save anything for that day of need. Texas is a horrible place to be old or sick in because there is no place to go when you reach your hour of need. No allowance for the slackers that we pretend to be fond of, but throw out in the cold the minute that things get tough.

The true beneficiary of Texas largesse is the corporate raider, the false priest, the con artist. Texas is made for thieves. Personal and corporate greed are rewarded here, rewarded more highly than any human virtue. Just look at Ken Lay. He understood what Texas was for. He rode that pony hard and put it up wet counting on not being there when the tax man came for his cut. He died a millionaire, of the diseases of old age he could have avoided if he had straightened up and flown right. Why bother? No one gets out of this life alive.

The Enron legacy is ERCOT and every other Texas boondoggle ever hatched. Every scheme that amounted to nothing more than stealing from public coffers and crafting a golden parachute for yourself. If we had those billions that Enron stole from us, that the deregulation scheme stole from us, we wouldn’t need to go without water or power, the average Austinite wouldn’t have to be out there hand-delivering necessities to people on the verge of death during a pandemic. This lunacy has to stop. The question is, will we pay attention long enough to make it stop?

Featured image from twitter.com/austinenergy

Serial Philanderer Thinks Abstinence is Best?

Buzzfeed.com

Throughout the two-week session, Trump administration officials discussed shifting international policy on women toward abstinence-oriented education and teaching women sexual “refusal skills.” Those views — as well as the US’s push for more conservative policies on immigration, trade and environmental regulation — ended up uniting most of the 45 CSW member states against the US on family planning issues, six sources who attended or were familiar with meetings told BuzzFeed News.

Let’s just forget the part where abstinence only practices have been demonstrated to be catastrophically ineffective at preventing people from having sex, let alone getting pregnant; and instead skip right to the part where the representatives of a serial philanderer tell others that this is the policy he prefers, and they do this without any trace of irony. That’s the part I don’t get.

He’s been married three times (that we know of) He’s cheated on all three wives. And yet his evangelical messengers think they can pretend that abstinence only is the preferred approach of the Orange Hate-Monkey to the subject of sex? I’m sorry but international aid programs need real guidance, real education and real funding. Enough of the discredited bullshit about abstinence, enough of the pandering to the people who worship this reprehensible little man.

More comprehensive sexuality education programs, on the other hand, are not only effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs among adolescents, but also helpful in guiding young people as they learn how to navigate relationships, negotiate with partners and become sexually healthy adults. Adolescent health experts emphasize that access to complete and accurate sexual health information has repeatedly been recognized as a basic human right. Governments, health care providers and educators have an ethical obligation to provide such information to their citizens, patients and students.

Guttmacher Institute, Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Are Ineffective and Harmful to Young People, Expert Review Confirms

For the sake of the future we have to reject the policies that his evangelical backers promote. We have to take back the House and Senate and see that this reprehensible little man is punished for his crimes, and that his backers dreams and goals are thwarted. They cannot be allowed to torment the future of the human race with their backwards dogma. The sad part of all this? Abstinence only, while catastrophically harmful, is one of the more benign things the Orange Hate-Monkey’s base believes in and promotes. Fraudulent political appointees lining their pockets at taxpayer expense, dismantling the agencies they have been attacking for their entire careers not to mention the resurgence of white nationalism and wholesale targeting of immigrant communities for crimes they do not commit. All of these drives that they are engaged in are far more harmful in a general sense, short term. Not educating our own children? This will destroy the nation, and it is no exaggeration to put it that way.

Violence in the Media Not Responsible for Real Violence

There is no evidence, none whatsoever, that video games, movies or television violence is in any way causational or even correlational with real world violence.

In fact, video games are tied to a decrease in actual violence. An economic study published in February 2016 found a reduction in crime in the weeks after major video game releases. A handful of similar studies conducted from a range of perspectives have come to the same conclusion.

A 2013 review by the American Psychological Association noted a link between violent video games and short-term spikes in aggressive behavior — but this study was quickly rebuffed by many experts. More than 230 psychologists, media scholars and criminologists signed an open letter arguing the APA used faulty methodology and relied on bias to reach its conclusions.

“This decline in societal violence is in conflict with claims that violent video games and interactive media are important public health concerns,” the group wrote. “The statistical data are simply not bearing out this concern and should not be ignored.”

engadget.com

The thing that the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) is blaming for street violence is simply not a thing. Blaming the media for the fact that anyone can get a high-powered human killing machine is nothing more than a distraction from the truth that weapons are everywhere in our society and that military weapons are seen as sources of power.

There are too many guns in the cities. That’s the problem. Get the guns out of the cities, out of the hands of people who don’t understand how to use them, can’t be relied upon to use them sensibly. If it takes reinstating the draft for the purpose of weapons training and accreditation, then that’s what it takes. Short of that, making all semi-automatic purchases conform to the regulation on full-automatic weapons, we would see a radical reduction in the numbers of guns on the streets. Nothing short of this kind of action will have the desired impact on gun violence. If you won’t do what we want, we will replace you with people who will.

Countable comment

Nullification, Secession and More Guns

There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the law of the land.

A.G. Jeff Sessions

Let that sentence sink in a bit. Just let it simmer there for awhile. Federal law is the law of the land. Local jurisdictions cannot make their own way according to the new masters we have elected to rule over us. Local politics is an impediment to federal will. What is amusing to me in this particular instance is that the confederates are currently in the White House. They don’t wear Klan hoods, but I know their stench.

On The Media – Mar 07, 2018 – Everything You Love Will Burn

Last week, we put out a special show hosted by The Guardian US’s Lois Beckett, devoted to how reporters should approach the alt-right, and white supremacy, in America, called “Face the Racist Nation.

As a bonus, we’re putting out a full interview with one of the voices in that show: Norwegian journalist Vegas Tenold, whose new book, “Everything You Love Will Burn” chronicles his time covering the far right, up close and personal, for close to a decade. Lois talks to Vegas about how he has seen the far right evolve, the mistakes he sees journalists making and his relationship with the co-founder of the racist Traditionalist Worker Party, Matthew Heimbach.

Attorney General Sessions thinks he’s being clever, citing nullification and secession with a wink at his white nationalist brethren as they embark on the racist pursuit of the illegal alien in our midst. They know well the fruits of nullification and how badly attempts at secession have historically fared. After all, they are the benefactors of past nullification tactics by the newly re-acquired Southern confederate states after their secession bid failed. States that didn’t want to let the majority of citizens of their now black-majority states dictate state policy. So these very same white nationalists, with Andrew Johnson supporting them from the White House, nullified federal law that dictated voting rights for all and equal citizenship for all. They established the Jim Crow South and set us on a path for the showdown that occurred in the 1960’s over voting rights.

Nullification works, even if succession does not. Even if the reasons for nullification are unjust. Nullification can’t be countered by the federal government short of declaring martial law. This is the problem that A.G. Sessions and his boss, President Trump, currently face. A population that refuses to be governed from afar can’t be subjected to laws which they refuse to abide by, without putting boots on the ground in the areas that refuse to be governed by those laws.

As one very pertinent example, we’ve seen how well the drug war works. The drug war that A.G. Sessions wants to re-invigorate against the will of several state populations (and with the full support of the President) Fully half of the US population admits to indulging in taking illegal drugs, especially Marijuana, and the trillions of dollars we’ve spent as a society and a world organization has done nothing at all to impede the taking of drugs by people who want to take them. These programs have so utterly failed that several states have now legalized Marijuana consumption for recreational purposes, a direct violation of federal law. Laws that state that Marijuana is a schedule 1 Controlled Substance. The U.S. government doesn’t want to get into a shooting war with the various states on this issue, so they have looked the other way for more than a decade now while the states have steered their own course away from federal law. Law that A.G. Sessions claims cannot be ignored, is being ignored.

Alcohol prohibition, the gateway drug to regulation of substances in the U.S., was a complete failure long before the current drug war started. Worse than a failure, it lead directly to the rise of well-funded criminal organizations whose sole purpose was to get alcohol to the people who wanted it. Those same organizations exist today, supplying black-market demands for goods which governments everywhere have foolishly thought they could ban. So even with narcotics agents in every city and every town, corrupting every police force, they still can’t make a dent in drug usage anywhere or at any time. That is how well force works in changing the behaviors of people who don’t see the need to change.

MSNBC, All-In with Chris Hayes, Mar 07, 2018; Trump’s DOJ is suing California over “sanctuary” laws

A.G. Sessions is speaking, this time, to his lawsuit against California cities, and their refusal to play ball with the fascists who have taken over our federal government. Fascists who want to round up citizens of a region and remove them to some other place, presumably the place that they come from. They have their excuses for their behavior, just as the targeted citizenry have their reasons for being where they are.

Hold on though. We’re just getting started. Sessions wants to force the states to follow federal law, all the while that second amendment purists (armaphiles) think that their guns are the reason they have freedom. Here is another pertinent example to confound the already murky waters. Donald Trump is threatening to take guns away from gun owners, and then let due process run its course after he’s taken them. The literal nightmare scenario that neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama ever embarked on, even though they were accused of it thousands of times, is just casually tossed out as a viable alternative by the Caudillo that the GOP let manhandle his way into the White House. The armaphiles freaking out about calls to limit access to military grade hardware and they keep poking liberals who really can’t stand the OHM asking us hey, do you really want this guy taking your guns?

Google+ Being Liberal Community (image lost to time. Not even the Wayback machine can find the original now.)

The image at right asks the important question in black and white. Do the people who are convinced guns are the only answer want the liberals to be in armed insurrection? Or do they have a different point to make? Should Californians arm themselves to defend the state from the federales when they show up? What the fuck is the point here?

Conservatives in general are caught in some pretty serious cognitive dissonance right now. They pretend they want smaller government, but they also want police on every corner rounding up people they think shouldn’t be here, want police making sure people aren’t doing drugs they don’t want them doing, want police in every bedroom in every home in every city and town making sure that sex happens the way they want it to happen and that any female who happens to get pregnant having sex either dies or bears children from that sex. They know the only answer to their problems is possessing superior arms and the force of law, and yet the only solution that they leave their opponents is holding and using firearms against them.

Conservatives are in that epic catch-22 that Governor Reagan found himself in when confronted with armed black panthers patrolling the streets of Sacramento in 1967. Men who simply were tired of being targeted by the man and wanted to prove that they could take care of their own. He chose to take guns away from everyone while at the same time winking at white people to let them know they wouldn’t be targeted.

On The Media, Feb 21, 2018, Rinse and Repeat

We’ve become accustomed in the past 20 years to seeing the issue of guns in America broken down into two camps: gun control advocates — led by police chiefs and Sarah Brady — and the all-powerful National Rifle Association. In an interview that originally aired after Sandy Hook in 2012, Bob talks to Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms In America, who says there was a time, relatively recently, in fact, when the NRA supported gun control legislation, and the staunchest defenders of so-called “gun rights” were on the radical left.

The real solution, that guns don’t solve problems any longer, if they ever did, and we need to keep guns away from people who really shouldn’t have them, never occurs to them. They are now caught in the loop demonstrated in the image. Guns solve the problem but they’ll use guns against us, but guns solve the problem…

We can only hope they suffer mental breakdowns and are left as useless drooling hulks on the floors of their survivalist hideaways until  we show up to take their guns away. Because from what I can tell, most of them really shouldn’t have access to firearms. They’re all pretty much nuts. And as for what to do in the face of A.G. Sessions naked willingness to force the issue of deporting brownskinned people he doesn’t want to live in California, I suggest we wait and see what the ballot box says on that subject. Until then, nullification wins. Nullification wins even if we fail at the ballot box. Are they going to raise taxes to hire more ICE agents so they can round up eleven million people? No, I don’t think they will either.

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

18 U.S. Code § 2385 (Advocating overthrow of Government)

The Information Tollway, With Demand-Based Pricing

I could have sworn we nearly had a revolution not even two years ago because the information delivery services we’ve tied ourselves to thought they could meter our internet consumption habits. Has everyone forgot how Comcast throttled Netflix until they coughed up millions of dollars? Are American memories so short that they can’t even remember what happened in recent history? SOPAPIPA? Is the average American really that clueless they can’t remember?

Trump’s plans through his designated stooge, Ajit Pai, are for a return to the days where essential services can be withheld from the American people in the name of profit. What is next? Will they poison our water in the name of profit? Oh, wait, that’s already happened under Republican leadership and was only ferreted out when the stink of bad water got so bad the president himself got wind of it. It’s going to happen again if we don’t wise up to the threat that the  Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) represents.

The FCC under the OHM’s direction intends to go against the will of the majority of the American people, and the informed technologists, on the subject of the necessity of information to the proper functioning of democratic government. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, it’s been profit over sense since day one for the OHM. He’s not going to change now just because he’s transparently defying the will of the people.

Net Neutrality: Done Deal, Open Question

Ah Nick Gillespie. A cherished source of much misinformation in my past years as a libertarian. How to explain to you Nick just how dominated by polemic you are? I’m not sure why  On The Media thought that his was the voice to go to, the voice to promote the OHM’s internet agenda. Aside from the fact that he is a vocal critic of everything government, the way a proper libertarian propagandist would be, he has little to no experience doing anything aside from being an apologist for capitalism’s excesses. In all the years I’ve read his work, he solidly comes down on the side of the corporate donors who generously fund his monthly rag.

I would offer a quote from Nick Gillespie’s blog article on Reason magazine, if there was anything quote-worthy about it. That article and the interview Reason conducted with Ajit Pai seems to be the justification of having him speak for the pro-OHM policy side of the open internet argument, but I don’t accept any of his conclusions since he offers not one shred of evidence showing that Net Neutrality rules have in any way limited the internet aside from acknowledging that providing a service as essential as the internet means that the provision needs to be available everywhere in the US equally to all citizens.

If I were to hazard a counter-argument (and since you are reading this, I have) I think I would say that libertarianism as a philosophy is absent any relevance to the information delivery service that is the internet. The proof of the irrelevance of libertarianism to the subject efficient and equitable information distribution is that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is opposed to everything that Nick Gillespie says on the subject of Net Neutrality and they are also at heart a libertarian organization.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear here. I am not shy about demanding the government secure the internet against all threats, including government oversight of internet content. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be strapped down by regulations which prevent them from doing anything other than provide access to the information. They should not under any condition be content manufacturers, as so many of them currently are. Failure to enforce this ban on content creation by the providers leads inevitably to things like Comcast’s shakedown of Netflix, and the permanent throttling of competitors in the near future if the new rules are allowed to go through. Their promises to not throttle their competitors in the online world are worth every bit as much as the OHM’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall; as in,  not worth a thing and probably indicative of the complete opposite in reality.

The ISP’s make and are still making bucket loads of money in the internet world. What they don’t want is to be forced to provide service to areas that are not profitable for them, something that President Obama’s FCC rules on Net Neutrality and Title 2 designation forces on the ISPs. The same kinds of rules that made telephones and electricity things that are available throughout the US. Regulations that require the provision of services to all households in the country whether provision of those services is profitable or not.

I don’t think I can put too fine a point on this argument. This is the future of democracy in the world that we are talking about. The internet is the new library, newspaper, radio and television rolled into one. It is possibly even a replacement for the postal service itself, aside from the delivery of physical goods to locations, a job capably done by other private sources. The internet has to be available to everyone everywhere all the time or it will fail to do its job. What these new proposed rules portend is that information will be made available only to the wealthy, with the rural areas of America left rotting without infrastructure they have every right to expect the government to provide.

An information tollway with demand-based pricing. That most libertarian of libertarian ideas, paying for access to work, shelter food and clothing up front by making everyone pay for the roads they are forced to use just to satisfy basic needs. It was a libertarian idea first, this lame brained scheme to make everyone pay for freeways by turning them into tollways. Here in Austin, we are saddled with several of these bullshit toll roads. There is no way to get from here to there without paying a fee if the road didn’t exist before the tollway was created. This leaves several new developments unreachable without paying a toll, a painful fact that new homeowners will discover only after they buy their houses and learn local routes to and from work. To and from the supermarket.

This is what they propose for the internet. None but the wealthy may pass. Everyone else, get in line.


I want an internet where content businesses grow according to their quality, not their ability to pay to ride in the fast lane. I want an internet where ideas spread because they’re inspiring, not because they chime with the views of telecoms executives. I want an internet where consumers decide what succeeds online, and where ISPs focus on providing the best connectivity.

If that’s the internet you want — act now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now.

Tim Berners-Lee on the current proposals from the FCC

The link in that snippet goes to battleforthenet.com, an online petition and protest organization designed specifically to stop these new FCC rules dead in their tracks. If you want to preserve the promise of an open internet, then I suggest you click on that link and do what you can to help them. Now is the time to act to save the internet from the OHM and his henchmen.

Facebook – Stonekettle Station

Fear Mongering in the Anti-GMO Age We Live In

The attached image was posted on the Snopes Facebook group with the usual question attached, is this true? No. No it’s not true, but it sounds emotionally true to anyone who thinks farming is a clean business, or that food is somehow sanctified by nature when it grows wild somewhere. Even in 1913 farmers bought seeds from seed producers, and if you are doing science you use the tools of science like the bunnysuit pictured in the bottom half of the image in order to avoid cross-contamination between the various test crops you are working on. If you want clean food you have to engage in cleanroom practices. The fact that the 1913 farmer who is grinningly sweating all over the food he’s offering you doesn’t seem to phase anyone screaming about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Farmers want to buy seed from seed manufacturers because, and most farm raised people know this, the hybrid seeds are hardier and produce better crops. My farming Uncles in Kansas proudly wore their Dekalb caps, announcing they used Dekalb’s proprietary hybrid seeds. They could afford to buy good hybrid seed because of the demand for corn crops to feed the nearby beef producing industry. If you are a smart farmer you grow the crops that other industries demand in bulk quantities, because farming to meet corporate demands will pretty reliably produce profits for the farmer.

Hybrid seeds are the end product of crossbreeding which has to be duplicated every year by the seed producing corporations. Hybrid seeds cannot be harvested and then replanted the next year, and most farmers do not have on site storage to hold the seed volumes they would need to replant what they sowed the previous year. Nor is that a good farming practice, to replant the same crop year after year. Most farmers with an understanding of soil fatigue will rotate crops from one field and one season to the next field and season. It is a dance that takes decades of work to understand, and patience that daunts the imagination to comprehend.

The problem here is not the ownership of the seed technology or that it is GMO based. The problem is a yawning chasm of understanding between people raised on farms and familiar with farming practices, and the city dwellers who don’t know the gory details involved in getting their food to the market, and aren’t actually interested in learning about them. Most organic food consumers would decide to starve to death rather than put the stuff that is produced in their mouths in the first place; or would if they actually did understand just how dirty the entire farming process really is.

Found in the wild on the internet. 

GMO’s are a good thing. GMO crops are the answer to several of the health problems we face today. Problems like vitamin A deficiency in areas that subsist on rice giving rise the the Golden Rice project, one of several positive GMO developments I listed in this article. GMO saved the Hawaiian papaya industry, and Hawaii promptly banned all new GMO’s from the island. Tellingly, the GMO papaya is one of the few organisms they didn’t ban. If we are going to have bananas on the table in the near future, we will have them because we will Genetically Engineer a banana that is resistant to the fungus currently wiping out banana crops. The list goes on and on and on.

Consumer ignorance of exactly what GMO is (one third of people surveyed did not realize that all food has genes in it) is causing massive problems in the sugar industry because the roundup ready sugar beets they are relying on are the subject of targeted boycotts by ignorant consumers. There are no substitutes for these beets which can replace them without massively larger pesticide spraying regimens, but the farmers will doggedly attempt to switch back to the products that sell even though their farming operations are not set up for the kinds of demands that older methods of farming requires. Only big agri can swing that hammer, and they have regulations written (like organic regulations) specifically to allow the kinds of farming they find profitable and available.

Organic foods are not any better for you, nor are they more organic than any other product on store shelves. Every living thing we’ve ever encountered or created is organic. Nearly every chemical we produce was discovered in nature first and is therefore natural. Nine tenths of the loud, shouty, feary statements about GMOs and food are baseless and indefensible and yet they continue to spread.

How quickly we forget as a species that people still die of hunger all over the world every single day. Someone died of hunger in some city in the US in the short time it took me to write this article. In the early 1900’s there was a crisis looming on the horizon. The human population on the planet was increasing at a rate that farming practices of the time could simply not match. People in Europe and America were going to start starving to death in ever increasing numbers if something wasn’t done to increase the crop yields that farmers produced. The Green Revolution solved that crisis by enabling farmers to meet the growing food demands of the population.

We are facing another crisis in food today and it will take new technologies to bridge the gap between what we can produce now in the relatively stable climate we’ve enjoyed throughout human history, and what we will be able to produce tomorrow as the climates change and the need to produce food with fewer byproducts drives the research into lab-grown meat and aeroponic and hydroponic plant farming techniques. We will either have to embrace these new kinds of food, or we will starve. Choose wisely.


Here’s a fun test. Type “Natural Food” into your favorite search engine and look at the images that come up. Now look at all those organic and natural food images. Red apples. Giant tomatoes. Bright yellow bananas. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? With these images in mind, understand that none of the images are of naturally occurring fruits and vegitables. Not a single image is of something found in nature unmodified by man. No really, they aren’t natural foods.

This image shows a natural plant, a plant found in nature before humans altered it, and what foods we created from it. That is a natural plant, the food we get from it is man-made in the sense that most people use. If what we create is natural then all foods are natural and organic and the labels attached to them are nothing more than marketing. The idea that foods are natural? That Adam and Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden? The idea that there were recognizable apples in the beginning of human evolution some hundreds of thousands of years ago? This is the depth of misunderstanding that is encouraged in the average consumer.

Pamela Ronald|TED2015 The case for engineering our food

This Week In Google

Here’s a This Week In Google (TWIG) catchphrase “This Week In Google, the show where you can find everything, just like the search engine.” You are welcome.

This week’s show was no exception; Google’s move on hardware (Google Home becomes Mesh enabled) which lead eventually (circuitously) to a paranoic discussion of just how easy we are to find in this web-based world (creepy easy, in fact) onboard encryption possibly becoming a thing of the past forcing us all to use encryption apps if we want privacy, facial ID and how to defeat it, the renewed interest in 1984 and it’s ties to today’s fears about tracking, the tempest in a teapot that was the Pepsi ad (I am convinced that half of all viral trends like this one was were set up by the corporations themselves to generate attention for their brands) the Jenner/Kardashian connection, bots abusing Twitter and the media’s inability to ignore Twitter as the irrelevant social platform that it really is, news integrity

We’re excited to announce we are helping to found and fund the News Integrity Initiative, a diverse new network of partners who will work together to focus on news literacy. The initiative will address the problems of misinformation, disinformation and the opportunities the internet provides to inform the public conversation in new ways. The News Integrity Initiative will be led by and housed out of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. We’re in good company with over 25 funders and participants, including the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks. Learn more about the initiative and our involvement on CUNY’s website.

Facebook News Apr. 2, 2017 Introducing the News Integrity Initiative

(the only way to render false narratives ineffective) How fake news has been around as long as news has been, Gaslighting and what that has to do with modern disinformation efforts, Youtube TV (not yet available in Austin) Extreme vetting proposal to force people to reveal their social networking passwords, Google Home getting more integration, The Founder a movie about McDonald’s Ray Kroc (will be watching that) the messaging bot Trim, California regulations and the proposition process and James Comey’s secret social media accounts. Finally, the title subject, the horrible new name for Yahoo. Closing thoughts followed.

Why I took the time to write this episode outline for Facebook is beyond me. It was probably because I thought the catchphrase was good. Stopping by the TWiT website I see that show #400 was the episode where they got me hooked on Mastodon.social. I was watching the show a lot at that point. I haven’t watched or listened much since. I just haven’t had time to follow more than news since about this time last year. I wonder why that is?

Right to Travel vs. Right to Bear Arms

If I had a nickel, as the cliche goes.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this false equivalency, I’d be a very, very wealthy man.

You can license driving because it occurs on public roads. You cannot license people for firearms because there is a right to keep and bear arms.

This has taken on new and more troubling implications in the years since the attacks on 9/11, with the development of the no-fly list for terrorists that the government barely admits exists on the one hand, and their willingness to apply it to other things like weapons purchases so that suspected terrorists can be kept from buying guns as well as not being able to fly on the other. That latter proposal, weapons purchases, has its own share of problems, many of which echo the core problems in the title and the argument quoted above.

As I’ve said before on this blog, I have a serious problem with cognitive dissonance on the subject of firearms.  But when it comes to contrasting travel with firearms, I have a few things I think I can say without reservation.

Just to be clear what the subject is here, it really isn’t travel vs. firearms. Even though most gunnuts (ammosexuals) want you to think about the subject in these over-broad general terms, the subject is properly generically stated as travel vs. self-defense or more specifically driving vs. firearms.  Public transit vs. firearms in the case of the no-fly list.

And right off the bat we run into this glaring problem.  Travel generically is a more important right than owning a firearm, specifically. Travel is instrumental in the ability to defend oneself, the ability to remove from one location, where your life is under threat, to a new location where it theoretically is not. Access to public transit, which includes air travel, is far more important than even being able to drive.

The ability to move is just about as fundamental as it gets. It is why the human species has adapted to so many different climates on this planet.  We travel and set up shop somewhere else where there isn’t already ten thousand other people trying to live. Where resources aren’t already owned. Where our lives are not threatened by a greater number of others who want what we have and/or need to survive. A classic defensive strategy, not to be where your enemies are looking for you.

Travel is a right. Limitations on travel without due process is a violation of our rights, what the government is supposed to be safeguarding for us. So the existence of the no-fly list outside of due process is a constitutional violation of our rights.  I’ll get back to that.

First let’s tackle the specifics of driving and firearms. I want to draw some parallels to illustrate why the arguments I’m about to present are not some wingnut conjecture. An automobile is deadly. It may not be designed to kill, but it is a very effective killer all the same. It is a tool designed by humans to serve humans as a replacement for large animals who were used in a similar fashion before the industrial revolution.

A firearm is another man-made tool. This tool serves a specific purpose, or a variety of purposes that are all related, much like the automobile was designed to serve a specific purpose. Refined and perfected over the years, modern firearms are some of the most effective killing machines we’ve ever invented. They fire repeatedly and use standard rounds that can be purchased almost anywhere.

To purchase an automobile you need to have a license to drive. There are cases in which you can buy a car without a license; methods to circumvent regulatory guidelines allowing you to buy a car without a license.  But the regulatory purpose of the driver’s license is clear, and only those intent on obfuscation offer arguments to the contrary.  The purpose is to restrict vehicle operation and ownership to those people who have demonstrated a proficiency with the dangerous tool in question.

We license and regulate drivers because automobiles are dangerous and not because roads are public. You will find sovereignty arguments all over the place that make noises about common modes of travel, public conveyance, etc. None of them amount to anything in the face of a police officer who wants to see your driver’s license.  You can operate machinery on your own property without a license because law enforcement officers cannot enter your property without probable cause. It is actually illegal to drive on private property without a license in many jurisdictions. Not in Texas, apparently.

Now we come to the right to keep and bear arms, the murky waters created by the second amendment to the United States Constitution.

The second amendment is perhaps the most misunderstood piece of legalese still in place in the Constitution. It ranks right up there with the attempts to legislate the value of Pi or what we call rising sea levels in Florida. It has caused at least as much harm as it has good especially in the modern age of repeaters, automatics and semi-automatic weapons.

The problem here is two-fold. The ability to defend oneself is primary. This is demonstrable, as I illustrated above. Self-defense though is not limited to and may not even include access to firearms. But the right to defend oneself is not mentioned in the constitution, the right to keep and bear arms is. This is most likely an outgrowth of the views of the time. Dueling was still a common practice. Although it was made illegal around the time of the revolution in many places, it’s practice continued well into the middle of the next century and became the basis for the near-mythical quick draw gunfight. It is worth noting that some Western municipalities attempted to put an end to dueling with some of the first gun carrying restrictions in North America, the precursors for modern gun control.

Hunting with long guns (rifles were not yet invented) was commonplace and essential for many Americans if they wanted to eat. Between these two purposes, self-defense and hunting, it was rare to find a man who did not know how to shoot. On top of this we have the demonstrable attempts by governments all across the world, down through history into the modern day, to render their populations defenseless.  It is easier to control people who do not understand how to defend themselves. Historically this has been done by hoarding weapons under the guardianship of the local authority. If the authorities know where all the guns are, they will know who can and can’t defend themselves.

There are other ways to defend yourself, short of firearms. Denied access to firearms and even knives, it is still possible to mount a defense if you know how. Knowledge is power, in more ways than one. Revolution need not be violent in order to be effective. So the question is, what role do firearms play in modern society? How do we secure our right to defend ourselves while at the same time avoiding becoming the victim of the very same weapons we keep for defense?

What an unregulated militia looks like.

The second amendment speaks to two things; a well regulated militia and the right to keep and bear arms individually. The recent Heller decision struck down blanket bans on firearms that had evolved from the earlier attempts at gun control I mentioned previously.  Personally I think that is an accurate reading of the second amendment. What remains to be realized is that we need licensing and regulation of the citizenry for firearms proficiency. That is what well regulated militia means in the modern age.

The militia are the people, the citizenry. There has been a historical disconnect between the concept of militia and what the militias became as government evolved over the last two centuries. What the originating documents of the United States called militia we would probably see as the various state guards and national guards today. In those days all able-bodied men and boys were expected to participate in guard duties to some extent or other, a practice that fell to the wayside as our cities and states became more populous and our experiences more segmented and separated.

However, the language in the Constitution still states a well regulated militia, and since there is an individual right to keep and bear arms, that means that we the people have to decide what well regulated militia means in the scheme of all of us potentially being armed at any given time. Regulation is necessary. We want to keep the Trayvon Martin encounters to a minimum. We definitely do not want cities of Zimmerman‘s stalking all the suspicious-looking people they don’t like, just waiting for a chance to act in self-defense. We do not want a return to the old West stereotype of guns at High Noon, or pistols at ten paces. A near-certain death sentence with the accuracy of today’s weapons.  Just as there are limitations on who can drive or travel in what kinds of cars and trucks, limitations based on objective standards, so too there should be limitations on who can own a firearm and what kind of firearms can be owned.

Now we’ve come full circle, you readers who are still with me. we’ve circled back to the initial parameters of the argument; driver’s licenses, firearms licenses, and no-fly lists for terrorists.

In the light of objective standards as a guide, the use of the completely subjective no-fly terrorist list to also ban firearms purchases is essentially a patchwork way of applying suspicions more broadly whether those suspicions are well-founded or not. Automobile ownership and weapons ownership are almost identical for comparison purposes, but the right to use public transit should not be so easily infringed. With no way for the list to be challenged, no standards beyond mere suspicion by a federal agency, the use of this list should be stopped altogether, not applied to another related subject.

What needs to happen is for there to be actual discussion of these problems.

What is needed is standardized national identification for the purposes of travel (there is a twisted can of worms) so that citizens can be assured that they will gain access to public transit. Me personally? I’m tired of that argument.  Let me just use my palm print. Mark of the beast be damned, I just want to stop standing in lines everywhere I go. Can we just get over this crazy notion of anonymity? Make a provision for those people who really need to remain anonymous? I have no problem with driver’s licenses, and I say this as a guy who will likely be forced to surrender his license in the next decade or so, as my ability focus and balance is degraded by disease.  Subjectively I resent not being about to get around on my own; objectively I have to say most of you will be safer if I can’t. If this disease gets worse.

I’m not even going to try to broach the discussion necessary to outline what objective standards for firearms proficiency might be. I’ll leave that argument to people who have more education and understanding of the subject. People like Jim Wright over at StonekettleStation (yes, him again)

Over time, just like with the drunk driving laws, enforcing the NRA’s own rules, the same basic common sense rules that are used in the military, in law enforcement, on civilian gun ranges, and were taught to most of us by our fathers, will change our culture from one of gun fetishists to one of responsible gun owners. And that will reduce gun violence, just as the same approach has significantly reduced drinking and driving.

Go over and read the article once you stop screaming at your computer screen. You might learn a thing or two from the (more than a dozen) articles Jim has written on the subject of America’s gun culture; or as he refers to it Bang, Bang Crazy and Bang, Bang Sanity. He has far more patience for the gun fetishists that surround us than I do.

I do want to make one thing crystal clear before ending. The second amendment is a two-edged sword, in more ways than the one I’ve just outlined. The other argument which can be (and has been) made is the original intent of a well regulated militia. If the people tasked with keeping us safe deem that the requirement is impossible with the rules now in place, they can and probably should conscript all able-bodied persons into the military for the purposes of weapons assessment.

That is one sure-fire way to make sure we know who should and shouldn’t have a weapon. I’m as opposed as I can get to the idea of a return to the bad-old days of the draft, but if anyone can have a weapon, and if no other laws are possible to fix the problem of weapons in our midst, then the only remaining solution is the one where everyone is trained and everyone is armed to their proficiency. What we need to decide is, which kind of America do we really want to live in? The time for that conversation is rapidly passing us by.

Inspired in part by this discussion on my Facebook wall.

Why Would a Liberal Vote for Gary Johnson?

This is actually a very good question, one that echos why I don’t identify as libertarian anymore, and why I don’t support most of the candidates that the LP fields. The LP is GOP lite these days. Or if you believe him (which you’re a fool if you do) Donald Trump, whose website is a laundry-list of libertarian wish-fulfillment. Just don’t listen to the words coming out of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s mouth. If you do you’ll notice a jarring disconnect between what he says and what his website says.

Here is the Mother Jones Article the title comes from.  Here is the list as a quote;

  • He supports TPP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.
  • He thinks Citizens United is great.
  • He doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage. At all.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he’s open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed’s mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.

It is an excellent reference list of things that the average liberal disagrees with the Libertarians about. I could add more things that I quibble about, but we can start with this list and work from there.