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May 31, 2013

gm food

This is probably the biggest (second biggest?) story out there that gets no attention and is potentially planet-altering: genetically modified food.  It's kind of a hard one to keep your eye on, as it's a story that does not come with ready-made visuals or anything that would make a splash on the front page, but it's actually huge.

Now you might be the type to dismiss any hubbub over GM food as a bunch of hippies doing what hippies do: wasting everyone's time.  After all, we've been Living Better Through Science for a century now, and we're fine!

Well, two things.  First of all, GM food (and I mean meddling at the genetic level, not cross-breeding or grafting or any of the agricultural methods to manipulate outcomes) is about a generation old.  What if, and this is pure conjecture, there was some sort of negative effect (not safe to eat, not safe to grow, etc.) that takes, say, forty years to evince itself?  Or fifty?  Then are any of the short-term tests on GM food worth anything at all?

Second, what if there is some Pandora's Box aspect to GM food?  Like, what if a GM strain of, say, wheat is naturally dominant and eventually shoves all the natural strains out of the ecosphere?  Because a Monsanto strain of wheat, abandoned years ago because of consumer resistance to the idea of GM wheat, was found growing in Oregon.  Again, big deal?  Well, most of our trade partners have banned GM wheat, so if the Monsanto strain is uncontrollable, then goodbye $8.1 billion wheat export market.

And meanwhile, Monsanto and the biotech companies are ardently opposed to possible NYS legislation which would make the state the first to require labeling of GM food.  Why?  Because labeling would could possibly hurt their bottom line, they say, which is as close to an admission that it should be labeled (i.e., if you're worried that consumers would avoid a GM label, then wouldn't that be in the public interest?) as you could expect.

It's a big, multifaceted story with long-ranging effects across the globe, and one that I need to pay better attention to.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:18 AM

May 30, 2013

another bachmann thing

Agh, I actually can't let Michele Bachmann go so easy.  This is from her GBCW video, in which she rules out ruling out any single career option to help America (other than running for reelection, natch), as reported by the NYT:
"I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term," she said in a gauzy network-television quality video posted on her campaign Web site. "They always seemed to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness."

Okay, the first sentence — it's a bit clumsy, but it passes as a sentence.  But the next two (or really one, should be), this is the essence of Michele Bachmann.  That the mainstream media never really attempted, but seemed to attempt.  That Bachmann wouldn't have a problem with an honest disparagement.  That "of" is somehow the preposition associated with "compliment".  She does the same thing that Sarah Palin does: throw in some adverbs, double up on the verbs, when in doubt, jam in an extraneous dependent phrase.

A, she's comically poorly spoken, even though she presumably has someone to write this stuff for her, and B, she is really, really trying to appear intelligent.  It's like watching a nine-year old try to fit in at a dinner party.

The cynic in me wants to suggest that it's a deliberate choice, to dumb herself down to better appeal to the great unwashed.  But that would assume that a great number of Tea Party types are, well, dumb, and that just wouldn't be nice.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM

May 29, 2013

goodbye michele with one l

Not to brag or anything, but other than a few bloggers in Minnesota, I was an early adapter when it came to noting the googly-eyed vacant stare of Michele Bachmann.  Poke around in those archives to the right and you'll see that I've been on the Bachmann beat since that fateful night six years ago when she Vulcan nerve pinched President Bush following his SOTU speech long enough for him to be forced to stare deeply into the vortex that is the eyeballs of Michele Bachman (each pointing in a different direction).

So you think it would be a big deal, what with her announcing that she's not seeking reelection.  Last call, dudes, one more round of obloquy, before it's too late!

But you know what?  She actually made more sense as a comic figure in 2007 than she does as a failed presidential candidate, and certainly than she does now.  Give her credit, of course — she was bleeding edge crazy public servant, totally oblivious to the normal venalities of office that took down the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay.  She got there first, to that place of bum-rushing the stage to share stultifyingly stupid thoughts, seemingly in the service of nothing but her own dissociative disorder.  She harkened back to a simpler time, being the lone lunatic in the House of Representatives was charming, in its way.  "Thomas Jefferson wore corduroys!"  "They are taking away our freedom, by which I mean to say, our Freedom-Flavored Pringles Snack Stacks!"  Aw, ain't that cute?

But then came the Tea Party, and precious snowflake flower Michele Bachmann became just another loudmouth with a poor understanding of history.  Once you had to look hard for Bachmann's specific batshit brand of shrill, and then all of a sudden you could find it at just about any town hall in America.  And Bachmann tried to get in front of it, capitalize on the delusion of crowds, insert herself as the leader of the grassroots movement (an irony no doubt absolutely lost on Bachmann).  But to no avail: she just couldn't compete with the savoir faire of eye doctor Rand Paul, or the everyman appeal of Harvard Law Review editor Ted Cruz.

Rumors swirl that Bachmann is pulling out of the race because of concerns that she might not win, or in anticipation of legal troubles stemming from her presidential campaign fundraising, but I think that she's exiting stage left because she's realized that she's now worse than a punchline.  She's last year's model.  She's irrelevant.

So whatever.  I won't miss her.  I'm sure she'll score a Fox News gig that lasts as long as it takes Roger Ailes that she's only a good broadcaster in the sense of How Not To Broadcast.  And then?  You know.  Whatever.

(If you're not in the mood for words, BTW, you can always check out BuzzFeed's version of the story, which consists of one sentence, a video and a bunch of ads.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM

May 28, 2013

pardon the interruption

So my much-better half enforced a media blackout as we actually vacationed over the Memorial Day weekend.  Which was good for so many reasons!  Mostly because I got to share a quiet (if not wet and cold) four days with my wife, but also because, since I was nowhere near the Internet yesterday but instead hiking around Bushkill Falls, I was not too sorely tempted to argue against the trope "...those who died for your freedoms..." (because it has a dignified truth at its heart but is jingoistic and naive) in print.  Crisis averted!

The blackout extended to newspapers, which I only scanned for sports scores and funny pages, plus also I arrived at work to the pile of papers and emails, so what's happening out there?  Search me.

But I did read a Jack Reacher novel, the one in which he saves the Vice President, so if anyone wants to jaw about how a 400 page novel involving the veep detail of the Secret Service hardly once ever mentions the actual President or the rest of the Secret Service, hit me up!

Regular mildly obsessive news reading resumes tomorrow.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:00 PM