Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday around the Blogoverse

I suppose it's tacky to blow your own horn, but, well, shit, this here's my horn and I'm gonna blow it.

I've got two pieces up at SlideRulePass. Both of them are about the Portland Timbers and both are pretty hardcore footy.
But I'm rather proud of them, so if you like my writing (and otherwise, why are you here? I won't kid you; the nude photos ain't gonna get posted in case you were still hoping...) and you like the Beautiful Game they are a little more in-depth than my soccer writing here.

In national news, I wanted to be a little more specific about why sane citizens of the United States making under $200,000 per annum have no business voting Republican.

First, there's this. Where anyone with a functioning reptile brain could come up with the idea that turning the federal government's emergency response powers into a goddamn clown show is beyond me but not, apparently, beyond the vast majority of Republicans.

The current GOP candidate seems to think that placing horse lawyers and political hacks in charge of disaster relief isn't even stupid enough; "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

Because I can't imagine that anyone in a position to make a profit from disaster relief would take advantage of that position to gouge, rape, and fuck over desperate people whose lives have been devastated by earthquakes or hurricanes.

Can you?

Then, there's this.

I'm now used to the idea that you can tell when a Republican is lying by just looking to see if his lips are moving. But, really...when the facts so brutally smash your moron-grade fantasies that you can't even come up with a winning lie to try and make the fucking idiots "independent voters" believe you rather than their ears and ears? When you have to try and respond to ugly truths by trying to hide them under the sofa and sitting on the lumpy cushion humming loudly enough to drown out the thumping and screeching from under your ass?

How thoroughly fuckolally fucked are you?

Are we?

One important point may well be that you tend to get fucked when you not only don't have good answers but aren't even asking the right questions. Mike Specter has a good piece in the New Yorker about California's Proposition 37, this election's measure to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Now my position on GM foods as foods is that anyone who thinks we're not already eating GM foods and wearing apparel made from GM animals and plants is an idiot. The GM was just done by selective breeding rather than gene splicing in a lab, that's all.

Specter's piece points out that the campaigns on both sides of this proposition are characterized by a massive level of nonsense:
"Supporters of the proposition routinely make claims about the risks of eating, making, and cultivating genetically engineered foods for which there is simply no evidence. Big Ag, which doesn’t like regulation, claims that these labels will be useless, and insists that the new regime will set off an avalanche of lawsuits and cost consumers an unacceptable amount of money."
(For which there is also no evidence, I should add).

But there ARE some huge issues surrounding not just GM agriculture but industrial agriculture in general. Monoculturing? Reducing the genetic variation of food animals and plants (and through that their resistance to disease and unviable mutations)? Over-reliance on irrigation and chemical fertilization? The increasing distance (and reliance on cheap fuel for transport) between where foods are grown and where they are consumed?
Either nobody is asking these questions or nobody is listening.

And speaking of not asking the right questions, here's a good article from the journal International Security about the ridiculous effects that the "War on Terror" has had on our actual security and, obviously, liberties. Glenn Greenwald sums this up:
"Unlike the actual, threatening wars of the past, this "war" is pure pretext, a total farce: so out of proportion to the civil liberties assaults employed in its name as to be inconceivable."
I've wondered about this ever since our local G-men helped one of our local idiots delude himself that he was going to be the next Osama. Like the non-debate over GM crops, to me the worst part of this stuff is the utter lack of discussion - discussion, let alone concern - about how damaging this hysteria could be over the long term.

It's one thing to be fooled. But its another thing entirely to fool yourself.

But its better not to be a fool altogether.

But so as not to end with carping, courtesy of my witty and delectable friend Lisa (of Ranger Against War and the Story Project) here's a helpful guide for those of you who are still unsure of how to have sex with one of those poseable wooden mannequins.
It's from some sort of Japanese sex manual from the Sixties, complete with diagrams showing the potential Romeo-san how to woo his Juliet-sama, from the initial stages of hand holding and cute-face-touching to manipulating breasts (although, frankly, this page put me in mind of one of those IKEA cartoon instruction books showing you how to assemble a Billy bookcase).

It makes you wonder how the hell Japanese couples of the time managed to have any sort of normal relationship. I mean, I understand that all societies have their odd little conventions and quirks, but...


There's that.

Oh and there's that, too.

Let's just face it; as a species we are very, very, very, very strange.


gruff said...

You talk a lot of sense but your assertion that gene splicing and selective breeding are the same thing is false through and through. I am frankly stunned that such an intelligent man as you has fallen for that particular specimen of speciousness.

It's as though someone were to say "Separating water into carbon and hydrogen is pretty much the same as separating hydrogen into its components, so what's the fuss? We've been doing it for millennia."

The concern underlying opposition to GM is that every single technological advance ever has had an unforeseen negative side effect, sometimes minor but sometimes quite grave. The potential gravity of a genetic disaster must surely give every thinking person pause.

FDChief said...

So has selective breeding, gruff.

In fact, merely getting involved in selective breeding has already produced epic disasters; most epidemologists are fairly sure that the great plagues as well as endemic diseases like smallpox resulted from association with domestic animals.

And you note I DON'T say that GM is "just "okay"; there are huge issues associated with it, including the potential for "genetic disaster". But the campaign over this proposition isn't addressing these in any sort of intelligent way; it's all hot air and scare tactics.

To my mind the problems inherent in industrial agriculture are far more likely to be a long-term problem for human civilization than individual GM animals or plants, although that genetic fiddling may well be a part of those problems. But the current proposition does nothing at all about that.

The point that this issue makes to me is that the U.S. circa 2012 has developed a real habit of getting spun up over trivialities and nonsense while ignoring real troubles. So the presidential campaign focuses on horse-race and personality issues rather than the very real differences the two parties would bring to governing the nation - as in the case of the FEMA stuff I mentioned...

And - just to end on a lighter note - if someone were to say that they planned to separate water into carbon and hydrogen I'd pretty much stop right there, given their degree of chemical knowledge...

gruff said...

Ha ha yes! What a foolish mistake. That's what I get for posting drunk.

I take your other points and fully agree with them, as usual, including the one about the greater impact of industrialized agriculture as a whole. And yes, the shallowness of public discourse in this country is indeed shameful. I don't see it ending well.

However in my view equating selective breeding and genetic engineering contributes to this shallowness as much as asserting that carbon is one of the elements in water, because by the time such a statement has been quoted several times, it is understood to mean "GM and breeding are equivalent in all respects", which they are not. They require different approaches.

FDChief said...

No question. The potential for introducing truly malignant encoding into the genome of an organism is far higher with GM, where you can produce a single generation that is viable from "scratch", so to speak, whereas traditional breeding relies on the ability of the organism to mature and reproduce functionally.

BUT...for all the furor over GM there's little or no substantial evidence that this has happened. The potential is there, but the potential for disaster is - as we agree - for ALL industrial agricultural methods.

My thoughts on this particular subject would be:

1. I can't imagine why knowing MORE about anything is a bad idea. GM products shoudl be labelled as such and, what's more, I would argue that it would be beneficial to know exactly what modifications have been made to the organism so as to make informed judgement about whether to eat/wear it.

2. I'd like to see more external review of the GM process. The FDA should be able to - and have the funding for - constant oversight and inspection of the development and distribution of GM crops.

3. If the private companies do not the U.S. government should also fund, maintain, and offer for public sale "heritage" crop seeds to prevent the loss of genetic diversity as well as to prevent the monopolization of seed crops by GM companies such as Monsanto. I mean, if you WANT the Roundup-resistant/single-crop seed the private company offers you should be able to pay more for it. But you should also have the option of buying the low-speed nonGM seed as well.

AND we should really be asking more questions about how and where we're getting our food. But that is a whole 'nother nut roll...

gruff said...

I assent heartily to all of that.

Lisa said...

First, your sports pieces are excellent! You have the knack and the passion for engaging the fan. I like, "Quantity has a quality of its own, but it’s a lot better and more fun to have quality instead."

Per the GM issue, I don't see why the AMA and AAAS oppose simple labeling of GE food. I understand that conventional breeding probably has more impact on gene expression, but still, the Monsanto's of the world are not tinkering with the priority of our better health in mind.

Per the sex manual, we really are a strange species, no? [But ... are you sure they'll be no nudies? :)]

Lisa said...

p.s. -- I agree with all of your stated concerns re. industrial ag in general (monoculture, etc.)

People tend to get animated by salacious titles; "Frankenfoods" will always flush them out of the woodwork.

FDChief said...

Lisa: That's the crux of the biscuit with my objection to the campaign around P37. I heartily agree that more information is always a good thing. But both sides are frantically dodging the issue that the way California is feeding itself isn't good for California or the people getting fed. GM is just part of the nutroll.

And for you, my dear, perhaps I will send along something tasteful yet smutty. I have my reputation to think of, but cannot resist the lures of a smart, sexy woman. You can't be stopped by conventional weaponry.

Lisa said...

Agreed: Gm is but part of the nutroll.

You know I am the essence of discretion; all is strictly entre nous ;) (Why, I don't even know the editors of SlideRulePass ... :)) I adore the concept of "tasteful yet smutty" -- I think it is a standard I should try for (when appropriate, of course.)