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Nederlog

Jul 3, 2016

Crisis: Obama's Drones, Genetic Engineering, Military-Industrial Complex, Democrats
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Introduction

1.
Obama Administration Drone Death Tally Falls Short,
     Critics Say

2. Nobel Scientists Ask Greenpeace to Abandon
     Campaign Against Genetically Modified Crops

3.
Lost in the Military-Industrial Complex
4. Mixed Bag Platform Draft Sets Stage for Fight at DNC
     Convention

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, July 3, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links, and this time they are all about different subjects than the other three: item 1 is about Obama's propaganda about the drone deaths he makes, which is quite incredible (to me, at least, and I explain); item 2 is about over a hundred of Nobel Laureates who seem to (I think) propagandize Monsanto (it's too neat and too false, in my opinion); item 3 is about the very great strength (and the incredible riches) of the military-industrial complex; while item 4 is about the Democrat's platform draft, that seems to embrace the TPP, fracking and war, but garnishes it with support for a $15 dollar (per hour) minimum wage and reformed (?) marijuana laws. In brief, I am not optimistic, though I am pleased (as I state at the end) that Common Dreams just made it, and will continue to exist, at least for now. (I like them a lot.)

1
.
Obama Administration Drone Death Tally Falls Short, Critics Say

The first item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

In what Ryan Deveraux at The Intercept called “a long-anticipated gesture at transparency,” the Obama administration on Friday released an internal accounting of civilians killed by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. isn’t officially at war.

“According to the data,” Devereaux wrote, “U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya killed between 64 and 116 civilians during the two terms of the Obama administration—a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings catalogued by reporters and researchers over the same period. The government tally also reported 2,372 to 2,581 combatants killed in U.S. airstrikes from January 20, 2009, to December 31, 2015.”

Devereaux skeptically pointed out that the White House released the figures “on a Friday afternoon, on a holiday weekend, after seven years of selective leaks and official secrecy.”
I say. And I read this a bit differently, for this strikes me as pure propaganda, served to confuse the public, and containing very little truth. Here are my reasons (it being presumed that the government propagandizes as a matter of course):

(1) What gets bombed by drones, although they are persons, is in fact as a
     rule identified by cell-phones. Who carries these is often far less certain
than that the phone has been identified. Whoever may surround him as he is blown up, are generally completely unknown.
(2) Whoever gets bombed by drones, if he is between 18 and 45 (I think) gets
     automatically classified as "a terrorist" (generally without knowing their names or indeed anything).

So as far as I know, cell-phones are blown up by drones on the basis of information that is wholly secret, and then every male between 18 and 45 who got hit by the bombing is classified automatically as "a terrorist".

Note that I am saying here simply what I have learned, and indeed it can be hardly different if what you are doing is in fact blowing up unknown people in
countries you are formally at peace with, while all the facts you really know is
that one of the people you blew up carried a phone you are tracking, for reasons that seem never to be clarified.

Here is Devereaux on Shamsi:

“It’s hard to credit this death count, which is lower than all independent assessments,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept.

Organizations such as the Long War Journal, the New America Foundation, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimate that at least 200 and as many as 1,000 civilians have been killed by American drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not at war since Obama took office. The administration offered no individualized accounts to explain where its numbers came from, or who the civilian casualties were. Without the government addressing individual cases, disclosing the identities of those killed, or providing detailed information on the investigations undergirding its conclusions, Shamsi contended, little could be done with the disclosures.

I agree with Shamsi. This is just government propaganda, and like all propaganda it is intentionally deceptive, lying, dishonest, incomplete, partial,
colored, and totally unreliable, possibly excepting a rough estimate of the
number of people killed.

There is more in the article and its link, which are recommended.

2. Nobel Scientists Ask Greenpeace to Abandon Campaign Against Genetically Modified Crops

The second item is (as it happens, also) by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

More than 100 Nobel laureates—about a third of those living—signed a letter urging the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace to end its opposition to the cultivation of genetically modified food, especially a crop called golden rice.

Greenpeace has “misrepresented the risks, benefits and impacts” of genetically altered food plants, the scientists wrote. “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”

I say. Should I believe this? For this sounds a lot more like clever propaganda than like the real truth - and no, I am also far from a faithful believer in Greenpeace, but I get distrustful if I read about "more than 100 Nobel laureates", simply because few of them will be specialists in the specific sciences that are involved in genetical engineering.

In fact, I take it most have a similar position as I have: They do know science and the scientific method, but most of them do not know much about genetic engineering.

But here is a part of the letter with which these "[m]ore than 100 Nobel laureates" made their case:

Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.

Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

This sounds like propaganda, because it is full of general but vague claims (such as: genetic engineering has "been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity": Really now?!).

And here is Greenpeace's Wilhelmina Pellegrina in reply:

“Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered ‘Golden’ rice are false. ‘Golden’ rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency. So to be clear, we are talking about something that doesn’t even exist.

“Corporations are overhyping ‘Golden’ rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops
This is the opposite of the claim of "[m]ore than 100 Nobel laureates":

There is no golden rice that works as advertised; also golden rice does nothing about vitamin A deficiency; ergo (not stated, but suggested) the
"[m]ore than 100 Nobel laureates" were indulging in false propaganda.

As I have indicated, I am definitely not at all a specialist on genetic engineering (which I suspect few of the
"[m]ore than 100 Nobel laureates" are, either). But I must say that I side with Greenpeace on this one, simply because the whole idea of "[m]ore than 100 Nobel laureates", who are in effect supporting Monsanto and its profits and power sounds like propaganda, and that completely apart from what they are supporting or opposing.

And here is Kelly, at the end of his article:

While the Nobel laureates’ claims may be scientifically sound, they do not address concerns about the corporate dominance of agriculture, a trend associated with the privatization of crops, which makes it difficult or impossible for small farmers to make a living, and a reduction in the variety of crops available, which can result in poor diets that damage human health.
Yes, with two remarks: First, "the Nobel laureates’ claims" are not at all as valid as the phrase "Nobel laureates" is (very probably) meant to convey, for only very few of them will have specialized on genetic engineering. And second, "a reduction in the variety of crops" has not been studied well in science, to the best of my knowledge: How genetic modifications humans
put into plants will effect the rest of nature is - to the best of my knowledge - not well known at all.

I am not at all a specialist in genetic engineering, but as I said: This is fairly easily explained as a propaganda effort from Monsanto, though I do not know that either.

This is a recommended article, with more information than was indicated in this review.

3. Lost in the Military-Industrial Complex

The third item is by Chuck Spinney (<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

America is engaged in the longest and second most expensive war in its history — a small war in terms of forces deployed and op-tempos, but a war that is grinding on endlessly, without a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Contrary to the whining about constrained budgets causing readiness and modernization problems emanating from the Pentagon, all dutifully regurgitated without question by the mainstream media, defense spending in the Pentagon’s so-called Base Budget is close to an all-time high and poised to increase over the long term.

Yes, and two worrying things about it (not the only ones!) are Orwell's prediction that totalitarian states are always at war (and the USA is, since 9/11) and the fact that the Pentagon's budget "is close to an all-time high".

Then there is this:

Claiming today that we must increase the Pentagon’s budget to counter the rising threats of spending increases by Russia and China is tantamount to saying that defense spending by the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex in the United States is grotesquely inefficient when compared to the spending of the MICC’s equivalents in Russia and China.

Yes, I agree, for the USA is spending already 9 times as much as Russia or China. Incidentally: the MICC = the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex and if you have never read about Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex (<- Wikipedia) you should.

Here are two points by Chuck Spinney:

To be sure, the alternative press is full of essays describing the patent lunacy of America’s militarized foreign policy, but very little ink has been devoted to analyses of how the dirty triangular political forces of the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex (or MICC) drive that policy.

Some people hope Donald Trump will rein in the big green spending machine with a less aggressive foreign policy. But Trump is a grotesque bully, whose wild divagations of the mind exhibit neo-fascist behavior by inflaming hatred and xenophobia among his alienated and adoring supporters.

I have read some on the MICC, but I am willing to concede that Chuck Spinney (<- Wikipedia) knows this a lot bettter than I do, since he has been writing on this since 1980.

As to the second paragraph above: I quite agree that Trump is "a grotesque bully" who exhibits "neo-fascist behavior", although the point (which is correct) might have been made better by adding that he simply cannot be predicted because he lies extremely often.

Here is Chuck Spinney's conclusion:

In short, President Obama is leaving his successor with a defense budget time bomb. But what passes for checks and balances on the Pentagon and its allies in the arms industry and in Congress has completely broken down in the election of 2016. This is Eisenhower’s nightmare writ large.

Yes indeed: The Military-Industrial Complex (with whatever third factor may be thrown in) is more powerful and better paid than ever before.

This is a recommended article.


4. Mixed Bag Platform Draft Sets Stage for Fight at DNC Convention

The fourth and last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The final draft of the Democratic Party's 2016 platform, released Friday, calls for an end to the death penalty, a $15 minimum wage, the establishment of a postal banking system, broad marijuana law reform, and elimination of tax breaks for Big Oil—all victories for Bernie Sanders and his supporters—but fails to include key concessions on trade, Israel-Palestine, or fracking.

Indeed, not only does the document (pdf) fail to endorse a national fracking ban, as climate activists and Sanders are demanding, but "the platform puts the party on record in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and the goal of '100 percent clean electricity,'" writes David Weigel for the Washington Post. "That plan and that goal assume that fracking will continue." 

On trade, as Common Dreams reported, the platform merely acknowledges that "there are a diversity of views in the party"—a far cry from the rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Sanders and his allies on the drafting committee pushed for.

To summarize: It seems that the leaders of the Democratic Party selected the
less dangerous tidbits (where "danger" is measured by "attacking the powerful vested interests"), while carefully saying nothing or implicitly endorsing the dangerous plans - for trade and fracking are both major financial interests, whereas none of the four named points are.

I am not the only one who sees it thus:

"What we are seeing is an aggressive economic populism winning out," Robert Borosage, co-director of the progressive think tank Campaign for America's Future, told The Atlantic. "The Wall Street provisions in the platform show that. It marks a shift for the party from where it was 20 years ago."

Former labor secretary Robert Reich was less optimistic, noting to The Atlantic that "the platform is a relatively easy way for so-called mainstream and centrist Democrats to make progressive Democrats feel included without really changing the status quo or ruffling feathers on Wall Street."

Still, he said, "symbolically, the platform gives a sense of where the Democratic Party and the public could be moving."

Yes, indeed - and "where the Democratic Party and the public could be moving" to is more spending on war, endorsement of the TPP, continued allowance of the grossly stealing bankers, all dressed up by symbols of "Progress" like a $15 dollar minimum wage and reformed (?) marijuana laws.

In brief, I am not impressed - and here is a description of the selection of the platform drafting committee:

The platform drafting committee—which included five members appointed by Sanders, six chosen by Clinton, and four selected by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz—said it heard testimony from 114 people during hearings over the last few weeks.

That is, it was carefully designed to be 10 against 5 for the rich.

Finally, here is one other bit from the last Common Dreams (that I also wrote about on June 30, last): They made it just, and at the last moment, and here is the news:


I say. Well... I am very glad, simply because I have learned, during over 3 years of daily reading in over 30 websites, that Common Dreams is one of the best sites there is, in terms of news, presentation, and appearance.

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