Volatility

September 21, 2018

Human Cleansing

 
 
Part of the banksters’ deliberate demolition of the global finance system in 2008 was a great surge in food prices which triggered spontaneous crowd scenes the mainstream media branded “food riots”. These pudgy writers and editors didn’t let us know how they believe they’d fare if they and their families were being intentionally starved amid plenteous food, on account of purely artificial scarcity generated by purely political choices made by criminals.
 
We’ve long known the nature of these political decisions. It’s fundamental to capitalism that it generate scarcity amid plenty. This is part of why the productionist civilization works so aggressively to murder the Earth: It wants to generate this scarcity as a physical reality, which it thinks will render its power mission more easy. That’s one reason civilization wants to turn every forest, grassland, and wetland into a desert.
 
Short of this final goal of physical destruction, capitalism accomplishes the enforcement of scarcity by stealing the vast majority of what the productive people grow and craft. In the case of agriculture, the basic mechanisms of this crime have been land enclosure in the West and globalization for much of the global South. The result in both cases has been to drive vast amounts of people off the land, generating mass migrations similar to the barbarian migrations into Europe in the first millennium. Today they pair the economic war campaign with their campaign to drive climate chaos. Global warming will help generate the deserts, and before that drought, flooding, and other disasters will escalate the forced migrations. At the same time the corporate economic dominion and the intensifying ecological chaos will destroy all food security, rendering every society on the planet extremely food insecure.
 
These migrations head to the shantytowns of Southern and European cities, while their ghetto and tent city equivalents in America already are burgeoning. The South is undergoing a new onslaught of land enclosures, as regional kleptocracies sell vast amounts of tribes’ and farmers’ land in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and elsewhere to corporations and conglomerates from places like Sweden, the UK, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and of course Wall Street.
 
Proximately this renewed colonial land grab is to grow commodity soybeans, flowers, feedstock for biofuels, and other worthless luxury items. Commodity soybeans aren’t food but CAFO feedstock designed to be turned into cheap meat in the most wasteful way possible, while biofuels are wasteful, destructive, and malign in principle. In a country like the US ethanol mandates are pure corporate welfare, and globally they serve only to degrade the environment, cause further rainforest destruction and greenhouse gas emissions, and drive up the price of food by diverting it from the mouths of billions of the most vulnerable to the gas tanks of the richest and fattest. Now they’re also the engine of accelerating corporate land enclosures.
 
These assaults on the Southern farmer are the latest depredation of the same globalization in agriculture which has dumped subsidized Western commodities on the domestic markets of almost every country. The goal here is to force all agriculture on Earth, the vast amount of which is logically subsistence agriculture and agriculture grown for local and regional markets, to conform to the practices, prices, and power relations of globalized corporate commodity agriculture. At the same time the IMF, as part of its structural adjustment assaults, forced most of these countries to dismantle their well-functioning state investment programs whose explicit goals had been to assure decent prices for their farmers and make affordable credit available to them. This helped keep much of the wealth generated by small farmers in the hands of those farmers. Today the dumping includes subsidized proprietary GM seeds which cabals like the Gates Foundation and USAID are trying to force upon these already beleaguered farmers, to further enforce this global indenture.
 
Another major driver of grain prices, similar to biofuel mandates, is the diversion of grain from food to feed for livestock. As the corporate system aggressively advertises the consumerism of meat, logs ever greater subsidies which enables them to lower the retail price, and more people in the East can afford to eat more meat, this generates more demand for the extreme waste of grain to feed cattle and pork rather than letting the land be used to grow food. The special arithmetic of the corporations, governments, media, and science establishment says that it’s right to use ten grain calories to produce one calorie of beef; the ratio is only slightly less wasteful for other CAFO inmates. At the same time, everywhere CAFOs exist they’ve destroyed all independent cow and pig farmers. This adds to the forced migrations and the food insecurity of all societies. All these assaults have been subsidized by Western governments. We can add bankster speculation in agricultural commodities to the array of weapons the system deploys to destroy all small farmers, indenture bigger ones, and impose food insecurity.
 
The goal of the economic civilization always has been to drive people off the land and into slums. This maximizes the number of people who are completely detached from any food production whatsoever. Those who still do farm are to be subjected to the forces of capitalist production. That means the constant upheaval and escalating corporate enclosure of the procedures, technology, and basic concepts of production. Synthetic fertilizers, the crop lien, dependency upon cash crops, mechanization, collectivization, dependency upon federal subsidies, the poisons of the Green Revolution, total monoculture, dependency upon global markets, the fencerow-to-fencerow Stalinization of American farming, the rise of Monsanto, GMOs: These are milestones in the history of the farmer’s complete passivity in the face of power imposed upon him from on high. In all of this, domination of food, and in particular the eradication of all food culture, is the totalitarian goal.
 
The goal is to maximize power and impose total domination and control. The power then can be used any way the elites choose: In the short run, to maximize production, profit, and ecological destruction sheerly for their own sakes; in the longer run, to enforce a de jure slave economy in order to maintain their power and luxury in an apocalyptic world of fossil fuel exhaustion and and total ecological collapse. Since a key power tactic is to completely uproot the people, detach them from every frame of reference, every anchor they have, and force them to look to the regime itself as the one and only stable point amid the chaos, it follows that destroying all ability of communities and societies to produce their own food, to destroy even all knowledge of food production, is the way to force total dependency on and obedience to the corporate-technocratic system. This is the way to enforce domination over all of humanity. This campaign has been underway for decades now, starting with the Green Revolution.
 
 
 
 

March 31, 2017

The Role of GM Trees

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Belgium’s Field Liberation Movement (FLM) has released a video opposing the latest Belgian field trial of GM poplar trees engineered for ready processing into biofuels. See here for more on the concept of biofuel-ready GMOs. The FLM is best known internationally for its 2011 action against an illegal field trial of GM potatoes, and the Belgian government’s subsequent, much-condemned attempt to prosecute these participatory citizens as a criminal organization. This was a typical example of the corporate gangsters calling the kettle black.
 
GM trees are easy to understand. Their purpose is the same as the purpose of corporate agriculture in general, albeit in a specially radical way, and they’re designed and deployed toward the same goals.
 
1. The goals of GM tree plantations are to drive deforestation, destroy ecosystems, and drive the people off the land. The goal is to destroy all human cultural diversity and wild biodiversity.
 
2. The goal is to destroy all diversity and impose social and environmental monoculture. The goal is to replace humanity and the Earth with a monocultural dead zone.
 
3. Corporations and governments do this for the sake of power. They and the scientism cult work to generate the monocultural dead zone for its own sake, on religious/ideological principle, and because monoculture, physically and culturally, always helps concentrate power and wealth.
 
4. For public consumption, this is for the sake of the propaganda idea of sustaining the extreme energy consumption mode of civilization and of doing so while finding solutions to climate change and environmental destruction.
 
Of course this always is only the idea of these, never the reality, always the contrary. Nothing can replace fossil fuels to enable the continuation of modernity’s extreme energy consumption, nor can such consumption be done in a way which doesn’t radically aggravate climate change and every other environmental crisis.
 
Biofuels are among the worst criminal frauds in both ways: Like other so-called “alternative” energy sources they depend completely on the foundation of fossil fuels; they’re less efficient than fossil fuels as energy sources; and they’re even worse greenhouse gas emitters and destroyers of carbon sinks. Meanwhile they function effectively to destroy agricultural land and food production by taking this land out of food production and consigning it to this purely worthless, destructive purpose. Biofuel-ready GM trees aggravate deforestation and climate chaos in the name of mitigating them. Other types of GM trees serve similar criminal purposes.
 
All GMOs are hoaxes and frauds in these same ways, in addition to their many other evils. GM tree plantations, which add a great escalation of the direct destruction of forests to the direct and indirect deforestation driven overwhelmingly by corporate industrial agriculture, comprise a new level of criminal destruction and evil being premeditated and carried out by those responsible, from the engineers to the media propagandists.
 
GM agriculture, and corporate industrial agriculture, offer nothing to humanity and the Earth but social and economic destruction, environmental destruction, famine, pandemics, war, and death. It’s clear that here is no way forward, only the deadest of dead ends.
 
The only way forward to survival, transcendence, and victory is the return home to the Earth. The broad highway home is the necessary global transformation to agroecology and Food Sovereignty. We must turn the clock forward.
 
 
 
 
 

February 24, 2017

Fueling the Destruction of Food

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The fire is in the mind of the scientism cult. Their goal is to consume the Earth with it.

The fire is in the mind of the scientism cult. Their goal is to consume the Earth with it.

 
 
GM ethanol-ready corn is perhaps the perfect GMO, at least within the realm of what readily can be sold given conventional subsidies. The only thing better would be a GMO which spontaneously combusts in the field prior to harvest. Indeed, this would be less costly to society, which is why it wouldn’t be as attractive to the GMO cult which is dedicated to being as destructive as possible.
 
Ethanol-ready GMOs represent an advance in the anti-food paradigm of corporate industrial agriculture. Corporate agriculture’s primary goal is to eradicate direct, efficient food production and replace it with highly costly, highly wasteful, highly inefficient commodity production designed to channel all proto-food production through CAFOs and processing in order to generate one calorie of eventual food product out of as much as a hundred calories’ worth of energy. This is the most effective way to destroy as much fuel and food as possible for the least return to human beings. The real product is concentrated power for governments and corporations. The process is made economically possible through massive subsidies and forcing all the costs onto society and the environment. The entire human and earthly economy must bear the burden of this massively bloated parasite. There’s the true cost of corporate industrial agriculture, which through smoke and mirrors is made to seem so cheap to the Western consumer at the retail checkout aisle.
 
This mirror effect is part of the funhouse designed to reinforce the religious mindset which believes that food comes not from the earth but from the supermarket, and ultimately from corporations.
 
Ethanol and biodiesel production comprises a refinement in this Food is Dead paradigm. With cropping bound for ethanol, the commodity crop no longer will be turned into even the most vestigial food. Instead the entire process is a pure loss: The land, the soil, the seed, the water, the air, the work, the socioeconomic destruction, the massive poisoning of the environment, all a total write-off for humanity. This is why ethanol subsidies persist even though this is one of the few corporate projects which actually has provoked resistance from other corporate sectors. In spite of the self-evident insanity and impracticality of the agrofuel concept, it remains sacred to the core of the anti-food technocratic priesthood. To put that more precisely, agrofuels are attractive to technocracy exactly because of their insanity and impracticality. Which is also why GMOs in general are such an object of cult worship for this fundamentalist religion. The cultists believe because it’s insane.
 
The “anti-GMO” movement will never get anywhere until it understands this fact.
 
Ethanol-ready GMOs offer another benefit from the technocratic point of view. Commodity agriculture in general eradicates food production. For a typical example, NAFTA was designed forcibly to convert Mexican production from regionally-based food corn for tortillas to globalized commodity corn for CAFOs, while food corn now would have to be imported and at the mercy of Wall Street speculators. The intended result was a great price surge in tortillas and radically escalating hunger in Mexico. Today ethanol-ready corn is taking this assault on tortillas one step further.
 
Corn is wind-pollinated and therefore is one of the most readily cross-pollinated crops. For that reason it’s among the most difficult to protect from contamination by toxic pollen such as from GM corn.
 
Today we’re seeing an epidemic of documented contamination incidents in Nebraska, and of poor-quality masa flour used to make tortillas. The preparation falls apart during cooking, just the effect one would expect from contamination of corn bred to be more starchy by corn engineered to be more sugary. There have also been many reports of food poisoning caused by the contaminated corn. All this is what we’d expect if the tortilla flour was contaminated by the ethanol-ready corn. This latest contamination and food poisoning outbreak is parallel in every way to the StarLink crisis of 2000-2001 where another special type of GM corn, this one designed especially as CAFO feed, contaminated the food supply causing an epidemic of allergic reactions, many of them life-threatening.
 
All this is what we’d expect from a system committed to wiping out food production for human beings as well as human participation in commodity crop production in general. It’s a system dedicated to driving humans off the land in the most literal sense and denying them food in the most literal sense, all the while preaching such religious mantras as “Corporate Profit is Food” and “Hunger is Food”, that these are the modes of “Feeding the World”.
 
The truth is that from the technocratic point of view, corporate persons literally are the world, and are the only “people” who need to be fed. Meanwhile, except for a handful of elites and their cult supporters, actual human beings are supposed to disappear. Corporate agriculture is designed to make human beings disappear, first from the land into shantytowns, and then, via famine, from the earth completely.
 
The assault of GM corn upon corn bred to be food for human beings is an epitome of this corporate/technocratic paradigm.
 
 
 
 
If you like these seeds, propagate them.
 
 

November 8, 2012

NOW Obama’s Going to do Good Stuff! (Michael Pollan version)

Filed under: Climate Crisis, Corporatism, Disaster Capitalism, Food and Farms — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 2:30 am

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Here’s a good test of liberal Obama-worship, a prediction by Michael Pollan:
 
“I think we will stop subsidizing biofuels very soon, perhaps right after the election.”
 
Obama, of course, has been aggressively pro-ethanol so far.
 
Pollan’s a typical case. He spent eight Bush years calling for bottom-up food relocalization and warning against technocratic control of our food, including faith in the central government. As soon as Obama came along, Pollan performed a 180 degree flip-flop. Suddenly the future of the food movement depended on begging elites for Better Policy. This included support for the Food Control Act, whereby Pollan mystically believes that giving far more power to the Monsanto-adjunct FDA will, by magic, make it less pro-Monsanto. Someone with common sense might be forgiven for suspecting that it’ll merely help the FDA further Big Ag’s interest even more aggressively, but then we’re not initiates of the liberal cargo cult.
 
At least Pollan supported the Right to Know initiative, so he’s a somewhat less pure liberal elitist than the scum mentioned in this piece, who opposed the initiative simply because as a good “process” liberal he “distrusts” filthy peasant ballot initiatives as such.

 
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February 10, 2011

The Revolution of Food

 

Two years ago a hideous surge in food prices triggered spontaneous crowd scenes the MSM termed “food riots”. These stout writers and editors didn’t let us know how they think they’d fare if they and their families were being intentionally starved amid plenteous food, on account of purely artificial scarcity generated by purely political choices made by criminals. Today this food stagflation is upon us again, and this time it looks permanent.
 
We’ve long known the nature of these political decisions. It’s fundamental to capitalism that scarcity be generated amidst plenty. This is accomplished by stealing the vast majority of what the productive people grow and craft. In the case of agriculture, the basic mechanisms of this crime were land enclosure in the West and globalization for much of the global South. The result in both cases was to drive vast amounts of people off the land, generating mass migrations similar to the barbarian migrations into Europe in the first millennium. This migration headed to the shantytowns of the cities (and their ghetto and project and trailer park, and now tent city, equivalents in America). In the wake of globalization, in line with the new feudalism, the South is undergoing a new onslaught of land enclosures, as regional kleptocracies “sell” vast amounts of land in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and elsewhere to corporations and conglomerates from places like Sweden, the UK, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and of course Wall Street.
 
The number one reason for this new colonial land grab is to grow jatropha and palm oil feedstock for biofuels. This is just the latest and most malevolent result of the West’s biofuel mandates, a policy as wicked as it is irrational. Within a country like the US, ethanol mandates are pure corporate welfare, and globally they serve only to degrade the environment, cause further rainforest destruction and greenhouse gas emissions, and drive up the price of food by diverting it from the mouths of billions of the most vulnerable to the gas tanks of the richest and fattest. Now they’re also the engine of the new feudal enclosures.
 
These assaults on the Southern farmer are the latest depredation of the same globalization in agriculture which has dumped subsidized Western commodities on the domestic markets of almost every country. The goal here was to force all agriculture on Earth, the vast amount of which is logically subsistence agriculture and agriculture grown for local and regional markets, to conform to the practices, prices, and power relations of globalized corporate commodity agriculture. At the same time the IMF, as part of its structural adjustment assaults, forced most of these countries to dismantle their well-functioning state investment programs whose explicit goals had been to assure decent prices for their farmers and make affordable credit available to them. This helped keep much of the wealth generated by small farmers in the hands of those farmers. (If one chose, one could cite this as an example of a liberal government program which worked well. In that case, the Western liberals’ betrayal of such enlightened Southern governments in favor of Western globalization and agribusiness is just another on the ledger of their great crimes.) Today the dumping includes subsidized GMO crops as well as the proprietary seeds, which cabals like Bill Gates’ AGRA (Alliance for A Green Revolution in Africa) are trying to force upon these already beleaguered farmers, to further enforce this global indenture.
 
Another major driver of grain prices, similar to biofuel mandates, is the diversion of grain from food to feed for livestock. As more people in the East can afford to eat more meat, this generates more demand for the inefficient use of grain to feed cattle and pork rather than be used directly for food. The conversion rates are c. 7 grain calories to produce 1 calorie of beef; for pork it’s 4-5:1. People wanting to eat more meat isn’t intrinsically wicked the way using food to fuel one’s SUV is. What is evil is the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) mode of animal farming which has been designed to foster this conversion process. Everywhere CAFOs exist they’ve destroyed all independent cow and pig farmers and radically accelerated the food conversion process and concomitant structural price increase for grain. This process, too, has been subsidized by Western governments. 
 
Today every survey of food stagflation cites biofuel mandates, CAFOs (though they usually blame the consumers themselves; this was Bush’s favorite culprit) and the decline of agricultural investment as two of the main drivers. Over the last ten years, we can add food speculation to the indictment against Western capitalism. There’s been a lot of controversy lately over how much of an effect on prices food speculators really have. It’s true that they don’t have the same structural effect as subsidized commodity dumping, subsidized proprietary inputs and seeds, the forced privatization of investment, and biofuel mandates. These are all structural crimes. In light of these, speculators may serve as a scapegoat for some who want to politically shield these interests. Then we have globalization ideologues like Paul “It’s not class warfare” Krugman who are ardent to absolve all direct criminal actors of blame. So in desperation he blames poor harvests, this time in Russia, which are perhaps effects of climate change and its volatile weather patterns. He claims that the absence of evidence of significant grain hoarding proves his case. He trots out his stupid supply-demand graph which conveniently assumes and therefore conceals all the structural criminal aspects of the system, the crimes he spent years fighting to see committed. “Once we ignore the artificial scarcity built into the system, and all the rents it extracts, then we can call it a ‘market’. And once we’ve rationalized, moralized, normalized the status quo in this way, it’s easy to see that speculators can’t have any effect compared to a failed harvest.” 
 
But this whole line of argument is ridiculous. The very fact that climate change may be affecting harvests renders the effects of speculation all the more destructive, as the margin is that much more thin. The market already teeters on the brink of a price explosion even under the best conditions, on account of the system’s already being a hostage to global commodification in all its aspects. Under these conditions of structurally hardwired volatility, how much would a speculator have to hoard in order to drive up prices enough that his bets would win? I bet it’s not much. What other manipulations could a player like Goldman Sachs perform?
 
It’s common sense that if banksters start messing around with a market and the price explodes, they played a role in it, even if exactly how they did it isn’t always immediately clear. As Sherlock Holmes said to Watson, “If I asked you to prove two plus two is four you might have some trouble doing it, even though you know it’s true.”
 
So we have permanent food stagflation afflicting billions in the non-West as well as, increasingly, the West itself. We know this is not the result of supply-demand fundamentals, since supply has been grotesquely manipulated by power. Subsidies in the form of direct payments, tariffs, IP policy, and one-way globalization “treaties” which boil down to “free markets for me, prostrate victimization for you”, more than make up for any revenue which would otherwise be lost according to textbook supply inefficiencies. Globalization was never anything but colonialism by other means. And just as the original imperialism eventually came home politically to Europe in the form of totalitarian politics, so today’s globalization is coming home in the form of totalitarian corporate economic rule.
 
This is the essence of globalization, and it’s the structural reason for food stagflation as we descend into global depression and permanent mass unemployment (also an intentional policy). Food speculation is the last straw added to the already burning pile. Given how the banksters were the ones who coordinated the globalization onslaught, set in motion the process of mass permanent job destruction, and have now intentionally crashed the world’s real economy and used this as the pretext to steal trillions more in the form of the Bailout, it’s not surprising that their speculation in food is the most inflammatory element of the price explosion, even if relative to the structure its effect is supplementary. In essence, speculating in food, just like any predatory manipulation of food supplies, is a crime against humanity. All of commodity agriculture, and all proprietarianism related to it (it’s conceptually impossible to have a property right in any food plant, since commercialized plant varieties are already the result of thousands of years of grower selection and breeding, and any new work is merely a miniscule add-on, like placing a pebble on a mountain; any intellectual property is already long since hardwired into its public domain existence), is such a crime. So if food speculators are becoming the public face of infamy, this is really an armed robber and mass murderer being hanged for one of his lesser muggings. He still deserves it, of course. I’ll go along with whatever’s most politically effective, since it’s the same capital criminal. But our analysis should identify what’s fundamental (globalization itself, capitalism itself) and what’s ancillary. 
 
The peoples of the world know these crimes for what they are, evidently far better than those of the West itself. It makes sense – they have far more experience as the victims of these crimes. Unlike in 2008, they’re reacting to this new, permanent round of food price crime, not with “food riots” but with revolutions. I have high hopes that we’re finally seeing the anti-colonial movement resuming after so many decades of having been hijacked and subverted. This time the people of the world won’t fall for the lies of the West. They’ve been through this too many times before. This is the final bid for liberation, and although many of its initial demands will be political, it’s more profoundly about the people taking control of their economies. Most of all, it’s about food. These are lessons we’ll have to bring home to ourselves to meet the totalitarianism now coming home to us. Here too, it’ll be about food.
 
Meanwhile, I haven’t been seeing much of the MSM calling this a food riot anymore. That must be why they sound so confused, tentative, disgruntled – such easy dismissals will no longer be easy for them. Oh no! Somebody’s actually making them work! Horrible. Hopefully we’ll soon be making them work as well.

December 24, 2010

What Does the Class War Mean for Research and Development?

 

We have a permanent Depression setting in, the normalization of 20%+ unemployment, and it’s clear that the kleptocracy views the health care system as nothing but a rent extraction machine. The legislated policy is to use the IRS as a strong-arm goon to extort protection money in exchange for a worthless Stamp, while there will be no credible cost controls or realistic regulatory restraints on the health insurance rackets.
 
Under those circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how, for as long as this system endures, the actual care available to the non-rich won’t continue to rapidly deteriorate.
 
So we must ask about something like medically necessary research (publicly subsidized, of course): What difference does any medical advance make if it will increasingly be the monopoly of the predatory rich? In that case, don’t even medical advances become weapons against us? Weapons we pay for, to add insult to injury. Gibbon depicts the plight of conquered people doing forced labor in metal shops, “forced to forge the implements of their own destruction”. Is this the case with all technological R&D by now?
 
Do alleged advances really still advance us? Does the African farmer benefit by being driven off his ancestral land, which is then converted to corporate biofuel production to feed Western cars? No honest person would try to argue that. Yet isn’t that the core logic of neoliberalism, which is increasingly coming home to the West itself? Those same biofuels have been driving up the price of our food for three years now, even as our jobs vanish and the cost of living soars in every other way. Is the ethanol mandate, and the cost it imposes on us, different in kind from the looming health racket mandate? Aren’t all these mandates really the same thing?
 
African agro-imperialism is only a seemingly extreme, but really typical example of how this system allocates its research and the output of this research. None of it is intended to benefit the people. The people are only there to be mined and exploited, or just driven out to die. The only intent, anywhere, is corporate rent extraction. “Profit”. We are those dispossessed tribal farmers. We can see it everywhere already. Their enemies are our enemies. We’ll end up exactly as they are.
 
In the end, all the mid-century liberal advances were fruit of the cheap oil surplus. With Peak Oil, that period has come to an end. That’s part of why in the 1970s the power structure switched over from normal exploitation, which could include the concessions* that enabled the rise of a mass middle class, to neoliberal kleptocracy, through which those concessions have been rolled back and that middle class is being liquidated.
 
So everything has changed politically. The kleptocratic process is intended to be terminal toward the the restoration of feudalism. 
 
[*I use the word concession with deliberation. Liberalism, as an elitist trickle-down ideology, never contested the right of predatory elites to steal the labor and produce of the productive people. At its best, what liberalism did was beg for some concessions to be trickled back down. Today it no longer even does that.]
 
At the same time, physical resource limits are imposing a great change, the end of “growth”. A different way of putting what I said above is that it was easier for the corporatists to concede more wealth equality when the pie was growing thanks to cheap, plentiful oil. But now that the pie must contract, and the oil surplus recede, we’re headed back to history’s normal economic course, the course prior to the drawdown of the fossil fuel principal.
 
It’s up to us whether we let ourselves be driven back into serfdom, or whether we take all we’ve learned from the Oil Age, politically and economically, and use it to build a wiser, more prosperous world.
 
That requires the relentless fight against corporatism on every possible front. This fight must supersede all other concerns, since the progress of the fight dictates the status of those concerns. Even issues which are ambiguous in themselves will often become clear once placed in the corporate war context. We have to oppose the redistribution of wealth upward in all its forms, including the use of public money for alleged social goods which will really be rationed by ability to pay in an extremely wealth-concentrated environment.
 
When I say “fight” I’m thinking of the likelihood that it’s far more possible to block bad government actions than to induce it to perform good ones. I’ve long considered the latter impossible, and that it’s a waste of effort to beg the system for the good. But maybe it’s still possible for citizen pressure and resistance to block some of the bad. On that front, we have to be obstructionists wherever possible.
 
We can no longer afford to contemplate the intrinsic ambivalence of things. The struggle against corporatism and for direct democracy dictates most positions out of its own imperatives. Few things now are significant in themselves.
 
So that’s what I meant when I started out expressing skepticism about system research, and obviously all proprietary research. Like so many things which look intrinsically benevolent from the ivory tower, removed from the real world context (cap and trade? electric cars? a VAT?), it becomes far less so in practice if undertaken under kleptocratic auspices.
 
So that’s why by now my default position is: Political transformation first, even at the temporary expense of things which may be theoretically beneficial but are not so under this dispensation. 

December 23, 2010

The Limits to Racketeering

 

According to Joseph Tainter’s theory of imperial collapse, as societies become more complex, they must expend an ever greater portion of the energy they have available simply on maintaining their complexity. Although social and technological advances may achieve profitable returns for awhile, once a certain level of complexity is reached, diminishing returns set in. Eventually, at the late imperial stage, the complexity of the power structure, the military infrastructure, the bureaucracies, all the rents involved in maintaining an ever more bloated parasite class, their luxuries, the police state required to extract these rents and keep the productive people down, and the growing losses due to the response of the oppressed producers, everything from poor quality work to strikes to emigration or secession to rebellion, reaches a point where the system can only cannibalize itself and eventually collapse.
 
Julian Assange’s theory of the secrecy tax he’s trying to impose through Wikileaks is one example of these diminishing returns on imperial complexity. All the indications are that Wikileaks has been successful in this.
 
One dynamic of the system which makes citizen action so difficult is its distributed responsibility for repressing the people. But perhaps the same dynamic also generates an inner weakness.
 
The way things are today, anyone who wants to reform anything, anywhere (or in the case of politicians, pretend to try to reform) finds himself blocked by some vested interest which pops up to resist. There’s always a particular criminal who, in defending his own piece of the action, also takes the lead in defending the corporatist system as a whole, in that particular fight. The resources of change are always more thinly and broadly distributed than the force of the status quo, which concentrates immediately in the form of that special interest. That’s the way kleptocracy works. That’s also part of the reason regulation of rackets can never work.
 
However, there’s also a reverse vector here. The system is dedicated to the growth of every wealth and power cell. So the federal government never has any intention of rigorously regulating anybody. If it ever tried, it would face the same concentration of resistance. But it’s also constantly importuned by the aggression of those same concentrations, usually many or all of them at once. Each interest is not only a conservative defender of the status quo, but a reactionary aggressor.
 
So we have the vector of reform blocked and shattering itself on the immovable object of the entrenched racket. And in the same way we have the vector of that same racket’s insatiable greed and aggression as an irresistible force pushing the inertial government and power structure as a whole. As physics equations, these are identical effects, although in one case the racket is stationary, in the other it is in motion. In both cases its inertia is immutable.
 
The vector of racket greed, what Marx called the siren song luring the racketeer, cooing “Go on!…Go on!”, is always in the direction of greater expansion, greater complexity, monopolizing more of the finite system resources for itself. The system as a whole cannot achieve sufficient concentration at any point to resist this aggressive concentration.
 
It follows from this that there’s no way the system can rationalize itself or retrench in its own self-interest. Trying to do this, it would run into the same special interest resistance at each point. It too would find itself more dispersed than the concentration which resists. Nor can it even keep up its sham pretenses to democracy, two conflicting parties, the rule of law, since there’s no way for it to distribute responsibility for anyone in particular sustaining a loss. Nor is there anyone who would be rewarded for imposing this loss on anyone within the fraternity. Each racket or individual racketeer says, “Why should I take the hit for the common (elite) good? Let someone else take it.”
 
The recent doubling down on the ethanol mandates is a good example. The ethanol racket is absurd even by this kleptocracy’s standards. Many other rackets opposed this blend wall extension. All rational observers think the mandate should be repealed completely. It will only exhaust the people even further (exhaust their economic capacity and perhaps their political patience; everything runs that risk) and render the infrastructure even more prone to breakdown. But the system is helpless. At each point, like this one, there’s one aggressor against a dissipated front. It’s the same as when the people try to fight them.
 
This is a welter of parasites battening on the same host. They’re in a zero sum game, not only against the people, but among themselves. Each has an interest in just exploiting the host, not killing it. But together they are killing it and therefore themselves. It’s clear none is capable of organizing or regulating the others. The federal government isn’t capable of doing it. If one big bank tried to do it, it would be subverted by the others. Each racket, from highest to lowest, is going to maximize its bloodsucking until there’s no blood left.
 
It’s the truest and most extreme example of the tragedy of the commons. (The “tragedy of the commons” is a Big Lie in general, but in cases like this one it’s true.) Biologically, it can’t stay this way. It’s impossible to exploit any resource this way forever or to maintain such cannibalistic complexity. Such a bottleneck cannot endure. That’s why no such tyranny has lasted long, and in the acceleration of modern times, where tyrannies take only years to go through the same life cycle which once took centuries, we can reasonably aspire to soon see the collapse of this one.
 
The Tower of Babel grows ever higher, ever more top-heavy, ever more unstable, ever more tottering.

November 10, 2010

Food Sovereignty vs. the Final Stage of Neoliberalism

 

What is globalization, really? Among other things, it’s the replacement of national sovereignty by corporate anti-sovereignty. Their own cadre, Dani Rodrik, wrote of how national sovereignty and democracy are incompatible with the corporate pseudo-sovereignty, and how if you want to maximize the latter you must destroy the former. This association of nation and democracy as the twin targets of the “free trade” onslaught demonstrates how national sovereignty itself can only arise out of the people. We can deduce from this that the only way to defend either and maximize both is to eradicate corporatism and elitism completely. It’s democracy which must be maximized: Direct democracy.
 
Who are the globalizers? Don’t look first at the World Bank, IMF, WTO and so on. Those are just the power launderers, the stooge cadres. In America, the real globalizers are Wall Street, the Republican and Democratic Parties, the weapons rackets, and the Big Ag rackets – Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Tyson, Smithfield, and others. These are the players who concoct the “agreements” among “countries” which are really turf deals among gangster elites. The politicians sign these agreements and set up special organizations like the WTO and IMF to serve as the point men. But the WTO, and for that matter most of the Dems and Reps, are the hired goons. The “free” trade treaties are really corporate contracts, written by the likes of Monsanto and Cargill. But these contracts aren’t actual agreements among free parties. They’re instruments of tyranny to be imposed by elite diktat, from the top down, from the highest, most concentrated power, as a hail of rocks, burning ash, and poison upon the disenfranchised people below.
 
The proper legal term for a “contract” imposed by thuggery is an unconscionable contract of adhesion. Where there’s a huge power and need differential between the parties, it’s obviously impossible for them to freely contract with one another. Such contracts clearly have no moral validity. In theory these are also supposed to be legally invalid. But in practice the whole endeavor of neoliberalism, at every level, from the basic employer-employee “negotiation” to the most univeralized global trade agreements, is to replace actual freedom of contract with these contracts of adhesion. It’s to replace true economic freedom with gangster-imposed and enforced protection rackets and direct plunder.
 
All this proves how freedom of contract is impossible under conditions of wealth inequality. It’s been proven a thousand times – you can have one or the other, but never both.
 
What’s the final stage of neoliberalism? The elites have imposed financialization and are manipulating it to amass all power and real assets. This is positioning them for neofeudalism.
 
What’s neofeudalism? This is the elites’ strategy to achieve corporate totalitarianism and maintain as much of their material luxury as possible under Peak Oil and energy descent. Their strategy has been to use the corporate form, the propaganda of “capitalism” and “democracy”, and the forms of representative pseudo-democracy, to monopolize ever growing portions of wealth and power. Having achieved this position of dominance, they will now use it to push the rest of us down into actual medieval conditions. Their preferred path for doing this will be debt slavery. If necessary they’ll try to use the police state whose skeleton they’ve assiduously constructed, and even classical fascism.
 
Meanwhile, in various ways, they’ll attempt the shift from fossil fuels to alternate fuels, for the sake of their own luxury consumption. We’ve already seen a larger-scale version of this, with the diversion of vast amounts of food from the already-hungry people of the world to the gas tanks of the Western personal car. This is the industrial agrofuel strategy. Just like all other liquidations, this one’s coming home as well. America itself already has ever growing numbers of the hungry while more and more corn is hijacked for agrofuels. Obama just doubled down on the ethanol scam. So here we can see one iteration of the basic pattern I’ve called resource fascism. All ideas along the lines of corporate renewable energy buildouts have the same basic goal. Picture a network of fortresses powered by the “smart grid”, biofueled private jets travelling between, while outside the walls permanently indentured debtors slave in the fields and sleep in shantytowns, their labor compelled by the draconian penalties dangling over the heads of all defaulters, their debt compounding every day. That’s the goal of the political and economic elites.
 
How is the barbed wire being strung around us? For example, where it comes to food policy? The Green Revolution itself was intended to eradicate food self-sufficiency and economic independence. It hooks the farmer on fossil fuels, proprietary seeds, and growing cash crops for export. This then plunges him into the age-old vicious circle of debt indenture. The elites used petrodollar recycling to leverage the GR-imposed need for oil (which had to be bought with dollars) into brute power over those countries. As they sank into hopeless debt (enriching the Western banks along the way), the goon IMF could deploy its structural adjustment programs to use the existence of this unilaterally imposed debt to completely loot the people of the country, who had already been dispossessed by the same corporate process which imposed the odious debt upon them.
 
Once again we see the basic fraudulence and tyranny of the corporate “contract”.
 
Other assaults include the globalization “treaties” whose only goal was to destroy all barriers civil society and democracy posed for naked corporate aggression. The WTO, NAFTA, and subsequent proposed assaults like the FTAA, CAFTA, and the SPP, right up to the bilateral “agreements” of today, are intended to prevent messy elections or protests, or meddling laws and regulations, or any archaic notions that public property belongs to the people, from interfering with the corporate rampage. (These, including the bilateral pacts like the one Obama’s trying to impose on India, are of course agreements only among elite gangs; the respective peoples of these countries are disenfranchised in principle and are regarded as the targets for plunder in practice.)
 
There’s also the quest for domination via “patents” over seeds and genes. And then we have the new colonial land grabs. These are the maneuvers of rich countries brazenly trying to lock up their future food and biofuel supply by directly stealing the land of poor countries.
 
All of this takes place under the supervision of the big banks, who use globalization to impose their ideal of ruthless commodification upon every part of the economy.
 
As Sophia Murphy puts it:
 

The AoA [globalized Agreement on Agriculture] presupposes a particular model for agriculture and reinforces that model through the rules it establishes. It is a model for wealthy countries pursuing industrial agriculture, and for developing country governments that wish to follow suit. It ignores the needs and interests of the billions of farmers who do not live in that world. Only 10 to 15 percent of food is traded internationally, yet the AoA pressures all of agriculture to be run as if it was a trade concern.

 
This brings us back to the essence of globalization itself. The goal is to take what according to the capitalists’ own textbooks should be a small appendage of the economy and ruthlessly, recklessly, destructively impose its morals and culture on all of life. Not just economic life, but political, social, cultural, and private life as well. These “morals” and “culture” are really sociopathy and barbarism. Their goal is the absolute eradication of all competing values, which means all moral and cultural value as such. The intent and the practice is literally totalitarian, and neoliberalism is a totalitarian ideology and strategy in the classical sense.
 
Today in America the Food Tyranny bill intends to formally bring this globalization regime home. It would explicitly subordinate all domestic food policy to the WTO:
 

COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.

Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed in a manner inconsistent with the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization or any other treaty or international agreement to which the United States is a party.

 
This overthrows the doctrine of “perfect protection”, enshrined in America from the outset of globalization, that these rules didn’t supersede our own domestic food sovereignty. (Perfect protection was of course hypocrisy on the part of US elites, since they were destroying the same principle elsewhere. But the point is that all peoples deserve food freedom, and should receive such protection if we’re to have “free trade” at all. But by now we know the very point of free trade was to wipe out all such protections. Now it’s coming home.)
 
The bill could also subordinate us to the Codex Alimentarius, which is a globalized version of the disaster capitalist “food safety” scam. Just as in America, so everywhere globalism reigns there’s the same pattern of allowing corporate agriculture to cause food outbreaks, then use these outbreaks as the pretext to impose further corporate domination. The Codex is one “legal” vehicle to empower administrative tyranny over food. Revolving door corporate bureaucrats could issue fiats banning medicinal herbs or vitamin supplements, while requiring all growers right down to the backyard gardener to use any kind of synthetic fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide, hormone in an animal, or GMO seed. (As always in this connection, let me remind the reader that if Obama’s health racket mandate is allowed to stand, that will provide another precedent for any and every corporate mandate. The exact same logic will allow the FDA or even the WTO to “constitutionally” force us to buy, for example, GMO seeds. I defy any Obama cultist to explain how that’s incorrect. But then, an Obama supporter probably also supports Monsanto. More here and here.)
 
The bill’s extended power of recall, forced destruction of animals and product based on the flimsiest allegations, and the goal of forcing all small producers to register their animals (via NAIS) and all the details of their land and facilities (via “traceability”) with corporate databases demonstrate how the plan is to bring all non-corporatized, independent food activity under the surveillance and then control of the big corporations.
 
These are a few examples of how the food bill seeks to impose the corporate anti-sovereign assault upon us in our own country. That this is being done as a bipartisan project of our own government proves that this is a rogue government which no longer serves the people but assaults the people on behalf of our enemies. And the bipartisanship of it is stark proof (as if we needed it by now) that both Parties are equally malevolent, criminal gangs out only to rob and hurt us.
 
We’ll never be free until we get rid of them completely.
 
So this food bill needs to be put in the big picture context of debt indenture, offshoring, Walmartization and the general destruction of jobs, the assault on civil liberties, “austerity”, and the ever-tightening stranglehold of corporatism everywhere.
 
What’s the common thread everywhere? They seek to steal what wealth is left and destroy all economic and political possibilities and our very freedom to try to improvise any way out of the trap.
 
Will we ever draw a line and say No Further? A good place to draw that line is at our food. We should resolve to be growers, farmers, seed savers, on our own and in tandem, to do it directly and to assist one another, in the direct act and in resisting criminal assaults upon us.
 
More affirmatively, we need the land. We must demand it in principle (demand it, not of the elites who stole it, but as exemplary toward reawakening the people to the fact that our land has been stolen, and that if we’re to survive and prosper we must redeem it) and flow like water onto all available land. Our tactics must embrace everything from guerrilla gardening to adverse possession and organized squatting to mass land reclamation movements. Food production stewardship, and any other mode of productive economic relocalization, must always be the basis.
 
This is the only road to growing the millions of small farmers America needs, and meeting the twin goals of growing sufficient food post-oil, and providing the economic and cultural basis for the redemption and flourishing of democracy itself.

October 14, 2010

More Obama Vileness: Ethanol Bailout

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 4:13 pm

 

Every day it’s just more and more.
 
Obama and his EPA are choosing today to double down on the already busted ethanol hand. We already know that ethanol neither conserves fossil fuels (because a large amount go into producing it) nor does it cut down on greenhouse gases (again on account of all the fossil fuels that go into it). Meanwhile it’s an environmental disaster in itself, wasting obscene amounts of water, further entrenching destructive monocropping practices, and indirectly driving rainforest destruction in South America. (Corn ethanol subsidies drive increased corn production which crowds out domestic soybean production, which drives expansion of soy production in Brazil, which crowds ranching into rain forest territory.)
 
I wrote about ethanol more extensively here and here.
 
Here’s a summary quote from one of those pieces:
 

As for the economics of aggrofuel, the CBO estimates that the diversion of corn to ethanol production was responsible for 10-15% of the big US food price runup in the year ending 4/08. The cascade of effect is typical: this diversion of food to fuel drove up the price of livestock feed and therefore of meat and dairy products, which in turn drove up the price of all foodstuffs.

This is just the tip of ethanol’s malevolent food price influence, which last year led directly to mass shortages, hunger, malnutrition, food riots, and state violence all around the Third World. While an American consumer may have the right to decide to pay more for food so he can continue filling the tank of his SUV, he has no such right to make that decision for his neighbor, let alone to starve the world poor. The moral economy of ethanol is even less sustainable than its fiscal, energy, and environmental economies. Yet so far the American government has chosen to subsidize all of these, to convey to a kept industry however much money and unaccountability is necessary to force zero minus one to equal two.

The ethanol industry is currently in a precarious position. It is not a capitalist but a feudal operation, 100% dependent on the rent-seeking opportunities afforded by government handouts, government-generated captive markets, and high oil prices. It needed all of these to turn a profit, and since oil prices plummeted last year, the business, which had bet contango on Peak Oil price effects and had been building new plants at breakneck speed, found itself overextended and unviable even with massive government assistance. One of the top producers, VeraSun, went into bankruptcy and the others are hurting.

So what can a parasitic industry do when one of its hosts is no longer available? It must seek to feed more on the other, in this case the government. Sure enough, what we’ve been seeing is a frenzy of anti-capitalist, anti-market, rent-seeking lobbying.

The main effort is to get EPA to increase the ethanol/gasoline blend wall from the current 10% to 15-20%. There is no economic or practical basis for this whatsoever, just as there no longer is even for the 10%, now that we know that corn ethanol’s energy and environmental promises were lies. Rational policy would dictate that we do away with the existing requirement, and with all ethanol RFS standards. But of course reason has no place in a corporatist system, which is based on distortions, riggings, and rackets. No one in industry or environmental circles wants this blend wall increase. Every kind of machinery maker fears that a 15% blend could damage its products (true to the system, the 2007 energy bill absolved the ethanol racket from any liability for engine damage from ethanol products, so any such damage would be completely externalized onto the consumer and product manufacturer).

What’s odd is how even the ethanol gang doesn’t bother trying to argue that a blend wall increase would benefit anyone but themselves. Clearly they’re simply so confident in their congressional (and presidential) flunkies that they think they can just demand whatever they want, at whatever cost (for everyone else).

So both the “industry” and the DoE are saying, “the free market was wrong before, and it’s wrong now; we must mandate a higher blend wall”. Perhaps by now we must suspect, where it comes to corn ethanol, the free market will always be wrong.

They’re also stepping up demands for more welfare, and for this to be extended into the indefinite future. The argument originally was that “first-generation” biofuels, i.e. corn ethanol, needed temporary government support. This would allegedly lead to a self-reliant first-gen industry and more importantly show the way toward the “second generation” of cellulosic ethanol which would be even more cost-effective and environmentally sound.

Yet today all of this is looking to be a lie. Corn ethanol remains unviable and a ward of the state. There are lots of plans on paper for cellulosic production plants, but no investors. The only money now available is coming in the form of government welfare. For example, one of the few projects still moving forward, Poet’s Emmetsburg plant, is funded so far only by close to $100 million in federal and state grants. They’re still waiting on a federally guaranteed private loan (that should give you an idea of how dubious these economics are: even with a fed guarantee no one wants to loan them money).

According to the 2007 energy bill, 100 million gallons of the biofuel mandate are supposed to come from cellulosic in 2010. It doesn’t look like they’re going to make it. The American Petroleum Institute thinks they’ll dribble out maybe 1-5 million. That’s how much all that government largesse is buying. As API’s cadre said, “We know how to make cellulosic ethanol. We don’t know yet how to make it economically.” (We’re still saying that for corn ethanol as well, and probably always will be.)

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dineen sums it all up: “The government needs to step in right now to help these companies.”

 
Any entrenchment of corn monoculture is also an ongoing socioeconomic disaster, as America continues to commit suicide by further driving out smaller, more diverse farming. For our prosperity, for our democracy, for our freedom, and for our literal survival (that is, if you and yours need to eat), America needs millions of new farmers, and very soon. But our elites’ premeditated murder of democracy, and soon our biological destruction, continues apace.
 
This benefits only the ethanol racket, Big Corn, and the techno-ghouls who leech off ethanol-study grants. Meanwhile it’s so stupid that even the likes of Big Oil and Big Auto oppose it, and their reasons, however self-serving of course, are nevertheless true. A higher blend wall is likely to slowly corrode engines. In order that the ethanol racket can survive, you’ll end up with a damaged car, and perhaps damage to anything you use which runs on gasoline. There’s even trials that show a 15% ethanol blend in something like a chainsaw can actually cause it to spring to life while supposedly not on full power, like some crazed machine out of a Stephen King story. But this is no fairy tale.
 

The ruling, which was requested by ethanol producers, was widely expected but is the subject of heated debate over whether E15 is safe for cars and other gasoline-powered devices. Fuel sold today typically contains as much as 10 percent ethanol, but automakers and other critics say that a higher blend of ethanol could corrode engines.

The agency said Wednesday that government testing found the blend would not damage the engines in cars with a model year of 2007 or later — about one in seven cars on the road — and would not cause unacceptable increases in air pollution. The agency is still testing cars for the 2001 to 2006 model years and expects to issue a ruling on those as soon as next month.

 
How picayune is that pitch? “We think it won’t harm engines earlier than 2007.” Not exactly a ringing safety endorsement, is it? BTW, the 2007 energy bill absolved the ethanol manufacturers from liability for such damage. So when ethanol destroys your car, you’ll be left trying to collect from……..?
 
(An obvious implication of this is that widespread deployment would hasten the obsolescence of pre-2007 cars, exactly at the time more and more of us are going to be needing to make older cars last as long as possible. This is intentional on the government’s part. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this is meant to be a kind of back-door Mandate to buy a new, E15-approved car.
 
And as the lobbyist vermin says in the piece, the racket views this as just “the first step”. The original EPA demand was for a 20% blend.)
 
Obama’s EPA is of course full of lies about how they had no choice but to do this, and how it’s going to be for our good. The elites always know better.
 

Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. assistant administrator for air and radiation, said that the decision advanced an important national goal of reducing oil consumption. The federal government would like to see Americans use 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2022, including 21 billion from advanced biofuels beyond the corn-based ethanol that is prevalent now. Currently, the industry says it can produce about six billion gallons of corn ethanol a year.

 
This flunkey’s lies are contradicted by her master’s love affair with offshore drilling and BP. We know Obama wants to go back to business as usual where it comes to oil consumption. That’s why his “stimulus” centerpiece was the scam cash-for-clunkers, which of course was never meant to get rid of clunkers (on the contrary it moved plenty of new ones), but to prop up the personal car itself during a rough patch.
 
The piece affects some uncertainty as to the timing of the decision, but then gives the obvious short-term political answer.
 

It was not clear why the agency made an announcement on one group of cars when a decision on another group is coming in a month or two, but analysts suggested that election-year politics played a role.

Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, a research firm, said that in the midterm Congressional elections in three weeks, “there are nine at-risk Democrats from the top 10 ethanol producer states. If you’re fighting for every seat in a midterm election, you can’t afford to wait until the rule is finished.”

But Ms. McCarthy said the agency was obligated to respond to a petition by an ethanol producer group, Growth Energy. It had originally intended to reply this summer.

 
I’m not sure why that’s supposed to help Democrats. Corn state Republicans are just as ardent in their ethanol whoring. The whole policy is, after all, a Bush/Republican initiative based in the 2005 energy bill and supplemented by the 2007 bill. So it’s bipartisan all the way.
 
While I hope the Democrats get zero credit for this at the ballot box in the self-destructive farm states (where voting for industrial agriculture is of course voting for their own liquidation), I do hope that anybody who still has any doubts about Obama and the Dems will add this to the list of Obama’s freely chosen, unforced criminal actions. Despite the lies in the piece, Obama’s EPA had total freedom to reject this demand emanating from a few scumbags. They freely chose to side with scum and against the people. 
 
The most depressing thing about this is how typical it is of a terminal kleptocracy. It absolutely refuses to cut a single criminal loose, even such an obnoxious, sniveling one as the ethanol racket. The system just keeps piling crime on crime, waste on waste, destruction on destruction. Every single step, down to the smallest details, is in exactly the opposite direction from reason, sanity, practicality, morality, freedom. This is a system committed to murder-suicide, to consuming as much of what still exists as it possibly can in the flames of its own self-immolation.

August 11, 2010

Small Farms Beyond Thunderdome

Filed under: Food and Farms, Relocalization — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 6:00 pm

 

Energy and environmental factors decree that America needs millions of small farmers. Even today smaller farms are more productive, more energy-efficient, and more ecologically sound. Peak Oil and the looming energy descent mandate that we Get Small or Get Dead whether we want to or not.
 
With agriculture, we have the same situation as with energy. Just as with fossil fuel extraction, the industrial agriculture rackets have been heavily subsidized and empowered by the system in many other ways. Just as with renewables, alternatives to the agribusiness model (“get big or get out”, monoculture, heavy use of fossil-fuel based fertilizer and pesticide, GMOs and patenting of seeds) have been neglected where not actively assaulted.
 
In both cases the overarching feature is a giant centralized structure dependent upon cheap, plentiful fossil fuels. The result in both cases is a heavily tipped playing field.
 
While by now there’s little return on seeking reform within the system, I thought that just once for the record I’d jot down what should have been done by way of reform. (And also perhaps to help set standards for relocalization activists who might need to pretend to advocate solutions within the system, just to refute the charge of “all you do is criticize and demand the impossible” or some such garbage. Sort of like the way in some company I’ll still say something like “they should have included Kaufmann-Brown in the finance bill”, even though real freedom activists understand how pointless such complaints are.)
 
So here’s what I would advocate if I had to reform within the system. I’d strip away all government steroids for the already engorged, while deploying investment in transformative technologies, practices, structures.
 
In the case of agriculture this would mean such things as tax credits and loan guarantees for small farms, perhaps various carrots and sticks for states and municipalities to adopt policies more friendly to decentralized food production, organics, CSAs, single-plot gardening (why shouldn’t this get the same tax incentives as e.g. a home office?).
 
I would abolish corn ethanol subsidies and mandates, and end all support for biofuels in general. Ethanol is a pure racket which has never capitalistically supported itself and never will. It’s simply taking food from the mouths of the hungry (driving up the price and tying up vast tracts of land) in order to burn it in gas tanks to zombify the doomed car culture.
 
Factory farms, aka CAFOs, must be banned completely. They’re absolute economic, social, environmental, and animal cruelty disasters. Worst of all, by concentrating so many animal pathogens in such crowded spaces they cause constant epidemic outbreaks. This chronic state of disease is met with an ever-escalating regimen of antibiotics, which are in turn counteracted by constantly mutating germs. It’s simply a biological arms race. The odds are that when the next great lethal pandemic afflicts mankind, it will have arisen at a CAFO. (The swine flu is believed to have arisen at a Smithfield facility in Mexico. Just a little gift from Rahm, Clinton, and NAFTA. Since Obama hired Rahm the swine flu becomes his baby too.)  Factory farms are literally unregulated bioweapons laboratories.
 
Since the biotech companies themselves claim genetic modification is indistinguishable from age-old hybridization techniques, it follows that they shouldn’t be able to patent genes or organisms.
 
What’s more, since the food supply is a social good and a strategic element, it shouldn’t be held hostage to any corporate interest at any point. The genetics of the world ecosystem are public property, and no one ever had a right to enclose them or to allow them to be enclosed. So right there all such patents are invalid and vacated. The fact is, man does not need GMOs, just like we didn’t need monoculture in the first place. Diversified cultivation of wild varieties has always been more productive for local and regional populations. It was only corporate globalism which wanted and needed to build the Tower of Babel of monoculture, fossil-fuel fertilizer and pesticides, and growing global distribution, these three always circulating in an ever-intensifying loop.
 
So that’s part of what I’d do if I had the federal power at my disposal. Of course the idea of using the central power structure to decentralize agriculture would be ironic, and is in fact impossible. As we know, the kleptocracy cannot be reformed. But as an exercise in civics, we can still find occasion to cite the theoretical principle (sometimes even realized in practice, in other times and places) that the system must be accountable to the people.
 
Energy descent is imminent, and it would have been better if we could have found the wisdom and will to effect an organized energy transformation, within the context of a general program which sought everywhere to rehabilitate our adversarial relationship with nature, lead us beyond and above fossil fuels, and ameliorate if not end social exploitation, domination, and cruelty. All this could be done through the disempowerment of large structures and the empowerment of smaller forms.
 
Nature is going to force us to do so anyway, so it would be better if we did it according to a plan, instead of heedlessly partying our way right off a cliff. 
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