Dec 152011



By Geoff Nunberg, NPR

Geoff Nunberg, the linguist contributor on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, is the author of the book The Years of Talking Dangerously.

If the word of the year is supposed to be an item that has actually shaped the perception of important events, I can’t see going with anything but occupy. It was a late entry, but since mid-September it has gone viral and global. Just scan the thousands of hashtags and Facebook pages that begin with the word: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Slovakia. Occupy Saskatoon, Sesame Street, the Constitution. Occupy the hood.

The word itself can take credit for a lot of its success — this isn’t an item like “debt ceiling,” which just happened to be hitched to a big story. But give props to the magic of metonymy, too. That’s the figure of speech that lets us use names like Wall Street, Hollywood or Seventh Avenue to refer to the things that go on there.

Wall Street is particularly suited to actions that exploit its double meaning. It’s a compact place where it’s easy to generate symbolically charged confrontations. Those yuppie types with champagne glasses chuckling at the demonstrators from a terrace, the midnight police sweeps, the phalanx of officers in their Robocop gear in front of the Brown Brothers Harriman building — it was as if everybody had stepped out of a political cartoon from a Depression-era copy of the New Masses. Nothing was only itself. […]




By James Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle

A judge Wednesday ruled there was no probable cause for felony charges against seven Occupy Houston protesters for shackling themselves with a homemade device called a “sleeping dragon” during a demonstration at the Port of Houston.

Colleen Barnett, an assistant Harris County district attorney, confirmed that 248th District Court Judge Joan Campbell found there was no probable cause to detain the protesters on felony charges of using a criminal instrument. They were freed after a Wednesday morning court appearance.

Campbell ruled the protesters’ use of a so-called “sleeping dragon” or “arm tube” – a PVC pipe used to shackle their arms inside to keep police from handcuffing them – did not meet legal requirements of being a criminal instrument, Barnett said.

Prosecutors have not decided if they will ask a grand jury to consider an indictment on the felony charges, bring less serious charges against the seven or drop the matter.

The ruling was hailed by legal supporters of the Occupy Houston movement, who said the protesters had been “over-charged.”

“We were lucky to be assigned to a sharp judge, who read the law, understood what the law is, and cared enough to address it right up front at a probable cause hearing,” said Houston attorney Daphne Patterson Silverman, a member of the National Lawyer’s Guild. […]




By Chris Bowers, Daily Kos

Pasted Graphic.tiff


In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, groups holding demonstrations may soon have to start paying the state, and even put down deposits, in order to hold protests at the state capitol:

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration could hold demonstrators at the Capitol liable for the cost of extra police or cleanup and repairs after protests, under a new policy unveiled Thursday. […]

The policy says:

Groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings and apply for those permits at least 72 hours in advance. The policy requires permits for 100 or more people outside the Capitol. The policy does provide some leeway for spontaneous gatherings triggered by unforeseen events.

Groups holding demonstrations could be charged for the costs of having extra police on hand for the event. Costs associated with a counterprotest could be charged to that second group. The costs would be $50 per hour per Capitol Police officer – costs for police officers from outside agencies would depend on the costs billed to the state. The police could require an advance payment as a requirement for getting a permit and also could require liability insurance or a bond.

So, whether or not you have the right to peaceably assemble in Wisconsin may soon be based on the size of your bank account. […]





WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) — The U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus axed a meeting with Occupy activists, a move observers say shows growing tension between Democrats and the movement.

The meeting with Occupy Wall Street leaders was canceled late Tuesday after the Washington newspaper Roll Call said it asked about it.

Democrats may be adopting the Occupy movement’s language, but they have been backing away from the protesters and their anti-capitalist chants, with some in the party considering the activists a potential liability in next year’s elections, observers said in a Roll Call article published Wednesday.

“Democrats should reject Occupy Wall Street as the spokesmen for the 99 percent,” said Kelly Bingel, a former chief of staff to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., now involved in government affairs. “The chance of those guys going out and voting or encouraging anyone else to vote is very low.” […]




By John MacArthur, Information Clearing House

As evidence of a failed Obama presidency accumulates, criticism of his administration is mounting from liberal Democrats who have too much moral authority to be ignored.

Most prominent among these critics is veteran journalist Bill Moyers, whose October address to a Public Citizen gathering puts the lie to our barely Democratic president’s populist pantomime, acted out last week in a Kansas speech decrying the plight of “innocent, hardworking Americans.” In his talk, Moyers quoted an authentic Kansas populist, Mary Elizabeth Lease, who in 1890 declared, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”

A former aide to Lyndon Johnson who knows politics from the inside, Moyers then delivered the coup de grace: “[Lease] should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup, and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as fat cats, then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.”

As it happens, Moyers’s remarks anticipated the trenchant question posed in an interview by another prominent liberal, Barbara Ehrenreich, just after billionaire Michael Bloomberg and mayors of other cities cleared public spaces of Occupy Wall Street protesters: “Where in all this was Obama? Why couldn’t he have picked up the phone and called the mayors of Portland and Oakland and said: ‘Go easy on these people. They represent the anger and aspirations of the majority.’ Would that have been so difficult?” Well, yes, particularly if your principal occupation is shaking down bankers and brokers for campaign donations on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

By now it should be obvious that the system, and the Democratic Party, run Obama, not the other way around. Under this arrangement, the president carries out his duties as pre-eminent party functionary—fundraising being at the top of his list of responsibilities—and defers on legislation, leaving it to corrupt Democratic barons such as Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), devoted friend of the insurance, pharmaceutical, and banking crowd, and sworn enemy of reform.

As Ron Suskind’s book “Confidence Men” confirms, there was never any question of doing things differently. Describing the then president-elect’s choice of economic advisers, he notes, “Obama, after all, had selected for his top domestic officials two men [Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner] whose actions [in the Clinton Administration] had contributed to the very financial disaster they were hired to solve.” These anti-reform appointments did not go unnoticed by party regulars, even though they were ignored by Obama groupies. “I don’t understand how you could do this,” Suskind quotes Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) saying to Obama. “You’ve picked the wrong people!”

The “wrong people” included Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, and his replacement as White House chief of staff, William Daley; both of these advisers were four-star generals within the Chicago Democratic machine who cut their teeth in Washington during the campaign to pass that job-killer North American Free Trade Act and who later worked for investment banks. But Obama’s hypocrisy in Osawatomie, Kansas, set a new standard in deception. Among other things, his speech blamed “regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this [the unfettered sales of bundled mortgages], but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all. It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system.”

What’s truly breathtaking is the president’s gall, his stunning contempt for political history and contemporary reality. Besides neglecting to mention Democratic complicity in the debacle of 2008, he failed to point out that derivatives trading remains largely unregulated while the Securities and Exchange Commission awaits “public comment on a detailed implementation plan” for future regulation. In other words, until the banking and brokerage lobbies have had their say with John Boehner, Max Baucus, and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. Meanwhile, the administration steadfastly opposes a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, the New Deal law that reduced outlandish speculation by separating commercial and investment banks. In 1999, it was Summers and Geithner, led by Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (much admired by Obama), who persuaded Congress to repeal this crucial impediment to Wall Street recklessness. […]




By Glenn Greenwald

Here is the segment I did last night with Cenk Uygur on his new Current TV program; he started off the segment with quite a rant (understandably so), so our discussion begins at roughly the 7:00 mark, though the video of Sen. Levin explaining the White House’s demands for domestic detention power is at roughly the 2:30 mark.




By digby, Hullabaloo

[…] Instead, we will see “terrorists” (however they’re defined) disappeared into a military justice system indefinitely, just as those Gitmo prisoners, many of them innocent of any serious crime, have been left to moulder in prison basically forever. As Serwer noted, “the transfer restrictions effectively turn Gitmo into the Chateu d’If.” (I have used the same reference many times, calling it “The Count of Monte Cristo effect.”)

The horror of indefinite detention, often in solitary confinement by capricious decision with no due process is one of the greater horrors of the imagination (to me anyway.) Consider what we’ve already done:

One spring day during his three and a half years as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla experienced a break from the monotony of his solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston,South Carolina.

That day, Mr. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert whom the Bush administration had accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and had detained without charges, got to go to the dentist.

“Today is May 21,” a naval official declared to a camera videotaping the event. “Right now we’re ready to do a root canal treatment on Jose Padilla, our enemy combatant.”

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.


Now lawyers for Mr. Padilla, 36, suggest that he is unfit to stand trial. They argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of “truth serums.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, said Sunday that the military disputes Mr. Padilla’s accusations of mistreatment. And, in court papers, prosecutors deny “in the strongest terms” the accusations of torture and say that “Padilla’s conditions of confinement were humane and designed to ensure his safety and security.”

“His basic needs were met in a conscientious manner, including Halal (Muslim acceptable) food, clothing, sleep and daily medical assessment and treatment when necessary,” the government stated. “While in the brig, Padilla never reported any abusive treatment to the staff or medical personnel.”

In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”

Mr. Padilla’s situation, as an American declared an enemy combatant and held without charges by his own government, was extraordinary and the conditions of his detention appear to have been unprecedented in the military justice system.

Philip D. Cave, a former judge advocate general for the Navy and now a lawyer specializing in military law, said, “There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement.”

Padilla was famously thrown back into the civilian system when the Supreme Court overruled the decision under which he had been held in those conditions. The damage had already been done. Indefinite detention, particularly with solitary confinement, for anyone, American or not, is a form of torture.

I think dday’s analysis of why this happened is probably correct:

Remember that the White House has little problem with indefinite military detention. They just want to be able to dictate when it gets used and on whom. So they obviously see enough flexibility here to carry out unconstrained intelligence gathering and detention policies.

The part at the end, where they hope and pray that Congress will go back and fix the bill if it ever becomes a problem, is just nonsense. And the bill overall is ripe for abuse. The White House simply didn’t want to take the political hit for vetoing a bill that “supports the troops.” And they weren’t aroused enough by the thought of indefinite military detentions to mount any serious opposition to it.

The status quo remains in practice and the symbolism of codifying indefinite detention is probably a price they are willing to pay. The word is that the National Security types were overruled by the political people, but at the end of the day the only people who are worried about this for the long term are a bunch of shrill civil libertarians who are watching some very basic human rights and constitutional principles be eroded even years after the fog of war has cleared.

And those of you who trust that the Obama administration will not misuse this discretion should not be soothed. This law will remain on the books long after he is gone. How do you suppose the first Tea Party president will interpret it?




By Rob Kall, OpEdNews

Bruce  Fein was deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy.” He said today: “The NDAA proves that a people of sheep invites a government of wolves.” […]




By Washington’s Blog

Fraud By The Big Banks – More Than Anything Done By The Little Guy – Caused The Financial Crisis

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Thrift Supervision noted last year (page 7):

The FBI estimates that 80 percent of all mortgage fraud involves collaboration
or collusion by industry insiders.

This confirms what one of the country’s top fraud experts has said for years: that it was fraud by the big banks – more than anything done by the little guy – which caused the financial crisis:

William K. Black – professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis – explained last month before to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission why banks gave home loans to people who they knew couldn’t repay. The whole piece is a must-read, but here are excerpts from the introduction:

The data demonstrate conclusively that most liar’s loans were fraudulent, which means that there were millions of fraudulent mortgage loans because liar’s loans became common (Credit Suisse estimates that they represented 49% of new originations by 2006). The data also demonstrate that even minimal underwriting of the loan files was sufficient to detect the overwhelming majority of such fraudulent liar’s loans. No honest, rational lender would make large numbers of liar’s loans. The epidemic of mortgage fraud was so large that it hyper-inflated the housing bubble, which allowed refinancing to further extend the life of the bubble (and the depth of the ultimate Great Recession.


In the cases where there have been even minimal investigations (New Century, Aurora/Lehman, Citi, WaMu, Countrywide, and IndyMac) senior lender officials were aware that liar’s loans were typically fraudulent. The lenders could not make an honest business out of selling overwhelmingly fraudulent mortgages.

Liar’s loans were done for the usual reason – they optimized (fictional) short-term accounting income by creating a “sure thing” (Akerlof & Romer 1993). A fraudulent lender optimizes short-term fictional accounting income and longer term (real) losses by following a four-part recipe:

A. Extreme Growth
B. Making bad loans at a premium yield
C. Extreme leverage
D. Grossly inadequate loss reserves

Note that this same recipe maximizes fictional profits and real losses. This destroys the lender, but it makes senior officers that control the lender wealthy. This explains Akerlof & Romer’s title – Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit. The failure of the firm is not a failure of the fraud scheme. (Modern bailouts may even recapitalize the looted bank and leave the looters in charge of it.)

The first two “ingredients” are related. Home lending is a mature, reasonably competitive industry. A lender cannot grow extremely rapidly by making good loans. If he tried, he’d have to cut his yield and his competitors would respond. His income would decline. But he can guarantee the ability to grow extremely rapidly by being indifferent to loan quality and charging weaker credit risks, or more naïve borrowers, a premium yield.

In order to become indifferent to loan quality the officers controlling the lender must eviscerate its underwriting.


There is no honest reason for a secured lender to seek or permit inflated appraisal values. This is a sure marker of accounting control fraud – a marker that juries easily understand.

In other words, banks made loans to borrowers who they knew couldn’t really repay because the heads of the banks could make huge bonuses based on high volumes and fraudulent appraisals, and they didn’t care if their own companies later failed.

In short, they looted their companies and the economy as a whole. […]




By Thomas Brown, OpEdNews

Is this really capitalism?

Today’s civilization is a corporatist regime as opposed to a capitalistic, free market   environment. We practice corporatism, not capitalism, not democracy, not socialism and certainly not freedom. There is little real freedom as all our lives are heavily influenced and dominated by if not controlled by corporatism. There is not real justice and without justice there is never freedom. Mega corporations and corporatism is   not business. — it is   government. Were it not for Orwellian corporatism we could enjoy:

o    Taxes gone

o    Welfare Gone

o    Unemployment compensation gone

o    Unemployment gone

o    State Welfare departments Gone

o    State taxes gone

o    Property takes gone

o    Sales taxes gone

o    Social security gone

o    Medicaid gone

o    IRS gone

o    Debt gone

o    Interest gone

o    Inflation gone

o    Solutions are possible

These things are possilbe with proper focus but it would take massive and focused public support for something like HR 2990.

The financial crises has exposed one thing I believe, that might have perpetuated and pillaged us forever. It may still do just that if action isn’t forthcoming. The issue of leverage, which in normal banking is known as fractional reserve banking and when used by financial institutions when using the same deposits over and over again to generate even more leverage and then creating instruments of leverage like MOU’s and CWS and CDSs is called Re-hypothecation . Leverage is a masterfully profitable things for banks when used judiciously. Good Profitable banks create money from nothing, the ultimate leverage, and loaning to credible borrows returns massive profit. This in and of itself creates major financial problems but is nonetheless unimaginably profitable – but that wasn’t good enough. They felt the need for greed. It allowed them hubristically to leverage their so called assets even more ( Re-hypothecation) to meet massive demand for more unsustainable profit by wealthy investors causing them to allow bad credit risks to obtain loans to meet demand (that was never there) which in the end triggered a collapse. These defaults though were not responsible for the collapse. They triggered them but didn’t cause them. What caused it was the insane new financial instruments which had not been invented would have simply caused a depressed real estate market (bad enough but not devastating a whole economy) for a while but instead with massive “bets’ out there with no reserves it caused these hubristic institutions to collapse allowing you and me to bail them out. […]




By Barry S. Willdorf, A Guache Press

Shortly after the U. S. Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct.876, Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen’s lobbying organization promoting open, honest and accountable government questioned whether Justice Clarence Thomas should have reported that the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group, reimbursed him for expenses he incurred during a weekend retreat organized by the Koch brothers, well-known financiers of conservative causes.

Thomas is required to make financial disclosures under 5 U.S.C. Appendix Section 102. Among other things, the mandatory form asks for: “Spouse’s Non-Investment Income – If you were married during any portion of the reporting year complete this section. (Dollar amount not required except for honoraria.)” The form requires the signatory to provide the date(s) that the income was received, the source and the type. (It does not require disclosure of the amount received.) The signatory must certify that “all information given above (including information pertaining to my spouse …is true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief …” Immediately below the signature line is a warning. “Any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies … this report may be subject to …criminal sanctions” citing 5 U.S.C. app. §104.(Emphasis added.)

The statutorily mandated disclosure forms submitted by Justice Thomas revealed that during a 13- year period, when his wife, Virginia Thomas, earned over $1.6 million in non-investment income, he reported her income as “none”. Part of that time, she was working at the Heritage Foundation, “whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies” and to influence “members of Congress, key congressional staff members, policymakers in the executive branch, the nation’s news media, and the academic and policy communities” in such areas as health care, the environment, energy, entitlements and religion.

The signed forms are available on–line at





By David Dayen, Firedoglake

Scott Walker already had some legal trouble yesterday, when the ACLU sued the state of Wisconsin over a voter ID law they declared unconstitutional. Similar voter ID laws in Indiana have been upheld by this Supreme Court, but the ACLU claims that the law as applied in Wisconsin “imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.” We’ll see how the court case goes.

But another, far more damaging case will play out for Walker in criminal court. The first suspect in the “John Doe” investigation into Walker’s prior and current political practices has been arrested:

On Tuesday, authorities arrested Andrew P. Jensen Jr., a commercial real estate broker with Boerke Co. and a past president of the Commercial Association of Realtors-Wisconsin […]

Jensen was a minor contributor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, donating $850. Boerke Co. employees gave a total of $12,150.

Insiders told No Quarter that he was arrested after refusing to cooperate with the long-running John Doe investigation by Milwaukee County prosecutors.

The investigation spans Walker’s days as County Executive of Milwaukee and Governor. Under the rules of the investigation, witnesses can be subpoenaed and forced to testify under oath about the case. So this sounds like Jensen refused to testify after a subpoena was granted.

We’ve previously seen investigators search the home of Darlene Wink, Walker’s former constituent services coordinator, and impound the work computer of Tim Russell, a former county housing director. Walker aide Cindy Archer has also seen her home raided.

Chris Lieberthal has some additional information about Jensen:

But what did catch my eye was the fact that Jensen is a real estate broker and past president of the Commercial Association of REALTORS Wisconsin (CARW).

It caught my eye, because Walker seems to like to surround himself with these folks.

One such example is Jim Villa. Villa is a Walker crony going way back.

Villa was Walker’s Chief of Staff when he was in the state legislature. He returned to the Chief of Staff position when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive and was gearing up for his first attempt at running for governor. At that time, Walker was already taking a lot of heat for the miserable way he was handling the county’s affairs and for campaigning on the county dime during his infamous bike rides. Even then, Walker acolytes like Owen Robinson were falling all over themselves making excuses and being apologetic as they defended Walker’s already evident corruption.

Besides being a Walker supporter and Walker aide, Villa is also a real estate broker and has been the president of CARW for the past four years.

Read on at the WSJ for more information about the shady dealings of former Walker’s aide, including his treasurer, who just resigned after 18 years. […]




By Marie Diamond, Think Progress

As the media fixates on the partisan battle over renewing the soon-to-expire payroll tax cut, the imminent threat of a government shutdown seems to have been lost in the mix. In addition to the payroll tax bill, Congress is far from finalizing an omnibus spending bill that will prevent the federal government from shutting down in three days when its current round of funding runs out:

The increasingly contentious tax dispute threatens to derail what had been an emerging compromise on separate legislation to fund the government through next September, raising the specter of a possible government shutdown this weekend if the conflict is not resolved by Friday.

As they’ve repeatedly done before, the GOP is exploiting the imminent shutdown of the government to push its conservative agenda. On the Senate floor today, Majority Leader Sen. Reid (D-NV) listed many of the GOP demands — including rolling back environmental regulations — that are holding up a compromise on a bill to keep the government’s lights on. “I think that everyone can see very clearly that my friends on the other side of the aisle obviously want to have the government shut down,” Reid said. Watch it:

Reid asked for consent to move to a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open while Congress finishes its work. But Minority Leader Sen. McConnell (R-KY) objected to a short-term CR, despite the looming shutdown. He also blocked the Senate from voting on the House GOP-passed payroll tax bill, despite saying yesterday that they should vote on the bill “without delay.”

A shutdown would affect 800,000 federal workers and halt many government services. This is the third time this year Republicans are using the threat of a government shutdown to get what they want. Indeed, the fact that these brinksmanship games have become so routine is probably part of the reason this imminent shutdown has been largely overlooked. […]




By Tom Laskawy, Grist

Pasted Graphic 1.tiff

The corn rootworm. Photo: Jimmy Smith

Now that 94 percent of the soy and 70 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, Monsanto — one of the companies that dominates the GMO seed market  — might look to some like it’s winning. But if we look a little closer, I’d say they’re holding on by a thread.

Their current success is due in large part to brilliant marketing. The company’s approach was both compelling — their products were sold as the key to making large-scale farming far simpler and more predictable — and aggressive: Monsanto made it virtually impossible for most farmers to find conventional seeds for sale in most parts of the country.

Despite promises of improved productivity, enhanced nutritional content, or extreme weather tolerance — none of which has ever come to market — Monsanto has only ever produced seeds with two genetically modified traits: either herbicide tolerance or pesticide production. And even those traits never lived up to the marketing hype.

But it now appears that the core traits themselves are failing. Over the last several years, so-called “superweeds” have grown resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, the companion product that’s made Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant (aka RoundUp-Ready) corn, soy, and alfalfa so popular. Those crops were supposed to be the only plants that could withstand being sprayed by the chemical. Oops.

The superweed problem is so bad that farmers in some parts of the country are abandoning thousands of acres because the weeds are so out of control, or dousing the crops with ever more toxic (and expensive) combinations of other herbicides. Thankfully, it’s an issue that’s getting more and more media attention.

And now Monsanto’s other flagship product line, the pesticide-producing “Bt crops,” named for the pesticide they are genetically modified to emit, is in trouble.

Scientists have warned that insects would become resistant from the overuse of Bt crops, but Monsanto poo-pooed it. Even so, when the EPA first considered Bt crops for approval, agency scientists wanted a 50-percent buffer to prevent resistance (only half the acreage in any given field could be planted with Bt crops). Of course, if that demand stood, there is no way that Monsanto would ever have achieved their current market dominance.

Monsanto was so convinced (publicly at least) of their products’ immunity from, well, an immunity problem, that they pushed back hard and got the buffer zone reduced to 20 percent. The idea with a larger buffer was that any resistant bugs that arose would breed with the bugs feeding on the non-Bt crops nearby, and ecological balance would be preserved. So, by requiring a small buffer, EPA higher-ups were echoing Monsanto’s party line: Resistance isn’t a risk.

Sadly, even that 20-percent rule has been ignored by many farmers, with no fear of retribution from Monsanto for violating safety protocols, of course. After all, the smaller the buffer, the more of their profit-earning GMO seeds farmers were planting.

Yet it’s possible that the EPA is starting to push back against Monsanto’s handling of its Bt crops a little. In a new report [PDF] — unpublicized and buried deep in a government website — and analyzed in detail over at Mother Jones, the EPA confirms many anti-GMO activists’ deepest fears. The report “officially” found evidence that corn rootworms, a major pest for corngrowers, have grown resistant to Bt in several states; even worse, that resistance is strong enough that EPA scientists are insisting the company implement a “remedial action plan.” In addition, the report criticizes Monsanto for missing the rise of the rootworm resistance problem via its faulty monitoring system.

However, Tom Philpott at Mother Jones picks out the report’s key eyebrow-raiser:

Perhaps most devastatingly of all, EPA reveals that Monsanto has been receiving reports of possible resistance since 2004 — the year after the product’s release — when it got 21 such complaints nationwide. The number of reports ballooned to 94 in 2006 and has been hovering at around 100 per year since. And guess what? “Monsanto reported that none of their follow-up investigations resulted … in finding resistant populations [of rootworms].”

Naturally, Monsanto continues to deny the problem. In a recent blog post on its website responding to the EPA report, Monsanto again rewrote reality, claiming: “Scientific confirmation of corn rootworm resistance … has not been demonstrated.”

Of course, this peer-reviewed study, which provided just such confirmation, doesn’t count because … because Monsanto said so. So there. […]




By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, AlterNet

This year was defined by anxiety: the economy roiled, the GOP was increasingly hostile, the government careened towards shutdown more than once. And while these things all still seem to loom, 12 months later, there is a landscape of renewed hope and empowerment. The Arab Spring set off revolutions across the Middle East, which first inspired the Western world to rise up into Occupy Wall Street. Now the ripple effect of people power travels further, as we see the germination of the Russian Winter. Culturally, we’re gearing for a seismic shift: In 2012, expect to see the effects of the year manifested in film, music, and art. But in 2011, we felt the tremors, and a clutch of political films and documentaries both presaged and inspired the increasing awareness and resolve we’ve seen smattering across the globe. You’ll see some of these in the Oscar nomination lineup, but all of them are must-see.

1. Margin Call (dir. JC Chandor)

2. We Were Here (dir. David Weissman, Bill Weber)

3. Into the Abyss (dir. Werner Herzog)

4. The Adjustment Bureau (dir. George Nolfi)

5. The Ides of March (dir. George Clooney)

6. Miss Representation (dir. Jennifer Siebel Newsom)

7. The Black Power Mixtape, 1967–1975

8. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (dir. Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky)

9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Rupert Wyatt)

10. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (dir Michael Curry)

11. Addiction Incorporated (dir. Charles Evans Jr)

12. The Loving Story (dir. Nancy Biurski)

13. Battle for Brooklyn (dir. Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley) Oscar shortlisted


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