What Is Organic?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Many times this summer while plucking tomatoes from the vine or pulling weeds from my garden I find myself asking the question: what is organic? Is eating organic food a more healthy way of living or did we "Americanize" it? Are the foods we buy labeled "organic" better for us or just some meaningless security blanket to throw over our families. True organic crops may be in their last throes as a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled: Gone to Seed elaborates.

Huge Pharmaceutical corporations such as Monsanto have sold their genetically modified seeds to farming nations across the world. Brazil lifted a ban on Monsanto's "roundup ready" soybean 2 years ago, and South Africa has followed suit. Of course here at home we are more than happy to support Monsanto with well over 50% of our nation's soybean crop "roundup ready". Monsanto, for those who are unfamiliar is ...no, let me just paste their self-title here for you: "Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture's impact on our environment." Oh by the way you may also recognize Monsanto as the makers of such household friendly products as Agent Orange and Roundup weedkiller.

Please, take time to read the report: Gone to Seed, check out a few organizations like Organic Consumers Association. Do some research on Monsanto yourself because believe me, genetically modified soybeans are the least of our worries. I'll leave corn and wheat seed for another article. However all is not lost yet, there are some people making large strides in Biodiversity such as Dr. Vandana Shiva and her Navdanya movement based in India.

Once again, nothing is as it seems. We must dig deeper and take nothing for face value. Just because it says "organic" doesn't mean it is! Chew on this, I didn't even mention the whole cross contamination/pollination from farms in the vicinity of "organic" farms. You can bet Monsanto is on it.

Defense Spending: The War Against Americans

Sunday, April 29, 2007

America Speaks Out
Is the United States spending too much on defense?

by Carl Conetta
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #41
26 March 2007

On 1-4 February 2007, the Gallup polling organization asked a representative sample of US citizens if they thought the United States was spending too little, too much, or just the right amount on defense and the military.1 For the first time since the mid-1990s, a plurality of Americans said that the country was spending too much. The surprising result of the survey shows current public attitudes to approximate those that prevailed in March 1993, shortly after former President Bill Clinton took office. Today, 43 percent of Americans say that the country is spending "too much" on the military, while 20 percent say "too little". In 1993, the balance of opinion was 42 percent saying "too much" and 17 percent saying "too little."

What makes this result especially surprising is that few leaders in Congress and no one in the administration today argues that the United States can or should reduce military spending. Quite the contrary: leaders of both parties seem eager to add to the Pentagon's coffers, even as public anti-war sentiment builds. And Congress is not the only institution that appears insensitive to the shift in public opinion. The Gallup survey also drew little attention from the news media. Indeed, a Lexis-Nexis database search shows almost no coverage of the poll, which was released on 02 March 2007.

US military spending in comparative perspective

For FY 2008, the Bush administration has requested $647.3 billion to cover the costs of national defense and war. This includes the Defense Department budget ($483 billion), some smaller defense-related accounts ($22.6 billion), and the projected FY 2008 cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terror operations ($141.7 billion). However, it does not include non-DOD expenditures for homeland security ($36.4 billion) or the Veterans' Affairs budget ($84.4 billion). Nor does it include the request for supplemental funds for outstanding FY 2007 war costs ($93.4 billion).

The $647.3 billion request represents a 75 percent real increase over the post-Cold War low-point in national defense spending, which occurred in 1996. Today's expenditures are higher in inflation-adjusted terms than peak spending during the Vietnam and Korean wars -- as well as higher than during the Reagan buildup.2

One way of appreciating the significance of this change is to view it in terms of world military spending. Whereas the United States accounted for 28 percent of world defense expenditures in 1986 and 34 percent in 1994, it today accounts for approximately 50 percent.

The authoritative reference work on military comparisons, The Military Balance 2007, estimates world military expenditure in 2005 to have been approximately $1.2 trillion. A plausible estimate for current world spending is $1.35 trillion. By contrast, the armaments and disarmament yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates 2005 world expenditure to have been slightly more than $1 trillion. The estimates differ in large part because the two data books rely on different standards of comparison: The Military Balance relies more heavily on "purchasing power parity" (or PPP) when comparing nations' expenditures, while the SIPRI volume uses exchange rates.3

The change in America's proportion of world military expenditure is due partly to the resurgence in US spending that began after 1998, and partly to reduced spending by other nations. Significantly, the greatest average decline in spending has occurred in that group of nations that the United States might consider "adversaries" or "potential adversaries". China, for one, is spending much more than it did prior to 1990 -- but "adversary spending" as a whole has receded substantially.

Spending versus strength

The turn in US public attitudes may reflect disenchantment with the Iraq war or a general sense that increased military spending is not bringing increased security. Clearly, the flood of defense dollars has not purchased stability in either Iraq or Afghanistan, nor has it led to a general decrease in terrorist activity. Indeed, the rate of terrorist incidents and fatalities has increased significantly since the onset of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars -- even if one discounts terrorist activity occurring in these two countries.4

Relevant to threat perception: the February 2007 Gallup poll shows that the proportion of Americans thinking that the country is "not strong enough" remains high: 46 percent. Only eight percent think the country is stronger then it needs to be. Comparable figures for 1993 are not available, but in 1990 public sentiments about spending and strength correlated much more closely. At that time 9 percent thought that the United States was spending too little and 16 percent thought it was spending too much. Regarding "strength": 16 percent in 1990 thought the country was stronger than necessary, while 17 percent thought it was not as strong as it needed to be. In the recent poll, by contrast, the public leans toward seeing spending as too high and strength as too little.

Clearly (and understandably) the American public continues to perceive a high-level of threat, even as it has begun questioning the current level of military expenditure. The unusual disjuncture between sentiments about "defense spending" and "strength" may reflect doubts about how the Pentagon is spending its funds or doubts about whether military dollars can purchase the requisite type of strength. Certainly, the Iraq and Afghanistan imbroglios suggest that the utility of America's military investments has distinct limits. This may create a basis of public support for political leaders attempting a more thorough security policy reform than they have been willing to contemplate so far.

Economic concerns

Economic concerns may also play a role in the public's thinking about defense spending. Although consumer confidence is higher in 2007 than it was in 2006, it still remains lower than during the mid- and late-1990s. In real terms, US median family income stagnated between 2000 and 2007, while personal debt rose. Now, rising interest rates are pinching the credit flow. Against this backdrop, the public may be taking a second look at the steep climb in military spending – up 45 percent in real terms between 2002 and 2008. Or perhaps the effect is more impressionistic: No matter how softly it is said, $647 billion sounds like a vast sum.

Currently the Pentagon plans to spend more than $2.75 trillion during the next five years -- not counting the incremental cost of future combat operations. This is not easily reconciled with bringing the national debt under control, while also meeting pending demands on social security and medicare. There also may be detrimental macro-economic effects associated with the scale of federal deficits and debt -- unless remedial action is taken. Concerns such as these recently led the World Economic Forum to lower America's competitiveness rating, dropping it from first place to sixth.5 Similar concerns have prompted the US Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office, David M. Walker, to launch a public information campaign about the long-term threat to the nation's fiscal health.6 Such concerns may not yet figure substantially in the public's thinking about defense expenditures -- but they are bound to play a bigger role as the "baby-boomer" generation begins to retire en masse.


1. Joseph Carroll, "Perceptions of "Too Much" Military Spending at 15-Year High," Gallup News Service, 02 March 2007

2. Steven M. Kosiak, Both DOD Base and War Budgets Receive Big Boosts; Total Funding at Highest Level since the End of World War II (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 5 February 2007)

3. The Military Balance 2007 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2007); and, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2006: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 2006).

4. Carl Conetta, War & consequences: Global terrorism has increased since 9/11 attacks, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #38 (Cambridge MA: Commonwealth Institute, 25 September 2006)

5. Philip Thornton, "US slides down competition league; Concern over America's growing twin deficits," The Independent (London), 27 September 2006

6. Matt Crenson, "GAO Chief Warns Economic Disaster Looms," The Associated Press, 28 October 2006

Citation: Carl Conetta, "America Speaks Out: Is the United States spending too much on defense?," Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #41, 26 March 2007. http://www.comw.org/pda/0703bm41.html

War On Iraq Oil: Mission Accomplished

Thursday, March 01, 2007

If you didn't fall into the Anna Nicole abyss, don't care about American Idol and actually don't want to hand your kids "a bag of shit" then maybe you didn't fall for: ties to 9/11, yellowcake, and WMD's. Nor did the fact that Sadam was an asshole, make you want to load up your American Freedom cannon and blast some idealism Iraq's way while raping and pillaging the cradle of civiliztion. As a person with half a brain you understood the reason we went to war with Iraq was OIL. Yesterday, the new Iraq Oil Law passed and mission was indeed accomplished.

I won't go into great detail however what the law does is open up Iraq oil to major oil companies who will also sit on the Federal Oil and Gas Counsil which will oversee all Iraq oil contracts. With Iraq oil costing around $1 a barrel and selling for over $60 you can bet Exxon will log record profits again next year. How do you expect Iraq to oversee the world's largest oil reserves with so much inner chaos?

This war is unjust and needs to end period. While Exxon and other government contractors continue to record supernatural returns in the market, this government still can't provide for the citizens struck by our forgotten disaster: Katrina. The same government that sends these Americans to murder in the name of capitalism can't even follow the code of ethics for a common gang: take care of your own. Even the mighty empires' soldiers are rising up against insanity and corruption.

Among the countless other lies remember "Iraq oil will pay for the war" well America, it's almost 4 years later, oil prices are up and guess who is paying for the war.

I have asked this question before but it begs asking again, what is the price of our greed?
Is it their lives or ours that matter? What about the people trying to provide for their families?

Iran On The Horizon

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My gut tells me that Iran will be the next victim of the Bush administration, here is a link to some great "REAL" information regarding Iran and our relations with them, thanks to the people at Project on Defense Alternatives. Don't believe the hype!

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