5. The Worst of Times

Aug-26-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: There are many reasons to despair, and many people are convinced by them. Here are a few analysts and examples of what’s going wrong. (And I left out the news that fracking is worse than we’d thought, and that France has embraced nuclear power more fully.)

* It’s the End of the World As We Know It X-Ray Magazine (Thanks Antonia)

Today, the act of reading capitalism’s last rites is a kind of ticket-of-entry into “serious debate” about the economy, even for the system’s ex-partisans….The system isn’t dead. The system is death. Monopolies are becoming more monopolistic. Prices are being fixed higher, wages slashed.

Liberties are being stripped, governments hijacked. These are all necessaries to the further development of capitalism, not contraries. But it doesn’t matter.  The real question is however not “Wither capitalism?” but rather “Wither industrial civilization?” As one wag famously put it, things that can’t go on forever, don’t. Our civilization is one of those things.

… Thus we are living in that special moment in history when a global civilization does a slow-mo car crash into those limits. Buckle up. The car we’re driving is out of gas, the brakes are shot, and the driver is insane.

* America In Decline Noam Chomsky (Thanks again, Linda)

“It is a common theme” that the United States, which “only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay,” Giacomo Chiozza writes …. Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.
The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests. Corporate power’s ascendancy over politics and society – by now mostly financial – has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.
For the public, the primary domestic concern is unemployment. Under current circumstances, that crisis can be overcome only by a significant government stimulus, well beyond the recent one, which barely matched decline in state and local spending – though even that limited initiative probably saved millions of jobs.
For financial institutions the primary concern is the deficit. Therefore, only the deficit is under discussion. A large majority of the population favor addressing the deficit by taxing the very rich (72 percent, 27 percent opposed), reports a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Cutting health programs is opposed by overwhelming majorities (69 percent Medicaid, 78 percent Medicare). The likely outcome is therefore the opposite.

* GM Corn Being Developed For Fuel Instead Of Food The Guardian

US farmers are growing the first corn plants genetically modified for the specific purpose of putting more ethanol in gas tanks rather than producing more food. Aid organisations warn the new GM corn could worsen a global food crisis exposed by the famine in Somalia by diverting more corn into energy production. The food industry also opposes the new GM product because, although not inedible, it is unsuitable for use in the manufacture of food products that commonly use corn. Farmers growing corn for human consumption are also concerned about cross-contamination.

* Monsanto-Resistant Weeds Take Root, Raising Food Prices Fast Company

A new series of studies released by Weed Science this month finds at least 21 weed species have become resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate (sold as Monsanto’s Roundup), and a growing number survive multiple herbicides, so-called “super-weeds.” The same selection pressure creating bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is leading to the rapid evolution of plants that survive modern herbicides. If the trend continues, yields could drop and food costs climb as weeds grow more difficult to uproot.

“The herbicide resistance issue is becoming serious,” said journal editor, William K. Vencill, in a recent statement. “It is spreading out beyond where weed scientists have seen it before.” More than 11 million acres, up from just 2.4 million in 2007, are now infested with Roundup-resistant varieties. The herbicide, a relatively low-impact chemical since it biodegrades quickly, has ranked among the most popular for farmers since Monsanto introduced its genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops that are unaffected by the chemical, accounting for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.



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