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Day 17

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Politically Modified Organizsms

Politically Modified Organisms

by CAROL NORRIS

They have spliced flounder genes into strawberries, mice genes into potatoes and the hog’s milk gene into corn. They also have corn that can create its own insecticide, fending off pests. When the pests eat the corn, the insecticide blows up its stomach. Such is a day in the life of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and those that love them.

This is similar to a day in the life of our politicians and their ilk. On the surface, politicians look like naturally occurring, by the people, for the people folks. But like GMOs, on closer inspection their uniformity belies their reengineering. The Democrats and the Republicans have been vastly modified by potent political ambition and they have inoculated themselves with lobbyists’ money, making them all but impervious to the needs of their pesky, teeming constituents. For the Democrats, this proved to be a very effective pesticide, keeping their voters from crawling to the polls, as well as turning the Independents Green. I call them all PMOs (politically modified organisms).

Much like they do with pharmaceuticals and irradiated and hormone-injected beef and GMOs, the PMOs find it unnecessary or more likely too bothersome to conduct studies on the long-term effects of their products and their strategies. Take again the recent example of the Democrat election debacle. It seems quite clear that the Democrat PMOs, while trying to maintain their position in the political fields–and defying all natural laws of survival–have inadvertently perfected and planted politicians who have the singular ability to defeat themselves in election campaigns.

This new variation is unable to feed and water itself even with a cornucopia of election-winning issues on its plate: corporate scandals blatantly indicating many of those populating the highest public offices, the economy, no credible evidence of declaring war on Iraq. The list is a long one. Any one of these, if the roles were reversed, the Republicans would’ve pounced on.

The fear-wilted Democrats have forgotten that the laws of natural selection apply to the laws of political election–one does not get elected if one presents nothing that perpetuates the political species or the stated values of that species. The strain of politician that is unable to be differentiated from its neighbor in a climate begging for it will not survive as its sameness weakens the entire system and eventually will be selected out of the political gene pool.

Variability keeps democracy and species alive. It provides an array of resistances and strengths assuring the survival of the species if a famine or a microbe or a rogue politician affects one strain because the others who have a different make up won’t be harmed by it. It is at the very heart of evolution, just as it is at the very heart of our democracy. Our ecosystem, our political system and our economic system are dying from a lack of true democracy.

Take Monsanto. (Please.) The behemoth of the GMO world is owner of three quarters of the patents for genetically modified crops and produces 90% of the world’s seed technology. It possesses a dizzying array of connections to governmental agencies–far too many too enumerate here–but a few examples are: the Supreme Court via Clarence Thomas, Donald Rumsfeld via direct business ties, John Ashcroft who received more money from Monsanto than any other politician, with the runner up being Larry Combest, the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Monsanto says it can help save the world’s starving and impoverished with GMOs. How lovely and altruistic it all sounds in theory. But in practice, it puts a stranglehold on economic and biodiversity. As Monsanto is feeding people with its GMOs, it’s taking away the livelihood of the local farmers by removing the locus of production and putting it back in the good ole’ US of A, lining the pockets of its top executives rather than the pockets of the farmers. In so doing, it puts the small farms out of business, and perpetuates a chronic cycle of poverty and dependence on Monsanto. What a great system. For Monsanto.

In Mexico, Monsanto’s crops are cross-pollinating with the corn of the local farmers, destroying the extremely important biodiversity there. In Iowa, some organic farmers’ crops have also been cross-pollinated with GM corn, disqualifying these farmers from organic status, robbing them of their right to the livelihood of their choice and reducing their income substantially. Other US farmers, experimenting with Monsanto crops, have unwittingly sold their soul and can only plant when and what Monsanto tells them.

In the aftermath of the mid-term elections, with our Monsanto-esque, government, I was thinking we could take the example set by Zambia who refused the offer of free GMO corn, knowing that among other things, accepting the corn has potential to destabilize food security. We can take a stand on a few things to help restabilize some things right here at home.

First, perhaps, we could borrow our 8th graders’ biology books to loan to the Democrat strategists to help them understand laws of natural selection and variability, etc to help them out in 2004. But wait a minute. Then, we’d be stuck with the same Democrats.

And, come to think of it, there aren’t enough biology books to go around to all of our students as it is. Take for example the 20 poorest schools in Philadelphia that were privatized–handed over to Edison Schools Inc., because the city had no clue what else to do with them. Then the stock market fell and Edison’s shares plummeted. So big trucks came and took the kids’ textbooks, lab supplies, computers and musical instruments. Edison was hard up for cash. Rotten break for the kids. But at least, as Edison’s founder Chris Whittle so cleverly and very seriously suggested, they weren’t forced to work in the school’s offices as free child labor. (In a school of 600, he cooed, this free child labor would be equal 75 adults on salary.) So, the kids, with no school equipment, might as well go home and watch a lot of TV and dream of the day when their Social Security gets privatized.

Another corporation just doing its part to help create the next generation of MMOs (media modified organisms.) Which brings us to the media. This is a biggie worth a lot of consideration, as you can’t have a fully realized democracy without independent media. We can start by recognizing that mainstream media is owned by a small handful: AOL/Time Warner, GE, Disney, Viacom and News Corporation. This handful has its fingers in all sorts of private interests–including military ones–making sure what you view is homogenized, ‘soft news’ and in keeping with those interests.

I know this already, you say. And I only watch PBS and listen to NPR. Okay. But are you aware that everyone who sits on the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)- the extremely influential agency that dispenses the federal funds to public radio and TV–is nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate? Not that his nominations would be agenda-driven, of course. In addition, before becoming the president and CEO of CPB, Robert Coonrod was the deputy managing director of Voice of America, run by the US government.

Did you see our cuddly Secretary of Anticipatory Self-Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer when he charged that Saddam Hussein previously ousted weapons inspectors (presumably as evidence of why weapons inspectors will not work again)? This is patently false. And of course, Lehrer had to know it was false, too. UNSCOM chief, Richard Butler, removed those weapons inspectors. But this error was somehow not corrected or questioned. It simply slid right on by and people who think PBS gives them ‘the real news’ were misinformed.

And have you noticed all the commercials that have been quietly wiggling their way into PBS’ programming? These ads are dressed in a more tasteful, more sophisticated cloak making them feel less advertise-ish. But advertisements they remain. Isn’t the absence of commercials supposed to be the defining feature that distinguishes the public networks from the commercial ones? Like the frog who thought it was sitting in cold water doesn’t realize it is slowly being boiled to death, PBS is ever-so slowly introducing more and more and longer and longer ads. And before you know it, we’ll be up to our ears, boiled alive in advertisements, forgetting the time when there were none.

Corporations have funded PBS behind the scenes forever. This is not new. But, the blatant airing of these full-fledged ads seems to be a symptom of the increasing audacity and authority of corporations, flexing their muscles on PBS’ airwaves. And if they are flexing their muscles in public, what are they doing behind the scenes?

All said, yes of course there are some great shows on PBS. And, generally, it continues to be much better than commercial network drivel. But, as you watch your favorite shows, just be aware that your eyeballs are being handed over to the likes of the Monsanto Group.

And so we turn the dial to NPR. Same story, different medium. For example, All Things Considered completely misreported the recent peace demonstration in Washington, stating that there were less than 10,000 in attendance.

After being bombarded with complaints, they printed a correction on their website. And throughout the following week they stated on the air that it was clear the crowd was substantially larger than what they had reported, acknowledging it was upwards of 100,000. It took the protests of people like us for them to replace the missing zero.

NPR misreported this probably because they rarely say much that is substantially different than the other major media who, with a few surprising exceptions, like The Washington Post, minimized or ignored the march in Washington and San Francisco. The difference is that PBS and NPR are very careful to present “balanced views,” for fear some conservative pundit will pitch a fit, crying “bias.” They certainly can’t risk their funding getting pulled. You don’t even see the pretense of balance on the conservative shows.

Like PBS, NPR’s audience tends to be middle and upper class. Just look at PBS’ commercials. Who are the people who can afford those products? And who needs those financial services? They seem to have forgotten the hope of the Carnegie Commission Report of 35 years ago that stated public broadcasting should “provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard.”

Another place that is supposed to be a voice for all the people is the courts. I heard some say after the November elections, “Don’t worry, we just have a couple of years until the tide turns.” But there is no turning tide in the Supreme Court. This judicial pool is deep and still as the justices hold their seats for life. And the fact that two seats on the bench might be vacated during the next two years has Bush chomping at his compassionate conservative bit. It will only take two votes to overrule Roe v. Wade. And that is just the beginning. There are a whole host of other issues potentially threatened by ultra-conservative appointments.

The courts remedy civil rights violations. The federal courts are the only check against potential governmental excesses–in the name of fighting terrorism. These excesses can affect an individual’s rights. Whoever sits on these courts greatly influence all our future personal freedoms. Clinton had to tiptoe through his nominations, making sure they weren’t too liberal. Why should the ultra-conservatives plough right through?

They shouldn’t. So, break out the filibuster. This is a way to curtail an influx of ultra-conservative judges from the lower federal courts to the Supreme Court. Call/email/fax your congressperson and let them know that you know how crucial this is and ask them to be willing to filibuster. In addition, let them know that the Homeland Security Act that just passed in the House and is now before the Senate has hidden in the depths of its pages promises of egregious civil liberties violations. If you don’t call, the next time you do, your call and your email and your fax and all the websites you go to and the credit card purchases you make and oh-so much more could legally be watched.

Speaking of Congress, I think we should start an initiative like the one that was unfortunately just defeated in Oregon that called for all GMO foods to be labeled as such. All Congressional PMOs should have mandatory labeling. Like political Hester Prins, they should have to wear the logos of their corporate campaign contributors on their lapels, confessing in whose corporate beds they’ve slept. (Don’t hold your breath for those meaningful election reforms. Better yet, you better hold it or it will fall right through the cavernous loophole that states national parties can’t take soft money. However, entities set up by the very same national parties can. Such meaningful reform.)

I imagine, however, the labeling would start a ghastly new fashion trend, as lapels would by necessity become enormous, flapping down those congressional halls like the ears of an unwitting circus elephant: Congresswear. But more likely those whose want the truth to remain concealed would contribute 6 million dollars to fight against labeling and the idea would be defeated, as happened in Oregon.

But take heart. They’ve recently transplanted pig testicles onto the back of a rat. The rat is now able to ejaculate pig sperm. In addition, the genes for speech development have been discovered in the brain and these genes were also recently injected into the brain of a rat. It must’ve been a hell of a day for the rat. A friend’s husband commented: “Great. That’s all we need: a rat that can shout, “Hey! What the hell are these pig balls doing on my back? Someone get my lawyer on the phone!”

I figure this important development opens the door to further testicular management. And so, while I’m not a proponent of violence, I say let’s just slide our hands into the collective corporate jock strap and rip the balls right off the corporate “people” who are wielding their testosterone all over the planet. (Not too many corporate ovaries out there.) Let’s castrate the unbridled power corporations now enjoy by rescinding the ill-fated interpretation of the 14th amendment (based on an 1886 Supreme Court decision) that bestowed the constitutional rights of living, breathing people to corporations. Corporate personhood is an abomination of our constitution and an instrument of a great many of our current ills.

And because our government loves to cite obscure laws and norms that make sense only in the context of the times they were introduced to rationalize current behavior, we could then remind them of the less obscure ones that continue to make sense such as the fact that the initial purpose of corporations was to serve the common good. We might ask them to hold true to those early charters and adopt the Code of Corporate Citizenship, devised by Robert Hinckley, a corporate lawyer. The code suggests that “directors and officers would still have a duty to make money for shareholders,” but they would simply add a little clause in corporate law that states, “not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates or the dignity of its employees.”

Not possible? They said the same thing about abolishing the enormously well entrenched traditions of slavery and forbidding women the right to vote.

And in the meantime, if corporations keep misbehaving by cheating and looting and polluting and poisoning, we are just going to have to give them the death penalty. That’s right; give ‘em the chair. Or, at least hold them to the three strikes law like they have here in California. While I am not in favor of either for us flesh and bones people, as they completely miss the root of the problems they promises to alleviate. But, maybe they’ll work better on the brick and mortar corporate people. The Declaration of Independence states that people have the right to change or eradicate government that no longer serves the public interest. And I don’t know about you, but sweatshops and cancer-causing pollution and income disparity and offshore accounts don’t much serve my interest.

And finally, with the death of the corporate person and with the assurance of a varied judiciary, to continue to promote genetic and democratic diversity we could enlist the efforts of some of our best Monsanto agricultural geneticists (maybe we could lure them with the promise of some alone-time with the rat with the pig testicles). They could splice some of the fear-based inertia of the Democrat congress into a handful of the most hawkish Republicans (and Democrats); replant Ari Fleischer and his DoubleSpeak far afield from any microphone; transplant an extra set of ovaries onto Nancy Pelosi–just in case–to ensure she’ll produce as Minority Leader and help ensure she has the umph to stand in unwavering opposition; splice some critical, liberated thinking and grassroots activism into us MMOs; plant the voice of third parties so they have an equal say in the field; bring some sunshine to state of our current media and introduce many new species of independent media. And then we might just be on our way to a real democracy.

To contact your congressperson about judicial nominees and filibustering, it is simple by going to Working for Change

To contact your Senator/s about the Homeland Security Act, go to www.senate.gov.

For more info on GMOs and what you can do about them, go to Greenpeace’s: www.truefoodnow.org

For more info about fairness and accuracy in the media, go to www.fair.org.

For more info on changing corporate law and what you can do, go to: www.divinerightofcapital.com

CAROL NORRIS is a psychotherapist and freelance writer. She is not affiliated with the above-mentioned organizations. She can be contacted at writing4justice@planet-save.com