Monday, April 27, 2009

Musings: GMOs, Swine Flu and Torture

It’s been my experience that the hour just before dawn is not the darkest, but the coldest, and the thermometer in my house read just 60 degrees when Koko and I slipped out for our walk this morning. Last night’s golden sliver of a moon had long since set, but Venus and Jupiter were still holding forth in a star-choked canopy that was starting to smolder smoky coral in the east.

We were just returning as the sun began to rise, tinting the streaky clouds pink and adorning the clear summit of Waialeale with rose-colored shafts of light. There was nothing to be said but wow, and mahalo ke Akua, with the birds adding their own exuberant refrain.

I had to get cracking on a story due today — and now, happily, filed — about growing genetically modified crops in wildlife refuges. It’s an issue that has implications for our own local debate, as about 40 percent of the state’s taro crop is grown in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, according to the feds. I’ll post a link to the story when it’s published on Wednesday.

It’s always interesting to see the “official” responses that my GMO stories get. The pro side loves to accuse the anti side of distorting facts — indeed, that’s the most common criticism leveled at them, aside from engaging in fear-based rhetoric.

So I was amused to read the response to my recent story on GM crops in Hawaii from Alicia Maluafiti, director of the biotech industry’s Hawaii Crop Improvement Assn., in which she — you guessed it — distorted facts and engaged in fear-based rhetoric.

And an unidentified official/scientist from CTAHR, whose name and position were deleted from the email that was forwarded to me, criticized me for trotting out “the same old tired concerns.” So what, you gotta keep coming up with new concerns when the old ones still haven’t been addressed?

Science may (or may not) be objective, but that doesn’t mean scientists always are. How else to explain the quote"All this violin playing about the reefs dying is just eco-terrorism.” — by Ricky Grigg in yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser article on the dismal state of Hawaii’s reefs? Grigg also claimed that most of the damage was from natural causes, such as storms and waves, and that the outer reefs are “healthy as a horse.” Hmm. Perhaps he was referring to the four-legged skeleton I saw in a Kapahi pasture the other day.

I suppose all the other scientists could be wrong, and Grigg alone is right. Just as it’s probably only a coincidence that he so often works with developers in preparing EIS documents that assert coastal projects will have no impact on nearshore waters.

Of course, the reporter dutifully reported Grigg’s self-serving nonsense, because that’s supposed to prove he’s an objective journalist.

Talked to farmer Jerry, and he noted that Kauai Producers, which I wrote about in Saturday’s post, was involved with the farmer’s cooperative at Wailua Houselots, the first ag park created by the state. Jerry was interested to see how the company’s shift into a general wholesaler paralleled the Houselots’ shift out of agriculture and into residential development. It’s all part of a trend that began in the 1930s.

Perhaps it will take a swine flu pandemic to jolt Kauai into getting serious about solving its farming predicament. If the Mexican borders are closed, who is going to harvest all of the U.S. produce, not to mention what Mexico grows itself? Hey, maybe the anti-immigration guys could be tapped to fill the void. After a few hours of stoop labor, I imagine they’d soften their views.

They're akin to the armchair warriors who are so eager to send someone else’s kids off to die, and those who liken the torture Americans dished out to college fraternity hazing, or remain unconvinced that water boarding, sleep deprivation, prolonged solitary confinement and beatings are torture at all. Think they might change their tunes if they were on the receiving end?

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the CIA never got around to assessing whether its harsh interrogation methods even worked, despite calls to do so as early as 2003.

The Defense Department, Justice Department and CIA "all insisted on sticking with their original policies and were not open to revisiting them, even as the damage of these policies became apparent," said John B. Bellinger III, who was legal advisor to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to burgeoning international outrage.

And The New Yorker had a fascinating article on America’s domestic torture: the prolonged solitary confinement of tens of thousands inmates in U.S. prisons. Not only does such treatment cause severe psychological damage in many inmates, it makes it more difficult for them to function once they get released. As the author notes:

One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction.

Sounds like a great approach — if your goal is not rehabilitation, but ensuring a steady supply of meat for the ravenous prison complex.


Anonymous said...

"who liken the torture Americans dished out to college fraternity hazing"

-- that was me. and it is largely true (of course those frats get sued into oblivion all the time too, often for such things)

"CIA never got around to assessing whether its harsh interrogation methods even worked,"

-- the cia/fbi rift on this is interesting. this one middle eastern guy w/ the fbi seemed to say ~ "ya, we got good info, but we/i was getting just as good info w/o "torturing"'

but good important stories. nice job

and no new news on that fish kill thing it seems

Anonymous said...

As usual Friedman says it best, "So President Obama’s compromise is the best we can forge right now: We have to enjoin those who confront Al Qaeda types every day on the frontlines to act in ways that respect who we are, but also to never forget who they are.

Anonymous said...

Is anybody else seeing absurdity in the "swine flu" panic/propoganda/scare? They are trying to peg every flu virus around the world with being "swine flu" orinating in Mexico and most of them are of a different strain.

This looks like an excuse to cut off Mexico and the motives?????

Not to mention, there are no reminders with any reports that "most" people don't die "from" the flu. They die from complications "of" having a virus, most notably dehydration which I would think could be common in undeveloped countries and possible among the uneducated (in terms of health) in the developed countries.

Meanwhile the pharm companies are making their millions with their anti-viral drugs...blah, blah, blah.

Dawson said...

And why is this no surprise...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified.

Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it.

People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.
Full story at

Anonymous said...

First, that was a good article, Joan.

The hazing comparison has got to stop. Hazing is voluntary, and it is to the ultimate end of being accepted by people as equally stupid and worthless as the hazed.

What was done to Iraqi people and others during this invasion of bush, was nothing less than torture.

What is being done now with respect to a swine flu panic is plan B. Troops pulling out, Cheney, bush and all seeing the steady flow of $$$$ diminishing so itʻs time to release, in increments, at numerous global locations...a virus.

I would put $$$ on this that behind the scenes, these same criminals have a stake in the flu shots and all $$$ lead right back to them.

The strategic and sporadic method of viral releases is a dead giveaway.

Anonymous said...

May 2, 2009 10:01 AM should write a movie script and make some money. No reason can't be nutty AND rich.

John Roco said...

Hello Joan,

Nice article. What I looked into comes closer to home. Though it is funny of how the theme of 'image' in front of 'truths,' pervades the more deep seated some in power overtly extremely well financed, become.

I address Senator Daniel Inouye, his chief of staff, Patrick Deleon, and how the American Psychological Association changed its Code of Ethics to Employ the Nuremburg Defense for torture in a 28 minute Olelo program I just taped. It is a splice of the substantive parts of what happened with waterboarding, and SERE psychologists and who were responsible for all of what the nation and world saw in those 'prison' photos released, and unreleased.

If not near a TV you can watch it from anywhere real time on the internet.

Just click the icon for ‘FOCUS 49 livestream’ on the right hand side of screen

Roco for Senator (John Roco for U. S. Senator, Episode 3, Length: 0:28: Juan Roco Campofrio):

All on FOCUS 49

5/26/10 Wed 1:30 pm
6/7/10 Mon 2:30 pm
6/9/10 Wed 8:00 am
6/11/10 Fri 8:30 pm
6/14/10 Mon 6:00 pm

Thank you and good luck to you,

John Roco

a candidate for U.S. Senate for Hawaii