Monday, July 30, 2012

Bill Keller Wants to Take Away Your Social Security and Is Either Too Ignorant or Dishonest to Acknowledge that He Is Not a Typical Baby Boomer

I'm so sick of people who sat on their asses all their working lives telling the rest of us that we have to take cuts so they don't have to have the cap on their income subject to the SS tax raised or lifted.--SS     

Bill Keller Wants to Take Away Your Social Security and Is Either Too Ignorant or Dishonest to Acknowledge that He Is Not a Typical Baby Boomer:

The effort by the rich to take away Social Security keeps building momentum. Today Bill Keller urges his fellow baby boomers:

"FELLOW boomers, we have done more than our share to make this mess. It’s not our fault that there are a lot of us, but we have resisted any move to fix the system. We should make a sensible reform of entitlements our generation’s cause. We should stiffen the spines of our politicians, and push lobby groups like A.A.R.P. to climb out of the bunker and lead."

"Lead" in this context means supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That is really brave for Mr. Keller to stand up and call for sacrifice from his age cohort. Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

Does this situation describe Mr. Keller's finances? My guess is that it doesn't. If that is true, how does Keller claim to speak for people who are in a hugely different financial situation than him? Is he really that ignorant of the issues that the NYT gives him a column to write about or is he dishonest? Readers will have to debate that in the months and years ahead.

This is not the only place in the piece where Keller lets ignorance and/or dishonesty get the better of him. At one point he calls for a change in the indexation formula for Social Security's cost of living adjustment that would be the equivalent of a 3.0 percent across the board cut in benefits. (We know, got to do something about those high living seniors.)

Keller describes this 3.0 percent cut in Social Security benefits as:

"They also include technical fixes like aligning the automatic cost-of-living formula with reality."

Is that right? Has Keller studied the cost-of-living for the elderly? Did he evaluate the Bureau of Labor Statistics elderly index, which generally shows that senior citizens experience a higher rate of inflation than the index used for making the annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security.

If he did, he shows zero evidence of this fact in his piece. It sure sounds like he is just repeating pablum that passed for wisdom in Washington elite circles, but rightly gets ridiculed everywhere else.

While Keller appeals to arithmetic it is not on his side. The arithmetic says that we have no problem affording the projected increase in retirees, just as we were able to afford a sharp reduction in the ratio of workers or retirees over the last decade.

The problems result from the fact that we have a broken health care system that causes us to pay more than twice as much per person for our health care as people in other wealthy country. But fixing the health care system would likely mean lower payments to insurers, hospitals, drug companies and doctors.

The other problem is the sharp upward redistribution of income over the last three decades. This has meant less money for middle income families and also less money for programs like Social Security and Medicare.
These problems can be fixed but that would require Mr. Keller to appeal to his fellow one percenters, not his fellow baby boomers. He probably doesn't have the courage or integrity to do that.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic -

Very important. Go read the whole thing.-SS     

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic -

"CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NYT Tells Us Everyone Agrees About the Deficit Problem, Just Like Everyone Agreed There Was No Housing Bubble

Dean Baker keeps trying to remind us that it's all about the health care costs.--SS     

NYT Tells Us Everyone Agrees About the Deficit Problem, Just Like Everyone Agreed There Was No Housing Bubble:

It's so nice not to exist. After all, the NYT told readers today:

"By all accounts, the next few years of declining deficits will be followed by years in which deficits will send the overall debt to unsustainable heights as the large baby boom generation ages, qualifying for ever-costlier medical benefits."

Of course that isn't my account. My account points out that the story of deficits that will "send the overall debt to unsustainable heights" is the story of a badly broken health care system. The United States already spends more than twice as much per person on health care as other wealthy countries. The tales of exploding deficits assume that this gap will continue to rise in the years ahead.

By 2022 these projections show the United States spending more than 20 percent of GDP on health care. In today's economy this would be equivalent to more than $34,000 for an average family of four. Such costs would imply an unbearable burden regardless of whether health care was paid for by the public or private sector.

This is why serious analyst might describe the issue as a health care problem, not a deficit problem. If U.S. health care costs were in line with those elsewhere in the world, there would be no long-term deficit problem. But hey, as long as the inside Washington gang all agree, why bother with such details?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Horrors! Unpublished Study Used to Raise Health Questions About Fracking

Dean Baker is angry at the NY Times over their treatment of the author of a new fracking study.--SS     

Horrors! Unpublished Study Used to Raise Health Questions About Fracking:

Elaine K. Hill, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s department of applied economics and management, found evidence that fracking is associated with the frequency of low birth weight babies. The findings of her study implied that for mothers living close to a fracking site, the probability of a low birth weight baby increased by 25 percent.

Go read the whole thing: Horrors! Unpublished Study Used to Raise Health Questions About Fracking

Friday, July 20, 2012

David Gergen Still Gets Paid to Speculate Wildly

My contribution to the blogosphere this week.--SS     

David Gergen Still Gets Paid to Speculate Wildly:

Analysis: Romney's secrecy becomes focus of Obama's attack strategy
In ads, interviews and social-media blasts, the Democratic president's team is casting Romney as a mysterious figure who is guarding important secrets about his wealth and work history.
Feeding the Democrats' storyline: Romney's refusal to release more than a year or two of his tax returns, questions about whether he is being honest about when he left his job at Bain Capital, and the reams of records that have been kept secret from his years as Massachusetts governor and chief of the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Here is an example of an unforced meme, and an unforced error by Willard. Or, perhaps it's not fair to call it an error, since there's really not much he can do, apparently. He really, really wants to be president, but that seems to conflict with the fact that he, in the past, really, really wanted to be rich. Now it seems his hard work at becoming rich is hurting his chances to be President. Hoocouldaknowed?

The fun part in this story is David Gergen, who is yet another pundit who has been so horrifically wrong in the past that it is a wonder that he still gets paid to spew what he thinks through his pie hole.

David Gergen, an adviser to two former Democratic and two Republican presidents, is among those who believe that questions about Romney's faith are an unspoken part of the Democrats' strategy of focusing on the secrecy issue. 
"I think they're connected," he said. "Clearly they're trying to weave together: 'Do we really know what he did at Bain ..., do we really understand his faith and, you know, what he would do and who is he?' " 
Democrats "know it's in the culture," Gergen said of questions about Romney's religion. "They don't have to say it. I think they're very intentionally weaving these together."
Gergen added that the Obama campaign's strategy could backfire if it mentioned Romney's religion directly.

Of course, Gergen doesn't have one shred of evidence proving that the Obama team is "very intentionally weaving these together." He just thinks it. And, of course, the reporter doesn't ask if he has any evidence, or even a plausible theory, supporting such a contention. Because that would be, ummm, reporting, instead of dictation, which is all reporters are allowed to do anymore.

None-the-less, if we just drop the whole thing about Willard's sky wizard worship being more secretive than, say, the Vatican is when moving pedophiles around, we find that the rest of the article focuses on more substantial issues, like, well, Willard's taxes and offshore accounts.

And, that's it. No mention of the erased hard drives from Willard's Governorship in the rest of the story. No mention of the secrets from the Olympics mentioned at the top of the story. No mention of anything else at all. And yet, there is so much they could have covered. Here's just one example:

Bush Library Refuses To Release Rob Portman’s Records
The George W. Bush Presidential Library has denied a request by a Democratic super PAC to turn over documents relating to Rob Portman’s stint in the Bush administration.[/quote]

So many things to choose from when it comes to the leader of the GOP's secrets. In fact, at the end of the Reuter's article, the story just turns to some concern trolling on Gergen's part:

"Politically all of these attacks may in the end work, but it's also clear that they are going to come at the expense of governing in a second term" by making it even tougher for Obama to work with Republicans, Gergen said.

No worries that Willard's attacks on Obama might possibly poison the well with Democrats in congress if Willard wins, eh Mr. Gergen?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Romney’s Bain Yielded Private Gains, Socialized Losses - Bloomberg

Free Markets!--SS     

Romney’s Bain Yielded Private Gains, Socialized Losses - Bloomberg:

"Mitt Romney touts his business acumen and job-creation record as a key qualification for being the next U.S. president.

"What’s clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses."

Go read the whole thing: Romney’s Bain Yielded Private Gains, Socialized Losses

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXV

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXV:

Getty Images

After more than six months of marveling at Mitt Romney's propensity for falsehoods, I have to admit it was unsettling to see his campaign's new attack ad, launched yesterday. The spot accuses President Obama of making "untrue" claims about Romney shipping jobs overseas -- Obama's claims are actually quite credible -- and concludes that the president is running a "dishonest campaign."

Think about that for a moment. The candidate whose entire campaign has been built on one falsehood after another, the candidate whose dishonesty is routinely characterized as "almost pathological," the candidate whose near-constant lying puts him in a league of his own among modern politicians, is complaining that his rival is taking liberties with the facts.

There's dishonesty in politics, and then there's meta-dishonesty in politics.

Romney's spokesperson this week declared, "America deserves ... a president who's willing to tell the truth." That seems more than fair. Perhaps the Romney camp can reevaluate that demand after reading the 25th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

Go read the whole thing: Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXV


Old Infrastructure Is Hard Infrastructure

Matt goes after the "false economy" of ignoring infrastructure in his post below. The importance of borrowing at negative interest, hiring unemployed construction workers to use cheap materials and idle equipment to fix our crumbling infrastructure cannot be overstated. And yet, because liberals are too lazy or disconnected to go vote for Democrats for congress, we will be stuck with a GOP that wants to see the whole thing go down in flames so they can have more massive tax cuts for our Galtian overlords.--SS     

Old Infrastructure Is Hard Infrastructure:

Not to deny the existence of public policy failures regarding America's transportation infrastructure, but today a family matter led to do a substantial amount of driving around the fringes of New York City and practical experience puts some of these issues into a somewhat different light. For starters, the condition of the roadway on the George Washington Bridge is less-than-ideal and on the Cross Bronx Expressway it's downright scandalous. This is the de facto capital of the mightiest empire the world has ever known and we can't keep our roads paved properly?

But then my wife and I got to the Throgs Neck Bridge where, also annoyingly, a full lane was shut down slowing traffic to a crawl.

So the question is, what's a mature superpower to do? It's all well and good for China to go from poor to middle income and build a bunch of new infrastructure. But America's infrastructure isn't old out of perversity, it's old because we genuinely built this stuff a long time ago. And having built it, people shaped their lives—dwellings, commerce, commuting patterns—around the presumption that it would be there. Turning it off temporarily to fix it doesn't just carry a financial cost, it's extremely annoying to the people who are hoping to use the infrastructure. Yet at the same time, deferring needed upkeep is very much a kind of false economy.

You can handle this dilemma better or worse and everything I know tells me we're not handling it optimally. But a lot of comparisons between the U.S. and newly industrializing Asia, or even between the Northeast and the Sunbelt, seem to me to not adequately recognize that aging physical infrastructure poses an inherent difficulty.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some Doctors Cash In by Being Their Own Pharmacist -

Free markets!--SS     

Some Doctors Cash In by Being Their Own Pharmacist -

"Most common among physicians who treat injured workers, it is a twist on a typical doctor’s visit. Instead of sending patients to drugstores to get prescriptions filled, doctors dispense the drugs in their offices to patients, with the bills going to insurers. Doctors can make tens of thousands of dollars a year operating their own in-office pharmacies. The practice has become so profitable that private equity firms are buying stakes in the businesses, and political lobbying over the issue is fierce."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?

Looks like Eden Foods is one of the good guys.---SS     

Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?:
NY Times

By Stephanie Strom

Ann Arbor, MI — Michael J. Potter is one of the last little big men left in organic food.

More than 40 years ago, Mr. Potter bought into a hippie cafe and “whole earth” grocery here that has since morphed into a major organic foods producer and wholesaler, Eden Foods.

But one morning last May, he hopped on his motorcycle and took off across the Plains to challenge what organic food — or as he might have it, so-called organic food — has become since his tie-dye days in the Haight district of San Francisco.

The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.

Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore.

All of which riles Mr. Potter, 62. Which is why he took off in late May from here for Albuquerque, where the cardinals of the $30-billion-a-year organic food industry were meeting to decide which ingredients that didn’t exactly sound fresh from the farm should be blessed as allowed ingredients in “organic” products. Ingredients like carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with a somewhat controversial health record. Or synthetic inositol, which is manufactured using chemical processes.

Mr. Potter was allowed to voice his objections to carrageenan for three minutes before the group, the National Organic Standards Board.

“Someone said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Mr. Potter recalls.

And that was that.

Two days later, the board voted 10 to 5 to keep carrageenan on the growing list of nonorganic ingredients that can be used in products with the coveted “certified organic” label. To organic purists like Mr. Potter, it was just another sign that Big Food has co-opted — or perhaps corrupted — the organic food business.
“The board is stacked,” Mr. Potter says. “Either they don’t have a clue, or their interest in making money is more important than their interest in maintaining the integrity of organics.”

He calls the certified-organic label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden’s products.

Big businesses argue that the enormous demand for organic products requires a scale that only they can provide — and that there is no difference between big and small producers. “We’re all certified, and we all follow the same standards,” said Carmela Beck, who manages the organic program at Driscoll’s, which markets conventional and organic berries. “There is a growing need for organic products because the demand is greater than the supply.”

Many consumers may not realize the extent to which giant corporations have come to dominate organic food. Then again, giant corporations don’t exactly trumpet their role in the industry. Their financial motivation, however, is obvious. On, for instance, 12 six-ounce boxes of Kraft Organic Macaroni and Cheese sell for $25.32, while a dozen 7.25-ounce boxes of the company’s regular Macaroni and Cheese go for $19.64.

“As soon as a value-added aspect was established, it didn’t take long before corporate America came knocking,” Mr. Potter says. He says he gets at least one e-mail a week from someone seeking to buy Eden, which is based in Clinton, Mich., and does about $50 million a year in sales. “Companies, private equity, venture capital, even individuals,” Mr. Potter says. “The best offer I ever got came from two guys who had money from Super Glue.”

Between the time the Agriculture Department came up with its proposed regulations for the organic industry in 1997 and the time those rules became law in 2002, myriad small, independent organic companies — from Honest Tea to Cascadian Farm — were snapped up by corporate titans. Heinz and Hain together bought 19 organic brands.

Eden is one of the last remaining independent organic companies of any size, together with the Clif Bar & Company, Amy’s Kitchen, Lundberg Family Farms and a handful of others.

“In some ways, organic is a victim of its own success,” says Philip H. Howard, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, who has documented the remarkable consolidation of the organic industry. Organic food accounts for just 4 percent of all foods sold, but the industry is growing fast. “Big corporations see the trends and the opportunity to make money and profit,” he says.

BIG FOOD has also assumed a powerful role in setting the standards for organic foods. Major corporations have come to dominate the board that sets these standards.

As corporate membership on the board has increased, so, too, has the number of nonorganic materials approved for organic foods on what is called the National List. At first, the list was largely made up of things like baking soda, which is nonorganic but essential to making things like organic bread. Today, more than 250 nonorganic substances are on the list, up from 77 in 2002.

The board has 15 members, and a two-thirds majority is required to add a substance to the list. More and more, votes on adding substances break down along corporate-independent lines, with one swing vote. Six board members, for instance, voted in favor of adding ammonium nonanoate, a herbicide, to the accepted organic list in December. Those votes came from General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Organic Valley, Whole Foods Market and Earthbound Farms, which had two votes at the time.

Big Organic lost that round. Had it prevailed, it would have been the first time a herbicide was put on the list.
Kathleen Merrigan, a deputy secretary of agriculture, disputes that corporate interests are behind the increase in nonorganic materials deemed acceptable in “organic” food. “The list is really very small,” says Ms. Merrigan. “It’s really very simplistic and headline-grabbing to throw out those sorts of critiques, but when you get down into the details, there are usually very rational and important reasons for the actions the board has taken.”

The expanding variety of organic products is partly behind the list’s growth, Ms. Merrigan says, adding that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which governs certification, has tried to check the powers of board members. It requires, for instance, that the board reconsider each substance five years after the last approval of it — though only just a few have ever lost their status.

“Yes, there are some large organizations that make up a portion of the board, but they’re not at all a majority,” says Will Daniels, senior vice president for operations and organic integrity at Earthbound Farms Organic, one of the country’s largest organic produce processors. “Four of the 15 board members could be considered from a corporate structure, a number that means they don’t have power to do much of anything.”
Those four are Earthbound, Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Whole Foods and the Zirkle Fruit Company. Only one of them, Earthbound, has a fully organic business.

Critics say the system has never truly operated as intended. “It’s been neutered,” says Mark Kastel, director of the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group.

Cornucopia began taking a harder look at the history of the addition of carrageenan and other substances to the accepted organic list after a bruising battle last December over the addition of docosahexzenoic acid algae oil, or DHA, and arachidonic acid single cell oil, or ARA. Its research led to a paper titled “The Organic Watergate.”

“After DHA got onto the list, we decided to go back and look at all of the ingredients on the list,” Mr. Kastel says. “The average consumer has no idea that all these additives are going into the organic products they’re buying.”

Mr. Potter of Eden Foods was initially supportive of the government’s efforts to certify organic products. But he quickly became disenchanted. He has never sought a board appointment, for himself or anyone at Eden. “I bought into the swaddling clothes wrapped around it,” he said. “I had high hopes the law and the board would be good things because we needed standards.”

By 1996, he realized that the National Organic Program was heading in a direction he did not like. He said as much at a National Organic Standards Board meeting in Indianapolis that year, earning the permanent opprobrium of the broader organic industry. “They think I’m liberal, immature, a radical,” Mr. Potter says. “But I’m not the one debating whether organics should use genetically modified additives or nanotechnology, which is what I’d call radical.”

Charlotte Vallaeys, director of farm and food policy at Cornucopia, found that two large companies, General Mills and Dean Foods, and the vast cooperative Cropp, which sells produce under the Organic Valley brand, “have held nearly continuous influence on the board.”

Such influence is not always obvious. For instance, early members of the board from Cascadian Farms, Muir Glen and Small Planet Foods were the chief advocates for allowing synthetics into organic production. By the time synthetics made it into the final rules, passed in 2002, all three had been swallowed up by General Mills.

Tracy Favre, newly appointed to the standards board, works for Holistic Management International, a nonprofit that advises clients on sustainable agriculture. Holistic Management has done work for Dean Foods to help it address criticism of production practices for its Horizon organic milk brand.
Ms. Favre referred calls to the Agriculture Department.

Cornucopia has also lodged complaints about the board’s composition with the secretary of agriculture and the department’s inspector general. Based on one of the complaints, the inspector general is looking into how materials are added to the list.

Cornucopia has challenged the appointment of Ms. Beck, the national organic program manager at Driscoll’s, to a seat that is, by law, supposed to be occupied by a farmer. Officially, “farmer” means someone who “owns or operates an organic farm.”

The Organic Foods Act calls for a board consisting of four farmers, three conservationists, three consumer representatives, a scientist, a retailer, a certification agent and two “handlers,” or representatives of companies that process organic food.

Ms. Beck works with Driscoll’s organic farmers here as well as in Mexico and Chile, helping them develop and maintain their organic systems plans. “I work with growers from as few as a couple of acres to up to hundreds of acres,” she says.

But Ms. Beck does not own or operate a farm.

In contrast, Dominic Marchese, who produces organic beef in Ohio, has tried and failed three times to win a board appointment as a farmer. “I don’t have anything against her,” Mr. Marchese says, referring to Ms. Beck. “She’s probably very smart. But how do you select someone who’s not an organic farmer to represent organic farmers?”

Driscoll’s nominated Ms. Beck for one of the handler seats — but Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, appointed her to one of the seats reserved for farmers.

Similarly, the three consumer seats have never been filled by anyone from a traditional consumer advocacy group like the Organic Consumers Association or the Consumers Union. Instead, those seats have largely gone to academics with agricultural expertise and to corporate executives.

“If you fill the slots earmarked by Congress for independent voices with corporate voices, you greatly mitigate the safeguards built into the supermajority requirement of the law,” Mr. Kastel says.

MILES V. McEVOY, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, says that all appointments are cleared with the Agriculture Department’s general counsel. “The board is designed to have interests and for the members to have biases and represent their particular interest groups,” he said. “We are trying to make sure the board represents the diversity of the American public and of organic agriculture.”

Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director at the Organic Consumers Association, says her group has no quibbles with that goal: “I understand that there are very few 100 percent organic businesses left. But to add someone from a company like General Mills that has such a big interest in promoting genetic engineering, promoting nanotechnology, promoting a variety of things that are so antithetical to organic principles, is that really necessary to achieve diversity?”

She was referring to Katrina Heinze, a General Mills executive who was appointed to serve as a consumer representative on the board in December 2005 by Mike Johanns, the agriculture secretary at the time. The outcry over her appointment by advocates and independent organic consumers was so intense that she resigned in February 2006 — but rejoined the board late that year after Mr. Johanns appointed her to the seat designated by law for an expert in toxicology, ecology or biochemistry. During her second stint on the board, which ended last December, critics said they were shocked when she did not recuse herself from the vote to add DHA to the list, since its manufacturer sometimes uses technology licensed from General Mills in making it.

Ms. Heinze is responsible for food safety and regulatory matters at General Mills and has degrees in chemistry. She referred calls to General Mills, which in turn referred questions to the National Organic Program.

Driscoll’s was the only company that allowed an employee serving on the board to talk to The New York Times. The rest — even Cropp, the 1,400-farmer cooperative that sells more than $700 million in products, many under the Organic Valley brand — had more senior executives do the talking.

Organic purists would consider Cropp’s board representative, Wendy Fulwider, as one of the corporate executives on the board. During her tenure, Ms. Fulwider, Organic Valley’s animal-husbandry specialist, has voted almost in lock step with its corporate members, even though her vote may be supporting something Organic Valley does not allow its own members to do.

“Wendy’s a public citizen on that group and is supposed to vote what her own integrity is and not what our company’s view is,” said George Siemon, Cropp’s top executive and a former member of the organic standards board.

Ms. Fulwider surprised many observers at a board meeting in May by voting in favor of keeping carrageenan on the organic list. Before that meeting, Organic Valley was saying that it planned to find an alternative to the additive, and there is a long and active list of consumer complaints on its Web site about the cooperative’s use of it in things like heavy cream and chocolate milk.

Ms. Fuldwider has also voted to let organic egg producers give their chickens just two square feet of living space, when Cropp requires its own farmers to provide five.

Most controversially, she voted to add DHA and ARA to the list for use in baby formulas. Milk fortified with DHA commands premium prices, and Mr. Siemon said Organic Valley had to have a version of its milk with the additive “because that’s what the consumer wants.”

He said, however, that Organic Valley uses DHA derived from fish, not the variety Ms. Fulwider approved for the list. “For us, algae didn’t seem like the real deal. It’s almost like a wannabe,” Mr. Siemon says. “But hey, what do I know? I’m told all the studies showing the benefits of DHA are based on the type from fish oil, so we use the type from fish oil.”

Mr. Siemon says Organic Valley’s goal is to eliminate all additives from its products. The cooperative, for instance, is working to find a substitute for carrageenan, which it uses to prevent separation in products like cream and chocolate milk.

AMID such issues, Mr. Potter has tasked his daughter, Yvonne Sturt, to find a way to preserve Eden’s independence after he’s gone. Four of his children are now involved in the business and, he says, they must earn any control of the family company.

“People keep telling me that all the work we’re doing with organic farming and agriculture and processing, some of that could be deemed charitable work,” he says. “Maybe we should start a church.”

To see additional images and videos associated with this article go to:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pundits Urge President Obama To Back President Obama's Proposals

Maybe these pundits should listen to the President before they open their mouths.--SS     

Pundits Urge President Obama To Back President Obama's Proposals:


President Obama would have this election in the bag, according to a number of leading columnists, if only he would act more like President Obama.

A number of pundits are turning up the volume on demands that the White House offer a jobs plan based on new infrastructure spending, a long-term deficit plan that includes taxes and entitlement cuts and a market-based health care plan, among other requests. Obama will have a hard time taking their advice, however, given that he's already proposed those very ideas.

In Friday's Washington Post, Jonathan Rauch penned an op-ed recommending "A plan that offers Obama a fighting chance." It called on the president to give a speech outlining a new bill that would include "long-term fiscal retrenchment," ideally a combination of new taxes and entitlement cuts along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson plan, "short-term economic stimulus" and an extension of the debt ceiling without any further conditions. Never mind that the Republicans won't pass it, Rauch argued, the key is that it will offer up a clear contrast:

Setting forth a boldly enunciated, easily graspable program puts Obama in a stronger position to criticize Romney's plan as dangerously contractionary. Instead of going for Romney's capillaries (his years-old record as governor; his even-older record at Bain Capital), Obama could go for the jugular by drawing a contrast that should be at the campaign's core: The Republicans' mistimed, precipitous austerity threatens to bring on another recession.

Sounds great, except as the Post's own Ezra Klein noted, the president is already running that campaign.
Here's a report from Reuters on a primetime speech Obama gave in September 2011 proposing a bill -- with little hope of passing -- called the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion stimulus package that the president said should be passed in conjunction with large, balanced deficit-reduction package:

President Barack Obama laid out a $3.6 trillion plan on Monday to cut budget deficits partly by raising taxes on the rich, but Republicans rejected it as a political stunt and made clear the proposal has little chance of becoming law.

Obama vowed to veto any plan that relies solely on spending cuts to reduce deficits, the Democratic president's recommendations set the stage for an ideological fight with Republicans opposed to tax increases that will stretch through Election Day 2012.

"I will not support any plan that puts all the burden of closing our deficit on ordinary Americans," Obama said. "We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable."

Obama attacked in a major economic speech last month what Rauch describes as "Republicans' mistimed, precipitous austerity threatens to bring on another recession" by advocating the same combination of policies again:

Businesses don't have customers if folks are having such a hard time. What drags us all down is an economy in which there's an ever- widening gap between a few folks who are doing extraordinarily well and a growing number of people who, no matter how hard they work, can barely make ends meet. So Governor Romney disagrees with my vision. His allies in Congress disagree with my vision. Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes. It's the reason why we haven't reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit; not with my plan, not with the Bowles-Simpson plan, not with the so-called Gang of Six plan.

Despite the fact that taxes are lower than they've been in decades, they won't work with us on any plan that would increase taxes on our wealthiest Americans. It's the reason a jobs bill that would put 1 million people back to work has been voted down time and time again. It's the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today. And the only thing that can break the stalemate is you.

Rauch isn't the only one suggesting Obama take a cue from Obama. The New York Times' Tom Friedman pined repeatedly for a third-party challenger who would espouse many of the those same ideas. In an April column, for example, he wished New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would run for president, advocating better infrastructure spending, a staple of Obama's stump speech and a critical part of his jobs plan. Obama's proposed budget for 2013 calls for nearly twice as much infrastructure spending over the next six years.

In another column last month, Friedman lamented that Obama hasn't proposed a "three step rehab program" for America of short-term stimulus combined with a long-term deficit plan and a bill that would cut health care costs over time. As Jonathan Chait noted at the time, the Affordable Care Act cut Medicare spending by $500 billion and instituted an independent panel to find savings in the future, among a litany of other proposals aimed at bending the cost curve for health-care spending. You may have heard of it: It's the part of the bill Sarah Palin now calls a "death panel."

David Brooks, another New York Times columnist, seemed to reverse engineer the Affordable Care Act last month, suggesting that Obama adopt "Republican" proposals that sound an awful lot like Obama's own health care plan: legislation that would give the uninsured subsidies to purchase private health insurance instead of being forced to go through an employer. Meanwhile, there's little evidence Republican leaders are still proposing anything resembling a universal health care plan. The closest one-time Republican bill to the one Brooks described, Wyden-Bennett, is considered radioactive on the right in part because its Republican author lost his Republican primary because of it.

Strong Signs of El Nino Brewing In The Pacific (Global temps will likely jump to new records.)

On the plus side, I'll be winning a lot of money at Intrade.--SS    

Strong Signs of El Nino Brewing In The Pacific (Global temps will likely jump to new records.):

Warmer than normal ocean temperatures are developing in the Equatorial Pacific. This is a sign that an El nino is brewing.

Imagine you are slowly filling a bathtub with water, and are measuring how deep the water is at frequent intervals. Also imagine, that at times your dog jumps in while you’re measuring, and this of course causes you to get a higher water level. The dog gets back out, and the water level drops slightly, but not as much as it was before because the faucet is still running, and the water is still slowly filling the tub. Imagine too that the faucet is bad, and that it is slowly opening wider, so the rate of increase is also itself increasing.

Image ctsy. Navel Post Graduate School

The same thing is happening to our planet’s temperature. Increasing greenhouse gases are slowly raising the temperature of the planet, but ocean currents like La Nina and El Nino also have a significant effect. The gases are increasing at an ever faster rate as well, just like the bad faucet. When there is a La Nina with a large region of cold water in the Pacific, the planet cools (it’s the same as the dog jumping out of the tub).
An El Nino, which fills much of the Pacific with warm water, warms the planet. It’s the same as the dog jumping into the bath tub. The water is sloshing up and down, but as long as the faucet is running, you know that in the long run the water level is going up.

If an El Nino does indeed develop later this summer and linger into the Northern Hemisphere winter then we will likely see a new record temperature for the planet. The super El Nino of 1998 brought us a very warm planet and the following La Nina cooled us back somewhat. Since then, we have started rising again, and in spite of last year’s La Nina we have seen the planet get even warmer. The cooling after the 98 El Nino led political extremists (with little or no knowledge of atmospheric science) to boldly claim that climate change stopped in 1998.

Hopefully, you can now see what a load of pure poppycock that is.

Record highs and record lows are part of the natural swings of weather. An increasing number of record highs along with a decreasing number of record lows is a sign of a warming climate. The NC Legislature needs to outlaw these numbers immediately! Image from NOAA-NCDC.

It’s strange how far people will go when scientific facts conflict strongly with their political or religious views. They desperately search for anything that will confirm their belief. When several scientific studies indicated that North Carolina should prepare for a rise in sea level of 3 feet or more by the end of the century, guess what claim some politicians used to pass a law that says the science must be ignored?

Yup, the silly mantra that climate change stopped in 1998!

So here are some real facts. You know, the kind of thing that North Carolina legislators need to outlaw as soon as possible:

1. The World will see an increase in droughts and floods over the upcoming year. How bad it will be varies with each El Nino. Most likely, Australia will get the drought and the Gulf Coast will get the floods.

2. The number of Atlantic hurricanes will likely drop, but other factors can override this to a significant degree.

3. 15 of the last 16 years have been the warmest on record and there will likely be a new record warm year on the books for planet Earth.

4. The few remaining skeptics will claim that it is all just a natural cycle, which is partially true!
Interesting isn’t it, how a partial truth can be the biggest of lies.