Trust Us

Politics, Uncategorized

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One of the nice things about the law, despite everyone’s grumblings, is that it’s based on black and white interpretation. When a judge comes down with a decision, he bases it on his interpretation of the text.

The law can be based on bills passed by legislature, contract clauses and decisions from previous cases. There’s always some written letter which the law is read, digested and interpreted. Period.

Then there’s this.

A judge ruled yesterday that organic farmers cannot bar the evil, giant, biotech Monsanto from suing them for unwittingly using seeds from organic plants that are cross-pollinated from genetically-modified plants. The judge said Monsanto has already promised it wouldn’t sue organic farmers in said circumstances and that it states so on its website:

“…we do not pursue farmers for the accidental presence of our patented technology in their fields or crops.”

Apparently that’s supposed to be enough to sate organic farmers’ fears that they could be sued when they accidentally use Monsanto-tainted seeds.

Monsanto likes to play like it’s this very altruistic, yet capitalistic company who only sues and intimidates farmers because those farmers are breaking patent law. But their genetically-modified seeds are working their genes into regular, organic corn. That means once “organic” seeds begin to see more of the Monstanto genes, then the organic crop magically becomes Monsanto property and subject to a contract which the organic farmer never signed.

This is unnerving and scary. Patenting life I mean.

Even scarier? That justices would base their opinion not on case law, not on passed legislation, but a website. A website? Why not base a decision on the back of a cereal box or a billboard ad?

Judges need to stick to the law and the pure sources thereof. We can argue and bicker all day on a court’s opinion about the law. But when those opinions are based on text that is not designated law, it’s dangerous. It means that we could essentially make our own laws on our own websites. We can make a contract that’s binding on the Internet that doesn’t require any signature.

Also, Congress, presidents and the federal courts have been very generous with Monsanto in the past. But now they don’t even have to go through them anymore. They can just write their own contracts online, with no approval from authority.

Yeah, scary.

Oh yeah, that legal case about whether it was legal to patent life, was settled in the Supreme Court. The decision was a boon for Monsanto, who was not a party in the case. But the justice who wrote the majority opinion in that case, Clarence Thomas, is the former general counsel of Monsanto.

Food for thought.

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Internet Dunces

Uncategorized

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It’s been said so many times, by friends and newsies, that the Internet is making us dumb.

Not it’s not.

The Internet is showing us just how dumb we have always been.

Instead of using the vast connection of computers, servers and backbones for meaningful communication, it’s been relegated to pornography, social media and other pointless distractions. (Well, at least social media connects friends and family, even if it’s just banal and solipsistic updates on the variety of beer people are chugging at the bar.)

When television first came to prominence seven decades ago, it was hoped that it would be used for betterment, to educate and inform. We all know how that turned out. When given the chance, people will take a medium and turn it into some form of amusement or self-aggrandizement.

No doubt the Internet would become about entertainment. The tragedy is that it could have become primarily a way of spreading credible, valuable information. In my opinion it’s only served to spread pointless, misleading and outright false wisdom. (Not me though, I spread great wisdom)

This is all obvious of course and I sound like an old sage who walks around grumbling about what could have been. I guess I need to get over it.

The worst thing though and something that needs to be fixed, is the dangerous misinformation that spreads as true and valid. I don’t mean bringing to a halt all of the celebrity death hoaxes. I am speaking mainly of sharing information and “tips” about medical care, psychiatric therapy and homeopathic solutions for cold sores.

The paragon of false wisdom movements is the vaccine/autism issue. Though thoroughly debunked by medical science, the notion spreads because so many people get together online and talk about how much they believe they’re connected. They want to believe it because it makes sense. Autistic kids begin to show symptoms of their condition after the 12-month vaccination. They need some sort of explanation and they want commiseration despite the fact there is no correlation.

The Internet fuels all of it. There’s always been bad information out there. It’s just that now we have a way of spreading it all over the world with one hit of the ‘Return’ button.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a former journalist and sharing ideas is what I’m all about. While bloggers can be such blowhards, some of them do have insight (whether I do or not I leave to you.)

How do we separate the good information from the bad? Maybe we could start by considering the source and realizing that sometimes, knowing the origin is more important than the wisdom it provides.

Entertain Me

Uncategorized

I love baseball. But to a point.

I’ll usually watch the first two games of the season. Maybe I’ll sit through a Saturday game here and there. And I catch some of the World Series. I’ll watch enraptured if the Yankees are in it. I hate them and enjoy seeing them lose.

When I was a kid I played Little League and then pitched out of the bullpen for my private high school. A middle reliever I liked to call myself. Actually I sat on the bench most games. I only got called in when there was little chance we’d win. The coach just didn’t want to lose by a fat margin.

Sitting through the game tonight, I also thought about the election. There’s a neck-and-neck race for the White House and here a good portion of Americans are watching a bunch of grown man slapping a ball around with a wooden stick.

It’s entertaining though.

As I get older, I am beginning to see that things like the World Series, Superbowl, American Idol, Jersey Shore and Mario Brothers really are affecting our productivity a lot more than we can tell. Hell the Internet has wasted so much of my life that if I’d invested it into writing, I would have authored a novel collection to rival Stephen King.

Marcuse. Postman. They’re right. We focus so much on mass culture that we lose sight of what’s wrong in this world. If we focused less on amusement and paid attention to poverty, politics, social reform and civil rights, things would likely be better. The Internet was created to increase communication among educators but it has since only served to be another source of distraction.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my baseball. Those memes can be funny. Bloggers do have good points once in awhile. But there’s always a nagging thought in a corner of my collective subconscious that something’s wrong with how much time we waste on unproductive culture.

Some historians argue that the beginning of the end for the Roman empire began with a rising number of colosseum games. They spent more days out of the year watching gladiators cleave appendages off each other than they did working. We need to pay attention to that, especially now that we’re in the days of cable TV, the Web and professional sports.

Our lifestyles have become unsustainable and we’re taking more from the world than it can give. It’s creating problems with people in other countries. Civil wars. Somali Pirates. Starvation. Energy shortages. It’s only going to get worse.

This is going to bite our collective asses if we don’t turn off the game once in awhile.