Our system of government and our constitution are designed in large part, it seems to me, to ensure a fair playing field, to give voice to the voiceless, to keep the little guy from being run over by those with power and money. Since those with power and money will always want to keep it, and to keep the status quo, it is a constant battle to ensure we live by the ideals the founding fathers put in the constitution. That fact hit home to me today in reading two stories that illustrate opposite sides of the coin. First the bad news. The corporate food giant Monsanto is nothing if not an icon of power and secrecy and money. No one is quite sure how many lawsuits they have filed against small farmers, though we know it is a lot. When their proprietary genetically modified seeds get blown by the wind into neighboring farmer’s fields, they sue those farmers for using Monsanto’s patented seeds. If it wasn’t true, it would be so bizarre no one would believe it if they read it in, say, a science fiction story. It’s just too out there. Yet it is true, because Monsanto’s power and money and secrecy is too out there. Wanting to head off future lawsuits and to protect themselves, a bunch of organic farmers and organic farming groups got together and filed suit against Monsanto. New York district judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed the case, calling the plaintiffs’ concern an “intangible worry, unanchored in time,” to quote from the linked story at PR Watch. The story continues:
“In fact, Monsanto has already filed “over a hundred lawsuits involving hundreds of farmers for illegally using GMO patented seeds, and there have been judgments as high as a million dollars, with the average judgment being about $170,000,” according to Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). CFS was a plaintiff in the case and spoke on the subject of GMO contamination at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference in Madison on February 25.
“That’s a pretty tangible worry for farmers that don’t intend to grow genetically engineered crops. The plaintiffs collectively represent over 300,000 farmers and eaters.”
So, chalk one up for the big guys, protecting their power, money, and secrecy from any light of day or any accountability. It would be nice to be abel to boycott products that Monsanto has a hand in, but it is impossible. For one, they have their hands in almost everything, and for another, we as the public in the United States aren’t allowed to know what food products we buy have genetically modified elements. In Europe, you are allowed to know, but here the giant corporations have more rights than we the people.
The second story today was far more hopeful. In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan issued a temporary injunction against Wisonsin’s onerous new voter ID law, calling it “the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States.” So strike one up for participatory democracy. Of course, it will take Wisconsinites and others fighting steadily from now until the election to make the injunction permanent and prevent hundreds of thousands of voters in Wisconsin being turned away at the polls come November. Because make no mistake, this will not slow down the Koch brothers and others who have propped up Governor Walker from doing everything in their power to reinstate the new law and keep the poor and minorities from having a voice in our democracy.
Finally today, we get a useful and necessary reminder from Dean Baker that there was no Simpson-Bowles commission report. It is a necessary reminder because virtually all of our mainstream media outlets almost daily have stories referring to it, as though it existed. It is also useful because it reminds us that the two chairs, Simpson and Bowles, did issue a report that calls for huge cuts to social security and medicare and more tax breaks for the rich. Perhaps that is why it did not become an official commission report, that it did not get enough votes from the 18 member commission to be approved as an official recommendation.