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Issue #1735      June 15, 2016

Culture & Life

Trump and Monsanto – both are bad for you

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, was a long-time columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. In other words, he is an experienced American journalist. So when he writes that “Donald Trump has entered a new phase of autocratic weirdness ... His rants at reporters display contempt for the role of a free press. He would govern like a spiteful tyrant, with all the awesome powers of a president of the United States – settling scores, punishing enemies, making impetuous, ignorant decisions” his words carry weight – or they should. After all, even among right-wingers he’s not alone in thinking like that about Trump.

“Donald Trump has entered a new phase of autocratic weirdness ... He would govern like a spiteful tyrant, with all the awesome powers of a president of the United States – settling scores, punishing enemies, making impetuous, ignorant decisions”.

In an article in the Huffington Post Kuttner names a whole clutch of Republican Party notables who find Trump beyond the pale. “Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is one. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is a second. And the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, a third. ... New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, chair of the Republican Governors’ Association and the rare high-ranking Latina in Republican politics, has traded gibes with Trump. ... Jeb Bush has said he will not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton ... Karl Rove has called Trump ‘a complete idiot’.”

To Kuttner’s disgust, however, a number of Republicans “who were savaged, slandered and humiliated by Trump” have nevertheless lined up to endorse him. This surprises Kuttner who calls them “craven.” He complains: “Do these people have no self-respect, and no concern for their country?”

I couldn’t say, but what I can say is that Kuttner’s wish for “one of these senior Republicans [to] break ranks and ... give a major address warning against the menace of Trump as an incipient fascist” would mean them going against their class interests. And that’s just not going to happen.

As we have said before, Trump really is a fascist (never mind “incipient”). More middle class Americans are waking up to this and realising, as Kuttner has, that “Trump is a threat to the American Republic, as real as a terrorist attack or an invasion. ... If, through a chain of mishaps, Trump actually became president and America’s first dictator, the more principled [Republicans] would be wracked with regret.”

Much good those regrets will do them then. Like the German bourgeois democrats who did not oppose the “street lout” Hitler because they thought he would save them from Bolshevism, they too will share in the catastrophe he will surely bring upon them.

Meanwhile, capitalism continues on its merry way. When it comes to corporate profits vs people’s health and general well-being, under capitalism profits win out almost every time. And when they don’t, the corporations concerned cry “foul” and go on the attack to try to change the decision to a more profit-friendly one.

“For years Monsanto has claimed that glyphosate, the key active ingredient in its Roundup-brand herbicide is ‘safe’ because the human body excretes it,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of US grass-roots environment group, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Now the results of a pilot study, conducted by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, with support from Environmental Arts & Research, have revealed that the levels found in the breast milk of American women were 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides (Glyphosate is both a pesticide and herbicide).

“This pilot study is the first of its kind to prove that Monsanto is wrong. In fact, this preliminary study shows that glyphosate accumulates in our bodies, and mothers are now passing the toxin on to their infants via breast milk.”

Monsanto of course is a very rich and very powerful company. It wields great influence with the agencies of the US government such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which recently raised the limits for the amount of glyphosate residue allowed on human food.

According to Sustainable Pulse, glyphosate-containing herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup are the top-selling herbicides in the world. Monsanto’s sales of Roundup jumped 73 percent to $371 million in 2013 because of its increasing use on genetically engineered crops (GE Crops). In the US it is not only used in agriculture but is widely sold to consumers to spray on their lawns and gardens. Monsanto has also waged a very successful sales campaign to ensure the use of Roundup by municipalities to control weeds in parks and roadways.

Monsanto is most unlikely to be phased by this latest brouhaha. Glyphosate has been linked by previous studies to a wide range of chronic diseases, but Monsanto has thrown money at its advertising agencies and the problem has conveniently faded away. As the OCA commented on the pilot study: “This is another in a long line of studies showing the many ways in which glyphosate poses a real danger to human health. It’s time for Americans to demand that the FDA, USDA and EPA ban this toxin for good.”

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, earlier this month put a proposal to the EU governments to extend a licence for the toxic herbicide by up to 18 months. The original EU licence for glyphosate expired at the end of June 2012 and has already been extended twice. To the evident surprise of some EU governments and corporations (not least Monsanto), a majority declined to extend the licence.

Monsanto is unlikely to take the decision lying down.


#Thank You Bernie

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment appear to have successfully thwarted the popular movement in their own Party’s ranks to nominate Senator Bernie Sanders for US president. However, his campaign has not been entirely in vain. As Common Dreams puts it: “Bernie supporters have flooded the hashtag #ThankYouBernie with heartfelt thanks – for taking on the Democratic establishment and fighting like hell, for recognising black/poor/Palestinian lives, for inspiring the young and not-so-young, for being tireless and gracious against all odds, for speaking the truth, doing what’s right, giving a damn. May he, and we, prevail.”

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