2.24.2017

Fall of Ponsonby

18 June 1815


Ponsonby's part in the Battle of Waterloo is remembered because it highlights some pertinent points about cavalry charging.

Ponsonby was in command of the Union Brigade, so-called because it included an English, a Scottish and an Irish regiment. The brigade consisted of the 1st Royal and 6th Inniskilling Regiments of Dragoons in the first line and the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) in reserve. It had counter-attacked to great effect against the disorganized French columns of d'Erlon's I Corps.

Carried away by their initial success, however, the brigade failed to rally and continued towards the French positions. The Scots Greys in particular, forgetting their supporting role and ignoring the “recall”, charged on in disordered groups, some of whom reached the French guns on the other side of the valley. By this time their horses were exhausted and a swift retribution followed in the form of a counter-attack by the French lancers.

The brigade suffered very heavy losses (see table below) and played no further part in the battle. Ponsonby, who was mounted on a horse of less value than the best one in his stable, rode too far and with his horse mired in mud close to enemy lines, was set upon by French Lancers. Recognising his rank and worth as a prisoner, the French gestured to him, urging him to surrender. He failed to understand them, and, when a group of his own Union Brigade spotted him and rode to his rescue, the lancers from one of the French line regiments (either the 3rd Lancers or 4th Lancers) attached to d'Erlon's I Corps had no option but to kill him.

 Myths growing up after the battle turned this into a guardsman from the "Red Lancers", which included the surviving squadron of the Polish lancers of the Guard.  Following Ponsonby's death, command of the Union Brigade devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Clifton of the 1st Royal Dragoons.





2.09.2017

The hidden agendas of sustainability illusions


Absurd, impractical sustainability precepts are actually a prescription for government control 

Guest essay by Paul Driessen

As President Trump downgrades the relevance of Obama era climate change and anti-fossil fuel policies, many environmentalists are directing attention to “sustainable development.”
Like “dangerous manmade climate change,” sustainability reflects poor understanding of basic energy, economic, resource extraction and manufacturing principles – and a tendency to emphasize tautologies and theoretical models as an alternative to readily observable evidence in the Real World. It also involves well-intended but ill-informed people being led by ill-intended but well-informed activists who use the concept to gain greater government control over people’s lives, livelihoods and living standards.

The most common definition is that we may meet the needs of current generations only to the extent that doing so will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability thus reflects the assertion that we are rapidly depleting finite resources, and must reduce current needs and wants so as to save raw materials for future generations.

At first blush, it sounds logical and even ethical. But it requires impossible clairvoyance.

In 1887, when the Hearthstone House became the world’s first home lit via hydroelectric power, no one did or could foresee that electricity would dominate, enhance and safeguard our lives in the myriad ways it does today. Decades later, no one anticipated pure silica fiber optic cables replacing copper wires.

No one predicted tiny cellular phones with superb digital cameras and more computing power than a 1990 desktop computer or 3-D printing or thousands of wind turbines across our fruited plains – or cadmium, rare earth metals and other raw materials suddenly required to manufacture these technological wonders.

Mankind advanced at a snail’s pace for thousands of years. As the modern fossil-fuel industrial era found its footing, progress picked up at an increasingly breathtaking pace. Today, change is exponential. As we moved from flint to copper, to bronze, iron, steel and beyond, we didn’t do so because mankind had exhausted Earth’s supplies of flint, copper, tin and so on. We did it because we innovated – invented something better, more efficient or practical. Each advance required different raw materials.

Who today can foresee what technologies future generations will have 25, 50 or 200 years from now? What raw materials they will need? How we are supposed to ensure that those families meet their needs?

Why then would we even think of empowering government to regulate today’s activities today based on the wholly unpredictable technologies, lifestyles, needs, and resource demands of distant generations? Why would we ignore or compromise the needs of current generations, to meet those totally unpredictable future needs – including the needs of today’s most impoverished, energy-deprived, malnourished people, who desperately want to improve their lives?

Moreover, we are not going to run out of resources anytime soon. A 1-kilometer fiber optic cable made from 45 pounds of silica (Earth’s most abundant element) carries thousands of times more information than an equally long RG-6 cable made from 3,600 pounds of copper, reducing demand for copper.

In 1947, the world’s proven oil reserves totaled 47 billion barrels. Over the next 70 years, we consumed hundreds of billions of barrels – and yet, in 2016 we still had at least 2,800 billion barrels of oil reserves, including oil sands, oil shales and other unconventional deposits: at least a century’s worth, plus abundant natural gas. Constantly improving technologies now let us find and produce oil and natural gas from deposits that we could not even detect, much less tap into, just a couple decades ago.

Sustainability dogma also revolves around hatred of fossil fuels, and a determination to rid the world of them, regardless of any social, economic or environmental costs of doing so. And we frequently find that supposedly green, eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives are frequently anything but.
U.S. ethanol quotas eat up 40% of the nation’s corn, cropland the size of Iowa, billions of gallons of water, and vast quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, tractor fuel and natural gas, to produce energy that drives up food prices, damages small engines and gets one-third less mileage per gallon than gasoline.

Heavily subsidized wind energy requires standby fossil fuel generators, ultra-long transmission lines and thus millions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals and fiberglass. The turbines create chronic health problems for people living near them and kill millions of birds and bats – to produce intermittent, wholly unreliable electricity that costs up to 250% more than coal-based electricity.

For all that, on a torrid August 2012 day, Great Britain’s 3,500 giant wind turbines generated a mere 12 megawatts of electricity: 0.032% of the 38,000 MW the country was using at the time.

The United Kingdom also subsidizes several huge anaerobic digesters, intended to convert animal manure and other farm waste into eco-friendly methane for use in generating electricity. But there is insufficient farm waste. So the digesters are fed with corn (maize), grass and rye grown on 130,000 acres (four times the size of Washington, DC), using enormous amounts of water, fertilizer – and of course diesel fuel to grow, harvest and transport the crops to the digesters. Why not just drill and frack for natural gas?

That brings us to the political arena, where the terminology is circular, malleable, infinitely elastic, the perfect tool for activists. Whatever they support is sustainable; whatever they oppose is unsustainable; and whatever mantras or protective measures they propose give them more power and control.

The Club of Rome sought to build a new movement by creating “a common enemy against whom we can unite” – allegedly looming disasters “caused by human intervention in natural processes” and requiring “changed attitudes and behavior” to avoid global calamities: global warming and resource depletion.

“Building an environmentally sustainable future requires restricting the global economy, dramatically changing human reproductive behavior, and altering values and lifestyles,” said Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown. “Doing this quickly requires nothing short of a revolution.”

“Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, the use of fossil fuels, electrical appliances, home and workplace air conditioning, and suburban housing – are not sustainable,” Canadian arch-environmentalist Maurice Strong declared.
“Minor shifts in policy, moderate improvements in laws and regulations, rhetoric offered in lieu of genuine change,” former Vice President Al Gore asserted – “these are all forms of appeasement, designed to satisfy the public’s desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.” Environmental activist Daniel Sitarz agreed, saying: “Agenda 21 proposes an array of actions intended to be implemented by every person on Earth. Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all humans, unlike anything the world has ever experienced.”

“Sustainable development,” the National Research Council declaimed in a 2011 report, “raises questions that are not fully or directly addressed in U.S. law or policy, including how to define and control unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and how to encourage the development of sustainable communities, biodiversity protection, clean energy, environmentally sustainable economic development, and climate change controls.” In fact, said Obama science advisor John Holdren, we cannot even talk about sustainability without talking about politics, power, and control. Especially control.

Of course, the activists, politicians and regulators feel little pain, as they enjoy salaries and perks paid by taxpayers and foundations, fly to UN and other conferences at posh 5-star resorts around the world, and implement agendas that control, redesign and transform other people’s lives.
It is We the Governed – especially working class and poor citizens – who pay the price, with the world’s poorest families paying the highest price. We can only hope the Trump Administration and Congress will dismantle and defund sustainable development, the alter ego of cataclysmic manmade climate change.


Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

2.06.2017

6 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die

Updated: Jun 17, 2016 7:20 PM EDT | Originally published: Sep 02, 2014

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of several books, including The War Against Boys. She hosts a weekly video blog, The Factual Feminist.

Much of what we hear about the plight of American women is false. Some faux facts have been repeated so often they are almost beyond the reach of critical analysis. Though they are baseless, these canards have become the foundation of Congressional debates, the inspiration for new legislation and the focus of college programs. Here are five of the most popular myths that should be rejected by all who are genuinely committed to improving the circumstances of women:


MYTH 1: Women are half the world’s population, working two-thirds of the world’s working hours, receiving 10% of the world’s income, owning less than 1% of the world’s property.

FACTS: This injustice confection is routinely quoted by advocacy groups, the World Bank, Oxfam and the United Nations. It is sheer fabrication. More than 15 years ago, Sussex University experts on gender and development Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz, repudiated the claim: “The figure was made up by someone working at the UN because it seemed to her to represent the scale of gender-based inequality at the time.” But there is no evidence that it was ever accurate, and it certainly is not today.
Precise figures do not exist, but no serious economist believes women earn only 10% of the world’s income or own only 1% of property. As one critic noted in an excellent debunking in The Atlantic, “U.S. women alone earn 5.4 percent of world income today.” Moreover, in African countries, where women have made far less progress than their Western and Asian counterparts, Yale economist Cheryl Doss found female land ownership ranged from 11% in Senegal to 54% in Rwanda and Burundi. Doss warns that “using unsubstantiated statistics for advocacy is counterproductive.” Bad data not only undermine credibility, they obstruct progress by making it impossible to measure change.


MYTH 2: Between 100,000 and 300,000 girls are pressed into sexual slavery each year in the United States.

FACTS: This sensational claim is a favorite of politicians, celebrities and journalists. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore turned it into a cause célèbre. Both conservatives and liberal reformers deploy it. Former President Jimmy Carter recently said that the sexual enslavement of girls in the U.S. today is worse than American slavery in the 19th century.

The source for the figure is a 2001 report on child sexual exploitation by University of Pennsylvania sociologists Richard Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. But their 100,000–300,000 estimate referred to children at risk for exploitation—not actual victims. When three reporters from the Village Voice questioned Estes on the number of children who are abducted and pressed into sexual slavery each year, he replied, “We’re talking about a few hundred people.” And this number is likely to include a lot of boys: According to a 2008 census of underage prostitutes in New York City, nearly half turned out to be male. A few hundred children is still a few hundred too many, but they will not be helped by thousand-fold inflation of their numbers.


MYTH 3: In the United States, 22%–35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms do so because of domestic violence.

FACTS: This claim has appeared in countless fact sheets, books and articles—for example, in the leading textbook on family violence, Domestic Violence Law, and in the Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. The Penguin Atlas uses the emergency room figure to justify placing the U.S. on par with Uganda and Haiti for intimate violence.

What is the provenance? The Atlas provides no primary source, but the editor of Domestic Violence Law cites a 1997 Justice Department study, as well as a 2009 post on the Centers for Disease Control website. But the Justice Department and the CDC are not referring to the 40 million women who annually visit emergency rooms, but to women, numbering about 550,000 annually, who come to emergency rooms "for violence-related injuries." Of these, approximately 37% were attacked by intimates. So, it’s not the case that 22%-35% of women who visit emergency rooms are there for domestic violence. The correct figure is less than half of 1%.


MYTH 4: One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted.

FACTS: This incendiary figure is everywhere in the media today. Journalists, senators and even President Obama cite it routinely. Can it be true that the American college campus is one of the most dangerous places on earth for women?

The one-in-five figure is based on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and conducted from 2005 to 2007. Two prominent criminologists, Northeastern University’s James Alan Fox and Mount Holyoke College’s Richard Moran, have noted its weaknesses:

“The estimated 19% sexual assault rate among college women is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation's colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, with the clear possibility that those who had been victimized were more apt to have completed the questionnaire, resulting in an inflated prevalence figure.”
Fox and Moran also point out that the study used an overly broad definition of sexual assault. Respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if they had been subject to “attempted forced kissing” or engaged in intimate encounters while intoxicated.

Defenders of the one-in-five figure will reply that the finding has been replicated by other studies. But these studies suffer from some or all of the same flaws. Campus sexual assault is a serious problem and will not be solved by statistical hijinks.


MYTH 5: Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—for doing the same work.

FACTS: No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.
Wage gap activists say women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables. Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have a fallback position: that women’s education and career choices are not truly free—they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes. In this view, women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. 
Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.
MYTH 6: Men are the privileged sex 

FACTS: Neither sex has the better deal. Modern life is a complicated mix of burdens and advantages—for each sex. Women are assumed to be the have-nots because a massive lobby devotes itself to proving Venus is worse off than Mars. Mars’ afflictions go unnoticed. So let’s consider a few of them.

When it comes to being crushed, mutilated, electrocuted, or mangled at work, men are at a distinct disadvantage. Most backbreaking, lethally dangerous jobs—roofer, logger, roustabout, and coal miner, to name a few—are done by men. The Labor Department reports that nearly 5,000 American workers die from workplace accidents each year. Ninety percent, more than 4,400, ARE male. We are often reminded that only 24 women are CEOs of the Fortune 500. But what about the Unfortunate 4,400?

Education beyond high school has been called “the passport to the American dream.” Increasingly, women have it and men don’t. From the earliest grades, our schools do a better job educating girls. Women now earn a majority of associate, bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees and their share of college degrees increases almost every year. The intersectional narrative tells us that males—especially those of the white variety--are the group most in need of atoning for their privileges. But recent government data show that Hispanic and Native American women are now more likely to attend college than white men.

Finally, consider the mother of all gender gaps: life expectancy. On average, women outlive men by about five years. The numbers are starker when you factor in race and ethnicity. In the U.S., Hispanic and Asian women can expect to live to 88 and 85, respectively. For white and black men, the ages are 76 and 72.

Today’s women’s lobby deploys a faulty logic: In cases where men are better off than women, that’s injustice. Where women are doing better—that’s life.

Final verdict: If Mars needs to check his privilege, then so does Venus.

Why do these reckless claims have so much appeal and staying power? For one thing, there is a lot of statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics and political leaders. There is also an admirable human tendency to be protective of women—stories of female exploitation are readily believed, and vocal skeptics risk appearing indifferent to women’s suffering. Finally, armies of advocates depend on “killer stats” to galvanize their cause. But killer stats obliterate distinctions between more and less serious problems and send scarce resources in the wrong directions. They also promote bigotry. The idea that American men are annually enslaving more than 100,000 girls, sending millions of women to emergency rooms, sustaining a rape culture and cheating women out of their rightful salary creates rancor in true believers and disdain in those who would otherwise be sympathetic allies.

My advice to women’s advocates: Take back the truth.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of several books, including Who Stole Feminism and The War Against Boys, and is the host of a weekly video blog, The Factual Feminist. Follow her @CHSommers.

2.04.2017

1.29.2017

5 Things Narcissists Do To Be The Center Of Attention

 From:  Thelightmedia


“Narcissists want to be the center of attention. They will boast, brag and tell exaggerated stories about themselves to make out that they are brilliant. They will often mix lies with truths or half-truths which may make it difficult to catch them out.”

Engaging in a conversation with a narcissist can leave someone feeling like banging their head against a brick wall. This may sound like an exaggeration; but, in truth, a brick wall may possess the same levels of empathy, understanding, and validation that a narcissist does. Why? Because these people couldn’t care less about what you’re saying; no matter the logic or meaningfulness behind your intended dialogue.

Conversing with a narcissist can be described in four ways: confusing, dizzying, infuriating and meaningless. As for the effects of such conversations, narcissistic people possess the innate “gift” of shifting any sense of their own insecurity and unworthiness to anyone who will listen. Apparently, the oft-felt repercussions of conversing with a narcissist leave the victim (and victims, they are) feeling far worse off than having become involved in a conversation with such a character in the first place. Another “talent” of narcissists is evoking a sense of blame, doubt, and uncertainty – all primary objectives of such a deluded, manipulative individual.
Make no mistake; narcissists know exactly what they’re doing. Not only are they privy to their ambitions, but narcissists also experience an elevated sense of superiority and invincibility for having duped someone else.

One underlying trait of almost all narcissists is the need to be at the center of attention. The psychological term for this insatiable necessity is “narcissistic supply,” or the need for continual reaffirmation of self-perceived value. In this article, we narrow the focus to the conversational. More specifically, we’ll discuss a few telltale signs of narcissism from a conversational perspective. In particular, we’ll discuss some commonly exhibited behaviors or narcissists that illustrate their irrational desires to be at the center of attention.

 

Here are five behaviors of narcissists exhibit to become the center of attention:

 

1. Reverse Projection

Before knowing that we’re in the company of a narcissist, we’ll relate to the person as if they’re rational human beings. As we don’t purposely deceive or manipulate people, we innately trust that others will reciprocate such qualities.
However, when this trust is violated, we’ll often feel confused, hurt and – in a way – responsible for the narcissist’s behavior. The horrible thing is that this is exactly what narcissistic people want.
Without diligent caution, a narcissist can quickly “twist the conversation,” making you take on the burden of guilt. Meanwhile, the narcissist subtly reverses reality of the situation and takes on the role of an innocent victim. In other words, they reverse roles.

2. Incessant Blaming

Narcissists will intently switch sensitive topics (e.g., work responsibilities) to divert your attention. They do so to put you in a defensive position, regardless of merit behind such tactics. They’ll interrogate, focusing on any and all real or perceived faults.
In turn, you’ll rightly defend yourself. Meanwhile, the narcissist will continue to hammer away at their inconceivable notion about you “being in the wrong.” Concurrently, they’ll refuse any accountability for their behavior and leave you in a resistive state. All the while, they’ll justify their “blame game” by pointing their fingers at you for having created any drama or problems in the relationship.

 3. Shock And Awe

When a narcissist apparently displays anger or rage, it is their intention to bully you into submission. This is an enigma, as narcissists typically don’t exhibit such vocal or physical behaviors.
The intent here is to confuse and intimidate their victim. Rational people, especially those not usually accustomed to such outbursts, may become confused and intimidated. As a result, the victim may let down their defenses and become susceptible to suggestion.
A weakened state is what the narcissist wants, as it leaves you vulnerable to their unquenchable need for control and dominance.

4. Playing the Victim

Deceitful people love playing the victim, and narcissists certainly fall under this category. Narcissists accomplish this by garnering undeserving pity. The tragedy is that this manipulative tactic is executed at the expense of another – a person who is often the deserved recipient of good will from others.
 
Though narcissists are an emotionally-neutral group, they acutely understand the power of human empathy. This knowledge is used to counter any real or perceived “threat” to their self-glossed superior standing. In the event that they hurt someone, they’ll take on a defense position – this often involves the emotional manipulation those close to you.

 5. Interrupting

Narcissists have an insatiable desire to be the center of attention at all times. When the topic at hand does not involve them, they’ll quickly interrupt the dialogue and  attempt to refocus the conversation back to themselves.

If someone vehemently interjects, attempting to redirect the conversation, they’re quickly neutralized by the narcissist and rendered to silence. This is a narcissist’s optimal result. Should such a malignant attempt fail, the individual will immediately be placed on the narcissist’s “hit list” – a perceived threat to be dealt with according to the narcissist’s distorted view on what’s truly important…them and them only.

1.26.2017

Thought for the Day


(My Apartment in Ballston looking towards Washington DC)


It's amazing to meet people who are so set in their beliefs.  In Washington DC Ive met the most intolerant people I have encountered short of the Middle East, Japan and Europe.  It's actual Bigotry and hatred.  I really hope it's just pain they are voicing over the loss of the election.

"If you are Pro Trump I wont talk to you."  "If you deny climate change,  your in denial"

What happened to polite discourse and logical debate? Are people so set in what they think is right that they will refuse to even talk to someone with an alternate thought?   I feel so sorry for them.  Being so insecure to even discuss what they believe only shows that they are afraid to be wrong.

Are they afraid to be challenged in life?  It appears so.  I welcome differing opinions, I want to learn and have my beliefs challenged.  The discussion will only confirm or deny my beliefs.....that leads to growth.

The inability to have your beliefs challenged and to act out in anger instead of being an adult and rationally debate is the hallmark of being a tyrannical person, or at best socially awkward.



When you believe you know everything, you learn nothing.

1.10.2017

"Vitaï Lampada"


There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;—
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
 
- Sir Henry John Newbolt

10.18.2016

Mythbusting 101 Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

 
People believe a lot of things that we have little to no evidence for, like that vikings wore horned helmets or that you can see the Great Wall of China from space. One of the things I like to do on my blogs is bust commonly held myths that I think matter. For example, I get really annoyed when I hear someone say sharks don't get cancer (I'll save that rant for another day). From now onward, posts that attack conventionally believed untruths will fall under a series I'm going to call "Mythbusting 101."
 
 
Ten years ago, Certified Organic didn't exist in the United States. Yet in 2010, a mere eight years after USDA's regulations officially went into effect, organic foods and beverages made $26.7 billion. In the past year or two, certified organic sales have jumped to about $52 billion worldwide despite the fact that organic foods cost up to three times as much as those produced by conventional methods. More and more, people are shelling out their hard-earned cash for what they believe are the best foods available. Imagine, people say: you can improve your nutrition while helping save the planet from the evils of conventional agriculture - a complete win-win. And who wouldn't buy organic, when it just sounds so good?

Here's the thing: there are a lot of myths out there about organic foods, and a lot of propaganda supporting methods that are rarely understood. It's like your mother used to say: just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn't mean you should do it, too. Now, before I get yelled at too much, let me state unequivocally that I'm not saying organic farming is bad - far from it. There are some definite upsides and benefits that come from many organic farming methods. For example, the efforts of organic farmers to move away from monocultures, where crops are farmed in single-species plots, are fantastic; crop rotations and mixed planting are much better for the soil and environment. My goal in this post isn't to bash organic farms, instead, it's to bust the worst of the myths that surround them so that everyone can judge organic farming based on facts. In particular, there are four myths thrown around like they're real that just drive me crazy.


Myth #1: Organic Farms Don't Use Pesticides

When the Soil Association, a major organic accreditation body in the UK, asked consumers why they buy organic food, 95% of them said their top reason was to avoid pesticides. They, like many people, believe that organic farming involves little to no pesticide use. I hate to burst the bubble, but that's simply not true. Organic farming, just like other forms of agriculture, still uses pesticides and fungicides to prevent critters from destroying their crops. Confused?

So was I, when I first learned this from a guy I was dating. His family owns a farm in rural Ohio. He was grumbling about how everyone praised the local organic farms for being so environmentally-conscientious, even though they sprayed their crops with pesticides all the time while his family farm got no credit for being pesticide-free (they're not organic because they use a non-organic herbicide once a year). I didn't believe him at first, so I looked into it: turns out that there are over 20 chemicals commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops that are approved by the US Organic Standards. And, shockingly, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government. Why the government isn't keeping watch on organic pesticide and fungicide use is a damn good question, especially considering that many organic pesticides that are also used by conventional farmers are used more intensively than synthetic ones due to their lower levels of effectiveness. According to the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, the top two organic fungicides, copper and sulfur, were used at a rate of 4 and 34 pounds per acre in 1971 1. In contrast, the synthetic fungicides only required a rate of 1.6 lbs per acre, less than half the amount of the organic alternatives.

The sad truth is, factory farming is factory farming, whether its organic or conventional. Many large organic farms use pesticides liberally. They're organic by certification, but you'd never know it if you saw their farming practices. As Michael Pollan, best-selling book author and organic supporter, said in an interview with Organic Gardening,
"They're organic by the letter, not organic in spirit... if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off."

What makes organic farming different, then? It's not the use of pesticides, it's the origin of the pesticides used. Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use. This is different than the current pesticides used by conventional agriculture, which are generally synthetic. It has been assumed for years that pesticides that occur naturally (in certain plants, for example) are somehow better for us and the environment than those that have been created by man. As more research is done into their toxicity, however, this simply isn't true, either. Many natural pesticides have been found to be potential - or serious - health risks.2

Take the example of Rotenone. Rotenone was widely used in the US as an organic pesticide for decades 3. Because it is natural in origin, occurring in the roots and stems of a small number of subtropical plants, it was considered "safe" as well as "organic". However, research has shown that rotenone is highly dangerous because it kills by attacking mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of all living cells. Research found that exposure to rotenone caused Parkinson's Disease-like symptoms in rats 4, and had the potential to kill many species, including humans. Rotenone's use as a pesticide has already been discontinued in the US as of 2005 due to health concerns***, but shockingly, it's still poured into our waters every year by fisheries management officials as a piscicide to remove unwanted fish species.

The point I'm driving home here is that just because something is natural doesn't make it non-toxic or safe. Many bacteria, fungi and plants produce poisons, toxins and chemicals that you definitely wouldn't want sprayed on your food.

Just last year, nearly half of the pesticides that are currently approved for use by organic farmers in Europe failed to pass the European Union's safety evaluation that is required by law 5. Among the chemicals failing the test was rotenone, as it had yet to be banned in Europe. Furthermore, just over 1% of organic foodstuffs produced in 2007 and tested by the European Food Safety Authority were found to contain pesticide levels above the legal maximum levels - and these are of pesticides that are not organic 6. Similarly, when Consumer Reports purchased a thousand pounds of tomatoes, peaches, green bell peppers, and apples in five cities and tested them for more than 300 synthetic pesticides, they found traces of them in 25% of the organically-labeled foods, but between all of the organic and non-organic foods tested, only one sample of each exceeded the federal limits8.

Not only are organic pesticides not safe, they might actually be worse than the ones used by the conventional agriculture industry. Canadian scientists pitted 'reduced-risk' organic and synthetic pesticides against each other in controlling a problematic pest, the soybean aphid. They found that not only were the synthetic pesticides more effective means of control, the organic pesticides were more ecologically damaging, including causing higher mortality in other, non-target species like the aphid's predators9. Of course, some organic pesticides may fare better than these ones did in similar head-to-head tests, but studies like this one reveal that the assumption that natural is better for the environment could be very dangerous.

Even if the organic food you're eating is from a farm which uses little to no pesticides at all, there is another problem: getting rid of pesticides doesn't mean your food is free from harmful things. Between 1990 and 2001, over 10,000 people fell ill due to foods contaminated with pathogens like E. coli, and many have organic foods to blame. That's because organic foods tend to have higher levels of potential pathogens. One study, for example, found E. coli in produce from almost 10% of organic farms samples, but only 2% of conventional ones10. The same study also found Salmonella only in samples from organic farms, though at a low prevalence rate. The reason for the higher pathogen prevalence is likely due to the use of manure instead of artificial fertilizers, as many pathogens are spread through fecal contamination. Conventional farms often use manure, too, but they use irradiation and a full array of non-organic anti-microbial agents as well, and without those, organic foods run a higher risk of containing something that will make a person sick.

In the end, it really depends on exactly what methods are used by crop producers. Both organic and conventional farms vary widely in this respect. Some conventional farms use no pesticides. Some organic farms spray their crops twice a month. Of course, some conventional farms spray just as frequently, if not more so, and some organic farms use no pesticides whatsoever. To really know what you're in for, it's best if you know your source, and a great way to do that is to buy locally. Talk to the person behind the crop stand, and actually ask them what their methods are if you want to be sure of what you're eating.

 

Myth #2: Organic Foods are Healthier

Some people believe that by not using manufactured chemicals or genetically modified organisms, organic farming produces more nutritious food. However, science simply cannot find any evidence that organic foods are in any way healthier than non-organic ones - and scientists have been comparing the two for over 50 years.

Just recently, an independent research project in the UK systematically reviewed the 162 articles on organic versus non-organic crops published in peer-reviewed journals between 1958 and 2008 11. These contained a total of 3558 comparisons of content of nutrients and other substances in organically and conventionally produced foods. They found absolutely no evidence for any differences in content of over 15 different nutrients including vitamin C, ?-carotene, and calcium. There were some differences, though; conventional crops had higher nitrogen levels, while organic ones had higher phosphorus and acidity - none of which factor in much to nutritional quality. Further analysis of similar studies on livestock products like meat, dairy, and eggs also found few differences in nutritional content. Organic foods did, however, have higher levels of overall fats, particularly trans fats. So if anything, the organic livestock products were found to be worse for us (though, to be fair, barely).

“This is great news for consumers. It proves that the 98% of food we consume, which is produced by technologically advanced agriculture, is equally nutritious to the less than 2% derived from what is commonly referred to as the 'organic' market," said Fredhelm Schmider, the Director General of the European Crop Protection Association said in a press release about the findings.12

Joseph D. Rosen, emeritus professor of food toxicology at Rutgers, puts it even more strongly. "Any consumers who buy organic food because they believe that it contains more healthful nutrients than conventional food are wasting their money," he writes in a comprehensive review of organic nutritional claims13.

Strong organic proponents also argue that organic food tastes better. In the same poll where 95% of UK organic consumers said they buy organic to avoid pesticides, over two-thirds of respondents said organic produce and meats taste better than non-organic ones. But when researchers had people put their mouths to the test, they found that people couldn't tell the difference between the two in blind taste tests14, 18.

So, in short, organics are not better for us and we can't tell the difference between them and non-organic foods. There may be many things that are good about organic farming, from increased biodiversity on farms to movement away from monocultures, but producing foods that are healthier and tastier simply isn't one of them.


Myth #3: Organic Farming Is Better For The Environment

As an ecologist by training, this myth bothers me the most of all three. People seem to believe they're doing the world a favor by eating organic. The simple fact is that they're not - at least the issue is not that cut and dry.

Yes, organic farming practices use less synthetic pesticides which have been found to be ecologically damaging. But factory organic farms use their own barrage of chemicals that are still ecologically damaging, and refuse to endorse technologies that might reduce or eliminate the use of these all together. Take, for example, organic farming's adamant stance against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GMOs have the potential to up crop yields, increase nutritious value, and generally improve farming practices while reducing synthetic chemical use - which is exactly what organic farming seeks to do. As we speak, there are sweet potatoes are being engineered to be resistant to a virus that currently decimates the African harvest every year, which could feed millions in some of the poorest nations in the world15. Scientists have created carrots high in calcium to fight osteoperosis, and tomatoes high in antioxidants. Almost as important as what we can put into a plant is what we can take out; potatoes are being modified so that they do not produce high concentrations of toxic glycoalkaloids, and nuts are being engineered to lack the proteins which cause allergic reactions in most people. Perhaps even more amazingly, bananas are being engineered to produce vaccines against hepatitis B, allowing vaccination to occur where its otherwise too expensive or difficult to be administered. The benefits these plants could provide to human beings all over the planet are astronomical.

Yet organic proponents refuse to even give GMOs a chance, even to the point of hypocrisy. For example, organic farmers apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin (a small insecticidal protein from soil bacteria) unabashedly across their crops every year, as they have for decades. It's one of the most widely used organic pesticides by organic farmers. Yet when genetic engineering is used to place the gene encoding the Bt toxin into a plant's genome, the resulting GM plants are vilified by the very people willing to liberally spray the exact same toxin that the gene encodes for over the exact same species of plant. Ecologically, the GMO is a far better solution, as it reduces the amount of toxin being used and thus leeching into the surrounding landscape and waterways. Other GMOs have similar goals, like making food plants flood-tolerant so occasional flooding can replace herbicide use as a means of killing weeds. If the goal is protect the environment, why not incorporate the newest technologies which help us do so?

But the real reason organic farming isn't more green than conventional is that while it might be better for local environments on the small scale, organic farms produce far less food per unit land than conventional ones. Organic farms produce around 80% that what the same size conventional farm produces16 (some studies place organic yields below 50% those of conventional farms!).

Right now, roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and about 16 million of those will die from it17. If we were to switch to entirely organic farming, the number of people suffering would jump by 1.3 billion, assuming we use the same amount of land that we're using now. Unfortunately, what's far more likely is that switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species.

Already, we have cleared more than 35% of the Earth's ice-free land surface for agriculture, an area 60 times larger than the combined area of all the world's cities and suburbs. Since the last ice age, nothing has been more disruptive to the planet's ecosystem and its inhabitants than agriculture. What will happen to what's left of our planet's wildlife habitats if we need to mow down another 20% or more of the world's ice-free land to accommodate for organic methods?

The unfortunate truth is that until organic farming can rival the production output of conventional farming, its ecological cost due to the need for space is devastating. As bad as any of the pesticides and fertilizers polluting the world's waterways from conventional agriculture are, it's a far better ecological situation than destroying those key habitats altogether. That's not to say that there's no hope for organic farming; better technology could overcome the production gap, allowing organic methods to produce on par with conventional agriculture. If that does occur, then organic agriculture becomes a lot more ecologically sustainable. On the small scale, particularly in areas where food surpluses already occur, organic farming could be beneficial, but presuming it's the end all be all of sustainable agriculture is a mistake.


Myth #4: It's all or none

The point of this piece isn't to vilify organic farming; it's merely to point out that it's not as black and white as it looks. Organic farming does have many potential upsides, and may indeed be the better way to go in the long run, but it really depends on technology and what we discover and learn in the future. Until organic farming can produce crops on par in terms of volume with conventional methods, it cannot be considered a viable option for the majority of the world. Nutritionally speaking, organic food is more like a brand name or luxury item. It's great if you can afford the higher price and want to have it, but it's not a panacea. You would improve your nutritional intake far more by eating a larger volume of fruits and vegetables than by eating organic ones instead of conventionally produced ones.

What bothers me most, however, is that both sides of the organic debate spend millions in press and advertising to attack each other instead of looking for a resolution. Organic supporters tend to vilify new technologies, while conventional supporters insist that chemicals and massive production monocultures are the only way to go. This simply strikes me as absurd. Synthetic doesn't necessarily mean bad for the environment. Just look at technological advances in creating biodegradable products; sometimes, we can use our knowledge and intelligence to create things that are both useful, cheap (enough) and ecologically responsible, as crazy as that idea may sound.

I also firmly believe that increasing the chemicals used in agriculture to support insanely over-harvested monocultures will never lead to ecological improvement. In my mind, the ideal future will merge conventional and organic methods, using GMOs and/or other new technologies to reduce pesticide use while increasing the bioavailability of soils, crop yield, nutritional quality and biodiversity in agricultural lands. New technology isn't the enemy of organic farming; it should be its strongest ally.

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest myth when it comes to organic farming is that you have to choose sides. Guess what? You don't. You can appreciate the upsides of rotating crops and how GMOs might improve output and nutrition. You, the wise and intelligent consumer, don't have to buy into either side's propaganda and polarize to one end or another. You can, instead, be somewhere along the spectrum, and encourage both ends to listen up and work together to improve our global food resources and act sustainably.    

10.03.2016

Do facts matter anymore?

By Thomas Sowell

Published August 23, 2016


Amid the rioting in Milwaukee, there is also a clash between two leading lawmen there — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the city of Milwaukee's Chief of Police Edward Flynn. They have very different opinions about how law enforcement should be carried out.

Chief Edward Flynn expresses the view long prevalent among those who emphasize the social "root causes" of crime, such as income disparities and educational disparities, as well as the larger society's neglect of black communities.

Chief Flynn puts less emphasis on aggressive police action and more on community outreach and gun control.

Sheriff David Clarke represents an opposite tradition, in which the job of the police is to enforce the law, as forcefully as necessary, not to make excuses for law-breaking or to ease up on enforcing the law, in hopes that this will mollify rioters. Sheriff Clarke would also like to see law-abiding blacks be armed.

Differences of opinion on law enforcement are sharp and unmistakable — and have been for more than 50 years. However, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

Unfortunately, facts seem to play a remarkably small role in clashes over law enforcement policies. And that too has been true for more than 50 years.

In his memoirs, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that "all of us must assume a share of the responsibility" for rising crime rates in the 1960s because "for decades we have swept under the rug" the slum conditions that breed crime.

But the hard fact is that the murder rate in the country as a whole was going down during those very decades when social problems in the slums were supposedly being neglected.

Homicide rates among black males went down by 18 percent in the 1940s and by 22 percent in the 1950s. It was in the 1960s, when the ideas of Chief Justice Warren and others triumphed, that this long decline in homicide rates among black males reversed and skyrocketed by 89 percent, wiping out all the progress of the previous 20 years.

The same reversal in the country at large saw murder rates by 1974 more than twice as high as in 1960. This was after the murder rate had been cut in half from where it had been in the 1930s.
Ghetto riots, which erupted in the 1960s, were blamed on poverty and discrimination. But what were the facts?

Poverty and discrimination were worse in the South than in the rest of the country. But ghetto riots were not nearly as common in the South.

The most deadly ghetto riot of the 1960s occurred in Detroit, where 43 people were killed — 33 of whom were black. In Detroit at that time, black median family income was 95 percent of white median family income. The unemployment rate among blacks was 3.4 percent and black home ownership was higher in Detroit than in any other major city.

What was different about Detroit was that politicians put the police under orders that restricted their response to riots — and some rioters said "the fuzz is scared." It was black victims who paid the highest price for letting rioters run amuck.

By contrast, Chicago's 1960s mayor Richard Daley came on television to say that he had ordered his police to "shoot to kill" rioters who started fires. There was outrage among the politically correct across the country. But Chicago, with a larger population than Detroit, had no such death rate in riots.
In later years, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's aggressive police policies in high-crime neighborhoods cut the murder rate down to a fraction of what it had been before.

But, in England, opposite policies prevailed, with what London's "Daily Telegraph" newspaper referred to as "politically correct policing" that has police acting "more like social workers than upholders of law and order."

Although England had long been regarded as one of the most law-abiding nations on Earth, riots that swept through London, Manchester and other British cities in 2011 were virtually identical to riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and other American cities. Most of the British rioters were white but what they did was the same, right down to setting fire to police cars.

But do facts matter anymore?

The Golden Tiki