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  • Random Thoughts

    Posted by Jonathan on November 20th, 2015 (All posts by )

    -Why should food made using GMO techniques be specially labeled? It’s indistinguishable from non-GMO food. The only difference between GMO techniques and older breeding techniques is the speed and precision with which the desired genetic outcomes are obtained. The outcomes themselves are the same. Going out of our way to label GMO food is like going out of our way to label manufactured products built using CNC machine tools.

    -There are often two purposes to an election. One is the selection of the best candidate. The other is the punishment of an inept or corrupt incumbent in order to discourage bad behavior by future elected office holders. A similar point holds for wars. Winning or changing the strategic situation to favor your country is but one reason to go to war. Another reason is to punish your enemy in order to discourage others like him. This is one reason why it was important to depose and humiliate Saddam Hussein after our 2003 invasion and why it was a mistake not to have done so in 1991.*


    *It might have been best to get rid of Saddam Hussein by bribing him to leave Iraq. However, he might not have been amenable to such a deal, and once we decided to invade it probably made more sense to do what we actually did.


    29 Responses to “Random Thoughts”

    1. Jim Miller Says:

      Almost all the food we eat is “genetically modified”. (For an example, compare teosinte to modern corn.) We did genetic modificiation for thousands of years by selection, then began selective breeding, then began inducing additional mutations with chemicals and radiation, and now do it directly.

      The main exception, as far as I know, is wild-caught sea food. But even there it is likely that our rules about such catches have had selective effects on the wild populations.

    2. PenGun Says:

      You handed Iraq to Iran. Anyone who had any idea of the demographics in the area could have told you that world happen.

      Real stupid.

    3. Eric Says:


      You’re right that President Obama was warned that it was necessary to stay the course from President Bush.

    4. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      With the caveat that I am NOT afraid of GMO food, not all worries about it are irrational. GMO is, as you said, basically the speeding up of selective breeding. Not a bad thing. Pretty much all of the plants and animals that we eat have been subjected to evolutionary changes based on human activity.

      That process is slow, not guaranteed, and kind of self correcting in that if a mutation is harmful, it kills off the stock it affects. The survivors breed true, and probably are not harmful, and hopefully tasty.

      We live in a time and place where pretty much all human institutions have been corrupted and do not fulfill their intended function. This includes corporations and their government regulators. One not only cannot trust them to protect the public, but can pretty much bet on them deliberately and corruptly failing to do so for their personal benefit in a significant portion of cases. And hiding from the consequences with the power of the all mighty State. Also noting that the State is usually Leftist, and has a greater tendency towards corruption.

      Breeding a new form of cow that gives higher butterfat yield and is easier to care for in small places by introducing sperm to egg either artificially or by nature’s normal means is understandable, replicable, and self-correcting. If a significant portion of the test stock come out with an extra head, glowing red eyes, and a tendency towards lycanthropy; Farmer Brown is going to shoot it or drive a silver tipped stake through its heart. End of experiment before it or its products hit the market.

      Taking a DNA segment from an artichoke and putting it in another critter is not something that cannot be done outside of an expensive lab, under secret conditions due to patent concerns, and any bad results can easily be hidden. And regulators bribed.

      The process will be safe almost all the time. But what you are betting on is that both the lab and the government are honest. When have you seen a department of any government that does not reserve the right to lie to the people if they want to?

      I probably will try the trout, which should be recognizable by its greater size. It will surely not be the same as the trout I catch, because farm raised trout do not have the same taste and texture as wild caught trout. And feedlot cattle do not taste the same as grass fed. But absolute faith in a secret process that produces food is not warranted. Think Soylent Green. ;-)

      Subotai Bahadur

    5. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      The problem with biochemistry is it’s so complex. A medicine that helps or cures 99% of 10,000 afflicted with a disease but hurts or kills 1% because they have a different body chemistry is a net plus, unless you’re one of the 1% who are hurt or die. But you might have died anyway.

      I have no issue with GMO foods. I’m certainly not afraid of them nor to I make any effort to avoid them. But I think the issue that we don’t know and possibly can’t estimate the effects of some modifications is a valid one. Labeling is, I think, a valid way to approach the problem. They aren’t prohibited but people are notified that it’s been modified. What I’d recommend is a label that gives information on what was modified. Is the vitamin content enhanced? The flavor? The color? I might like to know.

    6. Eric Says:

      “It might have been best to get rid of Saddam Hussein by bribing him to leave Iraq. However, he might not have been amenable to such a deal, and once we decided to invade it probably made more sense to do what we actually did.”

      The simplest part of Operation Iraqi Freedom was deposing Saddam’s regime – not that the invasion was simple. As it turned out, most of the difficulty was in the post-war.

      Therein lies the key consideration for weighing the ways to “get rid of Saddam Hussein”: in the event that Saddam failed to comply, we were committed to peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq pursuant to section 7 of PL 105-338, which was raised in section 4 of PL 107-243, regardless of the way the Iraqi regime was change.

      Recall that the end goal was not to get rid of Saddam. The end goal was an Iraq compliant with the UN mandates. If Saddam had proven compliance as mandated, then the credible threat of regime change would have been switched off. Deposing Saddam’s regime was a step in the process to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (Public Law 105-235) once Iraq failed the UNMOVIC compliance test in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

      When weighing the ways to regime change, whether by voluntary (bribed) departure, coup, civil war, or invasion, the chief consideration is feasibility. But on its heels is the consideration of which way would best facilitate the subsequent peace operations to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations”.

      In theory, the chief benefit for the peace operations from an invasion is the invasion force would immediately become an occupation force to fill the vacuum from deposing Saddam’s regime and immediately begin to establish the foundational conditions for security and stability that are necessary for peace operations to work.

      Moreover, the invasion-turned-occupation force is the entity on the ground that’s best suited immediately to provide the elements of a quasi-civil infrastructure.

      Unfortunately, the reality of the transition from invasion to occupation in Iraq fell short of the theory. (I give my take on why we fell short in the immediate post-war here, which I suspect Grurray will find disagreeable.)

      However, even weighing the reality of OIF I’s missteps rather than the theory, all the alternatives, including a voluntary (bribed) departure, seem to risk a vacuum that would attract and ignite the same problems, except now missing the occupation force to cover the hole right away, however deficiently we did that in the immediate post-war.

      So, when I imagine the alternatives to the OIF invasion, I picture something that looks like the Syrian Civil War. That includes the efforts for Iraqi regime change that were actively and openly supported under President Clinton pursuant to section 3 of Public Law 105-338.

    7. Mike K Says:

      An alternative ending to Iraq is what we see in Egypt and what I actually was hoping for. Deposing Saddam and exiling or killing him was a lesson that Iraqi generals might have learned had the Turks cooperated and allowed the 4th ID to invade from the north. My reading of some sources at the time suggested there were a few generals who might have been willing to cooperate. One of Bush’s mistakes was to “de-Nazify” Iraq by ridding the Baathists from the governing role. Much of this was done to pacify the Shia who did not cooperate and were a 5th column of Iran. ISIS is a Sunni revolt that has gotten strength from Turkey and other Sunni Arab countries. The Iranians are loved only by the Shia and Alawites.

    8. dearieme Says:

      “As it turned out, most of the difficulty was in the post-war.” “As it turned out” is an odd way to phrase “As should have been obvious to the meanest intelligence”.

    9. Jim Miller Says:

      Subotai Bahadur – Horizontal gene transfer occurs routinely among bacteria. Now that they have better tools and better gene records, scientists are finding it in more and more eukaryotes, as well.

      So, in genetic engineering, scientists are using a technique that is, almost certainly, billions of years old.

    10. Eric Says:


      While I had faith that the OIF invasion would achieve its goal of unseating Saddam, I wasn’t as confident as you about the difficulty of the campaign. I was afraid there would be much higher casualties with harder kinds of combat. But, as it turned out, most of the difficulty was in the post-war.

    11. Eric Says:

      Mike K:
      “One of Bush’s mistakes was to “de-Nazify” Iraq by ridding the Baathists from the governing role.”

      That was standing policy inherited from the Clinton administration, to wit, “The Vice President reaffirmed the Administration’s strong commitment to the objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power, and to bringing him and his inner circle to justice for their war crimes and crimes against humanity” (Gore, 26JUN00). The same policy was mandated in the UNSCRs for the peace operations.

      That’s not to say President Bush was not responsible for the de-Ba’athification – he was Commander in Chief, after all. But it does say that Bush was honoring standing policy that had been promised to the Iraqis by the US president before he was the US president. Bush didn’t just make that up on the fly.

      According to CPA officials, most Baath party officials were vetted then included in the IG.

      As well, the Shia were not the only victims of the “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights, 2002). Nor did Saddam carry out all of his regime’s “widespread terror” by his own hands.

    12. Mike K Says:

      “As should have been obvious to the meanest intelligence”.

      No, there were some adults in the Bush government. Cheney was one. Rumsfeld was another. The Democrats did what they could to cripple the Bush administration but refusing to approve appointments until mid-summer. I think Rumsfeld had three appointments confirmed by August 1.

      After 9/11, of course, the Democrats tried to blame Bush but it was Clinton who ignored everything right up to the Cole Bombing, which was a week before the election.

    13. Grurray Says:

      “the issue that we don’t know and possibly can’t estimate the effects of some modifications is a valid one.”

      I have the same concerns. Applying predictable, mechanistic engineering principles to unpredictable, messy organic systems will always result in overlooking something.

    14. Grurray Says:

      I agree we should have taken out Saddam during the Gulf War. That was probably the best time to do it. There was precedence in Panama just a year prior, so it wasn’t like we didn’t have any experience with that type of thing.

      The more I read Eric’s work and the more I read about the plight of non-Arabs in the Middle East, the more I become convinced that the decision to invade Iraq was really cemented in 1998. Not only from Congressional and UN resolutions, but that was also the year the International Criminal Court was set up. Saddam’s ‘Arabization’ of Northern Iraq, gassings, and forced relocations were declared crimes against humanity. That paved the way for UN action.

    15. Mike K Says:

      We are well on the path to a lost decade with Obama. Carter set up the present dilemma in Iran by “throwing out the Shah like a dead mouse,” as one Iranian general described it. Obama has some weird ideas and seems driven by inner voices no one else can hear. He lives in a world of fantasy. Hillary is a known entity, a crook. If she were to be elected, we would continue the lost decade and end like 1940 France, unable to stir even in the face of an existential threat.

      Will Trump be electable and able to function as president ? I have no idea. I think of him as a bit like Andrew Jackson who was elected by a rabble of populist agitators unhappy with the status quo. I have read Remini’s Biography of Jackson , and maybe should read it again.

      I’m not sure that Jackson was a very good president but we have had worse. I rank Obama with Buchanan.

    16. tomw Says:

      Having watched GMO ‘modifications’ taking place on television, I can only say, they are rolling the dice with any and all GMO plant products.
      The process I observed took but a few seconds. The ‘subject’ plant was placed such that the ‘change media’ could be injected into the plant via compressed air, much like a shotgun.
      To me, that was not engineering. The ‘scientists’ had no idea of what was going to happen by combining plant and animal genes higgeldy-piggily.
      “Hey, Bob, I have an idea. Let’s get some crawfish DNA and shoot it into a potato plant! We could have potatoes that taste like shrimp! Or maybe some Angus DNA, to have potatoes that taste like steak.”

      What I saw gave me no confidence that they knew anything about what the result would be. As I remember, there would be seemingly 100’s of plants grown from the output to determine what they had created.
      I hope they do not come up with, by mistake, a plant that kills all the other plants, or does something like the virus that causes leprosy. Shotgun gene therapy just doesn’t seem scientific.

    17. Mike K Says:

      Craig Venter, who deciphered the human genome, has also done a lot of genetic work on plants. Among others, they have the rice genome data base on line. This is not “shotgun” science. The same accusation was made about his human genome work.

      I don’t think biofuels are going to be important, but if they are these guys will be doing a lot of it.

    18. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>I have the same concerns. Applying predictable, mechanistic engineering principles to unpredictable, messy organic systems will always result in overlooking something.

      Exactly. To paraphrase Dr David Rogers, there are a lots of things in the world that don’t come out of Pennsylvania steel mills with an ASTM certification and a standardized table of properties. That ends up being 99.99% of what’s in the world. His point was, don’t confuse the two. There’s a lot variation in naturally occurring things, both in their natural makeup and in their history, and we have to accept that and account for it.

      There’s also the problem of bundling and silly ‘logic’ that goes on with lots of things. Chemistry makes thing like hydrofluoric acid. Very dangerous stuff. Conclusion:
      * Chemicals are bad!! I don’t want any chemicals in my food!
      * Well, it depends on what chemicals, in what concentrations…
      * No, No, No, I don’t want any chemicals. Chemicals are bad!

      Years ago, NPR (to my shock and amazement) did a spot on how demagoguing people’s natural fear of dangerous chemicals led to bad public policy and use of resources. The example they used was a river, used for a town’s water supply, that contained a very low level of naturally occurring arsenic derived from springs flowing through arsenic containing rocks. The level was well below what’s considered dangerous. Bill Clinton championed using a federal appropriation to build a water treatment facility to remove it. He hammered Republicans in Congress as not caring if people drank poisoned water. ‘But I care’, he said, ‘we need to get clean water for you.’ He won, the money was spent, the facility was built.
      They went on to explain the money used to address the nonproblem was diverted from a real problem, building a much needed sewage facility for a small town. They were using a legacy sewage system with no treatment facility that emptied directly into local rivers. We need to stop using science to advance our political agendas, the NPR spot concluded, and use it rationally as a guide to allocating resources. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

    19. Grurray Says:

      “This is not “shotgun” science”

      I do think that the uncertainty inherent in bio-engineering will be helped by open source methods such as used in software development. As Subotai mentioned up there, Monsanto has allegedly engaged in some questionable practices with quality and safety. Now that their sales are down and their corporate image is at an all time low, they’re trying out these alternative practices. They tried to buy out Syngenta, which saw the writing on the wall several years ago and put some complexity based innovation programs in place.

    20. Eric Says:

      “I agree we should have taken out Saddam during the Gulf War.”

      See President HW Bush’s Remarks on Assistance for Iraqi Refugees and a News Conference, 16APR91, especially the Q&A with reporters. You can see the future in that press conference. The impression is they saw the future of leaving Saddam in power. And that was before Saddam’s defiance of the ceasefire enforcement started in earnest.

      “the more I read about the plight of non-Arabs in the Middle East, the more I become convinced that the decision to invade Iraq was really cemented in 1998 … That paved the way for UN action.”

      The humanitarian piece was a cornerstone of our Iraq enforcement, alongside the disarmament piece, from the beginning of the Gulf War ceasefire – UNSCR 688, adopted 05APR91, paved the way for UN action. A selection of law and policy for the humanitarian grounds of OIF is here.

      I agree 1998 was a watershed for UN action on humanitarian grounds being advanced to regime change. The Kosovo intervention of 1999 which followed similar grounds, although not UNSC certified nonetheless set a key precedent for enforcing the humanitarian piece of OIF, albeit the Kosovo intervention did not have standing UN authorizations like the Iraq intervention.

      An interesting hypothetical about the humanitarian piece that no one has addressed, or at least not published as far as I know, is, what would we have done if Saddam had met us halfway. Picture Qaddafi’s reaction to OIF. As is, Saddam was in material breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, but what if Iraq had complied with UNSCR 687 but then continued to violate UNSCR 688?

    21. Jim Says:

      Dearieme – The neocons are like Hitler’s generals after WWII refighting the war on maps. They always won then.

    22. PenGun Says:

      The point of GMO is to patent their crops, and control farmers. Monsanto leads the world in this. Much ugliness has resulted from this scam.

      Sadam was your boy for years. He even asked, and was given permission to invade Kuwait.

    23. Mike K Says:

      Idiot penny has never seen the signs on every farm in Illinois advertising the hybrid seed they used.

      Jim is off in trollville.

    24. Mike K Says:

      I think we need a better class of troll.

    25. PenGun Says:

      “Idiot penny has never seen the signs on every farm in Illinois advertising the hybrid seed they used.”

      Oh lord, they have to advertise it as well? I’m not sure a hybrid seed is GM, but it could be.

    26. Eric Says:

      Mike K:
      “Jim is off in trollville.”

      Judging from his comments, his view on Operation Iraqi Freedom is based on a demonstrably false narrative.

      If I recall correctly, he claimed terrorism only followed OIF to Iraq despite that Saddam’s regime was a global leader of terrorism, including Islamic terrorism, that rivaled and overlapped the al Qaeda network.

      He even claimed Iraq was innocent on the disarmament issue despite that in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441), UNMOVIC confirmed Iraq’s “continued violations of its obligations” (UNSCR 1441) with “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues”, which triggered OIF. Then the Iraq Survey Group corroborated Iraq was in material breach of UNSCR 687 with the finding of “hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material” (Kay, 28JAN04).

    27. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “Oh lord, they have to advertise it as well?”

      The farms have been posting these signs for as long as I can remember which is about 60 years. You just have no idea what you are writing about. That’s all.

      I suspect it is an ad for the farms’ product.

    28. Kirk Parker Says:

      Jim Miller,

      Wild-caught seafood“, and forest-gathered mushrooms, and anything hunted as long as it’s not at a private hunting reserve that has its own breeding program.


      Speed and precision isn’t the only difference from older techniques. The huge difference for me is that with GMO we know where the other genes came from! With Mendelian cross-breeding, we generally haven’t the slightest clue where the beneficial (to us) modifications, that we are trying to isolate and propagate, came from.


      Oh good grief! “Inner Circle”? By no stretch of the imagination should this have included virtually the entire commissioned-officer corps.

      Mike K,

      I think we need a better class of troll.

      This is one of my fondest desires… but I fear they don’t make them any more (and have lost all the engineering drawings.)

    29. PenGun Says:

      “The farms have been posting these signs for as long as I can remember which is about 60 years. You just have no idea what you are writing about. That’s all.”

      True enough. I was trying to figure out what Mike K was talking about. Dumb of me. ;)