Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter266



Letters to the Editor

(July 1, 2013)


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On Gilles d'Aymery's Privacy And Digitalism

To the Editor:

I've just read Gilles d'Aymery's "Privacy And Digitalism" in Swans, June 17. He touches on whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelation that the US National Security Agency knows everything about everyone in the world. It doesn't surprise Aymery:

"There is nowhere to hide. And that does not take into account the biggest snoopers of all, the consumer outfits that track all purchases, whether on line or in stores, for profits -- they are much more intrusive at a personal level than ECHELON or the NSA, which could not give much of a damn about small fishes."

I share his indignation. The neoliberal world, (i.e., the world) cast each of us as nothing more than a potential consumer. There's no need to read Marx on commodification to feel we have been degraded to the limit by letting the marketeers mutilate our humanity in this way.

Of course, NSA concentrates on the big fish. But Snowden had been a minnow before he spoke up. He knew what becoming a whale would mean. (We can forgive him for wanting "to save the world." There are worse crimes.) In his interview of June 6 with Glenn Greenwald, Snowden pointed out what the storage of total information meant. When it was decided to cast suspicion on someone, the accusers could sift through everything the person said and did since childhood, including all his associations and friendships. Who could not destroy anyone at all with that wealth of material? William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said of NSA snooping that "law abiding citizens" have nothing to fear. One assumes Hague abides by the law. But give me the lowdown on his doings from the years when hair still grew on his head and I'll smear him with insinuations till his eyes pop.

Looking over today's NY Times, I find that Snowden has now revealed something new: "A set of classified documents disclosed Sunday revealed that American and British intelligence agencies monitored world leaders and diplomats at trade conferences in 2009." This recalled a Reuters report of last week: "German outrage over a US Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi." Vivianne Reding, European Union commissioner, is in shock. She wants to know what will happen to the three billion pieces of data collected from Europe by NSA in the single month of March 2013. I To the mind of an observer outside the American mindset and territorial limits, this is the most astonishing aspect of the Snowden affair. Reactions to NSA activities in the U.S. have been indignant about Americans being spied on by their government. There's been next to no concern about the rest of the world being spied on. And, imagine, there are still Americans naive enough to ask, "Why do THEY hate us?"

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - June 17, 2013


On Michael Barker's Beyond The Macrobiotic Faithful (Part III of III)


Your very interesting Web site and your mission are laudable. However, I found the lack of balance in the article, "Beyond the Macrobiotic Faithful," to be disturbing.

It has abundant praise for Mark Retzloff. And although, as far as I could see in a cursory review, the article is factually accurate but it grossly misses the opportunity for balance.

There is little doubt that Mr. Retzloff is one of the most successful investors and entrepreneurs in the organic industry. However, he has engaged in unlawful activity and his business model, the industrialization/corporate takeover of organics, has dramatically undermined the opportunities for family-scale farmers to make a living and compromised the working definition of organics for consumers.

His role as one of the founding investors and executives at Horizon is noteworthy. The company started out by purchasing its milk from family farmers in Wisconsin, but quickly raised venture capital that was used to convert a 4500-cow milking operation in the desert of Idaho. It used that advantage to build a commanding market share, which it still enjoys today.

Retzloff and others made millions by issuing an IPO and then selling out to Dean Foods, the second largest dairy concern in the world.

He and his partners then invested the proceeds to start Aurora Dairy (also mentioned in the article). They have managed to undermine the integrity of the organic label. They operate five giant factory farms in Texas and Colorado and have "stolen" the opportunity to go into organics for, literally, hundreds of farm families around the country.

USDA investigators found Aurora in "willful" violation of the law and recommended that they be banned from organic commerce. Retzloff hired a powerful Washington lawyer/lobbyists and negotiated a probation settlement with the USDA under the Bush administration. They are still operating. Without a cent of fines. Although they did pay a multimillion dollar consumer fraud settlement concerning the matter.

And finally, Rudy's Organic Bakery was mentioned. It's a giant industrial operation that ships frozen organic bread all over the country. Retailers then defrost the bread and display them as "fresh."

This has undermined the market for many local and regional truly exemplary bakeries, like the biodynamic bakery in Southeast Wisconsin, Nokomis, which went out of business. Ironically that outfit is a strong national player in the biodynamic movement (I wonder if the Rudolph Steiner Foundation knows what kind of damage their investments have resulted in).

There's just a little bit of balance that was not included in Mr. Baker's article. If Mr. Baker had just clicked on the second page of Google results for "Mark Retzloff" he would've seen the following entry: http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/02/news/companies/aurora_follow.fortune/. And there are hundreds of others including from The New York Times.

Respectfully yours,

Mark A. Kastel
Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute
Cornucopia, Wisconsin, USA - June 17, 2013


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Published July 1, 2013
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