SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

July 30, 2010

About Bones and Vit K2

What’s VitK2 about?

Our Bones

Like me, you have probably noticed  this past year or so more reference to Vitamin K2.  I have wondered what all the fuss was about and why I should care.   After reading Dr Mercola’s latest newsletter,  (don’t you love the way he explains things?). . .it makes sense to me now.   Well, actually the relevance is many-faceted and I would recommend you go straight over and read it all yourself.  What I choose to focus on is the relationship to our bones and why it is seriously positive and helpful.

Just because I don’t speak of it much anymore, doesn’t mean that I don’t STILL worry about Sally Field (2-25-09) but I do respect everybody’s right to do,  act and think as they please, it remains a precious right.  Not just my thinking and/or Dr. McDougall – go see what Dr Mercola says – – pretty much the same thing – stay away from that whole class of pharmaceuticals which some ill-advised doctors are advocating to “strengthen” your bones, up the density and prevent your bones from breaking.    It is so not right!  Having covered this topic frequently, I won’t go into it again now.  If you really want the gorgeously scientific explanation on it run on over to The Paleo Diet and check out Loren Cordain’s archives on bones and how living the Paleo way eliminates all that and why.  We have some great minds at work amongst us – we are living in an age which in many ways is blessed.

Dr Cordain explained about the way healthy bones take care of themselves – it’s built into the cells memory banks and they have much to do,  some of which is tearing down old cells of bones and building up new cells in an ongoing process.  They know what they are doing and have to maintain a balance.  Our main job  is simply to supply healthy, organic sustenance and to move the body around to keep it healthy while enjoying life.  But when taking that class of bone strengthening meds, the bones can no longer break down the old cells and build the new because the meds inhibit them  from functioning, consequently,the thinking is – the bones get denser, which protects from fracturing.  Trouble is,  there have been many fractures occur in these women who have been taking the meds for years – some, more than ten years  and they are breaking in unusual places, like in the upper thigh bones.  It’s a real problem.  It doesn’t pay to mess around with Mother Nature.

The Calcium Trap

A further mistake our rigid medical establishment thrusts on an unsuspecting public is the “Food Pyramid” and the RDA’s for vitamin and mineral needs.  There isn’t an ounce of relevance between them.  But especially harmful is the encouragement to take lots of Calcium (because bones seem to be made of mostly calcium.)  Please remember that huge animals like cows and elephants, etc.,  forage from the fields of green growing flora. Somehow they manage to grow solid, healthy structures of bone that lasts them well for a lifetime without ever taking calcium tablets, or eating ground up shells or rocks.  Just plants.  Let us not forget that humans are a part of that animal classification.  Plants give us all the minerals we need to manifest a healthy bone structure.  To repeat myself  for which I apologize  – I take no calcium, do not use dairy – – and my bones are fine  – so far. . . .  and it was Dr McDougall tapes I bought back in the early 90’s which set me free on that one.

David Wolfe

(I’ll be getting back to K2 any minute now,  just hold on!) I’m trying to get to a point.  Here and there I have mentioned David Wolfe (google him) and some of the great ideas I have picked up listening to his interviews and videos (see YouTube).  In his talks, he speaks of the great harm that over-calcified people are suffering. He describes the taking of increasing amounts of calcium as one of the major cause areas of a number of diseases with which our species is afflicted.   This excess of calcium is gathering in clumps around our joints (arthritis);  plaque build-up in our arteries causing hardening and thickening because it shouldn’t be there.  And it causes inflammation.  So rather than increasing our intake of calcium – we should be looking to find ways to  to rid ourselves of the over supply we now have.


David has a number of suggestions. . . anti-inflammatory supplements help break down the calcium stored in the tissues:

  • MSM  (I use the powder about 1/2 tsp 1 or 2 X daily)  Take with Vit C  1/4 tsp = 1,000 Mg
  • DMSO
  • Vit C  (great anti-inflammatory)
  • all kinds of mushsrooms, reishi, cordaceps, maitaki and so on (great to ramp up immunity)
  • Acai  (can be powerful even break down Cancer cells)
  • Oceans Alive  “marine phytoplankton”  (David takes this)

I can’t really advise on any of this, you are kinda on your own.  I listened to an interview Dr Mercola did with him recently – maybe it is on his site.

A further step in the equation of inflammation and calcium is the “acid/base balance”.  If the foods one eats  result in a net acid load (meats, fish, eggs, dairy, potatoes, legumes and grains and sugars without the necessary offsetting of fruits and vegetables in proportionate amounts – then the high blood insulin levels cause calcium loss.   The acid must be buffered by base in the body like calcium salts which are released from bones and eliminated in urine.  This will lead to osteopenia and ultimately, osteoporosis.  The bones are programmed to maintain the calcium balance, and so they do just that no matter what it costs the body.

When the body is in acid/base balance, it is naturally in calcium balance.  It is just that simple.  When you can see the big picture even in a small way, it becomes easier to understand why it is so important to become familiar with a few basics like acid/base balance,  food combining,  glycemic index and so on.

Dr Mercola – small extrapolation – on VitK2

Vitamin K is unique because it has multiple effects in your body, but doesn’t demonstrate any known toxicity. With research focused on potential effects on your skeletal system, brain, liver, and pancreas, vitamin K is one of the most promising nutrients of our time.*

The vitamin K which I recommend is vitamin K2 – natural, non-toxic, and made in your body as well.

Vitamin K2 includes several menaquinones (MK-n, with the ‘n’ determined by the number of prenyl side chains), such as MK-4 found in meats, MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9 found in fermented food products like cheese and natto.

  • Promote your heart health*
  • Protect and support your skin*
  • Provide the calcium path ‘key’ from your bloodstream to your bones*
  • Boost your overall immune system*
  • Help regulate calcification of your tissues*
  • Provide you powerful antioxidant benefits*
  • Protect your cells against oxidative damage*
  • Aid in supporting your already normal blood sugar levels*

While other nutrients are important for maintaining and promoting your bone health (like vitamin D3, calcium, and magnesium), evidence continues to grow indicating a vital role vitamin K plays in bone metabolism and healthy bone growth.*  In fact it may be the modern day “missing link” to increasing your bone density.   Vitamin K has been linked to osteoblasts, the cells that generate or ‘lay down’ bone and produce a specific protein known as osteocalcin.*

You can think of osteocalcin like the studs in the wall of your house. Basically, osteocalcin acts as the structural framework holding calcium in place in your bones.*    And vitamin K is critical for producing osteocalcin protein.*    Why is this so important? Because osteocalcin cannot perform its job until vitamin K converts it to an active bone-building form.

The bottom line – vitamin K is the ‘key’ that unlocks the door from your bloodstream to let calcium flow into your bones and bone marrow.*

Without this vitamin K key action, you simply wouldn’t have the strong bones you do.* Plus, there’s another area vitamin K plays an important role, particularly vitamin K2.    I mentioned earlier how osteoblasts are important cells responsible for bone formation.    Well, while these osteoblast cells are busy building bone, other cells called osteoclasts are trying to break down bone and remove bone tissue.

Vitamin K2 is so important because, not only has it been shown to stimulate and enhance osteocalcin production, it has also been shown to inhibit osteoclasts and help maintain your bones.*

In his article on K2, Dr Mercola explains that he has produced a special K2 available per his specifications and advises certain foods where we can help ourselves to be sure to get this element into our diets.  It adds an additional amount to our monthly budget which in these days is a touchy thing.   One can eat certain soy products which I won’t do as I can not trust soy any longer due to GMO status.  The fact that it is fermented doesn’t help me – it starts off genetically modified – it can’t get better from there.  Eating large volumes of green leafy won’t do it either because I just can’t eat that much!  The solution is to ingest fermented veggies which I already do.  In point of fact, this may attest to the status of my bones being as healthy as they are at my ripe old age.  (I’ll never tell. . . but the market crashed with my entrance to the planet)

Many people can’t find the time to do the fermented veggies routine.  You can enlist some best buddies to  do it with you – many hands make light work.  Then both families have a supply.  I have some recipes up somewhere on my blog and Wholesome Goodness still has all those fabulous recipes up even though she has quit blogging for now – doing other things.  Alison’s tutorial is what got me going and thru it.  And it was her encouragement when I emailed her with my stunned amazement at how bad it tasted after all that effort and expense!  She admitted it is an acquired taste.  Lets not forget, most of us have lived a lifetime relishing tantalizing, exotic and “sweet” flavors.  So it takes a little training to accustom ourselves to a new and very different set of flavors.  I have an iron will and I was not going to be cheated out of my desire for better health that I sought which Donna Gates at Body Ecology had espoused (and taught).  I have explained this before – – but by the time Alison had got back to emailing me with suggestions on how I could swallow the stuff, I had already overcome my aversion and now craved it.  Apparently, my body was so grateful for it.  It cleared up my particular intestinal problems and I know that I have become healthier because of them.  When one has a healthy intestinal tract, it means you can actually benefit from the good foods you ingest, for this is the very home of the immune system.  If it isn’t workin right, you feel like crap.

And one can get creative.  Some people make it without cabbage.  Some use lots of carrots and apples and   so on.  There are endless possibilities.  I use cabbage, but each batch is different, because I like variety and trying new ideas.       I’m all talked out. . . . .

Take care of those bones. . . . .         Jan

July 29, 2010

BPA on our receipts?

BPA detected often on receipts

Controversial chemical found 40% of time in study

July 28, 2010

By Lyndsey Layton


WASHINGTON – As lawmakers and health experts wrestle over whether the controversial chemical bisphenol-A should be banned from food and beverage containers, a new analysis by an environmental group suggests that Americans are being exposed to BPA through another, surprising route: paper receipts.

The Environmental Working Group found BPA on 40 percent of the receipts it collected from supermarkets, automated teller machines, gas stations and chain stores. In some cases, the total amount of BPA on the receipt was 1,000 times the amount found in the epoxy lining of a can of food, another controversial use of the chemical.

Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental group, said BPA’s prevalence on receipts might help explain why it can be detected in the urine of an estimated 93 percent of Americans, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve come across potentially major sources of BPA right here in our daily lives,” Lunder said. “When you’re carrying around a receipt in your wallet for months while you intend to return something, you could be shedding BPA into your home, into your environment. If you throw a receipt into a bag of food, and it’s lying there against an apple, or you shove a receipt into your bag next to a baby pacifier, you could be getting all kinds of exposure and not realize it.”

What remains unknown is how much of the chemical that might rub off onto the hands is absorbed through the skin or whether people then ingest BPA by handling food or touching their mouths.

First synthesized in 1891 and developed in the 1930s as a synthetic form of estrogen, bisphenol-A has been widely used in commercial products including plastic bottles, compact discs and dental sealants. Although it was regarded as safe for decades, recent research using sophisticated analytic techniques suggests that low doses can interfere with the endocrine system and cause a range of health issues, including reproductive problems and cancer.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry, said that although BPA can transfer from paper receipts to the skin, the level of absorption is low. *

“Available data suggests that BPA is not readily absorbed through the skin,” a spokeswoman said.*

The Environmental Protection Agency, however, recognizing that paper coated in BPA might be a significant route of exposure, launched an effort this month to work with paper manufacturers, the chemical industry and environmental groups to encourage companies to find alternatives to BPA in receipts.

The Environmental Working Group’s report can be found online at

*We all know that the skin is the body’s largest organ.  Further, science tells us that what we put on the skin IS  absorbed into the body..   .   .   .   .   Jan

July 28, 2010

Should Rangel Quit?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jan Turner @ 7:27 pm


Some Democrats ask Rangel to quit

July 28, 2010


WASHINGTON – Several House Democrats are calling on Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., to resign instead of facing an ethics inquiry that could damage the party’s chances at the polls this fall.

Rangel stepped down this spring as chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee after he was admonished for violating House rules by taking corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.

Rangel reportedly is in negotiations to settle the charges, but if he doesn’t, on Thursday he’ll face a trial-like session of a special House subcommittee.

The exact nature of the ethics violations he faces won’t be revealed until the subcommittee meets, although Rangel has faced a lengthy probe for failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets, improper use of several rent-controlled apartments in his Harlem district, fundraising efforts for a college center that bears his name, and failing to pay taxes on property he owns in the Dominican Republic.

This week, Democratic Reps. Walt Minnick of Idaho and Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio called on him to quit.

“Now that the investigation is complete, and provided the facts are as alleged, I think it’s clear that he should resign from Congress,” Minnick said.

(Comment:  This is one brave and valuable man, loved greatly by his constituents, served his country  militarily with distinction , then onto public service for decades with a spectacular list of accomplishments  and a flair for really getting things done.  There is no one to dispute any of that.  To rise so significantly in life to such stature and prominence carries with it a greater responsibility.  Charles Rangel is to be honored and no one wants him to be humiliated nor his talents and accomplishments trivialized.  This is one good man.

To quote Jim Tressel from today’s article on his supporting Maurice Clarrett on trying to put his life back in order:

“We all make mistakes, and some are different mistakes than others. But there are always consequences for whatever the mistake is, and if you take care of that, usually the world is a forgiving world and gives you an opportunity – if you’ll do the right things – to move forward.
. . . . .  .   .   .  so, I am hoping that that this can culminate gracefully and intelligently.    So be it,    Jan)

DNA Tests for Disease “iffy”

Filed under: personalized DNA tests questionable — Jan Turner @ 6:57 pm


DNA tests for disease can’t be trusted, probe contends

A government investigator told members of Congress yesterday that personalized DNA tests claiming to predict certain inheritable diseases are misleading and offer little or no useful information. An undercover investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that four genetic testing companies delivered contradictory predictions based on the same person’s DNA. Investigators also found that test results often contradicted patients’ actual medical histories.      The Food and Drug Administration submitted DNA samples from five staff members to four different genetic testing companies. When considering the same disease, the companies’ results contradicted each other nearly 70 percent of the time, according to the GAO.

(Comment:  It is disturbing to realize that some women are actually removing healthy breasts in response to testing like this.  Fortunes have been spent on this “science.”)

July 27, 2010

GOP seeks Bush agenda again

Filed under: Paul Krugman — Jan Turner @ 12:30 am

Republicans ‍want ‍to ‍hitch ‍wagons ‍to ‍Bush ‍again

PAUL KRUGMAN                                                                                                                writes for the New York Times

For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name.  In 2008, ‍Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House.  After the election, the GOP did its best ‍to shout down all talk   about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed ‍to look forward, not back.   And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even ‍to mention the ‍Bush era and its legacy.

The truth, however, is that the only problem ‍Republicans ever had with George W. ‍Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they ‍want them back. In recent weeks, GOP leaders have come out for a complete return ‍to the ‍Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan ‍to cut future Social Security benefits.

But they have a problem: How can they embrace President ‍Bush‍’‍s policies, given his record? After all, ‍Bush‍’‍s two signature initiatives were   tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq;  both, in the eyes of the public, were abject failures. Tax cuts never yielded the promised prosperity, but along with other policies — especially the unfunded war in Iraq — they converted a budget surplus into a persistent deficit. Meanwhile, the weapons of mass destruction we invaded Iraq ‍to eliminate turned out not ‍to exist, and ‍by 2008, a majority of the public believed not just that the invasion was a mistake but that the ‍Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. What’s a ‍Republican ‍to do?    You know the answer. There’s now a concerted effort under way ‍to rehabilitate ‍Bush‍’‍s image on at least three fronts: the economy, the deficit and the war.

On the economy: Last week Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, declared that “there’s no evidence whatsoever that the ‍Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy.” So now the word is that the Bush-era economy was characterized ‍by “vibrancy.”    I guess it depends on the meaning of the word vibrant. The actual record of the ‍Bush years was 2 1/2 years of declining employment, followed ‍by 4 1/2 years of modest job growth, at a pace significantly below   the eight-year average under Bill Clinton, followed ‍by a year of economic catastrophe. In 2007, at the height of the “‍Bush boom,” such as it was, median household income, adjusted for inflation, was still lower than it had been in 2000.

But the ‍Bush apologists hope that you won’t remember all that. And they also have a theory, which I’ve been hearing more and more — namely, that President Barack Obama, though not yet in office or even elected, caused the 2008 slump. You see, people were worried in advance about his future policies, and that’s what caused the economy ‍to tank. Seriously.

On the deficit: ‍Republicans are now claiming that the ‍Bush administration was actually a paragon of fiscal responsibility and that the deficit is Obama’s fault. “The last year of the ‍Bush administration,” said McConnell recently, “the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent, well within the range of what most economists think is manageable. A year and a   half later, it’s almost 10 percent.”    But that 3.2 percent figure, it turns out, is for fiscal 2008 — which wasn’t the last year of the ‍Bush administration, because it ended in September 2008. In other words, it ended just as the failure of Lehman Brothers — on ‍Bush‍’‍s watch — was triggering a broad financial and   economic collapse. This collapse caused the deficit ‍to soar: ‍By the first quarter of 2009 — with only a trickle of stimulus funds flowing — federal borrowing had already reached almost 9 percent of GDP. ‍To some of us, this says that the economic crisis that began under ‍Bush is responsible for the great bulk of our current deficit. But the ‍Repub‍‍lican Party is having none of it.

Finally, on the war: For most Americans, the debate is old, if painful, news — but not for those obsessed with refurbishing the ‍Bush image. Karl Rove now claims that his biggest mistake was letting Democrats get away with the “shameful” claim that the ‍Bush administration hyped the case for invading Iraq. Let the whitewashing begin!      ‍Again, ‍Republicans aren’t trying ‍to rescue George W. ‍Bush‍’‍s reputation for sentimental reasons; they’re trying ‍to clear the way for a return ‍to ‍Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time ‍Republicans are in power, they’ll behave differently. If you believe that they’ve learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you’re kidding yourself. You might as well face it: They’re addicted ‍to ‍Bush.    ‍

July 24, 2010

WH touting Biotechnology


Why Is the Obama Administration Parroting Monsanto Talking Points?

When key government officials start touting the need for biotechnology there’s reason to be concerned.  Roger Beachy, the Chief Scientist of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), recently told that biotechnology is needed to maximize food production and reduce the use of agrochemicals. “With a greater number of people,” he said, “we’re going to have to have more crop per acre. If we don’t, we’ll have to expand [agriculture] to our parks, forests, and golf courses.” And at first it might seem strange to hear a top government official parroting talking points from Monsanto’s Corporate Responsibility page … until you read his resume, that is. His last job before joining the USDA was as founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a non-profit research institute co-founded by Monsanto and the Danforth Foundation.

Now, another explanation why Monsanto and Roger Beachy have similar talking points could be that both are correct and they are simply explaining the facts about the future of food and agriculture. Do we really need biotech to feed a growing population?

Nope, turns out that we don’t. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, genetically engineered (GE) seeds, to date, don’t translate to more crop yields. And worse, GE seeds have meant the uses of more, not less, chemicals. Jack Heinemann, a professor of genetics and molecular biology, agrees. He points out that no GE crops, to date, were designed with the goal of increasing yield, and while “yield benefits have been observed” they’ve occurred “sporadically and in a year-, location-, and crop-dependent manner.” He does not find evidence for decreased pesticide use in GE crops either.

Allow the Flow – Abraham

Filed under: Abraham-Hicks — Jan Turner @ 8:56 am
Don’t get lost in the diagnosis, the medicine, or in the statistics about what somebody else did about it. If you don’t feel good, it’s because you’re not thinking in a way that allows the Energy to flow. You could just get really, really mad at someone you love and make every muscle in your body stiff. And you would ask,”Why does my body feel this way?” And we say, because you’ve had a Vibrational tug-of-war going on…Stop looking for anything other than your mental and emotional state of being as answers to why you feel how you feel in your body. It is all Vibrational – no exception! And when you get that, then it doesn’t matter what diagnosis has been given to you – it doesn’t matter – it’s temporary.

— Abraham

Excerpted from the workshop in Orlando, FL on Friday, December 20th, 2002 #510

Our Love,
Jerry and Esther

Killing Fields of MNC’s

The Killing Fields of Multi-National Corporations

The Bhopal gas tragedy was the worst industrial disaster in human history. Twenty-five thousand people died, 500,000 were injured, and the injustice done to the victims of Bhopal over the past 25 years will go down as the worst case of jurisprudence ever.

The gas leak in Bhopal in December 1984 was from the Union Carbide pesticide plant which manufactured “carabaryl” (trade name “sevin”) – a pesticide used mostly in cotton plants. It was, in fact, because of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the tragedy of extremist violence in Punjab that I woke up to the fact that agriculture had become a war zone. Pesticides are war chemicals that kill – every year 220,000 people are killed by pesticides worldwide.

After research I realized that we do not need toxic pesticides that kill humans and other species which maintain the web of life. Pesticides do not control pests, they create pests by killing beneficial species. We have safer, non-violent alternatives such as neem. That is why at the time of the Bhopal disaster I started the campaign “No more Bhopals, plant a neem”. The neem campaign led to challenging the biopiracy of neem in 1994 when I found that a US multinational, W.R. Grace, had patented neem for use as pesticide and fungicide and was setting up a neem oil extraction plant in Tumkur, Karnataka. We fought the biopiracy case for 11 years and were eventually successful in striking down the biopiracy patent.

Meanwhile, the old pesticide industry was mutating into the biotechnology and genetic engineering industry. While genetic engineering was promoted as an alternative to pesticides, Bt cotton was introduced to end pesticide use. But Bt cotton has failed to control the bollworm and has instead created major new pests, leading to an increase in pesticide use.

The high costs of genetically-modified (GM) seeds and pesticides are pushing farmers into debt, and indebted farmers are committing suicide. If one adds the 200,000 farmer suicides in India to the 25,000 killed in Bhopal, we are witnessing a massive corporate genocide – the killing of people for super profits. To maintain these super profits, lies are told about how, without pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), there will be no food. In fact, the conclusions of International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by the United Nations, shows that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs.

The agrochemical industry and its new avatar, the biotechnology industry, do not merely distort and manipulate knowledge, science and public policy. They also manipulate the law and the justice system. The reason justice has been denied to the victims of Bhopal is because corporations want to escape liability. Freedom from liability is, in fact, the real meaning of “free trade”. The tragedy of Bhopal is dual. Interestingly, the Bhopal disaster happened precisely when corporations were seeking deregulation and freedom from liability through the instruments of “free trade”, “trade liberalization” and “globalization”, both through bilateral pressure and through the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which led to the creation of the World Trade Organization.

July 23, 2010

Mars vs Venus – one view


Tell Me About It

Marriage is not man vs. woman

Friday, July 23, 2010  02:51 AM

Dear Carolyn: Why do women expect men to be mind readers?

My wife has been grousing around lately. She finally erupted, “Just once, I’d like to come home and find you made the salad for dinner!”

“You want a salad? Call, text or e-mail, and it’s yours!”

To which she replied with those killer words, “I shouldn’t have to!”

It’s the same with gifts. She won’t tell me what she wants except, “Jewelry is always nice.” But she never wears the jewelry I buy her; it doesn’t “go” with her outfits.

I know this is a Mars/Venus question, but we are well-educated, professional people. All I ask is that she tell me what she wants.

– Northwest

Dear Northwest: Why do people attribute to an entire sex the behavior of one person?

Calling this “Mars/Venus” undercuts your professed goal of reaching a compromise because it defines your wife upfront as “other.”  It would be far more productive to see her as a person like you. A person who has wants, needs and doubts. A person who makes choices (both thoughtful and reflexive) based on those inner motivations.

And just like many, both male and female, your wife has an idea of the way a romantic relationship is supposed to look. Apparently, she thinks a loving mate will study her wants and needs and then step up wordlessly to satisfy them.  That romantic cliche is certainly out there for the acquiring, if not from one’s own family, then from the global media family.

And, although we all like to think we’re living at the emotional frontier, creating something unique with our love, newcomers to relationships – and veterans without mentors – tend to follow scripts based on observed behavior.

It’s also not uncommon for such a clunky romantic template to go unchallenged well into a marriage if there’s little flexibility and cooperation between your parents, no good premarital education before your marriage or skilled couples counseling during, no eye-opening trauma and/or no maturity leap from either of you.

If you’d like your wife to chuck her script and talk from her heart, then you have to chuck yours, too. No more playing the sensible, put-upon Mars to her irrational Venus.

From now on, these are the only players: your needs, her needs, your feelings, her feelings, your frailties, her frailties, honesty and your mutual humanity.

“You should have made a salad” offers no remedy, so ask her what the salad thing is really about – feelings, not food. That’s what intimacy is about.

Write to Carolyn Hax – whose column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays – at

July 22, 2010

EWG Farm $ubsidy Database


Government’s Continued Bailout of Corporate Agriculture

By Ken Cook

Washington paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009, but to characterize the programs as either a “big government” bailout or another form of welfare would be manifestly unfair – to bailouts and welfare.

After all, with bailouts taxpayers usually get their money back (often with interest), while welfare recipients are subjected to harsh means-testing, time-limited benefits, and a work requirement, all in order to receive modest-to-pitiful government benefits that are more or less uniform for every applicant.

None of those characteristics apply to America’s farm subsidy system, a sui generis contraption that might have sprung from the fevered anti-government fantasies of tea party cynics if Congress hadn’t thought it up first. The most recent beneficiaries–or at least the ones we are still able to track–are disclosed in this latest edition of the EWG Farm Subsidy Database.

With the passage of the 2007 energy bill and 2008 farm bill, Congress has managed to devise an interlocking maze of subsidies that, taken together, force taxpayers to spend billions of dollars no matter what the condition of the farm economy. First off are the so-called “direct payments” that go out to farmers and landowners even if crop prices and farm profits are setting record highs–and most such records have been set in the past few years–or even if the recipient plants no crop at all. Direct payments have averaged around $5 billion per year since 2005.

Next are the “counter-cyclical payments” that go out when crop prices fall below a level set in law by Congress. These payments have declined from about $4 billion in 2005 to $1.2 billion in 2009, because crop prices have been higher than average over those years. That is a savings of about $2.8 billion.

“Market-loss” payments comprise another type of crop subsidy that slows to a trickle when prices are robust but can gush by the billions from the Treasury when prices dip. The last time that happened, farm subsidy costs topped $20 billion in one year.

The cost to taxpayers of yet another subsidy subsystem, the federal crop insurance program, mushroomed from $2.7 billion in 2005 to $7.3 billion in 2009, precisely because prices were high. The cost of crop insurance goes up as crop prices increase because the government’s premium subsidies, and its subsidies to crop insurance companies for administrative and operation costs, are tied to the cost of policies–and policy expenses rise with crop prices. And since it is taxpayers who pay a good portion of crop insurance claims, the costs we incur for any crop losses climb along with crop prices.

Even after the bitterly contested new health insurance reforms eventually take effect, most crops could fairly be said to have better coverage than many people in this country–and it’s single-payer coverage, at that (the single payer, taxpayer, being you). Taxpayer subsidized crop insurance is available to farmers if their crop is eligible for coverage in their area and provides, at no cost, 50 percent catastrophic coverage to farmers. (In 2008, just four crops–corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat–accounted for more than two-thirds of total acres enrolled in crop insurance and for the vast majority of subsidies through the commodity programs).

Small wonder that since 1995, America’s public option-only crop insurance program has cost taxpayers $35 billion.

One thing government subsidies reliably produce, other than ingratitude and a sense of entitlement among their recipients, is a demand for more subsidies. Commodity crop agriculture, for decades now a virtual ward of the federal government by dint of the aforementioned subsidies, offers fresh proof of that maxim each year.

As the farm policy debate raged throughout 2007 and 2008, corn growers made a point of saying that the farm legislation they were focused on would be coming out of out of the energy committees. Sure enough, the resulting 2007 energy bill mandated American drivers to put 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol in their tanks every year by 2015, with accompanying tax breaks to gasoline blenders that already approximate the $5 billion spent each year on automatic direct payments. Since not even those government props have been sufficient to maintain profitability, the corn ethanol industry has been laying siege to Capitol Hill and the White House to increase the mix of ethanol in gasoline by 50 percent. Next will come a demand to expand the 15 billion gallon annual mandate to 20 billion gallons or more of corn ethanol. And yes, they’ll want continued tax breaks and import barriers with that.

Also in the subsidy queue is a $1.5 billion disaster package that predates the heartrending news of lives lost and property washed away in the Southern United States this spring, and is aimed exclusively at agriculture. An estimated $800 million would be paid out through a 90 percent increase in direct payments, mostly to huge rice and cotton farmers who by definition are already subsidized. They would receive this aid not because their crop was wiped out by bad weather, but because they’ve lost just 5 percent of it, a far cry from the 30 percent threshold that has been customary in ad hoc farm disaster legislation.

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EWG began its research and computer analysis on what has become the Farm Subsidy Database some 17 years ago with the goal of answering a simple question: who is receiving the money?

When the database first went online, in 2004, it left no confusion about where the bulk of the billions in taxpayer subsidies went: to the wealthiest and largest farm operations in the country. It was our hope that by laying bare the convoluted laws and the games individuals and corporations play to maximize their government take, policymakers would feel compelled to reform these programs and better target government assistance to meet desired and stated goals. And let there be no mistake: while some critics may argue that farm subsidies should be eliminated altogether, EWG has always maintained that they have a place, should be focused on small to mid-sized farming operations with demonstrated economic need, and should have limits to prevent large farms from accumulating such a disproportionate share of the benefits. There are enough technological and economic forces already at work, driving the consolidation of farmland ownership and control into the hands of an ever-smaller group of mega-operators. No need for taxpayers to bankroll the demise of the family farm in the name of saving it.

Nor does it make any sense to expect struggling farmers in developing countries to compete against both our farmers and our treasury to scrape together a living in globalized commodity markets.

The improprieties of our farm subsidy system have become such a problem in world trade that the Obama administration has recently inflicted a new subsidy affront on U.S. taxpayers. In order to avoid politically awkward reforms in America’s cotton subsidies, which have been found to contravene World Trade Organization rules, our government has “settled” matters by agreeing to subsidize Brazil’s cotton farmers to the tune of a half-billion dollars over the next several years.

It was also clear that commodity subsidies routinely absorbed, not to say wasted, funds that either could be kept in taxpayers’ pockets, or could otherwise be invested in programs to achieve other, highly desirable public goals. We lack billions of dollars needed to make school lunches healthier, maintain an adequate food safety net for low income Americans, promote local sustainable and organic food systems, or tackle agriculture’s truly daunting environmental and conservation problems.

In other words, policy should make agriculture more sustainable, should be fiscally responsible, and should be fair and equitable for the diverse interests in the U.S. food and fiber system. It is hard to discern any of those principles in the subsidy lists we publish.

EWG has had some success upending the romantic perceptions many Americans have about how their tax dollars are spent on farms and farming. Unfortunately, an examination of the latest data we release today reveals a fundamental lack of reform in farm payments.

From 1995-2009 the largest and wealthiest top 10 percent of farm program recipients received 74 percent of all farm subsidies with an average total payment over 15 years of $445,127 per recipient – hardly a safety net for small struggling farmers. The bottom 80 percent of farmers received an average total payment of just $8,682 per recipient.

In a time of growing federal budget deficits and increasing populist anger over government spending, it would seem prudent to trim wasteful agriculture programs. Instead Congress – at the behest of the biggest agriculture interests representing just five commodity crops – has constructed a system that ensures profits for the largest growers of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat.

Despite claims of reform, many of the top subsidy recipients in this update are the same operations we’ve seen before. Six of the top 10 recipients of commodity payments in 2009 were also in the top 20 in both 2007 and 2008. Of the top 20, 8 were in the list all three years, and 3 more were in 2009 and one other year. In contrast to the public fury over billion-dollar bailouts of Wall Street banks, all 20 top recipients in 2009 received more than $1 million each, several with multi-million-dollar hauls. And this is only one year’s worth of corporate handouts that have gone on for decades.

Three of these repeat offenders did quite well in 2009. California’s SJR Farms received $2,069,453, Louisiana’s Balmoral Farming Partnership received $1,910,834 and Arizona’s Gila River Farms received $1,711,444.

Federal subsidies flow to a favored few crops as well as a favored few farmers. of the Over seventy percent ($170 billion over 15 years) of farm subsidies supported the production of just five crops: corn, wheat, cotton, rice and soybean. Just four of those same favored five: corn, wheat, cotton, and soybean accounted for over 70 percent ($25 billion over 15 years) cost of crop insurance. The vast majority of farm subsidies go to raw material for our industrialized food system, not the foods we actually eat. Even less money goes to support the production of the fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a healthy diet.

In 2009, a full 60 percent of farm subsidies flowed to States represented by Senators serving on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Congressional Districts represented on the House Committee on Agriculture received 37 percent of all farm subsidies that year. Members representing four out of the top five Districts in terms of farm subsidies serve on the House Agriculture Committee. Is it any wonder it is an uphill climb to reform farm subsidies?

Ten states, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, California, South Dakota and Missouri, accounted for 56 percent of total subsidies in 2009.

Finally, while this corporate giveaway has gone on unabated, conservation continues to be shortchanged. While we don’t have the full data for NRCS conservation programs in 2009, in 2008 conservation programs were funded well below their authorized levels. The EQIP program alone received $890 million below its promised level of funding from FY2005-FY2009. Furthermore, conservation has taken a direct hit as a result of the biofuels mandate that has driven up crop prices, causing a boon to commodity farmers and a reduction in price support payments. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program peaked in 2007 – the year Congress passed the new biofuels targets – with CRP payments dropping by 6 percent since then.

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