Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'll Turn 50, Where's My Free Stuff?

On January 11, 2017 I will turn 50.  To many this chronological milestone represents a harsh reminder of beer-soaked sand clumping through life's hourglass, a grim reminder of aging and the unpleasantries of human senescence. 

I look at it as a way to start cashing in my chips for free stuff and early bird discounts. 


Frankly, I think it is all crap. It doesn't phase me a bit, but I'll take the bonus goods for eclipsing an arbitrary chronological metric.


I spent my first 35 years in school and postdoc time, scrounging for change, and taking any job that would give me five bucks or a sandwich. I could never figure out why the elderly got the discounts. Not only did they have all of the money, they also had social security. 

Senior discounts seemed wasted on the old.  I was the one that really needed the free bagel. 

I was taken back to January 10th, 1988, the day before my 21st birthday, and how the next day I'd be magically responsible enough to buy the alcohol I had been enjoying for four years already.

After the milestone of 21 years old my auto insurance rates dropped at 25.  Big deal.  Then I set my sites on 50 and put a big red X on the calendar, 25 years in the future. 

Now that marked date happens next month.  Many places consider 50 as eligible for certain discounts and freebies.  I'm interested in nailing those down now so that I can plan a 2017 filled with discount shit.  I've paid my dues, now I want them refunded. 

First stop, "senior coffee" at Arby's.  Mine. And then I'll bench press more than anyone that works there. 

So-- what do you know internet?  Where do I get something for free, just because I somehow managed to avoid the dirt nap for half a century?

What I've found so far:
  • Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
  • Bealls Outlet: 15% off on every Tuesday (50+ or “fifty & fabulous” as customer service told me)  verified
  • Peebles: 20% off with 50+ card on Tuesdays (50+)
  • Traditions Restaurant (East TX): Senior platter meal for $4.71 (50+) verified
  • Tea Room Cafe: 10% off for seniors (50+)
  • Kagle’s Barbecue: 10% off (50+)
  • American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50 +)
  • Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service
  • Chili’s: 10% off
  • Dairy Queen: 10% off
  • Krispy Kreme: 10% off
  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Comment on Natural News


I needed a picture of myself to send to organizers of an upcoming conference. I found this in Google images and was curious what it was:



So I clicked the link and it took me to a Natural News story that talked about how I "receive bribes", "run scams", engage in "corruption".  It says that Monsanto provides me with money to take luxury vacations in Hawaii.  It was all assembled from cherry-picked comments in my personal emails that I willingly handed over to USRTK.

Of course, none of that is true. 

it is simply an opportunity to hurt someone, so Mike Adams used his reaching website to produce a (well, one of many) story that was false and potentially very damaging.  



When you read the comments section you see how this hateful rhetoric whips people into a frenzy.  This is just one example.  Five likes! 

I thought that since it has been a year I could provide a factual synthesis of the situation and maybe at least have the proper story out there in space. So I wrote this in the comments section:


Hi Everybody, it's me, the guy that is the subject of this piece. I stumbled upon now, more than a year after it was posted. It was a sad attempt to harm my credibility as a researcher and scholar that helps the public understand science. A couple of quick notes. I run a science communication workshop. When someone offers to pay me to do a lecture or seminar, that money could go in my pocket-- but instead goes to the workshop. I financed this for years, along with organizations that would donate (farm bureau, etc).

Monsanto offered to do the same thing. That's great. It is expensive to rent a venue, travel somewhere, put out coffee and sandwiches, provide media/materials. They did the right thing. They didn't give me a script, not even a hint. They said, "We think your program in teaching scientists how to speak to the public is a good thing."
And for that, I was very grateful, and promised an excellent return on their investment-- that return being a scientific community more likely to engage the public about science.

All of this was public record (that's why it was in the emails too), all above board. Zero went to me. Zero went to my research. Zero. In the end my university took it and put it into a campus food bank because of threats against me, my lab, and my family. We had police presence in the building and the
Domestic Terrorism Task Force involved.

Because of articles like this. Read the comments below. This stokes hate.

There was no bribe, no scam, no corruption. It was a manufactured story produced from my emails which I freely provided.

Luxury hotels in Hawaii? Ha! Motel 6 in Columbia, Missouri! "Unrestricted gift" is university accounting language for "no strings attached" or "no delieverables." That means that the donor gets nothing in return. Zero.

The good news is that Adams' hateful rhetoric and the comments below are all screenshots that will be used in upcoming books, documentaries, etc about how activists try to destroy scientists' careers in vaccines, climate and genetic engineering.

The other good news is that this kind of hate brought a scientific community to my defense. I've won awards and earned tremendous respect for weathering such a vitriolic, personal attack.

Of course, all of my funding, reimbursement, etc are all public record and can be seen on my website at any time. Check it out. Not a cent from Monsanto was ever seen for research or to me personally, and not a cent was ever used for the workshops. Reach out if you ever have questions, I'm always glad to answer them.



I hit the button to post my reply, only to find out that it is "...waiting to be approved by Natural News."




It is amazing. Not only do they publish falsehoods that stoke vitriolic response, they don't afford their target to even present the factual interpretation.

Oh well. At the same time mine would be the first comment posted in a year, so maybe nobody cares anyway.

But I'm glad I saw this Adam's hit piece. It reminded me of where we were a year ago and how far we have come, and how far they had to sink. It reminds us of the anger, hate, and slander we have to endure when we simply teach science.

Amazing times.


**** Irony Alert! --for what it's worth, 20 minutes later the comment was apparently not approved, as it was removed. The people that scream for a 'right to know' are the first to censor what they don't want you to know. ****

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mythbusting "Terminator Genes"

The discussion of the concept of Terminator Genes is important.  Many people feel that this technology is a reason to not adopt genetically-engineered crops.  Vandana Shiva speaks of the technology as though it is present in every plant. 



However, the story is much more interesting and is the subject of today's podcast.  The technology only existed in concept, maybe in a few plants that never left a greenhouse.  It was originally devised to limit gene flow, one of the issues that critics raise today.  However, it was never even close to commercialization. The story is told by Dr. Mel Oliver, the USDA scientist that developed the idea. 

The story is important to know.  Why do people claim that this technology is widespread?  The answer is that it is a way to create fear.  Why does anyone them, when their claims are not true? 




Thursday, December 8, 2016

More USRTK Harassment - My Correspondence with Journalists

It has been a couple of months now since I received a public records requests from USRTK or The Food Babe Vani Hari.  They love reading the boring emails of a lifelong public scientist, hoping that they can funnel off specific statements and feed them to writers that can fabricate bogus accusations. 

After turning over about 27,000 pages of email under records requests in the last two years without any resistance, they found no smoking gun.  Gary Ruskin originally said that he wanted to know why a scientist would possibly provide science-based answers on a website where the public asks questions. That was the original probe.

After 27,000 pages of email, they can see that I've done nothing wrong, nothing unethical, and that I'm pretty happy to enjoy a casual conversation with others. 

But now they want more.  After they've retrieved all correspondences between me and every company you can think of, every other scientist in my discipline, and even entities I've never heard of--- now they want my interactions with the media. 



They could not intimidate me and other scientists from sharing the science, so now they want to break our ties to media-- the people that help us tell science's stories. 



Why?  This makes little sense.  Do they think I'm being secretly paid off to talk to the public by someone that writes for the Washington Post

My only thinking is that they feel if you can't stop the science, you can at least break its connection to significant media outlets. 

The good news is that I don't think I have many correspondences with the folks in question.  There might be a few things here and there, and absolutely nothing that qualifies as a "public record" by definition. They'll get a few dozen pages of niceties, maybe a few questions answered, that kind of thing. 

But will this have a chilling effect on writers who want to interact with qualified scientists in controversial areas?  This is exactly what happened to Michael Mann in the climate change attacks.  Activists couldn't silence him, so they intimidated the channels that would share his story.

Once again, the attacks on science and reason from a well-funded, industry-sponsored activist group will cost a public university substantial time and money.  They'll violate the privacy of journalists that may have asked questions because ironically, they felt they had a right to know

The saga continues.  Intimidation, harassment, and a lame attempt to further silence science and those that communicate it. 













Sunday, December 4, 2016

GE Crops in Organic Production?

Dr. Mark Williams has extensive training in molecular biology.  He also is interested in sustainable crop production, and leads training in organic production at University of Kentucky.  In this interview he speaks about the intersection of these areas, touching on how what have been treated as disparate approaches really fit well together.  Dr. Williams touches on  gene editing, food labeling, environmental impact, and how education efforts need to focus on sustainable agriculture using the best tools going forward.  Hosted by Dr. Paul Vincelli

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Post-Truth and Ag Policy: Boulder County Colorado

I've known of the stewing agricultural pressure cooker known as Boulder County, Colorado for several years, and this week the inevitable happened.  Affluent city dwellers have used post-truth emotional arguments to denounce scientific and agricultural experts, placing their Whole-Foods-informed truthiness above evidence. 

The county harbors 25,000 acres of farmland, most of it under needed irrigation.  The space has been greened by annual plantings dominated by corn and sugar beets.  Over the last two decades these crops have transitioned to genetically engineered (familiarly "GMO") seeds that bear traits to limit farmer costs and reduce environmental impacts. 



Boulder County plans to restrict farmer seed choice based on politically-motivated, emotionally driven rhetoric that denies basic scientific facts.

But last week a county council voted 2 to 1 to 'phase out' the use of genetically engineered seeds, putting restrictions on farmers about the plants they choose to grow.  

I won't try to tell the story in its entirety, but I want you to please read this post by area farmer Fameur Rasmussen Jr.  He is a member of Farmers Alliance for Integrated Resources, a collection of area farmers that has united to present a codified voice in county politics.   His post is a testament to the post-truth decisions in agriculture foisted on farmers by those that know nothing about farming. 

I've spoken to this group. They are impressive, dedicated, and understand the science. I really feel for them now. 

Get to know this story.  This is the most prominent example of government overstepping into a private business decision, limiting choices for farmers because -- well, "Because we said so." 

In conclusion, many of my friends and colleagues wonder how Hillary Clinton lost the election.  This is a key example of why.   It is frequently embarrassing to be a progressive when those of similar stripes ignore (or outright deny) evidence.  On the other hand, the farmers affected by left-leaning, science-free policy  vote in droves in an effort to protect their interests from clueless ideologs aflamed to interfere with their operations.

Those that claim to be forward-thinking progressives best reign in their policymakers.  Ignoring science and evidence is a dangerous place that will only backfire.  

Science is not a democracy.  We don't vote on what's true.  Evidence matters. 

Science always wins.