Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dole:Desperate & Dispicable

After a previous column, I decided that I would write no more columns on Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)or the North Carolina Senate race. However, Dole has stooped to such a low that her actions can not be left unaddressed.

Dole, down only a few points in the polls, but considered a goner politically, has apparently panicked and reached a level of desperation that is difficult to comprehend. Accusing her opponent of being an atheist (to echo Colin Powell, " and what if she was?") in a deliberate effort to mislead the voters of North Carolina.

Being labeled an atheist in American politics is the quickest route to defeat. Ethnic minorities, homosexuals, even socialists are more likely to be elected to office than an atheist. As far as I am aware, only Rep. Pete Stark, (D-CA) is an admitted atheist among the 535 members of the House and Senate.

It's a shame that Dole, who has a political resume as hefty as anyone in the Senate, has to resort to such an obvious ploy. Elizabeth Dole no more believes that her opponent, State Senator Kay Hagan, is an atheist than she believes the moon is made of cheese. The first of these fliers that I personally received, (four in total, so far) was so far over the top that I actually checked to see if this was some sort of political satire. Unfortunately, Dole's name appears right on the mailer. Now Dole has begun to run TV ads that end with her opponent's face and the words, "There is no God." The implication is that Hagan is speaking the words, which is factually untrue.

Hagan, a former Sunday School teacher, is already on the defense addressing the issue head on. There are rumors that the campaign is reportedly planning to sue the Dole campaign due to the false nature of the ad.

It is important to comment on this ad campaign for reasons other than those stated above. Elizabeth Dole is demonstrating that she has nothing else to offer but a tragic distortion of reality in order to attempt a dispicable manipulation of voters. Voters, it must be noted, for whom Dole has nothing but contempt. These ads are as close as I have ever seen any politician come in attmepting to insult the intelligence of the voters and get away with it.

Elizabeth Dole has destroyed whatever political legacy she may have had with this smear. If her political views are so out of step with her constituents that she can not even run on them, but must instead resort to what will ultimately be seen as one of the sleaziest attacks of this whole election (quite a feat considering all the competition), then Dole should have never attempted to run for re-election.

Elizabeth Dole, you should be ashamed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

He's Not! But What if He Was?

No, not a Muslim. A socialist. Lately the McCain-Palin Campaign has taken to tossing the word "socialist" around when discussing Barack Obama. His health care plan is "socialized medicine," his tax plan is cast in class warfare terms, and there is an obvious attempt to pretend that he is the reincarnation of Karl Marx.

Such statements demonstrate just how stupid the right wing of America believes the populace to be. Were Obama's health care plan socialist, the doctors would be employed by the government and there would be no insurance. The savings in paperwork alone (Sarah Palin might call these "cost efficiencies"), would substantially lower the cost of health care, but that is not the point. When it comes to the tax plan, it is complete claptrap to imply that tax credits to those who earn so little that they don't pay taxes, is somehow "wealth redistribution." But again, that is not the point. The point is that Obama is NOT a socialist and the McCain camp knows better. It is an utter disgrace to John McCain that he is running such a dishonest campaign and is attempting to smear Obama with what is a clear lie.

In confronting the lies and smears of McCain-Palin, a larger issue is nearly lost. Just as Colin Powell rightfully questioned the line of attack against Obama that attempts to smear him as a Muslim by asking "What if he was?", the same question can be asked of the attempted socialist smear. WHAT IF HE WAS?

The idea of America is that everyone has the freedom to believe in whatever they wish. You may worhip Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or a tree. You may even worship money and call yourself a member of the state religion-capitalism. And yes, you may even call yourself a socialist.

The turning of the term liberal into a pejorative by Reagan conservatives, caused such a shift in the public perception that leftists disappeared. Political identification as socialists or communists or any other group to the left of moderate Democrats became political suicide. As a result, the nation ignored it's history and shifted dangerously to the right. The result has been massive military intervention abroad, usurpation of civil liberties, politicization of the legal system and economic chaos, among other problems.

It is time for a New Left to appear in American politics. Rather than running from labels such as "Socialist," it is time for a resurgence of ideas from the other end of the political spectrum. The last time America was willing to experiment with ideas that even approached what might be legitimately called socialism, was when another administration of free market robber barons nearly destroyed the country and had to be bailed out.

America was built by Socialism. The interstate highway system, the mass inoculation programs, the building of the very infrastructure of this country were all due to socialist ideas. Public utilities, national parks and government monuments are all socialistic by nature. The few programs that do anything for the poor and elderly, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, could easily be seen as socialist triumphs.

Except for one thing. Everyone is afraid to use the label as anything but a negative. That, unfortunately, is what is holding us back from the change that we really need. What America needs is some good old fashioned Socialism. We need health care run for people, not for profit. We need massive investment in infrastructure. Our bridges are falling, our roads are crumbling and our parks are neglected. A massive public works program to address these needs would also have a stimulatory effect on the economy. Developing alternative energy sources would not only free us from petrol slavery, it would also boost the economy and lead to true energy security. It's much easier to shut down a power plant than 100 million buildings with solar panels providing independent energy.

So why not socialism? Ralph Nader states that his father once told him the reason that capitalism would always exist is that socialism would always bail it out. Does socialism exist only to bail out capitalists? It seems so in this country. Privatizing the profits while socializing the costs seems to be our natural instinct. Witness T. Boone Pickens plan for wind power. What he neglects to point out in his advertising is that the most expensive infrastructure necessary for his plan will be picked up by the taxpayers at the public utilities. T. Boone just picks up the money. Even in the bailout, after finally agreeing to take equity stakes in the banks, the government makes it clear it will sell those shares as soon as they become profitable. Wouldn't capitalists see that as bad business?

Let's be clear on what socialism really is in America. It is the willingness to work together for the common good. It is the unwillingness to let the common wealth of the nation and people be taken by the greedy and self-entitled. Right now America needs a healthy dose of socialism.

Having said the above, it's too bad Obama is not a socialist.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Socialized Medicine: If Only.

The United States has finally turned its attention to the issue of health care. Sadly, the real solution to this morass is being avoided like the plague. In the recent presidential debate, both candidates made an effort to convince the public that they were on top of the issue. Unfortunately, both plans are flawed, McCain's fatally so.

The problem with all solutions to health care in America stem from the commitment to make sure that, no matter what, insurance companies will still run the show. Bean counters, not doctors, make decisions whenever money becomes an issue. Any health care system that is geared towards profit will necessarily err on the side of accountability and not care. In health care, profit is most appropriately seen as the withholding of service.

Conservatives mock the current plans of the Obama campaign as socialism. If only this were true. Even under a single payer plan, there is still incentive to cut costs, i.e. deny care, to provide "fiscal responsibility." The only way to provide health care and not leave everyone on the hook in case of catastrophic health issues is socialized medicine.

Why won't we accept the solution that is staring us in the face? I guess we think it's better to pay twice what the rest of the world does for health care (approximately $6100 per person) and still not receive what we need. What a way to run a country.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Friends: The Manchurian Candidate

In the second debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, McCain's verbal tic of beginning or ending every statement with "my friends," was on full display. By my own count he used the expression at least 17 times and I have seen counts of up to 23 by other writers. Anyone who has seen McCain speak is aware that his pace in the debate, whether it be 17 or 23 times, was well below his usual frequency of use for this phrase.

Whether he uses "my friends," unconsciously, and it reflects mild neurological damage, or he uses it deliberately as a bit of neuro-linguistic programming to make audiences identify with him, the phrase has begun to grow tiresome and invites questions of his sincerity and/or mental status. In any event, it has become standard fare for McCain jokes.

But it was not the continued overuse of "my friends," that I most noticed at the debate. I expected it, again, as did anyone who has seen McCain speak more than once. However, what grabbed my attention, was a phrase McCain used in his last response, in one of the last sentences he spoke during the debate. He was wrapping up his answer, when all of a sudden, instead of "my friends," he said, out of the blue, "Comrades." While it was a change of pace, "comrades" seemed a bizarre choice of words for an individual tortured by communists.

Can you say "Manchurian Candidate?" Could it be that McCain's verbal gaffe is a tell-tale sign? Recently, the McCain campaign has attempted to smear Obama through a "guilt by association" campaign that nearly accuses him of being in a sleeper cell. This is a dangerous tactic for anyone with McCain's background.

Thus far, it has been considered out of bounds to question McCain's war record. The fate of the world is too important for politeness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has destroyed the lives of numerous individuals forced to endure war and torture. Why should we believe that John McCain is any more immune to PTSD than anyone else? McCain has demonstrated a volatile temper over the years, he seems trapped in his thinking about winning wars, and as his comments in the debate suggest, my friends, he may not be over the trauma of those years in confinement. Perhaps his hostility to veterans issues is explained in part by his efforts to minimize or deny any suggestion that he was damaged in captivity in any way except physically.

I admire John McCain for his stand, while a POW, that others had to come home first. However, I am also CONCERNED that his time as a POW may have rendered him unfit for office. It may be impolite and impolitic to suggest that his mental health should be questioned, however, it may be ruinnous not to do so.

If there's nothing to worry about, why won't McCain release his health records? How about his debriefing after he came back from Vietnam? He frequently refers to his time as a POW. It is time that the record be made clear and fully examined.

Can America afford to elect any more presidents whose mental abilities are questionable?

Elizabeth Dole: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Elizabeth Dole, it is time to click your heels and go back to Kansas. Senator Dole (R-NC), entered the U.S. Senate with great fanfare. As a former president of the Red Cross, an ex-cabinet secretary (Transportation under Reagan and Labor under Bush I), and a viable presidential candidate, Dole was supposed to wield unprecedented power for a freshman senator. Taking over the seat of Mr. Conservative, Jesse Helms, was supposed to somehow bring her an even greater authority.

Unfortunately, even for those who might agree with her politically, she has been an unmitigated flop. In her six years in the U.S. Senate she has sponsored no significant legislation and has exhibited little to no leadership. For those who disagree with her (as this writer most certainly does), she has proved nothing but an irritation and an embarrassment. Falling on the wrong side of almost every issue, she has been little more than a rubber stamp for Bush Administration policies. For that, she must suffer her worst condemnation. It was exactly the sort of politician, with the resume of Dole, who could have stood up and confronted Bush at his worst. When he undermined the Constitution, when he rationalized torture, when he abandoned Katrina victims, and when he decided to destroy the economy, where was Elizabeth Dole? Right there in the cheering section. It was during this time that Dole could have had her greatest effect, but instead she opted for political cowardice.

Letters to Dole (of which this writer has authored many) receive pro-forma responses that are nothing more than insults to constituents. Attempting to hide her actual positions, she typically responds with nothing but platitudes.

Of course, who would have expected anything different from Dole? Dissimulation and distortion are her primary political assets. When she first chose North Carolina as the state from which to nab a Senate seat, she assured us that it was only because she had to move here to care for her ailing mother. Yes, apparently we were supposed to believe that caring for her mother was necessary enough to require her to move here from Kansas, but that it afforded her enough free time to run for the Senate. On the face of it, those two things seem inherently contradictory.

Her mother, who died in 2004, seems to have freed her from the need to travel back and forth to North Carolina. Reportedly spending only nine (9) days in the state in the last year, when not campaigning, Dole is showing the people of NC where her heart lies.

It's time to send her back where she came. Time to go home to Kansas and back to Bob. Just click your heels three times, Liddy, and you'll be back on the farm in no time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fooled Again

Now that the bailout has passed and the stock market continues to tank and the credit squeeze gets tighter, will someone finally admit that we have just thrown good money after bad. Why would we have thought it would be any other way? The very people who have been wrong about almost everything (the Bush Administration, in case you missed it) first told us that disaster was on the way. "The sky is falling, but we can fix it," would have been an appropriate caption.

Now, post bailout, things continue to get worse. European banks are experiencing their own crisis, Asian stocks are off and banks continue not to loan money. Wasn't the bailout supposed to fix that?

Oh, I see, you actually believed the Bush Administration when they said this cash give away was necessary for the economy. Yea, and privatization led to the efficient clean-up post-Katrina. Of course, privatization and the bailout are ultimately, or should I say, intimately, connected. Both efforts reflect the real agenda of the Bush Administration - dismantle the government and strip all the assets for their cronies. Somehow they have managed to outdo themselves. They've managed to finance all of this by pawning off the debt on the public.

Now that the bailout has passed and the economy continues to tank, we see the real reason Henry Paulson had such a difficult time explaining the plan: there was no plan. The Bush-ites have done it to us again. They have pulled the wool right over our eyes. Just like the Patriot Act, just like the abuses of power, just like everything else.

And that, my fellow ripped-off citizens, is the real shame.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saved (Momentarily) by Incompetence

In failing to pass the bail-out/give-away to Wall Street, the House of Representative stumbled, at least momentarily, into carrying out the will of the people. This failure is most noteworthy, not for its effect on the economy, but for its stunning defeat in an era when the final votes are a foregone conclusion.

Cowed by fear of voters so close to the election, the House members voted in whatever way would benefit them back in the home district. A few dogmatic sorts on both sides, for completely different reasons, banded together with those afraid of their constituents, and the "Peevish 12," who apparently changed their votes at the last minute because their feelings were hurt. This group formed the nucleus of those who voted "no." For the time being we are saved.

One might reasonably argue with analysis that suggests the failure of the give-away is a necessarily good and saves us. However, what seems inarguable is that the bill failed not because our representatives did not desire to turn over $700 billion to $1trillion to the greedy, incompetent miscreants that caused this alleged crisis, it is that they were unable to do it in a way that satisfied their own needs.

But do not rest easy. Those who are bent to steal all of the common wealth of the nation have only a little while longer to pillage before the worst administration in history is out of office. The politicians in Congress, the worst that money can buy, will now be called onto the rug for their attempted display of independence. A bill will eventually be passed and you can be assured that the details will show who really pulls our leaders strings.

We cannot expect the momentary display of incompetence to save us forever. Usually the incompetence of politicians works against us (e.g. the failure of the Democrats to defeat the Republicans in every election they have blown over the years). Soon the incompetent will rise to their usual level.

Certainly the Democrats are trying. What possesses this bunch of spineless, weak-willed, alleged liberals, that keeps them toadying up to, and voting for the policies of the Bush Administration? If the Democrats had any competence as a party at all they would refuse to go along with anything proposed by the Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration, wrong on almost everything; Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, Patriot Act, energy policy, human rights, etc., suddenly is about to be given a blank check. If the Democrats have any ability to see past trying to blow another election or have any concern for the people they claim to represent, they will refuse to accept this bail-out/give-away. If they truly want to lead this country and represent the people they should demand equity ownership of any corporation participating in this action. Further, any money that goes out should be loaned, with interest. We're talking about bankers, they should understand interest. Finally, if the government is going to get into the banking business it should at least be smart about it. Rather than overpaying for assets, the government, as the representative of "We the People," should dictate terms just like good capitalist bankers do, and pay pennies on the dollar for these assets. That's the way the free market would operate if the situations were reversed. To do otherwise is to allow theft from the public.

Time, for once, to be saved by competence. What of the odds of that? I don't know. Let's bet $700 billion.

Free-Dumb: A definition

Free-dumb: 1) negating the importance of intelligence, education, knowledge and judgment as necessary pre-requisites for public office. 2) belief that those without knowledge or expertise are somehow better qualified to lead. 3) acceptance of the last eight years.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer