Friday, December 18, 2009

More Important than Polls and Constituents

2009 will be remembered as the year when politicians quit pretending to listen to their constituents and actually stopped paying attention to polls. Instead, they paid attention to who pays for their attention - their contributors.

Sen. Joe Lieberman leads the list as we now know that the (I) that usually follows his name stands for "Insurance Industry," rather than "Independent." Republican'ts as a group stood up for their industry backers and did all they could to kill reform that their constituents overwhelmingly supported.

Of course, there was a different response when the favorite envelope stuffers on Wall Street came begging. Quickly, funds were dispersed, the bail out floundered and the bankers who caused the near catastrophe got even richer, laughing all the way to, well, their place of employment. Bipartisanship flourished in a spirit of politicians having their backers yank their chains like lap dogs.

A special tone deaf award goes to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) (or is it Baccus (X-Sextopia)?) for his shameless attempt to nominate his girlfriend to be a judge. It is true that his girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, who now works at the Justice Department is probably qualified for the post. But to nominate your girlfriend, I guess that Baucus has never heard of avoiding the appearance of impropriety. Who does he think he is - a "C" streeter? But why would he worry about such minor things after selling us all out with his health care negotiations.

The Ironic Honesty award for all of 2009 must go to Sarah Palin. Quitting halfway through her first term so she could "better serve" her constituents, she did so in spite of herself.

Most Lawless Nation or Twisted Priorities

Nothing is as easy as denouncing an evil doer. Nothing so difficult as understanding him. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The United Nations recently released figures that note that the United States has 100,000 more people incarcerated just for drug offenses than the entire European Union has locked up for ALL crimes. Making this statistic even more striking is the fact that the EU has 100 million more citizens than the U.S.

It should further be noted that the United States has more people incarcerated per capita than any nation that has ever existed including the Soviet Union in the days of Stalin and apartheid South Africa. Add in that we are one of the top ten nations as regards executions and we appear to be particularly lawless.

Is that really the case. No, in fact, it is not that the U.S. is any more lawless we have just chosen to incarcerate as the primary means to deal with our social woes. No money for social services, no money for juvenile delinquency prevention programs, no literacy, no after school care, no education. Certainly, no health care. Just prisons and war.

It's a matter of priorities.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In Case You Missed It

In case you missed it among the many news stories tallying Tiger Woods dalliances or climate deniers screaming about stolen emails, a truck load of radioactive waste wrecked somewhere in Nevada last week.

The relative amount of news coverage given to each story shows how out of whack our priorities have become.

If we focused on real news we might see how a few Senators are selling out the nation on health care reform.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ronald Dumbsfeld

The Senate Foreign Relations committee has just released a report in which it is revealed that the military had Osama bin-Laden cornered in Tora Bora in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in 2001. It is also noted that then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, apparently feared that to capture or kill bin-Laden would produce a backlash. An absurd fear given the backlash that happened anyway.

Of course, the report from the Senate committee provided little information about the facts on the ground, i.e. that bin-laden was cornered. It seemed inevitable at the time that he would be captured. There were even questions about whether he had been killed or not. It only added to his mystique and elevated him to some quasi-hero status to those we most wanted not to follow him. Then suddenly, we didn't "think that much about him," to quote W.

But was it really that Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush (mis)Administration feared a backlash if they caught bin-Laden. If they had perchance caught him or killed him, again, as seemed inevitable at the time, that might have really disrupted the momentum to invade Iraq. If bin-Laden were gone, the public would have likely been satisfied that 9/11 had been avenged.

Could they really have been this incompetent?

In retrospect it can be seen that Iraq was far more important to the Bush-ites than Afghanistan. Saddam is gone, executed. Most of his inner circle is dead. Osama bin-Laden, Mullah Omar, and others, still in charge.

When satellites can read license plates from space, how do you miss a 6'5' guy on dialysis traveling around in the rural mountains? Answer: You try very hard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Less Equals More

In a recent email exchange the person I was conversing with began to express a fear of government takeover of health care. Spouting the same disinformation be promulgated by the insurance industry he continually made the point that he didn't want the government making health care decisions. He seemed befuddled at my suggestion that he must not mind corporations running his life.

In health care, and for that matter, all matters where people state that they want the government to stay out of things, they are advocating that corporations be given free rein instead. The government is really the only check on large US and even larger transnational corporations. Corporations, guided only by an allegiance to profits and the bottom line, are at best neutral while at their worst malevolent entities intent on increasing revenues at any cost. Government can run as a non-profit and have employment as a purpose. Corporations view workers only as resources to be used and used up.

There is a dynamic tension that must necessarily exist between government and corporations. Unless governments can control the necessarily amoral actions of corporations the masses of people will be exploited as a matter of course. Corporations gaining control and directing the government is nothing but fascist corporatism. This is the direction the health insurance cartel of United Healthcare, Cigna, Aetna, Wellpoint and Blue Cross are attempting to take us.

Do not think this stops at health care. Corporatism is a growing threat to our society and planet as large transnationals manipulate the governments of the world in the interests of profits. Just as surely as the United Fruit Company overthrew governments in Latin America, those in the corporate world continue to exert their influence.

After being bailed out by the government of "We the People," Wall Street awarded itself bonuses with our dollars. Somehow it seems, Hank Paulson and Tim Geitner looked out for their cronies rather than the people. Blackwater, now re-branded Xe, and Halliburton continue to work as contractors for the government despite being waist deep in corruption and malfeasance.

The rallying cry for the gangster bankers - the banksters- and the health insurance industry is that regulation is bad. The free market will take care of everything they assure us. Less regulation equals more money - for them.

Less does equal more. Less government means more corporate control. In a government of "We the People," we probably get what we deserve. In a corporate world, we are all just fodder for the cannons aimed by the invisible hand of the market.

Inane & Insane

I just heard a rumor that Sarah Palin had said that she thought Glenn Beck would make a great Vice-Presidential running mate. The Palin-Beck ticket: Bringing back the Know Nothing Party for the 21st century.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fight Consumerism: Buy Nothing Today

Since 1992, there has been a movement to fight the consumerist nature of our culture by selecting one day a year to buy absolutely nothing. That day has become the day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday" by retailers as it is supposedly the day that they begin to make all their holiday money. Picking Black Friday, the day when the balance sheets goes from red to black highlights the event.

Conceived by Ted Dave of Vancouver, this informal boycott of consumerism, capitalism and corporatism likely has little effect on the overall economy. However, it does draw attention to the nonsensical rabidness by which individuals are manipulated by advertising to buy heavily on this one day.

One would think by all the crowds the thought of being sheep would occur to at least someone.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The George W. Bush Presidential Library

I recently heard a news story about the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It made me wonder if this was the first time a library has been named after someone who has never been in one.

I wonder what books will adorn the shelves? I hope we don't limit it to books that George himself has read. We'd need only one shelf. There's that book he read in college ("Pulled an all-nighter, had some of the nose candy," he was later quoted as saying), there's My Pet Goat, the only book we know he read for sure (because who can believe a coked-up frat boy), which we painfully watched him stare at it as he froze on 9/11 and maybe the book his dog allegedly wrote (Laura probably read him to sleep with that one).

Ah, the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Texas size - except for the books.

Afghanistan: Time to Go

After eight years of muddling about, it has become apparent that it is time to leave Afghanistan. History (previously reviewed in "Graveyard of Empires" post) of the country suggests we should have never gone to begin with, but that point aside, it is now time to go.

Matthew Hoh, a state department official, recently resigned from his post in Afghanistan and made a point of noting in his resignation letter that it was due to the utter disaster that the occupation has become. Later, in an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS, he discussed the corruption of the Karzai government and noted that our actions in the country are actually fueling the fighting rather than preventing it.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, has expressed similar sentiment in objecting to plans to send more troops to the country. Eikenbery, it should be noted, is a retired general and former commander of the forces in Afghanistan. He also has called the Karzai government corrupt and ineffective.

Afghanistan has become a pointless morass with no semblance of a goal. At this point it seems unclear if we can even tell if we are winning or losing. Time to go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goldman Sachs: Greedy Men Suck

Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, stated a couple of days ago that he was doing "God's work." Yeah, the god of money, Mammon.

Accepting bailout money just last year, the costs of which will ultimately fall on the backs of the poor and their children, Goldman Sachs recently gave out billions of dollars in bonuses to it's top people. After driving the world to the brink of financial collapse, these self-entitled money manipulators now think they needed to be rewarded for their efforts in stealing from the masses.

Is it "God's work," to engage in activities that directly and indirectly lead to the deaths of countless people? Like it or not that's what capitalism does, and I'm not just talking about the 45,00 or so Americans that will die because they don't have health insurance. I'm talking about the whole rigged system that pays people like Blankfein billions of dollars while preventing most people from making a living wage. It is worth noting that every increase in the minimum wage is fought as somehow anti-competitive, but giving wealthy people even more to overfill their already overfull glasses is somehow the only course of action.

The arrogance displayed by Blankfein should serve as a warning to us all. The banker-thieves of the world have no shame. They are so ensconced in their own delusions that they actually believe they are doing "God's work." As I've said time and time again, show me a man with God on his side and I'll show you a man who is dangerous as hell.

Exhibit A: Lloyd Blankfein

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Voter's Referendums for Rights: That's Just Wrong

Yesterday, November 4th, 2009, Maine became the 31st state to defeat or repeal a measure that supported same-sex unions. In several of the states, legislatures or courts had implemented the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Voters rejected these laws due to popular sentiment.

Human rights, however, are not a matter of public sentiment. Rights are just that - rights. The idea that a human right can be taken away because it is unpopular flies completely against the grain of the whole notion of rights. It is exactly this attitude that we profess to abhor in other countries. When women are denied basic human rights in the Islamic world, Americans are quick to condemn the intrusion of popular sentiment.

The Civil Rights Act in the United States also addressed this popular condemnation of rights. When the act passed it was extremely unpopular in the South. In fact, it is abundantly clear that if it were a matter of popular sentiment that segregation would still be legal in parts of the country. Laws against slavery might even be repealed if it were a matter of popular opinion.

The reasons listed above are exactly why we can NOT allow rights to be a matter of popular vote. A human right is a right even if no one is in favor of it. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, ..."

How can a right be taken away by votes? That is just wrong.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

See Dick Lie

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney never ceases to amaze me. While vice-president he often appeared to have more power and influence than the actual president. His former firm, Halliburton, received no-bid government contracts without raising even the slightest concern of influence peddling. He accuses the current administration of "dithering" even after his administration spent eight years doing nothing.

He has managed to top all of the above. During questioning about the leak in the Valerie Plame debacle in which an active CIA operative was outed in the press, Cheney responded 72 times that he "Did not recall," or "Could not remember," in response to Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Cheney's right hand man, Scooter Libby, was convicted of perjury for his failure to disclose information. Cheney, on the other hand, got away without even a slap on the wrist.

Some of the information Cheney couldn't recall was whether anyone had ever mentioned to him that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson was a CIA operative. He also could not recall how he found out that information. Interestingly though, he was able to describe in great detail his lunch with Nancy Reagan. This does not pass the stink test. He couldn't remember details of a major embarrassment to himself but he could remember what was for lunch.

Cheney has long been known for his great memory for details. When it is to his advantage he seems able to recall every detail of a decision making process. He revels in pointing out when others seem unclear on information.

In response to another politician claiming that he did "not recall," details of a scandal, Cheney famously blasted him for his poor memory. He pointed out that it was hard to believe anyone who conveniently forgot information that would convict them in a court of law. On that occasion he told the truth.

When it comes to his own lapses of memory, suddenly Cheney doesn't buy his own rhetoric. See Dick forget. See Dick lie. See Dick subvert the Constitution. See Dick commit treason.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hey Joe

Hey Joe, where you going with that envelope full of contributions in your hand? Found a new boss, going out to shoot health care down.

What good is the Democrats having sixty votes if they can only count on fifty-nine. Joe Lieberman, henceforth Loserman on this site, has decided to prepare for his life after he is thrown out of office in the next election. Caucusing with the Democrats, his vote can only be counted on when it is not needed.

After selling out his former party in the last election he leveraged his position as an important member of the Democratic caucus into chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Since that time, whenever it matters, droopy dog Loserman sides with the Republicans. With him, they really don't have sixty votes, just fifty-nine and a political manipulator out for all he can get. It is time for the Democrats to expel him from the caucus, strip away his chairmanship and all committee assignments. He needs to be treated like the sell out he is.

If I believed Joe Loserman's position was based on principle I might have a different opinion. However, it seems abundantly clear that the Senator from the insurance industry is more interested in sabotaging Obama and settling old scores than doing what is right for the country.

Pretending to represent a state where the majority heavily supports the public option, Loserman is opting to support the insurance industry. He has become their lap dog.

Hey Joe, have you picked out the curtains for your industry job? Your constituents no longer want you. They caught you messing 'round with another boss.

With apologies to Jimi Hendrix.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Friends in Afghanistan

The New York Times reported yesterday that Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, has been on the payroll of the CIA for some time. This is the same brother who has long been accused of having ties to the drug trade. The CIA and heroin together? This war is really starting to look like Vietnam.

This connection between drug trafficking and the CIA should surprise no one. It part of a long tradition. In addition to the above mentioned involvement in heroin smuggling in Vietnam the CIA has also been implicated in cocaine smuggling (see Gerald Hausenfuss) and other such actions.

Will we ever learn?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Conventional Wisdom and a Bucket of Spit

In the past week, former Vice-president Dick Cheney has argued with the tactics taken by the Obama Administration towards Afghanistan. Cheney referred to Obama as "dithering" about the issue. This from a man who, in the eight years he largely directed the war, utilized a strategy that can be summarized by the words ignore and under-resource. Cheney's advice should be seen for what it is worth - a warm bucket of spit.

Also in the news this week was the action of the Obama Administration to limit the pay of executives of bailed out banks. As soon as this was announced, pundits began to offer the conventional wisdom that limiting the pay of these executives would lead to a "brain drain." Their stated fear was that the best talent would flee the industry. First let me take issue with the idea that the very people who caused the financial crisis are talented. If these people had known what they were doing to begin with the world's economy would not have teetered on the brink of collapse. A collapse averted only because the U.S. taxpayer bailed them out. The other notion, that they would flee the banking industry for other jobs that paid similarly shows just how out of touch they are with reality. Where else will they find a job that rewards them millions in bonuses for failing? They want what they are worth - then let's give them their bucket of spit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Repeal Anti-Trust Exemption for Health Insurance

In 1945, the McCarran-Ferguson Act granted an anti-trust exemption to the insurance industry. Since that time it has been legal for the insurance industry to essentially engage in price fixing. This little known exemption has been as the base of the outlandish rise in health care costs and likely contributes to the excessive costs for insurance more than any other single factor.

The exemption allows the Insurance Cartel, the actual name of a group comprised of Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross, United Health Care and Well Point, to collude with each other to carve up the market and run it like a monopoly. This explains the reason that one or the other of these companies tends to control and dominate the markets of the various states. They have simply colluded with each other to split up the spoils of their monopoly.

This fact of anti-trust exemption seems to run counter to the cries of competition and free market values being espoused by those opposing health care reform. Anti-trust exemptions are at their very heart contrary to competition.

It is no wonder that health care costs and insurance costs have skyrocketed over the past 60 years. Price fixing and monopolistic practices have never done anything but guarantee profit at the expense of service. The fact that this practice is not being immediately repealed shows that the game is still rigged.

About the only other industry that I can think of that has an anti-trust exemption is baseball. It's exemption is based on the tenuous logic that it is the national pasttime and should be treated differently. The logic behind an anti-trust exemption for health insurance seems even more tenuous. If we are going to have monopolies in health care, let's do it the right way - national health care, run by the government. Oh, I forget, the debate is not about health care, it's about the right of these companies to make a profit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One Less Holiday

Today marks the invasion of the Americas in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. Yesterday, most of the nations banks and all of its federal buildings were closed to honor this date. While I like a day off as much as anyone, if there is ever one holiday that needs to go, it is this one.

Columbus should not be celebrated, he should be reviled. He was a genocidal slave trader who allowed his men to hunt native peoples like animals. He sold children as sex slaves and bragged in letters to his brother Bartholomew about the price he could get for these children.

He also must have been the worst sailor in the world. Columbus thought he was in India and seemed unaware of maritime knowledge common in his own time. To honor this man is an insult to everyone who cares about humanity. He was a murderer driven by greed. It would make more sense for Vietnam to have "LBJ Day" than for anyone to honor Columbus.

For more on Columbus and his cruelty please read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Would Victory Look Like?

As we contemplate pouring more troops and more resources into Afghanistan, certainly assuring that this will become the longest war in which the U.S. has ever been involved, we seem to have lost sight of what we are trying to do.

Can someone please tell me what victory looks like in Afghanistan? We certainly have no role models. Not the British, not the Russians, not the Moghuls, not even Alexander the Great managed to conquer this land. It's not called the "Graveyard of Empires" for nothing.

It is not even clear who could surrender to provide a military victory. Our puppet, Karzai, has no moral authority with the Afghan people and even our government doesn't think he's in charge. In fact, this very question of who is in charge is the rub.

If the U.S. managed to kill every identified opposition leader and we occupied the country for ten years, what would happen when we left? Everything would return to the same -perpetually the year 1300.

Where does that leave us? Occupying Afghanistan forever in what at best might be a stalemate. Have any doubts? Ask the Russians - they're better at chess. They at least knew the game was not winnable and finally resigned.

Remembering Che

Today, October 9th, marks the anniversary of the assassination of Che Guevara in 1967. Che Guevara was an Argentinian physician who was instrumental in the Cuban revolution and dedicated his life to the struggle for the people against the tyranny of capitalism. He was gunned down in Bolivia by elements of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

His life was one marked by a commitment to ideals and concern for others. He could have easily led the life of privilege but instead chose to give himself to something greater. To those familiar with his struggle he is an icon.

Viva Che!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't Get Sick

House of Representatives member Alan Grayson, (D-FL) unveiled the Republican Health Care Plan today: "Don't Get Sick." Grayson went on to add that the second part of the plan was to "die quickly" if you got sick. Howls erupted from the GOP. The truth hurts.

It is estimated that 144,000 Americans will die this year as the result of having no insurance. Strange how pointing out that people will die as a result of having no insurance is viewed as insulting while lying about "death panels" is disguised as encouraging debate.

To Grayson's credit he didn't back down. When asked to apologize, he apologized to the people who have died because we don't have a health care plan.

Grayson, a freshman congressman, also once likened the bank bailout to armed robbery and has fought against military contractor fraud. Grayson, it needs to be pointed out, ran as an unapologetic liberal against a Republican incumbent, Ric Keller, and soundly beat him. Blue Dogs and the other conserva-Dems need to take heed. The way to beat the right wing is not to act like and cower before them trying to gain acceptance.

Maybe Max Baucus should pay attention.

G-20 Crushes Freedom (Again)

The G-20, the countries with the twenty leading economies of the world, recently concluded their annual meeting in Pittsburgh. As with past meetings, the focus was on the stability of the world's economy. No surprise there.

Also of no surprise to anyone was the ceremonial trampling of human rights. Rationalized as necessary in order to protect the world leaders, what really transpired was the usual practice of making sure that the participants never lay eyes on the wildly dissatisfied and disillusioned people that they purport to represent. A "secure zone" was created, beyond which protesters were not allowed to cross.

While these efforts to keep protesters far away is the usual practice of the G-20, one hoped that in the United States, at least, protesters might at least get within sight of the meeting. That was not to be, with at least 84 people arrested (according to the New York Times) attempting to get their voices heard. Once again world leaders proved that they care little for the rights of their citizens and more for the smooth running of their economies. That should come as no surprise as capitalist care about money, not freedom.

I can buy the argument that there is a necessity to keep world leaders safe. However, when we go beyond safety, to the point of stifling dissent, the line has been crossed. Being able to see protesters would not have endangered them, but it might have made them think. That was the real point in keeping them away - to prevent leaders from being held accountable.

No politician wants to be challenged by their constituents. Tough. That is part of being a politician. Years ago I lived in a small town in Colorado where my Senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell also lived. In a town of 750 people it's hard not to run into everyone on the street. On one occasion I saw Senator Campbell and approached him to discuss a vote. He was unhappy about being approached and told me so. My reaction was that he should not have gone into politics if he didn't want to be approached by constituents. What was he going to do, have me arrested for discussing a vote?

The point is that Campbell may not have wanted to be taken to task, but he had no choice. What was he going to do, have me arrested for discussing a vote? He didn't like it, but knowing that citizens would approach him on the street at least made him somewhat accountable. For the G-20, that was not a possibility. The lack of face to face accountability is not good for the world, only for the security of those who do not want to face the consequences of their actions. I guess "G" should stand for gangster.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One Leap Forward, Two Leaps Back

In a post a couple of days ago I applauded China for taking a stance to address climate change. As was quickly pointed out to me by my friend Doug, China will likely backtrack on its promises.

The point about China is well made. They have paid lip service to human rights and open government but continue to lead the world in executions and censorship. It is also apparent that China is more concerned with maintaining domestic control than international opinion.

Whether for propaganda or genuine effort, China is taking steps that will propel it ahead of the U.S. in producing clean and sustainable energy. The Chinese do this in spite of the fact that they churn out industrial toxins at a chilling rate. What they are trying to do is leapfrog generations of technology and lead the world. The development of clean and sustainable energy would seem to be an obvious avenue for investment and economic development for any nation concerned about its future. Failure to pursue a course to become the world leader in this technology will doom the U.S. to second rate status as a nation.

The Chinese, it is true, operate only for the good of China. They see the necessity of this course. Will we move forward or backward?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Great Leap Forward

In the last couple of days the Chinese government has signalled its intention to become serious in dealing with the threat of climate change. Vowing to plant forests greater than the size of Norway and increase to 15 percent the amount of its energy generated by renewable sources. China also pledged to "reduce by a notable margin," the growth of its carbon emissions.

It remains to be seen if China will actually follow through on its stated plans. However, just the stated intention to address climate change vaults China ahead of the U.S. in terms of its desire to address this concern. At some level, the output of three nations, the U.S., China and India, are the most important to contributing to this problem. China and India, both developing and with enormous populations, have resisted any efforts to curb their emissions because of the economic strain it will produce. The U.S. has resisted primarily due to political efforts by the right wing.

However, with China pressing ahead and pledging to address this issue, there remains the U.S. and India. Who will be the final drag on the world? Which country will continue to believe that it can operate with impunity and suffer no consequences? China saw the writing on the wall. The U.S. has no excuse.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baucus Sells Us Out

Senator Max Baucus, leader of the gang of six, has finally emerged with a health care bill from the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus, the leading recipient of money from the insurance industry, finally put his cards on the table. After dithering away the summer claiming to be seeking bipartisan support, Baucus presents a bill without any Republican support, despite the fact that it caves on important issues.

In the past, I respected Max Baucus. Today, I see him as a toady of corporate interests. He has sold the people of this country down the river to satisfy his corporate contributors. I, for one, will remember his actions. Come primary time, his opponent will be a recipient of my dollars.

Jimmy Carter Speaks the Truth

Within the last few days Jimmy Carter has given an interview in which he stated that much of the opposition to Barack Obama is fueled by racism. Racists, of course, have howled. Obama, not being a whiner and wanting to avoid a needless confrontation has downplayed the issue.

Carter, since leaving office, has shown himself to be a man who speaks the truth. His credibility is recognized worldwide as evidenced by numerous invitations to observe international elections. As a southerner, his credibility on this issue is even greater.

Certainly there have been overt examples of racism towards Obama, but Carter seemed to be referring to the more clandestine side of racism whereby people avoid the overt, but work hard to generate fear tied to other factors. Calling Obama a socialist, a Muslim, a non-citizen, etc. are all thinly veiled efforts to portray him as "the other." Most of the people using these terms cannot seriously believe he is any of those things, but they know that if they use the racially loaded terms they really mean, they will be exposed. So instead, they generate hatred by other means.

Need more evidence: The Secret Service has already disrupted more assassination plots against Obama than all the other presidents combined. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, militias and hate groups are on the rise. Gun sales have flourished in the last year.

Both Carter and Clinton generated a great deal of anger and animosity from the right. However, the hatred and fear expressed towards Obama is clearly several quantum levels greater. The lack of civility expressed is exponentially greater. Policy is obviously not the driving force. Carter himself was more liberal in his policies than Obama, and Clinton was the rallying point for the right, but neither generated this level of attack. What then can explain the level of hatred?

Carter is right.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Great State of South Carolina

Strom Thurmond, Mark Sanford, Jim Dement (or is it Demented) and now Joe Wilson. House of Representative member Joe Wilson (R-SC) from the 2nd district has now risen above the all-star cast of clowns that South Carolina is known for in its politics. Becoming the first member of Congress to heckle a president during a speech to a joint session, Wilson has stepped to the forefront of the circus that is South Carolina politics.

Wilson, who yelled "You lie!" at Obama as he confronted the misinformation and lies being spread against health care, rushed from the chamber after the speech. Later he issued an insincere apology at the behest of the Republican leadership.

To stand out in South Carolina politics, in the first traitorous state to secede during the Civil War, is quite an accomplishment. Somewhere Strom Thurmond must be smiling; the state has finally produced a bigger nitwit than himself. Mark Sanford was so happy he held a press conference.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Anniversaries

September 11 will mark the anniversary of two events of note in the annals of history. September 11, 2001 is, of course , the day the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed in a well coordinated attack. The day that everything changed. The day America cringed in fear.

Another September 11, this one in 1973, also marks another shameful anniversary. On that day, Salvador Allende, the duly elected leader of Chile, was overthrown in a coup d'etat supported by the United States. Allende's death marked the end of an era for Chile as well. The day that everything changed. Augusto Pinochet then ascended to power becoming one of history's most loathsome dictators.

Killing may change the course of history, but not for the better. Everyone who murders for political ideology is a self-deluded fool, thinking that good will come of bad.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Our Private Army

Unknown to many Americans is the fact that the United States maintains both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan largely on the backs of "private contractors." These individuals, civilians working for private firms which have contracted with the government, have increasingly replaced soldiers in many positions vital for a military effort.

Some of these individuals, such as those employed by Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR, work primarily in support positions, feeding troops, building quarters, etc. Others, such as Blackwater, now re-branded as Xe, and Wackenhut, serve functions related to security.

Wackenhut, the largest private correctional corporation in the U.S., was recently awarded a $180 million contract to guard the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. This is the same company whose employees have been recently been seen dancing naked, engaging in simulated (and not so simulated) homoerotic acts, guzzling alcohol and generally behaving in a manner that would have gotten soldiers a court martial. Now they are guarding the embassy. Didn't Marines used to do that?

Blackwater, as previously noted on this blog and elsewhere, is the subject of an investigation that alleges murder, gun smuggling, and witness intimidation among the many charges. Their specialty in Iraq has been security. Again, didn't the Marines used to do that?

It is just this use of private firms to do work that is clearly the domain of the military that is troubling. According to the Washington Post, the number of private contractors in Iraq topped 100,000 in 2006. The L.A. Times reported the number had risen to 140,000 by July 4, 2007 and on August 18, 2008, Peter Grier in the Christian Science Monitor noted that the number of civilians employed in Iraq was 190,000. NBC News reported that at least 68,000 are currently in Afghanistan, compared to 52, 000 actual soldiers.

The civilians who work for these private corporations are often paid many times what soldiers in the U.S. military receive for doing the same work. Financial reasons alone makes one wonder why we would ever use such an approach. Combine these problems with the numerous episodes of armed engagement with the civilian populace of Iraq and there becomes a greater moral morass concerning the use of private contractors. These civilians are not held to the same standards of conduct and in some cases it seems unclear how and if the law applies to them.

In the Geneva Conventions, civilians working for private firms are the very definition of "unlawful combatant," not that imposed by the Bush (mis)Administration on individuals clearly fighting a war.

There has long been another name for individuals privately hired to fight in another country - mercenaries. Let us begin to call the private contractors what they are, the mercenary force that allows these wars to continue.

Monday, August 31, 2009

If Obama Could Fly

If Obama could fly, the right wing of this country would demand that he be arrested for breaking the laws of gravity.

If he turned water into wine, they would demand that he be arrested for the illegal production of alcohol.

The absolute ridiculous nature of the claims coming from the right these days would almost be humorous were it not for the rabid, gun-packing, hatred spewing, blood lust that seems to be occurring hand in hand with the screaming paranoia. All of a sudden, individuals who sat by and said nothing for the last eight years while the government systematically violated the rights of every citizen of this country, now scream that the government is taking over their lives by trying to provide a little health care to the poor.

Throw in the birther nonsense, the "death panel" lies, and all the other ridiculous claims and the right appears to be a wounded beast, afraid and desperate.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

AG Holder Takes the First Step

The journey of ten thousand miles begins with the first step. - Lao Tzu.

Attorney General Eric Holder took the first step towards returning the United States to its ideals with the appointment of Federal Prosecutor John Durham to begin an investigation into allegations of torture by CIA employees and their subcontractors.

The appointment of Durham coincides with the release of the Inspector General's report that the Department of Justice has prevented the public from seeing for approximately five years. The largely still redacted report reveals a number of events that are so troubling that one wonders what kind of individual could have conceived of such actions. To argue that several of these actions are anything but torture is to defy common sense.

- Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri was threatened with having his mother raped in front of him.

- one detainee died after being beaten with a flashlight by a person identified as an "independent contractor."

- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was told that his young children, whom he knew to be in custody, would be killed.

- mock executions were staged.

- hand guns and power drills were present at interrogations.

I have worked as a prison psychologist, examined sociopaths and murderers, witnessed violence become so casual that it was second nature, but these revelations shocked me. There are only a few of the worst and most ruthless in prison who could look at these actions as anything but pathological.

Yet such behaviors seemingly occurred with frequency. The actions described are just the tip of the iceberg. It would be impossible for multiple people to behave in such barbaric and inhumane ways without others knowing about it. In my reading of the report, there seems to have been concern that then Attorney General Ashcroft was aware of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed having been waterboarded "119 times." If there was no concern of illegality, why was there seeming concern about him knowing. Alternatively, if I have misread this and Ashcroft was merely being informed, then he was clearly in the loop. As Attorney General it would have been his duty to stop the actions, not sanction them.

Remember though, that Ashcroft was the one who refused to sign off on Gonzalez's efforts at even greater atrocities. I know, with the Bushies it gets hard to remember what crimes you're talking about.

The confusion about who was informed and what was ordered and by whom are questions that are miles down the road at present. Bush may be at the ten thousandth mile, but I'll bet Cheney will be somewhere around mile marker one. Now that Durham has begun an investigation he must take this wherever it leads him. The report already seems to suggest that the CIA people were deeply concerned that their actions would not be covered. It seems irrational to suggest that they would have spent so much time documenting and questioning how to proceed, i.e. requesting orders from headquarters unless they were following orders.

Who gave the orders? Who ordered that legal justifications be concocted to support the orders to torture? Who made up the legal justifications? It is not just about who inflicted the torture. Those who sanctioned, ordered and turned a blind eye are all guilty. The first step that Attorney General Holder has taken must be followed for the entire ten thousand miles.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Nation of Laws

Recent reports have revealed that the CIA under the Bush (mis)Administration subcontracted assassination squads from Blackwater and manipulated Homeland Security alert levels for political purposes. This last revelation comes from none other than former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge.

I really hate to keep bringing up the Bush-Cheney reign of error and terror - but will there be no end to the trail of crimes revealed? Follow the link on this site to "Hugh's List" for just a sampling of the treachery of the Bush (mis)Administration.

It is all well and good to wish to put matters behind us. However, when a litany of abuses and crimes have already been revealed and continue to be revealed, accountability must occur. At the very least, prosecutions for torture and war crimes must occur for the United States to be taken seriously again as a nation of laws. When one small group of people can lie us into a war, hire private assassination squads, manipulate the public into a frenzy of fear in order to gain politically, run clandestine prisons to specifically circumvent U.S. and international law, can rationalize torture and then claim that there should not even be investigations, there is no longer justice for all. There is a privileged elite that has become above prosecution.

There biggest crime I likely have left out: mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren when Bush with his henchman Hank Paulson turned the Treasury over to greedy banks. Did this really need to happen in retrospect? See this move for what it was - Bush rewarded his base, the have mores, at the end of his presidency. In so doing, he robbed your children and mine.

To act as if there is nothing to investigate or prosecute in the past administration is absurd. To allow the Bush (mis)Administration to go unchallenged is to turn your back on this country as a nation of laws.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How To Pay For Health Care

Estimates of the costs of health care reform generally range from about $800 billion to $1 trillion over a ten (10) year period. Even though these estimates can be disputed I will accept them for arguments sake at this point. Given these numbers, the upper costs of providing health care would be around $100 billion.

Looking at the budget of the U.S. government, there is an obvious source of money to pay for health care - the Defense Budget. According to the Department of Defense, the 2009 Federal expenditures for the military is approximately $515.4 billion!

Before the paranoid become apoplectic over the idea of making the nation less safe, let's put the numbers in perspective. According to multiple sources, the United States spends about half of the worlds total defense dollars. The two countries that might reasonably be considered a military threat on any par with the U.S. in the future are Russia and China. While numbers for both countries are a little difficult to nail down, the upper estimates of spending for both are around $70 billion. In other words, the combined military spending of China and Russian would have to be increased three to four times in order to match the U.S.

To look at this another way, if the U.S. cut military spending in half, we would still spend about four times as much as either of the only two countries that are even anywhere close to being a potential threat.

What is the U.S. so afraid of militarily? Did I mention that the nation that spends the second most on military spending is Great Britain, our ally? Again, what or who are we so afraid of? India, with hostile neighbor Pakistan sharing a more than thousand mile border, has the largest army in the world, and spends $17 billion total on its military. Our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, pose no military threat to us and one would have to be insane to contend otherwise.

There really is no justification for the excess in spending by the military except for the fact that the war industry, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against at the end of his term, has control of the people who control the purse strings. The United States could easily, without causing any threat to our security, free $100 billion dollars from the defense budget.

All money spent is a matter of priorities. The U.S. could easily fund health care by shifting its priorities from the killing business to health care.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who Would Jesus Deny Health Care?

Who would Jesus deny health care?


Jesus was a socialist.

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. - Matthew 25:40

Monday, August 10, 2009

Drowning In Blackwater

Blackwater Security, (now re-branded as Xe Services) the private army of mercenaries that served in a legal netherworld in Iraq, neither accountable to military nor Iraqi law, has now drawn attention for its questionable legal activities on American soil. In a report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation, Blackwater is revealed as a criminal organization that operated and continues to operate beyond the law.

Allegations made in Federal Court in North Carolina, now implicate Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, in crimes including murder, weapons smuggling, and destruction of evidence. The witnesses who have reportedly given testimony against Prince and other Blackwater/Xe employees, are so endangered by their actions that they are identified only as "John Doe #1" and "John Doe #2". John Doe #2 is described as a former Blackwater executive and John Doe #1 is an ex-Marine. If mercenaries and Marines are afraid for their life, that should provide some clue as to the perceived dangerousness of those they are accusing.

According to Scahill, Erik Prince selected individuals for duty in Iraq who shared his beliefs that Muslims should be killed. Blackwater, from the top down, seemed to see itself as on a new Crusade. The full story by Scahill involves stories of Iraqi being hunted and murdered by Blackwater employees. The full scope of this story can be viewed online at

What has happened in this country that a group such as Blackwater was ever allowed to exist? Is America an ideal that needs defending by mercenaries? If yes, is the answer to that, then we are already lost.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Iran's New Revolution

"A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past." - Fidel Castro.

Weeks after the Iranian election, long past what anyone thought could endure, the people continue to take to the streets and protest their stolen election. Just as the country changed course in 1979, so it is has again. It has not yet finished this new change. The new revolution is incomplete, but the outcome is decided.

The future of Iran has stepped forward to confront the past. Although that revolution of 1979 rid Iran of a past of rule by outsiders and their puppets, it continued with a past of censorship, oppression and authoritarian rule. That past is now being confronted as the young of the country struggle for a future free or the giant boot of tyranny pressing down on their throats demanding compliance and obedience.

The war has been won, for the future always defeats the past, but the battles remain to be fought. The question in Iran is to what lengths the past will go to hang on for a few more moments.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Green World

Must gasoline prices rise to $4.50 again before we show any more concern for the fact that our economy is based on a resource that is disappearing? Beyond its scarcity and assured future increases in costs, the use of petroleum is driving the environmental disaster that looms on the horizon.

Must climate patterns go completely haywire before the world moves beyond expressing concern for the effects of climate change and debating whether we can afford to curb carbon emissions?

Economic recovery could easily be aided by a massive investment in green infrastructure that would have the immediate effect of adding jobs and capital to the economy and the long term effect of energy independence.

Moving towards green energy addresses both the environmental and energy crises. What are we waiting for, some way to put a meter on sunlight so profits can be continually generated? The answer to why we are not moving towards sustainability in all aspects of life lies in the previous question. It is the green world of money that is preventing a green world of sustainability. Profit is in waste and consumption. Materialism is antithetical to the ultimate goal of a sustainable world.

Our economy is sometimes defined in terms of its growth. In fact, if the economy does not grow, it is considered to be in recession. In other words, if we are not consuming more, the world of green money is not happy.

But for the world, the green world of sustainability, consumption and waste are to be reduced and eliminated.

Why do we refuse to address the need for a sustainable future, free of the shackels of consumerism and an outdated petroleum-driven society? Follow the money.

Me, I'm going back to work on my sunlight meter.

Ronald the Wrong

I recently received an email that posed the question, "Do you miss this guy?" When you opened the email a picture of Ronald Reagan followed by a few of his pithy quotes popped out. As I said to the sender of the email, "Yes, I miss Reagan. I miss him like I miss a boil on my butt."

Reagan, who I will always think of by Jello Biafra's wonderful moniker for him, "Grandpa Caligula,"was the consummate politician. Referred to by many as the "Great Communicator," he could deliver a magnificent speech even though he usually had no clue what he was talking about. He built a career campaigning for fiscally conservative principles and promptly busted the budget once in office. In a self fulfilling prophecy he mocked government as incompetent and then made sure that it was. He began the give away of the public wealth of the nation, through privatization (code for profits to private corporations, costs to the tax payer), subsidies to industry and other forms of corporate welfare. He began a never ending stream of tax breaks for the wealthiest. His emphasis on deregulation and trickle-down economics (code for the wealthy come first to the trough) led to a course that culminated during the Bush (mis) Administration with the ultimate theft of the nation, the raiding of the Treasury by Henry Paulson for the good of Goldman-Sachs and the other criminals on Wall Street. The past thirty years have been little more than a thinly veiled effort to transfer the wealth of the nation and its people to the wealthiest of the wealthy.

Reagan spouted platitudes like so many lines from his movies. Unfortunately for the world, his acting seemed to improve with age. When president he lied with ease (Iran-Contra) and got away with it. Near the end of his term in office he clearly exhibited signs of the Alzheimer's that would eventually incapacitate him, on one occasion describing a scene from a movie as an actual event. Yet, with a good natured wink and nod of the head he would slip back into character as the President of the United States and most were none the wiser.

It was a simpler time, a time when the president could have Alzheimer's and we would still be okay. A time when our biggest war was invading a golf course in the Caribbean. A time long ago, before we elected the village idiot, who in eight years, destroyed the economy, plundered the Treasury, started two wars, and shredded the Constitution.

Yes, I do miss Reagan. I miss having a barometer of what is completely wrong. Style over substance, party loyalty over country, corporations before people. That was Reagan. Ronald the Wrong.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blue Dogs Sell Out

Blue Dog Democrats, generally conservative and mostly from Southern and Western states, appear to working almost as hard to kill health care reform as the Republicans. Hiding behind a mantle of fiscal conservatism, they are showing political cowardice and indebtedness to contributors. Before you know it they'll be quoting the Lewin Group, the GOP's favorite source of health care and insurance reform information. The Lewin Group, funded by United Healthcare Group is hardly an unbiased source. This is the same United Healthcare that paid a $400 million settlement in January of this year over charges of manipulating the costs of health care insurance. Full disclosure, they are also my insurance carrier.

United Healthcare's interests in maintaining the status quo is understandable as they are in the business to make money not provide health care. Members of Congress, on the other hand, are there to serve the people, not mind the interests of corporations. Any arguments that a public option would hurt private industry are completely specious unless the politician is also profiting from the current mess.

Perhaps what motivates the Blue Dogs is a lack of political courage. Rather than weathering a few political attacks and delivering for the nation, they are prepared to buckle so they won't be called a "Nancy Pelosi puppet" by their opponent in the next general election. What the Blue Dogs don't realize is that if they ruin health care for the people of this country they will never make it through the primary. This will become their political Waterloo if they kill health care and insurance reform.

Starting today, this column will maintain a health care watch. Republicans are expected to continue to be the party of no, offer no solutions and generally obfuscate. They are the party of the corporation, they are only standing up for their interests. The Blue Dogs, on the other hand, appear afraid of standing up for the interests of their constituents.

The Democratic leaderships commitment to reform must also be questioned. Why is Max Baucus (D-Montana), seemingly the Democratic Senator most resistant to reform, leading the committee to develop the Senate plan?

What is really preventing this nation from moving forward with health care reform? Politicians appear to be motivated by two primary factors: money and votes. Which will the Blue Dogs choose?

My own congressman, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), will be the first name on the watch list along with Senator Baucus. He may be reached at his Washington office at (202) 225-6401 and at his Asheville, NC office at (828) 252-1651 or at

Monday, July 27, 2009

The False Patriotism of the Right Wing

It has recently been revealed that the Bush-Cheney (mis)Administration considered sending troops of the U.S. military into American cities to arrest suspected terrorists. According to the New York Times of July 25, 2009, administration officials, notably Dick Cheney, argued that the Constitution and the Posse Comitatus Act were irrelevant. Where is the outcry from the right wing?

It has been revealed over time that the last administration engaged in a systematic campaign of surveillance, wiretapping, email snooping and other forms of activity prohibited by the Constitution and other laws of this nation. Where is the outcry from the right wing and its so-called patriots when the nation's very values were being undermined?

When a Harvard professor was arrested in his own home by a policeman, there was not an uporoar of concern about the sanctity of one's home from the right wing. I thought they believed in the home as castle theory. Mormon polygamists suspected of child abuse raise the right wings' concern about the intrusion of government, but not a liberal black man in his home.

The right wing of Amerika has long viewed anyone who does not agree with their viewpoint as "un-American" and any other derogatory term that might stick. They are all for the symbols of the country. Claiming ownership of the flag and Constitution, all they really represent is a false patriotism that owes allegiance to their political leaders rather than to the well being of the nation.

The right wing tends towards an authoritarian viewpoint that is ultimately undemocratic. Although heir speech seems to champion the values of liberty and freedom their actions belie a different agenda. When it comes to actions, the right wing shows what it really wants. Control over the reproductive choices of women, state sponsored religion, censorship of art and literature, domestic spying on U.S. citizens, and a general suppression of individual liberty.

Demonstrating the self serving nature of the right wing and its willingness to distort language for their own advancement is the Tea Bagger Movement. The same people who sat by while their own party engineered the largest transfer of wealth from the public purse to the private sector, who watched out government give away the public wealth to cronies of Bush, Cheney and the other war criminals (can you say Halliburton), who complained not one bit while the deficit and debt exploded, now sing a different tune. Now that someone they didn't vote for is in office there is an urgent necessity for fiscal responsibility.

Then there are the Bonkers "Birthers". Accusing the State of Hawaii of engaging in a massive conspiracy, and believing in a plot so complex that birth announcements were inserted in Honolulu newspapers in 1961, all in an effort to falsify a birth record, these conspiracy theorists have already seceded from the world of rational thought.

Speaking of secession, why is it that all those advocating secession seem to be right wing conservatives who wrap themselves in the flag. Does advocating secession really mark one as a patriot.

For too long the right wing has held itself out as the purveyors of all that is right and good. But when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road they are just partisan authoritarians who believe only in their own political views and not the nation.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Racist America

Noted Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested in his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Sgt. James Crowley who was responding to a report of a break-in at the address. Dr. Gates had recently returned from China and had already made his way into the house by the time police arrived. A 58-year-old man who walks with a cane, the 5'7", 150 lb. professor is described as frail by those who know him.

What strikes me most about this scenario is that he was arrested after Professor Gates had been identified and the officer clearly believed he lived at the address. After, not before. Apparently, in the officers opinion, Dr. Gates had been belligerent and threatening. Putting aside the absurdity of a frail man with a cane threatening a policeman and his gun, one must address the question of belligerence. Who would not be upset at being harassed in their own home? What Dr. Gates was arrested for was the color of his skin. In case you were unaware, Dr. Gates is African-American. Despite the fact that he is a well respected scholar at one of the nation's preeminent universities, he was only seen as a color on the day of his arrest.

61 Sick Years

In 1948 Harry Truman called for national health care. In the sixty one years since, the United States has become isolated as the only developed nation without a national health care system. Our costs are the highest per capita in the world, while our outcomes barely make the top 40. People are suffering and dieing as a direct result of no health care.

Congressional leaders, especially in the GOP, are urging caution. Asking for more time to study the issue they are clearly in stall mode. If there is any member of Congress that is unfamiliar with the issues of health care by now they should immediately resign their office.

What these individuals really want is a delay in any efforts to stop the gravy train. Insurance companies and health care corporations are both enormously profitable even in these economic times. Part of the reason is the favorable legislation directed their way by the politicians whose political careers are funded by a steady delivery of dollars from these same corporations.

Do these people work for us or for corporations?

The very fact that those in opposition to health care reform are trying to portray a public option insurance program as the government taking over health care shows only the lengths to which they will go to destroy any possibility of change. A public option serves only to keep the insurance companies honest. Health care will not change one bit because of this, only the cost of insurance and profit margins will be affected. Evidence to support this contention includes the enormous amounts of money the insurance companies are spending to sabotage any public option.

Health care reform has to change the very way medicine is practiced in America. Rather than a CYA approach that focuses on every diagnostic test imaginable and billable procedures, a focus on outcome would significantly lower the costs.

Finally, as has been noted in this column on several occasions, the writer supports true socialized medicine with doctors on the payroll. That is not going to happen in the U.S. but consider this: the nations with the best outcomes are those with socialized medicine. Those who bemoan government health care always complain that government bureaucrats will make health care decisions. As opposed to the accountants who work for the insurance companies?

Is there anyone who seriously believes that Europeans have poor health care?

To reform health care in this country the first surgery that must be performed is to remove the hands of the politicians from the pockets of the insurance companies.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family Values

Emerging from the John Ensign and Mark Sanford sex scandals is the news that both men belonged to a secretive group of affiliated politicians who call themselves "The Family." According to news reports the individuals within the group are given veto power over each others private lives. Members also apparently agree not to talk about what goes on between members of the group. Loyalty to the group is seen as paramount. "The Family" is seen as demanding the highest level of loyalty, even beyond that of the nuclear family.

Another group of "families" which echoes those same values are those of La Cosa Nostra, or, the Mafia. Also a secretive group, they profess loyalty to their crime family and swear to a code of silence.

Then there's the Manson Family.

Who would have ever thought that the word "family" would come to have such negative connotations? Kind of makes your own family seem okay.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What Will It Take?

We've already had allegations of eavesdropping and spying on the American people. Government officials have not only defended torture, they have championed it. Now we have learned in the past few days that the CIA has continued to operate programs from the Bush years apparently even out of sight of their director, Leon Panetta. In addition, it turns out that Dick Cheney ordered certain programs kept secret from Congress.

How many broken laws must be revealed before there is an investigation of Bush Administration. What will it take?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Will News Coverage Begin Again Tomorrow?

For approximately two weeks since Michael Jackson died there has been a near news blackout. The protests continue in the streets of Iran, a military coup occurred in Honduras, there is ethnic unrest and governmental violence in China, sex scandals involving two different politicians, John Ensign and Mark Sanford, the surprise resignation of Sarah Palin, Minnesota has finally ended its 2008 Senate race, Karl Malden, Billy Mays, Farrah Fawcett and Robert McNamara have died and the economy continues to limp along, but one would hardly know it given media coverage. Throw out the Sarah Palin coverage and it's been pretty much -- All Michael, all the time.

Beyond the fact that his fans adored him, he sold lots of records, lived a freak show and was accused of pedophilia, there is really not much to say. The vultures are feasting on the corpse of roadkill on the highway of fame.

Where is the since of proportion. A pop star has died, but the very direction of the world may be hanging in the balance in Iran. Too bad Michael didn't want to be buried in Tehran, then the media would cover Persia.

The popular press bemoans the fact that it has fallen on hard times. Perhaps if the corporate media were more interested in news that sensationalism it would not be looking for a way to survive. Try to find actual news coverage, even on channels allegedly dedicated to news. All that can be found are bloviating pundits and production gimmicks.

Michael Jackson's death was news for about five minutes. Everything since is just a failure to live up to the responsibility of the press. Bury Michael today and please begin news coverage again of the rest of the world.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mr. Peabody's Coal Train

"And daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenburg County down by the Green River where paradise lay? Well, I'm sorry my son but you're too late in asking, Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away." - John Prine, in "Paradise."

It has been reported by Brad Johnson at "The Wonk Room," that Newt Gingrich's organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF) received at least $275,000 from Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company in 2008.

Since that time, Newt Gingrich has continually railed against the costs of addressing climate change. Apparently the real costs he fears would be to his own interests.

Gingrich's association with Peabody Coal should come as no surprise. The very fact that our politicians continue to evade the whole issue of sustainability and continue to force feed the public a fossil fuel based economy should make us look closer at who is backing our politicians, and not just the unelected one's like Gingrich, but those currently in office as well.

FOLLOW THE MONEY! Where is the media in examining the connections between big oil, big coal and big politicians? The next time you see an article discussing the cost of green energy, try to figure out how much of that costs is created by the roadblocks put in place by politicians indebted to their contributors in the old energy economy.

Perspective on a Pop Star

Another celebrity has died and is now being lionized for his talents. For several days it seems that all news has stopped. Nevermind that a revolution may be brewing in the streets of Iran, nevermind that a military coup has apparently occurred in Honduras, Michael Jackson has died. The gloved one, the self proclaimed "King of Pop," the man who turned his home, Neverland, into a carnival ground.

What is being glossed over are the multiple charges of molestation and pedophilia. The first case was settled out of court for a reported $20 million dollars and the second ended in acquittal. However, to those familiar with the case, clear doubts remain as to his innocence. Professionals who work with victims of abuse will note that Jackson clearly displayed a number of behaviors that point to a "grooming" of the victims. Such behaviors include: gifts for the victims, becoming friends with their families, assisting the victims and their families, etc. With wealth and celebrity it was easy to bring people into his reach.

The costs of being a celebrity include the loss of privacy and the inability to know if people want to be near you just for fame or wealth. Jackson, having been famous since age 10, never knew a normal existence. Constantly hounded by the media, he became stranger and stranger in the public eye. Demonstrating a racial ambivalence and an addiction to plastic surgery, he slowly became a running joke in the media. Despite all of this, he inspired a devotion in his fans that was unparalleled. No matter how strange, or how many accusations against him, fans flocked to be near him. Some seemed to use Jackson's interests in children as a means to contact him.

It is the parents of those children who were left to spend the night, to have sleep-overs with Jackson, who are the offenders who most need examining. For the reflected glory of being near a celebrity, parents left their child in the care of an accused pedophile. Whether he was guilty or not, what parent would leave their child in the care of an individual who had previously been accused of this crime?

I remember seeing an interview with Jackson years ago in the midst of the allegations where he attempted to deflect the charges by stating how innocent the sleep-overs were, how he had "little McCauley Caulkin here and .... (some other child whose name I can not recall) on the other side." Jackson continued in the interview to discuss his love of children. As the interview progressed I remember thinking that he seemed to be convicting himself with every sentence. At one point Jackson proclaimed that it was "all very innocent." At the time he was around 35 years of age. The idea that a 35-year-old man is innocently sleeping with 9-year-old boys strains credulity.

After the first allegations against him one would think that a reasonably prudent person would try to avoid any further actions that might even allow people to make such charges. Instead, he continued to invite young children to his bed (as if it were a compulsion) and to act as if no one could possibly see anything wrong with his behavior.

Pretending that Jackson was a great hero overlooks the legacy he may have left. According to estimates, the average pedophile may have 150-300 victims in their lifetime. That's without the fame and the amusement park.

Ray Bawarchi has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Like Money

According to a report filed by Dave Gram and Frank Bass for the Associated press, the corporations that own nuclear plants are not putting aside enough resources to dismantle them. The high costs of building and operating the plants aside, the current problem is being blamed on the financial crisis and the loss of investments that were to pay for the decommissioning of the plants.

The underlying problem is not just that the projects will be delayed, the consequences of the delays are more the concern. The possibilities of nuclear leaks, either into the atmosphere or into groundwater, are but one aspect of the delay. Workers needed to maintain the site, with inadequate funds to do so, will be at increased risk of accidental exposure. Then there are the not so accidental risks -- soft targets for terrorists, getting softer by the day.

Let us debunk the myth once and for all that nuclear power is clean, safe, or cheap. It is none of these. The whole process of producing nuclear power is an environmental nightmare. From the mining of uranium at the beginning of the process, to the storage of the spent fuel rods at the end, there is no means by which nuclear energy is clean. While it may not produce carbon emissions, there is more to caring for the environment than just limiting carbon. Just as we need to limit the amount of carbon floating around in the atmosphere, we even more so need to limit the amount of plutonium floating around the planet.

Safety is ludicrous to even discuss when it comes to nuclear energy. The precautionary principle would suggest that the possible damage that could be inflicted by even one catastrophic meltdown or other accident, no matter how remote, renders the whole notion of nuclear power illogical. Accidents happen: Three Mile Island and Chernobyl drew the most attention because they happened early on in the nuclear power game. Japan recently revealed a number of small nuclear accidents. The more nuclear plants built, the greater the odds become for a major accident. In a probabilistic sense, it is only a matter of time before there is an incident of unimagined proportions.

Safety also has to take into account the possible deliberate misuse of the nuclear material. Efforts to secure this material at increasing number of sites becomes more and more difficult as we build more nuclear plants. That, in turn, drives up costs. Costs, in the energy business, are just passed on to customers. The idea that nuclear energy is cost efficient is a myth propagated by energy producers who base these statements on some mythical "costs per unit" that calculates the costs after the reactor is up and running. Mining costs, building reactors, etc. are out of the calculation. When you sell energy, demand is what matters.

Calls for nuclear power are driven by a desire to control the flow of energy by corporations in order to maximize profits. Mostly these are the same transnationals that are in control of the old petroleum-based economy. The only green that nuclear energy is associated with is money.

The Scales of Justice?

Donte Stallworth, 28, of the Cleveland Browns received a 30-day sentence for a manslaughter conviction incurred while driving drunk. The NFL is reportedly reviewing the matter for further sanctions.

Michael Vick, 28, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, received a year in jail, is still under house arrest and is banned from the NFL for life for a conviction for dog fighting.

Dick Cheney, 68, formerly of the Washington Torturers and now of the Wyoming Revisionists, walks around free.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Iranian Revolution

Iran is experiencing the beginnings of a new revolution. Ahmadinejad has officially been declared the winner of the election, but he, and the conservative clerics that pull his strings, have already lost the battles to come.

Things have changed in Iran. There is rioting in the streets. News services are reporting over 100.000 in the streets of Tehran. Even though the government has banned the rallies, and despite the fact that they are shooting at the people, the demonstrations are continuing. Moussavi has vowed to continue to press his case despite threats against him and the arrest of other opposition leaders.

The clerics and the military establishment, the Revolutionary Guard, must respond. The GOP of Iran, they are shrinking and isolated. Attempting to maintain control by any means necessary, they are responding in the repressive manner of tyrants everywhere.

Like the Republicans in America, the Iranian establishment has demographics working against it too. Iran is a young nation, and the youth are no longer willing to take the repression of rights and totalitarian controls. Women are also at the forefront of the new revolution, no longer willing to settle for a life in the shadows.

Internationally, Iran has been effectively neutralized. The government of Iran may be more difficult to deal with for the foreseeable future, but this will be mostly due to the fact that the government will have to turn its attention inward. There will be little ability to successfully do anything on the world stage as the legitimacy of the government is called into question. Efforts to control internal dissent and discord will ultimately backfire.

The new Iranian Revolution began not with the election or its likely fraudulent outcomes, rather it began with the run up to the election and in the aftermath of the same election, where the people came together. Awareness that the power structure is fraudulent can not be suppressed. The more the actions of the opposition are met with brutality, the more illegitimate the government becomes to the Persian peoples.

The youth of the country have time on their side. The old guard is just that, old, and no longer revolutionary. Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics may have continued their reign for the short run, but ultimately, the seeds of change have already taken root. The rot and detritus of continuing repression will only serve to nourish the resistance, which sooner or later, will bloom.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Loving Day

June 12th is officially known as "Loving Day." For those who have never heard of this day the title is both appropriate and ironic. How can this be?

Loving Day is the day that the Supreme Court in 1967, struck down as unconstitutional, laws against "racial miscegenation" that were used as barriers to inter-racial marriage. First arrested in 1958, just a few weeks after their marriage, Richard and Mildred Loving (yes, believe it or not, that was their name) were charged under the state of Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. They were made to pay a fine and forced to leave the state of Virginia where they resided. Sixteen other states had similar laws on the books at that time. Alabama finally rescinded its final laws on miscegenation in 2000.

The Lovings, who had known each other for years before their marriage, were not the typical challengers of social convention. Working class people, they were not trying to change the law or make a constitutional point. They just happened to have married the person they loved and society did not approve. Loving Day is an appropriate name in that it has turned out to be a celebration of love between people others did not want to recognize.

But there is also irony to the name Loving Day. Had the Loving's not encountered such hatred and bigotry we would never have known of them. Also, the date chosen is the date of the legal case. What does the law have to do with love? Likely, had they not chosen to legalize their union no one would have cared. It was the very act of marriage that caused problems with their local sheriff.

In the final analysis it is fortuitous that Richard and Mildred Loving had the name they did. I doubt that had their name been "Smith" or "Jones" that we would have Smith Day or Jones Day. But perhaps there is more here than just a name. In the year before her death Mildred Loving issued a statement that she supported the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Like she and her husband, gays and lesbians primarily raise the ire of bigots when they want to marry and be out in the open. As long as gays and lesbians don't attempt to formalize their unions, but just live together, no one cares. Mildred Loving saw that connection. So should we all.

Why do I make such a big deal about this? You see, Mildred and Richard Loving changed the course of my life. Were it not for them, I legally could not have married my wife. To Mildred and Richard, this June 12th I will remember you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

America: NOT a Socialist Nation (Unfortunately)

Enough with all the right wingers claiming that America is becoming a "socialist nation." Sarah Palin's ludicrous interview with Sean Hannity last night on Fox News was just the latest such example. The crying jags of Glenn Beck, the calling of the sheep by Rush Lim-baa, and the false righteous spew from the rest of the lot, are but a lame attempt to use socialism as a buzz word to arouse visceral fear. This should be viewed for what it is, the desperate ploy of a rejected political viewpoint.

Socialism is used precisely because they believe the public is afraid of the word. And I mean the word, not the actual political philosophy. The above mentioned pundits and politicians are clearly trying to play on fear, not an actual evaluation of socialism. Likely they count on the fact that their listeners and followers have not thought about the consequences of a truly socialist America. The reason is that the right wing is not interested in what is best for the nation, they are interested in what is best for themselves. Capitalism has nearly destroyed the country and yet its failed philosophy continues to be championed by the tools of the transnational corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy. Capitalism is a morally bankrupt philosophy that is designed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.

If America were a socialist nation we could immediately solve most of our financial problems. Here's how we would do it. First and foremost we nationalize all of the industries that are currently using OUR national resources for THEIR private profit. Why should the wealth of the nation not belong to the nation and its citizens? Let's begin by nationalizing the oil, natural gas, mining, timber and private water industries. The revenue generated by our new oil companies alone should go a long way towards balancing the federal budget.

National Health Care is a must for a socialist nation. None of these promises from the insurers (lying capitalists only concerned with profit. Where have they taken us so far?), no watered down public option, not even a one-payer system. Instead, give us true socialized medicine. Put the doctors on salary and take over the pharmaceutical industry. That would certainly drive down costs. In the coming debate on health care please do not accept distortions and delusions that a public option is anything like socialism, its just the only way to keep the private insurers honest. Private insurers are only intersted in profit, not health care.

One of the great flaws of capitalism is that the quest for excessive wealth creates a moral hazard, i.e., temptation to cheat and manipulate the system may be too great to turn down. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco and Bernie Madoff are just two convenient examples. Therefore, were America truly a socialist nation we would try to prevent the accumulation of excessive wealth. The best solution to this would be to raise the marginal income tax. You don''t want to completely stifle the incentive to work, so the rate should be graduated. I would suggest that a fifty(50) percent rate kick in around the $2 million mark (if you can't live on a million a year, you are a decadent running dog) and rise to an eighty (80) per cent rate by the $10 million dollar mark. Is Rush Lim-baa's commitment to capitalism really about what is good for the country or what is good for his tax rates?

While we're talk in taxes, let us not overlook one of the great sources of untapped tax revenue in this country -- the churches. In a nation where we allegedly have separation of church and state, it seems unfathomable that churches are tax exempt organizations. In theory, this should be true whether the nation is socialist or capitalist.

Even greater sources of tax revenue would be the legalization and taxing of vices that are now criminalized. Legalization of gambling, prostitution, and drugs, followed by the appropriate taxation would also go a long way towards solving some of our financial woes.

These are just a few changes that we might see were America to become a socialist nation. To the wealthy who have the wealth of the nation transferred daily into their hands, this is a frightening prospect. To the masses, it is a solution to the ills of the nation. Many of the most successful projects of the U.S. government were socialist in nature. The creation of the power grid, public water plants, the interstate highway system, and to a degree, the Internet, are all a result of projects that are by their very nature, collectivist. Capitalism, on the other hand, has led to the privatization and downgrading of government services and no bid contracts for Halliburton.

Finally, were America really a socialist nation, the bank bailout would have never occurred. The government would have taken over the entire banking system and exerted complete control over the economy. The banks would not have been loaned money to rescue them for engaging in fraud, they would have been taken over and their officers put in prison for their actions.

If one considers what America would be like as a socialist nation, it is abundantly clear that the United States in no way fits this description. Outcry to the contrary should be taken as the fear provoking drivel that it is. America is still firmly under the thumb of capitalism and a long, long way from socialism. From my point of view, this is unfortunate.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Power of Rhetoric

Barack Obama demonstrated yesterday that rhetoric can matter. In a speech delivered at Cairo University in Egypt, he essentially re-ordered the direction of American foreign policy. Several statements can be given as evidence.

On two occasions he used the term "Palestine" in such a way as to elevate the Palestinian state to a current reality on an even footing with Israel. Use of the phrase will have greater reverberations in the Middle East than in the U.S. Further, he openly rebuked Israel for continuing to expand the settlements. This public flogging of Israel was a further sign that there is a different direction in this policy. In recognizing the plight of the Palestinians in a manner that no American president has ever done, he signalled a willingness to confront one of the major conflicts underlying all the other conflict in the Middle East.

He openly condemned torture and unequivocally stated that he would close Guantanamo by early next year. The Iraq War was referenced as a "war of choice." In all of these statements he not only refuted the Bush Doctrine, he refuted the whole approach of the Bush (mis)Administration. Obama also demonstrated a recognition that these efforts by Bush-Cheney served to further alienate the Arab and Islamic worlds.

He directly confronted stereotypes of both Islam and America as counterproductive. In so doing, he served to isolate the fanatics from the moderates, rather than driving them together. One of the major effects of the Bush-Cheney approach to Islamic radicalism has been to cause moderate Muslims, who would normally reject the extremists, to at least tacitly support them because of their anger at the actions at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, etc. Referring to "Holocaust deniers," he made a not-so-subtle jab at Ahmadinejad in a manner as to align him with the marginalized extremists just ahead of the coming elections.

He extended a hand to Iran with a defense of its right to have nuclear power, and then drew a line concerning nuclear weapons. In a deft maneuver that recognized the difficulty of the only nation that has ever used atomic weapons telling others not to build them, he took the opportunity to advocate a nuclear free future. Idealistic rhetoric not likely to happen in the foreseeable future, yet, a necessary statement to stake out a strategy that begins by making sure no other nations join the already too large nuclear club.

The most stunning revelation made by Obama was an open admission that the United States had played a part in the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddeq and the government of Iran. This coup directly led to the installation of the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi to the Peacock Throne. The support of the U.S. for the Shah is what ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution that occurred under Ayatollah Khomeini. In acknowledging this bit of history Obama demonstrated to the Persians that the tensions of the present have a historical basis that must be addressed in a truthful and cooperative manner.

This is the speech that George Bush should have given after 9/11. Of course, it would not have been possible for him to do so. This speech required a knowledge and understanding of history, an awareness of other cultures, and a thoughtfulness that Bush did not possess. Had such an awareness of the complexities and realities of the multiple interrelated conflicts in the Middle East been elucidated at that time, where might we be now? Instead we got, "Bring it on."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today, Tianamen Was No Place To Play

Twenty years ago on June 4th, the Chinese government ruthlessly crushed the pro-Democracy movement that had drawn to a head in the center of government, Tianamen Square. Today the government has effectively squelched all remembrances of that day with a crack down on dissidents and censorship.

In the twenty years since Tianamen, China has shown unprecedented growth, selling the world large quantities of cheap plastic crap. Poisons seem to be in every product. Thumbing their nose at the world they have hosted an Olympics and financed a credit debacle. All the while they have promised to improve human rights and provide a more open society.

What they have delivered is more repression and censorship. To even discuss the events of Tianamen Square writers have to refer to the date as "May 35th" in an attempt to evade the censors. A whole movement utilizing the phrase "grass-mud-horse" has arisen in another attempt to evade censorship.

Remember June 4th. China is a smoldering ember, ready to burst into the flames of a true revolution. Repression only causes greater dissent. Stop subsidizing the oppression of your fellow man, stop buying Chinese.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on White Privilege

Over the past few days I have listened with a bemused attitude as a parade of white men have bemoaned the losing of their privilege. Most of this pity parade was in response to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a case of mass projection, a plethora of white men have challenged Sotomayor as racist, primarily because there seems to be a fear among them that she will not automatically rule in favor of the white man.

Many of their challenges have been absurd. Tom Tancredo compared La Raza to the Ku Klux Klan, Rush Lim-baa (as in sheep), compared her to David Duke, a charge that even the former Klansman reputed. Karl Rove, the dropout who doesn't respect the educational process, questioned her intelligence. Throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks, we've got the usual absurdities from the likes of Glenn Beck and Toad Gingrich.

Sadly, NBC commentator Pat Buchanan appears to be the most blatant of the lot, openly decrying the declining power of the white male. Buchanan, for his part, at least seems genuine, although I'm not sure if that's in his favor or not.

The position that these white men have all staked out is that leveling the playing field is racist. That taking away the automatic advantage that white males have expected for centuries is somehow wrong. Buchanan stated on Monday that if a job were given to a minority it was taken from a white male. His underlying bias is that a white man must be the best for every job. Suppose that giving a job to one minority took the job from another minority (e.g. female vs. Latino). Where would Buchanan stand? On the side of the white man that finished third.

You see, what those who are crying racism at present are really upset about is the loss of their own privilege. It is presented that giving a fair opportunity is somehow unjust, while the old status quo that held down everyone but the white man was somehow fair. Arguments against affirmative action in colleges never seem to suggest that the legacy admissions (children of alumni) are an unfair advantage even though these allow underqualified students admission to many top schools (e.g. Bush 43). Let's not bring up that the dumb children of the rich can guarantee decent SAT's because of a prep school education, while a brilliant child of poverty stricken parents may not be able to afford to take the test.

Advantages and disadvantages do matter. White males have had everything their way for so long that any attempt to even things out is seen as an attack. The bigoted are now accusing everyone of racism because they fear their days of dominating the power structure are over.

Summer's Here and the Time is Right

Summer's here and the time is right for the manipulation of oil prices. Despite the fact that crude oil inventories are at a 20-year high, the price of oil is once again going up. A veritable glut of petroleum is currently available on the market, yet the retail price is once again on the rise. In the city in which I reside, gasoline has gone up nearly 40 cents a gallon in the last two weeks.

As regular readers of this column will know, I am not opposed to high gas prices. In fact, I have noted on numerous occasions that high gasoline prices are good for the environment and conservation. However, what I object to is the blatant manipulation of prices for profit. The reason I advocate high oil prices is to discourage use and raise revenues for alternative fuels to help wean ourselves from our addiction to oil. The high prices I'm seeing are only to enrich the pushers of the petrol drug which are then used to prevent and lobby against the development of sustainable energy.

This summer, let's stick it to the pusher man. Walk, carpool, coordinate trips. Drive as little as possible, let those tankers sit off-shore loaded with the world's greatest addiction. Make it cost them more to store it than they can sell it for.

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