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Why do we refuse to address the need for a sustainable future, free of the shackels of consumerism and an outdated petroleum-driven society?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

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