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.

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