Monday, December 13, 2010

The Leak Gets Larger

You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. - Peter Gabriel

There is now a new voice in the world of leaked documents and transparent government. A new site dedicated to a free press,OpenLeaks, is preparing to debut. OpenLeaks, started by former WikiLeaks workers, is not so much a competitor as another alternative. Begun partially as a way to distance the WikiLeaks approach from its public face, Julian Assange, OpenLeaks is now another means to by which the public can get information.

WikiLeaks, as I noted in a previous post, is but a messenger. The real battle here is over transparency and open government. Efforts to kill WikiLeaks will have little real effect now that the idea has grown into a movement.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Techno D-Day

It was a techno D-Day, a techno D-Day, out on Omaha Beach.
Where the troops believe in the life of freedom.
This is all about free speech.
- Joe Strummer

In reaction to the arrest of Julian Assange, front man for Wikileaks, "hacktivists" began symbolic attacks upon Swedish government sites, Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and others today. In England (correction: Holland) a 16-year-old was arrested for hacking in connection with the actions.

Actions such as the arrest of the 16-year-old just demonstrates how those who are trying to stop Wikileaks simply don't get it. Wikileaks is not just a one man show run by Assange. He is merely the public face. Calls for Assange to be prosecuted on various charges such as espionage, etc. demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the information age. Assange is only the messenger. He is but a soldier. This is about free speech and freedom of the press.

Efforts to stop Wikileaks have come from various corners over the past couple of weeks. What these attempts to silence them have done is to produce the exact opposite effect. Mirror sites have been proliferating and more hackers have rallied to the defense of Wikileaks. The free speech and free press advocates have been united in a common cause.

The world has changed. Everything is public now, whether anyone wants it to be or not. World governments must accept this reality, multinational corporations must accept this reality, every single individual must accept this reality.

A battle has begun. The battle is between the old way of doing things, with secrets and hidden information and the new way, where everything is dragged into the light. Even if Assange were to go to prison, nothing can stop what has begun. The beaches have been stormed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good News & Bad News

First; the good news:

Over the past few days it has been reported by various news services that Dick Cheney has been indicted in Nigeria for crimes committed while CEO of Halliburton.

And now; the bad news:

Neither Cheney nor Bush have yet been indicted for the war crimes committed during their administration. Cheney will likely remain free as he is in an undisclosed location supervising Halliburton's reconstruction of the Death Star.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Assault on Free Speech

If you have been looking for the WikiLeaks documents today you likely received a message that the server is not responding. What has happened is that the U.S. State Department has put enormous pressure on various companies and now WikiLeaks domain name - is no longer functional.

For a country that is allegedly committed to free speech and a free press the U.S. government is acting completely contrary to that ideal. Threatening to charge Julian Assange, WikiLeaks public face, with espionage is only the tip of the iceberg. Amazon, formerly hosting WikiLeaks, has now kicked them off their servers.

Aside from the sheer stupidity of trying to remove information from the Internet (this genie is never going back in the bottle)the idea of official government censorship of the press is abhorrent. A democracy depends on citizen's knowledge and access to information.

The truth about WikiLeaks is that little of importance that was not already known or suspected was revealed. The hue and cry is more about the embarrassment this is causing for world leaders than any threat to security. Really, what have we learned? The Saudi's are two faced with other Arab nations? Silvio Berlusconi is a vain, corrupt egomaniac? Karzai's brother is a narcotics trafficker? Diplomats sometimes collect information? Gasp and swoon. Anyone unaware of these things hasn't been paying attention anyway.

WikiLeaks is now available at the domain Happy reading lovers of a free press.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gore Admits Error

Al Gore recently expressed that he was wrong to champion the use of corn as a fuel alternative. Speaking in Greece, Gore noted that his own promotion of the food as fuel was likely influenced by his political aspirations and farmers in his home state of Tennessee and the important caucus state, Iowa.

Gore is absolutely right. Turning food into fuel is little more than a financial boondoggle to corn producers. The fuel created is neither efficient nor cheap. Its real value is the subsidy to the producers. Its real costs is to the food budgets of the poor.

Alternative energy is a necessity, but converting food into fuel seems incomprehensible. Incomprehensible to everyone but a corn producer.

The subsidy for corn to ethanol is due to expire. Whether it is renewed or not will likely depend on the factors that have little or nothing to do with energy independence or security. Instead, it will depend on lobbyists. Who will win? In a battle between the profits of agribusiness and food for the poor, I'm afraid the decision has already been made. Please pass the fuel.

Pelicans in Siberia

According to Reuters News Service, a flock of African pink pelicans became confused during their migration and ended up in Siberia. The pelicans, native to Africa (as the name suggests) were apparently fooled by the warm weather in Siberia.

African birds ending up in Siberia is more than a curiosity. It is a sign of things to come. The birds were thrown off their normal migratory patterns by what is being described as abnormally warm temperatures. Abnormally warm for the past, but maybe not the future. Animals such as birds and insects operate largely out of instinct. When this instinct becomes confused or the signals that trigger migration change, behavior is altered in unpredictable ways.

Global warming is more than a abstract concept about the temperature of the earth. In an inter-related system, what affects one thing will affect others. The future is upon us and its going to the birds.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bush Admits War Crimes

George W. Bush, in his new memoir, Decision Points (he was "The Decider" after all), admitted that he authorized water-boarding. Admission of water-boarding, held to be torture by treaties the U.S. has signed, is grounds for prosecution as a war criminal. The ACLU has already called on Bush to be tried and will be joined by this writer and others interested in international law in the very near future.

Under international law, the country in which the war criminal lives is given first responsibility for the prosecution of such acts. Should the U.S. fail to act, then other countries are then tasked with prosecution. While it is unlikely that Bush will ever be prosecuted in the U.S., it is likely that he will soon find it difficult to travel outside the boundaries of the country without risk of arrest.

What an embarrassment this man has been to the nation. "W" doesn't just stand for wrong, it also stands for war criminal.

Why We're Doomed - Part 3

This morning I stopped at a local cafe for breakfast. Having an aversion to chain restaurants I am always on the lookout for unique local places. Traveling a route that I don't normally take I spied a red barn styled place that had a full parking lot, the greatest endorsement any restaurant can have. When I entered the place appeared full of promise. It was just the way I like local places; cramped, chaotic and confusing. Coffee was only ninety-nine cents.

Then the food came. First of all, let me say that the food was first rate. Tasty and filling, all at a reasonable price. I will never eat there again. The food came served on a plastic plate with plastic utensils. The coffee was in a Styrofoam cup.

Clearly this packed restaurant could afford to upgrade to real plates and silverware. I cannot imagine that in the long term it is not cheaper to buy reusable plates, cups, and utensils than to constantly buy them and throw them away. I inquired as to why they used the approach they did. The answer was that it cost too much in the short run to make the change. In effect, short term costs were more relevant to the owners than long term profitability. Environmental costs aside, this is simply a bad business decision.

I grow more pessimistic every day when it comes to reversing the tide building towards an impending ecological disaster. When businesses won't do the environmentally responsible thing even when it is in their economic interests there is little hope that society as a whole will address these issues.

Forget cap and trade legislation. The economic world is governed by short term concerns and appears unable to consider what is in its best interests in the long term. My local restaurant is only a symbol of this mindset. They will get no more of my business, no matter how good the food.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Small Sliver of Light

As the cloud of knee-jerk conservatism descends upon the nation, there emerges on sliver of light on the otherwise dark horizon. That small sliver is the election of Jerry Brown as Governor of California. Brown, who now holds the distinction of being both the youngest and oldest person elected to lead the most populous state, is in a position to actually push an agenda that affects the whole country.

California, with its overwhelming size and economy (8th largest in the world according to EconPost), can and does alter what goes on in the country as a whole. When California passes environmental regulations or manufacturing standards the nation as a whole is generally forced to adopt them in order to do business in the state. With corporate shill Meg Whitman as the alternative, Brown's election is important. Coupled with the defeat of Proposition 23, which would have rolled back environmental protections, California is now likely to be the backstop that prevents the country from abandoning efforts to produce green technology.

Jerry Brown has long advocated alternative energy and green power. Long before it was popular or fashionable to do so, Brown was a major supported of environmental initiatives. Embracing the label of liberal when others ran from it he was declared dead in the political arena. But Brown did something few politicians have ever done - he put his career on the line and held to his values. Becoming mayor after being a presidential candidate is almost unheard of in American politics, yet that is what Brown did. He became mayor of Oakland and quickly proved himself a capable leader who could get things done. Now he is in a position to effect the entire nation.

Jerry Brown - good to have you back.

Send in the Clowns

In a fit of collective amnesia the American electorate has decided to return to power the very people who created the mess in which we now find ourselves. After spending 30 years busting the bank while pleading fiscal conservatism, Republicans have returned to power after only two short years. How? The clown approach.

Clowns are loud and obnoxious and create a big distraction for the audience while one act leaves the circus and the next gets ready. The clowns serve to keep the crowd from getting bored and noticing what else is going on. Their true selves are hidden by costumes, make-up and general garishness. Now they have taken over the political arena.

Claiming that they will cut the deficit while pushing a tax cut for the wealthy that will increase the national debt by 4 TRILLION dollars, promising smaller government while pushing a social agenda that will have government in everyone's private lives, championing the rights of seniors while attempting to privatize Social Security, the Republican Party and their incoherent allies in the Tea Party have seized the government. This election is a triumph of propaganda and manipulation. Now the clowns will leave the stage and the elephants will stomp all over us all.

Get ready for efforts to roll back every piece of progressive legislation passed in the last 50 years. The government will now belong to corporate interests and the poor will now fund a tax break for the wealthy.

A study conducted at the University of Sheffield in 2008 found that children almost universally fear clowns. It is time to listen to the children.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Criminal Negligence & Reckless Endangerment

Investigators into the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico have uncovered evidence that BP and Halliburton, the company that poured the cement for the well, had knowledge that the cement mixture was unstable. In three of four tests performed by Halliburton on the mixture, it failed. Neither company appeared to have any concerns at the time that these failures might cause problems. Of course, both are now pointing the finger at each other.

Three failures out of four tests. A 75 percent failure rate and both of these corporations decided to risk it. No reasonable individual would dare think of using a product that failed three-quarters of the time. In a situation such as underwater drilling one would think that there would be a need for certainty rather than an expectation of failure.

Gambling that something that has failed 75 percent of the time will work flawlessly defies logic. The legal terms for what happened here are criminal negligence and reckless endangerment. Negligence may be too mild a term for completely ignoring evidence that a system is likely to fail. The workers were more than endangered, eleven of them died.

It is easy to see why Halliburton and BP are pointing their fingers at each other - when reckless endangerment leads to death the charges are manslaughter or murder. Too strong? What do you think would be the result of an individual putting workers on a scaffolding working at their house that collapsed? What do you think would happen in this case if it were shown the homeowner knew the scaffolding was substandard and likely to collapse? The answer is clear. That individual would be prosecuted.

When will corporations be held to the same standards as individuals? Do they only get to claim personhood when they are dumping unlimited cash into elections?

** Halliburton's history of cutting costs at the expense of safety is well documented. Recall that it was Halliburton that managed to electrocute soldiers by cross wiring electrical services into plumbing at bases in Iraq.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nagoya: Important & Unnoticed

One hundred ninety three (193) nations began meeting today in Nagoya, Japan to address the issue of biodiversity. Following up on the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) negotiated in Rio de Janeiro at the Earth Summit, the task before the attendees is enormous. The goals outlined in the 1992 Convention have remained largely unmet with continued deforestation and an accelerated loss of species. Biodiversity as an issue is largely ignored by the public and political figures. The United States remains one of the few countries that has failed to ratify the 1992 agreement.

Little attention has been given to this meeting. Hopes that the world had begun to recognize the necessity of action to address major environmental concerns appear to have been premature. Last years climate conference in Copenhagen ended without any agreement and momentum seems lost.

As I satirized in my novel, The Dirt People (2007, Blue Throat Press), governmental inaction is largely the by-product of a lack of political will and corporate manipulation (through both lobbying and propaganda). This "fiddling as Rome burns," lack of effort to deal with our environmental problems is often couched in economic terms. The costs of green energy are amplified, the effects of clean ups are exaggerated and the benefits of sustainability are minimized. Meanwhile, phthalates (see yesterday's post) and other toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment, mining disasters continue to occur, oil platforms continue to explode and that giant mass of plastic goo continues to grow in the Pacific.

The lack of effort on a worldwide level to address our expanding environmental destruction is alarming. As China and other nations continue to develop and consume, attempting to emulate the Western world in its consumption and attendant destruction, the future is imperiled. Concern for the wealth of transnational corporations seems to be more important to politicians than the health of the planet and its citizens.

Why is this not the lead story in the news? Why is the environment not the major issue of every election? Why is it that I expect it to get worse?

Only when the last tree has died, when the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, only then will you realize that you can't eat money. -Cree saying

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Phthalates: The Problem With Plastic

It is becoming increasingly clear that modern life is a health risk. All around, we are surrounded by untested chemicals that have the potential to alter our lives. Reuters News, in a special report by Pete Harrison, has noted that phthalates, the chemicals that make plastic pliable, are particularly suspect as regards health concerns, especially in the case of impaired fertility and reproductive development.

Phthalates are used in a wide variety of products. Just about anything synthetic that needs to be flexible contain the chemicals. Many of these materials are used to make containers for food and likely have entered the bloodstreams of most people alive today. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)has listed four phthalates among its list of 38 chemicals classified as "substances of very high concern," (Harrison, 2010 at The four listed phthalates,of course, seem to be those most commonly used.

Phthalates are not our only problem. In addition to the chemicals identified by the ECHA, Greenpeace has assembled a list of 356 suspect chemicals while the European Trade Union Confederation has 334 substances it believes should also be banned. Most of these suspect chemicals serve as building blocks for the materials of modern life.

Are the conveniences of modern life worth our lives?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freedom of the Press Apparently NOT a Tea Party Value

Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate for Senate in Alaska, apparently is no fan of the freedom of the press. After refusing to answer questions about his private life on numerous occasions, Miller has seemed surprised that reporters continue to ask him questions. He appears has found a solution to those pesky reporters - he has them "arrested."

According to various news sources, Miller's private security forces detained a reporter for the Alaska Dispatch named Tony Hopfinger. Miller was speaking at a public school in Alaska when Hopfinger repeatedly questioned him. Miller's security guards informed Hopfinger that he was trespassing (an interesting concept at a public place)and then proceeded to "arrest" him by putting handcuffs on him. You will note that I have put arrest in quotes because I am not aware of any authority for private individuals to detain a reporter. Illegal detention of a person is called kidnapping, not arrest. The validity, or lack thereof, of this detainment is best illustrated by the fact that the Anchorage Police let Hopfinger go when they arrived.

It is interesting that a number of the Tea Party candidates have refused to speak to the press. Sharron Angle famously ran from reporters at her own press conference and Rand Paul and Christine O'Donnell seem to speak only to Fox News.

Pay attention - those trumpeting their dedication to freedom and liberty appear to have little respect for these values in practice. I still don't know what the Tea Party is for, but I'm starting to figure out what they are against.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good News About the Economy

Finally, some good news about the economy. Well, actually it's not good news about the economy, it's good news because of the economy. On Sunday, October 10th, in an article by Matthew Wald, entitled "Sluggish Economy Curtails Prospects for Building Nuclear Reactors," that appeared in The New York Times, it was reported that the recession and continued economic fears have driven efforts to build nuclear plants to a halt.

The fight over nuclear power has waxed and waned for decades. Every so often an accident occurs and the true costs of nuclear power becomes evident. After Chernobyl and Three Mile Island it appeared for a brief period of time that the world was beginning to understand that the dangers associated with nuclear reactors may be more than we can handle. Problems of storage of nuclear waste and its by-products are an ongoing difficulty that plague all nuclear facilities. Occasionally local communities become attuned to this issue when a storage facility is proposed in their backyards.

When the problems associated with nuclear energy are shoved into our consciousness, it is easy to see the folly that is nuclear power. However, as soon as the price of oil starts to rise and society is confronted with the true costs of its consumption, nuclear power advocates begin trumpeting it as a solution. This occurs despite the fact that no nuclear power plant has ever produced any cost efficient energy. The costs of construction and storage of waste make subsidies necessary to even pursue this course of action.

Costs aside, the most ludicrous claim is that nuclear energy is safe. Compared to what? Yes, oil wells explode and miners get trapped underground, but these industries don't have a monopoly on accidents. The nature of all human endeavors is that mistakes occur and accidents happen. Unfortunately, for nuclear energy to be safe there needs to be perfect safety. Even if one ignores the possibility of deliberate acts of sabotage or terrorism, it will never happen that nuclear energy can be fail safe. It is human arrogance and hubris that suggests otherwise.

Look at the damage done by the BP disaster. Drilling for oil is simple compared to harnessing the power of the atom. Think oil is difficult to clean up, try plutonium - it has a half-life of forever.

Rescue in Chile Under Way

The rescue of the 33 miners in Chile has begun. As of just a few moments ago, 12 of the miners had already been removed from the mine. The ongoing operation appears to be going well. The rescue and survival has been a heart-warming - a mining disaster that has turned into a triumphant story.

Little attention has been paid to the circumstances that led to this near tragedy. The positive outcome will likely become the focus of the story. However, at the heart of this matter is our addiction to cheap energy. Mining disasters are far too frequent and often do not have such an upbeat ending (look for future features about mining disasters on this site).

Averted tragedy must not be used as an excuse to ignore the very real human costs of our addiction. Yes, this disaster seems to have turned out well, but every years, scores of miners die and, through pollution, coal indirectly contributes to the deaths of countless people around the world. In addition to the human costs, there are the environmental costs. Cheap energy is not cheap, it is exploitative.

Everyone wants cheap energy, but at what costs?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Genocide Day

Officially it is Columbus Day. While I like having a day off as much as anyone, having a holiday to celebrate Columbus is like having a holiday to celebrate heart disease. Columbus didn't discover America - he invaded it.

Is there any other place in the world where there is a national holiday to celebrate such a completely incompetent and horrific person? Columbus, who "discovered" a land populated with millions of human beings, must have been the worst sailor in the world. He called the native population "Indians" because he thought he was in India. This despite the fact that there is abundant proof that North America was already known to Europeans at the time.

But it is not Columbus' ignorance of geography for which he should be condemned. It is his behavior. His men hunted native peoples for sport and as food for their dogs (Loewen, 1996). In his own hand he wrote letters to his brother Bartholomew bragging about the price he could get for children in the sex slave trade (Loewen, 1996). Directly and indirectly his actions led to the deaths of an estimated 100 million people (Churchill, 1994).

Columbus is no hero. Honoring such a person is an insult to decency. Let us recognize that in having a day for Columbus the nation is choosing to both celebrate a lie (that Columbus discovered America) and engaging in a purposeful cover-up of his actions.

Churchill, W. (1994). Indians are us. Common Courage Press.

Loewen, J. W. (1996). Lies my teacher told me. Touchstone Publishing.

Sold to the Highest Bidder

As we approach the mid-term elections an unseen force begins to exert undue influence over our political process. This force, money, is not new to the political process nor is it new to undue influence over said process. However, what is now new is that moneyed interests now have a legal right to attempt to buy the outcome. Legal precedent established in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission case now make it lawful for corporations to put as much money as they desire into elections. Unlike individuals, corporations are able to donate as much as they would like and can even directly air advertising.

The Citizen's United ruling hinges on an even greater misrepresentation from the 1886 ruling in Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, in which corporations were granted personhood (see link elsewhere on this page for a review of the court case). As is commonly known, the case did not actually rule on that issue, but rather the clerk scribbled it after the fact on the document.

Of course it defies logic that corporations are people, but what defies logic even more is the ruling in Citizen's United that removes limits on political spending by corporations. Logically it would seem to follow that if limits can be placed on individuals who are actual people, then limits could also be imposed on corporations, which as people are legal fictions.

Beyond this egregious idea that corporations are people with the rights of individuals, is the other idea to emerge from the Citizen's United ruling that these groups can give money without identifying the source.

On Sunday, speaking on Face the Nation, presidential advisor David Axelrod stated that foreign corporations are involved in donating money through Republican groups to influence the election. The Democrats apparently are even rolling out an ad campaign around this idea.

"Foul!" cry the Republicans, "you can't prove it." Well obviously not. It is impossible to prove who anonymous donors are. That is completely the point. As long as donors are able to remain anonymous it will be impossible to know who is trying to buy our democracy. What is really strange is that the holier-than-thou Tea Party seems completely silent about this matter. Could it be that they are using this to their advantage? Witness Art Robinson, global warming denier and Oregon congressional candidate. Mysteriously, ads critical of Robinson's opponent have appeared allegedly without his knowledge as to the source of funding.

Back to the issue of foreign money. To think that corporations are giving money and there is no foreign involvement strains credibility as to how corporations are organized. Corporations, those large enough to give money on the scale that influences elections, are rarely single nation entities. Transnational corporations are the norm rather than the exception. Many of these global behemoths have financial resources greater than most nations, yet are treated as if they are individual American citizens. Is there anyone who believes that these entities are above trying to influence an election, or for that matter, all elections?

Without limits on corporate spending and without disclosure laws there is absolutely nothing to prevent foreign entities, corporate or state, from clandestinely providing resources in an attempt to buy a government. Our representatives are already beholden enough to moneyed interests. Without disclosure and limits, the government is up for auction.

Follow the money. Notice who defends this state of affairs that would allow for the unlimited flow of dollars from foreign companies, governments and individuals to influence U.S. elections. Will Exxon, China and Bin Laden decide who we elect next?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nine Years

Today, October 7th, 2010, marked the ninth anniversary of United States entry into the quagmire of Afghanistan. According to PBS News, 1321 U.S. soldiers have died to date in the conflict. So far, all that seems to have been accomplished is that the war has spilled over into Pakistan.

Also, today, it was reported that Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler was killed during his 12th deployment.

The Sleeper Has Awaken

For the past two months this blog has been inactive. Several factors, mostly too mundane to mention, contributed to this. However, the primary factor was that the BP disaster in the Gulf has led me to rethink the nature of this site.

As you may have noticed, the subtitle has changed to "A Chronicle of the Destruction of ...". The BP spill became a slow motion disaster that eventually numbed the public with its never ending pattern of incompetence. Now that its over, people are clamoring for more off shore drilling. It seems we will never learn.

The continuing destruction of the planet as evidenced by the toxic spill in Hungary, the continued ongoing disaster of oil spills/leaks/seeps (you name it) in Nigeria, and ongoing nuclear proliferation does not bode well for the future.

While it is true that the weather is not the same as climate, it is hard not to note that it was 113 degrees in Los Angeles last week, that wildfires in Russia burned around Chernobyl and floods in Pakistan displaced millions. Meanwhile, California is on the verge of having environmental reforms gutted by a ballot initiative funded primarily by oil companies.

It is the link between the destruction of the environment and corporate greed that will become the focus of this site as it slowly updates over the next several months. Several features will change and some will be eliminated. Others, such as lists of the worst oil spills, nuclear accidents, etc. will become regular fixtures.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead in the Water

The Gulf Oil Spill is likely to continue its damage for many years. The amount of oil that has leaked will likely never be accurately known thanks to the actions of BP in obscuring the size of the leak to avoid fines. The number of fish and birds killed will never be fully counted. What is for sure is that oil is death to living things.

The Gulf of Mexico already has a huge dead zone where the Mississippi empties into the ocean. Industrial pollution is largely to blame. The BP spill should be put in perspective. The murder of animals and the destruction of the environment is the consequence of modern industrial society. In a larger sense, the BP spill is not unique. There has been oil seeping into the oceans off the coast of Africa for decades, Saudi Arabia had a massive spill a few years ago and there has even been another major spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the past. Not to mention the Exxon Valdez travesty, leaks in China, Russia, Nigeria, etc. Pipeline leaks throughout Africa, Alaska and apparently even Michigan as was learned yesterday. For details of these disasters, just enter the names above and "oil spill" or "oil leak" into a search engine.

We are killing the oceans. To paraphrase a Cree saying: "Only when the last fish has been killed will you learn that you can't eat money." Cheap oil is not worth the price. Turns out, its not so cheap.

100 Days: Broken Promises, Bogus Plans, and Big Problems

100 Days. The British Petroleum oil spill is now 100 days old. Oil has been pumping into the Gulf of Mexico for over three months. The amount of oil spilled is somewhere between 150 and 300 MILLION gallons. An entire ecosystem is threatened and a fishing industry is ruined, possibly for the foreseeable future.

What has been learned is that BP made promises that no such disaster could occur, bogus plans to clean up after such a disaster, and has likely made matters worse by its efforts to use dispersants, apparently in a bid to prevent an accurate accounting of the actual spill amounts.

This whole fiasco has demonstrated that the oil industry has been feeding the public a barrel of lies (covered in oil) as regards its ability to prevent, contain and clean up from such a disaster. Its promises to pay for the spill and reimburse those whose livelihoods it has destroyed must be viewed with skepticism given their past track record for lying.

Several politicians have shown their true colors in attempting to defend Big Oil. Many have even made pleas for continued and accelerated drilling. Disappointingly, almost none have pushed for major reforms and any real effort to address the deleterious effects of the oil industry on the planet. They cash the checks while the Gulf drowns.

Monday, June 21, 2010

HMS Stupidity

Tony Hayward, disgraced British Petroleum executive, was in attendance at a yacht race in the Isle of Wight over the weekend. No doubt this is part of his efforts to get his life back. Yes, one would need to engage in a little relaxation after stonewalling Congress concerning one's knowledge of the negligent safety procedures employed by one's company.

No time to attend to the greatest oil spill disaster in history, there's a yacht race. Less than a week after BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg referred to the victims of the spill as the "small people" Hayward demonstrates utter contempt for those who lost their lives and those who have lost their livelihoods.

Such cavalier attitudes displayed by Hayward and Svanberg stand as testimony as to why corporations, especially BP, cannot be allowed to police themselves. These men should be in custody not enjoying a yacht race.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

GOP: Gobs of Petroleum

It is nearly impossible to believe, but there are actually politicians in this country who are working to protect BP from their responsibilities to the people of the U.S. Joe Barton, Republican House member, actually apologized to BP executive Tony Hayward and called efforts to make them pay for what they have done a "shakedown." Michelle Bachman (R-Minnesota) and Sarah Palin (R-Insanity) have made similar comments.

The truth is coming out. Republicans are shills for the oil companies and transnational corporations in general. Big business is their real constituency. Their outrage towards big government is really about removing any roadblocks to the looting of the resources of the nation by big corporations.

Don't buy the rhetoric, the tea is poison, flavored with oil.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

BP: Beach Petroleum

British Petroleum continues its bumbling efforts to stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The latest effort, involving cutting through a riser pipe so it could be capped, has failed as the diamond bladed saw became stuck. Now they are planning to use giant shears (think scissors) to cut through the pipe. Thad Allen just announced that the pipe has been cut and phase two of this process begins.

In what little permit process there was and in what little review occurred for this project prior to drilling BP assured regulators that it could handle a spill ten times as large as what is currently transpiring. Given their clearly inept efforts and even more glaring lack of any preparation or plans for what to do in the event of an accident, BP lied during the permit process. The Justice Department is looking for criminal behavior, fraud in the application process seems the first place to start. The deaths of the eleven workers should be investigated as negligent homicide at the least.

I'm tired of hearing the BP management team bemoan the fact that their task is difficult because they are working a mile underwater. That is exactly why they should have had multiple contingency plans. Instead of trusting that nothing could go wrong, they should have planned for the worst case scenario.

But they didn't plan. Now oil is in the wetlands and rolling onto the beaches. Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi have already had oil on their beaches and Florida is expecting it before the day is out. An area of 750,000 square miles has been closed to fishing. Plumes of oil fill the water column and the oil spill is clearly visible on satellite images. The oil and the dispersants are entering the food chain.

Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, stated over the weekend that he wanted his "life back." The people of the Gulf would like their ecosystem and fishing industry back.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Drowning in a Bathtub of Oil

For all the advocates of small government who want government to get so small it can be "drowned in a bathtub," this past six weeks of environmental destruction in the Gulf should serve as a wake up call that their ideology is dangerous when put into action. Government has a function in society and often that function requires action on the massive scale.

It is more than a little ironic to see Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana and Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, criticize the federal governments response to the oil spill. Both governors, it should be recalled, have attempted to block stimulus funds and generally oppose any federal efforts.

The lack of government as regards regulations and regulatory oversight have directly contributed to the size, duration and occurrence of the spill. Putting oilmen in office in 2000, the nation developed an energy policy in secret with Dick Cheney as Chief Operating Officer of the transnational cabal.

Turning over government to private corporations and privatizing all of the functions thereof is not the way to run a society. It is the way to take all the wealth from the public commons and transfer it to private citizens while socializing the costs and risks.

Drowning government in a bathtub is a great slogan right up until there is a disaster that requires a definitive response. The corporatist response, that which we are seeing from BP, is only about cost containment and public relations.

The folly of the "death to government," crowd as exemplified by Grover Norquist and the Teabaggers, becomes apparent in moments such as this. Time to recognize that government has a role in society. Right now that role has been impeded by the actions of the previous administration and the inaction of the current administration. Time for the Obama Adminstration to step up and use government and quit worrying about the criticisms.

BP: Biblical Proportions - 40 Days & a Plague of Oil

British Petroleum has failed in its latest attempt to plug the hole in the bottom of the sea that is currently unleashing a plague of oil upon the Gulf of Mexico and its ecosystem. Estimates of the spill range from the governments 12,000 to 19.000 barrels (approximately 500,000 to 800,000 gallons) per day. Some independent scientists put the flow from the spill even higher. No matter what figures are used, at least 20 million barrels have already leaked and there is no end in sight.

As noted, BP's effort to plug the spill using high density drilling fluid (called mud in the trade) failed. Their next effort will involve sitting a container over the top of the faulty blowout preventer. Efforts to drill another well to relieve the pressure will likely not be completed until August.

What is happening is an entire ecosystem is being destroyed while BP fiddles about. Initially attempting to minimize the spill, reporting only 1000 barrels a day flow, BP has consistently underestimated damage and overestimated their technical abilities. It is now coming out, as reported on ABC News, that BP used a riskier metal casing on the well head due to its costs.

From its explosion at a refinery in Texas to its shoddy pipeline maintenance in wilderness areas, BP has a history of cutting corners when it comes to safety and environmental protection. Its efforts to maximize its profits have always come ahead of these priorities. BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, making the rounds on the morning news shows, defended BP's actions and attempted to minimize their blame. Had a relief well been drilled along with the first well, or there had been redundancy in the blowout preventer, this tragedy could have been averted. Dudley repeatedly stressed how difficult it is to stop this. EXACTLY, that's why extraordinary safety precautions should have been taken before beginning to drill a mile underwater.

When a similar disaster occurred off the coast of Saudi Arabia years ago, the spill was surrounded by tankers which sucked up the water and removed the oil. Dudley stated that it was not feasible to do this because it was a different mixture of oil. In essence, he admitted that the reason BP is not doing this is that it is cost prohibitive. He failed to mention that there are no tankers available because of a world oil glut that has tankers sitting full all over the world awaiting better prices before selling (don't take my word for this, check it out and you'll find that its true).

From using environmentally toxic dispersants to failing to protect the beaches, from cutting costs by not drilling relief wells to using cheaper metal casings than recommended, BP has been responsible for creating this disaster. It is not just an accident, it is criminal negligence. If a private citizen had a tool shed full of gasoline and it exploded and killed the neighbor, no one would see it as just an accident. The negligence of improper behavior would likely result in a charge of homicide. Given that eleven workers have already been killed, it is only proper to expect charges of criminally negligent homicide in their deaths. Who has jurisdiction?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beautiful Protest:: CODEPINK Calls Out BP

CodePink descended on the Houston headquarters of British Petroleum today in protest of the continuing failure to stop the volcano of oil that has been erupting for the last five weeks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The members of CodePink, a group originally founded to speak out against the Oil Wars started by the Bush Administration, stripped in front of the corporate offices and covered themselves in oil. Calling their demonstration the "Naked Truth," the organization's effort was designed to draw attention to the catastrophe in the Gulf.

Don't expect British Petroleum executives to do more than send photos of the protest to their friends. It is illustrative of the whole debacle that BP has figured out a way to siphon and recover the oil but has yet to figure out how to stop the leak. Please note that the amount they are now recovering (around 5000 barrels a day) is the amount they have claimed was leaking. Film footage of the leak, however, shows that it is still continuing to blast oil into the Gulf.

It is time to for BP to allow responsible and independent scientists calculate the actual flow rate. It is time for the government to take over the efforts to stop the leak. It is time for BP to be held accountable.

"Accidents Happen": The Tea is Spilling

"Accidents happen," according to Tea Partier and Kentucky Senate nominee, Rand Paul. Running officially as a Republican, Paul, a libertarian and the son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), spouted the statement when referring to the British Petroleum oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico.

Paul, apparently views the Gulf spill as just one of those things that happen. Blinded by libertarian ideology, Paul is unable to see that his philosophical views are disastrous when society actually tries to function according to them. A non-regulated society is the ultimate goal of libertarians. However, their refusal to see that the unwillingness to regulate corporations leads to destruction of people and the environment, is more than myopic, it is tragic.

Sadly, after ten years of dismantling the very regulations that should have prevented this disaster, there are still people pretending to be responsible leaders who continue to sing the praises of deregulation. Rand Paul, and others who claim to be libertarians, seem oblivious to the real world consequences of their philosophical meanderings.

In less than one week since his primary victory, Rand Paul has exposed himself as a fanatic. In denouncing elements of the Civil Rights Acts almost immediately after his primary victory and then defending British Petroleum, Paul has demonstrated that he is only interested in ideology and is unfit to lead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Noam Chomsky Detained in Israel

Noam Chomsky, scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University, was denied entry into the West Bank by the government of Israel. Chomsky was apparently detained for several hours by authorities who freely admitted that the detention and refusal of entry was due to Chomsky's past criticisms of the government.

Chomsky, often considered America's premier intellectual, has spoken in Palestinian territories on previous occasions. This refusal of the Israeli government to allow his speech demonstrates the fear it has of criticism and open discussion.

Artist boycotts are beginning to occur as a result of such oppressive policies. Elvis Costello cancelled concerts as a result of the Chomsky detention and joins other artists such as Bono and Gil-Scott Heron in refusing to perform in the country.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mitch McConnell: Lamest Excuse Ever

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), gave what might be the lamest excuse ever heard for his opposition to a bill this Sunday morning. McConnell, speaking with David Gregory on Meet the Press, stated that he was opposed to raising the $75 million cap on oil companies for the damages they create because it would hurt "the small operator."

I thought McConnell was from Kentucky until I heard this remark and now realize he must be from another planet. The idea that raising the cap from $75 million might somehow produce conditions that would prevent small operators from being players in the oil market is straight out of fantasy world. Does McConnell, or anyone else for that matter, actually think that there are small time, mom and pop operators in the oil exploration businesses? Companies with $75 million are apparently small operators in McConnell world and oil world.

Get real. Oil is a business restricted to transnational conglomerates that hide behind laws written by their politicians. The company in question, British Petroleum, made billions last year alone. McConnell cannot possibly expect anyone to believe his talking point that he is concerned with the little guy.

For Mitch McConnell the truth is as murky as the Gulf of Mexico.

Behemoth Proportions: BP Spill Likely Larger Than Estimated

New evidence suggests that the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be far larger than the 5,000 barrels a day estimate given by BP and the U.S. government. Remember that BP initially reported that the spill was only 1000 barrels a day. That estimate was ratcheted up when the Coast Guard arrived and began to investigate the spill.

Ian McDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State has estimated the flow to be four to five times the government estimate. According to an article by Justin Gillis in the New York Times on Friday, May 14th, McDonald and other researchers are questioning the official government estimate of 146 gallons per minute. Alun Lewis, an expert in the area, estimated that the flow was much higher than the official tally after viewing film of the leak itself. NBC News, in a report by Thahn Truong, reported that as much as 70,000 barrels a day (close to 3 million gallons a day) may be leaking.

All told, the estimates by scientists seem to conclude that a minimum of one million gallons a day is leaking into the Gulf ecosystem. Tar blobs have begun to wash onto area beaches and the worst of the damage will likely not be known for some time.

BP: Beyond Preposterous.

Monday, May 10, 2010

BP: Beyond Pathetic

British Petroleum announced that it may attempt plug the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by shooting garbage into the hole. The technique, known as a "junk shot," involves spraying garbage such as shredded tires into the opening in hopes that it will plug the hole.

Project foreman, Wile E. Coyote, stated that the Acme company would be contracted to complete some of the work.

Beyond Propaganda: BP Fails in Attempt to Stop Spill

British Petroleum (BP) failed in its effort to cap the ail spill dumping at least 5000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. The attempt to place what was essentially a concrete and steel box around the spill failed because the water is so cold down at the ocean floor and ice crystals formed on the equipment. BP is reportedly going to try to use a similar approach later today using a smaller container with the idea that it may not freeze because it's smaller. If that doesn't work they are reportedly considering an approach where they attempt to shoot debris into the opening to plug it.

It seems to me that BP has no earthly clue how to stop this spill. The current efforts seem less than haphazard and clearly indicates that the company had no contingency plan in place in the event of an emergency.

As it turns out, we really have no way to measure the scope of this disaster. The 5000 barrels a day figure that is commonly reported is at best a low estimate. The actual amount may be much greater. The spill is likely to surpass the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska as the largest in U.S. history. Eleven people died in the initial explosion and the Gulf fisheries industry is likely to be devastated for a generation. Yet, BP assures us it is doing all it can.

British Petroleum claims that it will pay the full costs of the spill. It remains to be seen at what level they will live up to that claim. In their advertising campaigns, talking a good game is something at which BP seems to excel, living up to it is an altogether different matter. From its poor record in maintaining its pipelines in Nigeria, to the explosion at a refinery in Texas in 2005 to the current disaster, BP has a long history of environmental damage. Mother Jones magazine has twice named BP one of the worst corporations on the planet in terms of its environmental record.

This leak in the Gulf is an accident that didn't need to happen. Proper safety equipment that already exists could have prevented this incident. The equipment was not installed because it was deemed too costly. The oil industry has essentially been allowed to regulate themselves and as a consequence safety concerns have taken a back seat. The costs of ignoring safety and environmental issues are now greater than the costs of addressing these concerns. The response to any suggestion of increased regulation and greater safeguards from BP and the rest of the oil industry is to step up their lobbying efforts.

Safety is about more than an advertising campaign.

British Petroleum: Killing the Planet by Cutting Corners

Bob Bennett Teabagged in Utah

Senator Bob Bennett of Utah finished third in the Republican Party conclave this weekend. In Utah, Republicans hold a convention to see who can even run in their primary. Bennett, a staunch conservative, was apparently not conservative enough, as he will now be ineligible for the primary. A three-term senator who took over the seat from his father, a four-term senator, Bennett is without question conservative but seemed unable to outrun his insider label. He was challenged over voting for the bank bailout and for attempting to each a bipartisan compromise over health care. His biggest mistake seems to be that he was not completely unreasonable. Utah will now in all likelihood have even more conservative representation in the Senate.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues

Bob Dylan once wrote a song entitled "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" jesting at the John Birch Society and its tendency to see communists everywhere. In 1959 the Birchers declared that Republican President Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower was a communist. Ike, the man who led the troops in World War II, had Nixon as a vice-president and was the very model of staid conservatism was too liberal for the John Birch Society. Of course, their declaration that he was a communist was met with appropriate ridicule even from other conservatives such as William F. Buckley.

Buckley is dead so that leaves it to Dylan to provide the update. I suggest the working title: "Rush Limbaugh Spewing the Delusional News." Limbaugh, for those who avoid windbags and missed it, claimed on his radio show that environmentalists caused the BP drilling disaster as part of a cunning plot to stop off-shore drilling. The sheer ludicrous nature of this claim should have led to rapid denouncements if not commitment to a mental health facility. Unfortunately, Limbaugh's ridiculous rant was given credence by former Bush spokesperson Dana Perino.

It about time for the right to stop the hyperbole. Everything that happens is not a giant conspiracy designed to "push a liberal agenda." Obama is not a socialist, the end times are not here, the lizard people have not taken over and that tin foil hat won't provide any protection at all. Next thing you know, we'll hear that Ike planned the whole operation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Costs of Drilling

"Drill, Baby, Drill!" This has been the cry of those who profess to be concerned about the price of oil but who usually happen to reside in petroleum laden areas. Discounting any concerns of safety and disregarding the increased costs of off-shore drilling, there have been fervent efforts to open new areas for oceanic exploration. What could go wrong?

What has gone wrong is the well operated by BP that sank on Earth Day. Estimated to be pouring 5000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the spill has been reported to be at least 600 miles in circumference, or around the size of the state of Ohio. Fishermen in the area are concerned that oil is going to completely wipe out the commercial shrimp harvest. Wildlife officials have noted that is is mating season for many animals in the wetlands and that if the slick comes inland it could prove devastating.

The slick, now about 100 miles wide, made landfall Thursday night in the Mississippi delta region. Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has designated the disaster a "spill of national significance," and stated that the military may need to be used to help contain the problem.

Wednesday, BP did a "controlled burn" of some of the oil that they had corralled using booms. So far, around 175,000 feet (30-35 miles) of booms have been deployed and the problem continues to grow. Numerous efforts to engage the shut off valves have proven unsuccessful. Some methods to stop the leak are estimated to take months to complete.

Eleven workers were killed in the initial explosion that eventually toppled the oil platform. Add to their deaths the recent deaths of coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky and the true costs of these sources of fuel become staggering.

That allegedly cheap oil is costing lives and wrecking havoc on the environment. Enjoy your shrimp substitute.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Arrest Made Under New Arizona Anti-Immigration Law

Authorities in Arizona announced that they have made the first arrest under its new anti-immigration legislation. The law requires law enforcement officials to question anyone who looks suspicious and to detain those who cannot provide documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status. Less than a week after the passing of the law, the first arrest has been made.

Phoenix police initially questioned the detainee, a woman who gave only the name Dora, after observing her looking at a map and wearing a backpack. "She sure looked suspicious," the arresting officer was quoted as saying, further noting that when questioned, "She said she was 'exploring', and that just set off alarm bells."

The woman was unable to provide documentation and was taken to the Maricopa County detention center where Sheriff Joe Arpaio immediately had her placed in solitary confinement. Despite concerns that the woman might be a juvenile she was placed in an adult facility under constant observation. Sheriff Arpaio, using the woman's jailhouse moniker, explained that "this woman, this "Dora the Explorer" woman, is clearly a danger to the community and maybe even a terrorist. She's trying to pretend to be innocent, but her story just doesn't add up." Sheriff Arpaio then displayed the sandals the woman was wearing for the members of the press. He pointed out that the shoes were quite worn and of a style not commonly seen in Arizona.

Local law enforcement have also issued an all points bulletin for the woman's companion who fled the scene when police demanded documentation. Described as short with profuse body hair, the man was noted to be wearing bright red boots.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 40

If the climate were a bank they would have saved it by now. - Hugo Chavez

Earth Day turns forty this year. There's a mass of plastic goo in the Pacific the size of Texas and another one forming in the Atlantic. Glaciers are melting and ocean levels are rising along with annual average temperatures. Bangladesh will likely be underwater by 2050.

We're running out of landfill space and toxins accumulate in our environment. Municipal water supplies are showing signs of pharmaceutical and chemical contamination while bottled water has no standards and contributes significantly to the ever growing bulk of plastic in the environment. Recyclable is far more common than recycled.

Algae blooms occur with greater frequency and the oceans are perilously over-fished. The fish we eat is contaminated with mercury and other toxins to the point that our ears are ringing. Genetically modified crops are surreptitiously finding their way into the grocery stores while milk without BGH must be labeled.

Millions of new drivers and their cars are added to the planet every year. Rivers dry up before they reach the ocean. Desertification and deforestation continue at such rates that progress is measured in slowing down the rate of growth. Politicians living in climate controlled bubbles question the science of climate change. People go to tea parties and demand government get out of their lives while their children and grandchildren sustain genetic damage from environmental toxins that proliferate from our deregulated free markets.

The economy is in deep trouble and our infrastructure is crumbling. Green infrastructure building appears to be the obvious solution yet nothing is happening as we constantly hear that it is too expensive to go green. Too expensive to the old economy, the petrol based economy of fossil fuel consumption and continual growth. There's no money to go green, its all being spent on oil and the creation of financial "instruments" on Wall Street.

For half the money spent on the war in Iraq ($2 trillion according to Joseph Stiglitz), for one trillion dollars, we could have put $10,000 worth of solar panels on 100 million living units in the United States. What would that have done for the economy and the culture of the country as compared to a protracted and pointless war?

And right now, as I write this, an exploratory oil platform off the coast of Louisiana that blew up yesterday, just toppled and fell into the ocean.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

George Orwell for GOP Chair

George Bush once commented that his base was the "... the haves and the have mores." Since that time little has changed within the GOP. Long the party of big money, the banks and the wealthy, the Republicans are working overtime to kill financial reform.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has been leading the charge and walking the tightrope. Aware of public anger over the bank bailouts and Wall Street excesses, McConnell is attempting to protect his constituents - the banks -while feigning populist indignation at the same institutions. Claiming to be intent on changing the status quo while working to insure it is no doubt a difficult balancing act. Luckily for McConnell he is not bound by any notions of truth. Claiming that the very legislation that attempts to prevent further bailouts will cause an endless chain of bailouts is the essence of doublespeak. George Orwell would be proud.

All 41 Republican senators have signed a letter indicating they will oppose financial reform. In addition to the blatant lie that McConnell is propagating, the talking points of free markets and getting government out of lives, the Republican establishment is trying to ignore the fact that they were for the bailouts.

This approach to financial reform, oppose the legislation on political grounds but use political buzzwords to manipulate the populace, is becoming the standard GOP approach to all legislation. No longer does the Republican party even attempt to put forth a coherent counter approach. Instead, their approach has become one centered on manipulating the emotions of the voters by the repetition of the same phrases, no matter their veracity, to the point of absurdity. It seems they are aware that they cannot prevail if they honestly reveal their agenda so they are attempting to shape the debate through neurolinguistic programming.

War is Peace. Hate is Love. The GOP is for the little guy.

Goldman Sachs: The Old Fashioned Way

Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm often derided as Masters of the Universe for their seeming ability to make money no matter what the economic climate, have been indicted for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraud.

The details of the case are complex but essentially boil down to Goldman encouraging investors to buy collateral debt obligations that they themselves were betting against. It also seems that they aided and abetted the run up of these financial instruments even as they were creating a climate for their ultimate collapse. Involved, but not charged, John Paulson, an investor who profited from the scheme, appears to have directed Goldman in this effort.

Goldman Sachs is already proclaiming its innocence. Some opinions suggest that the case may be so convoluted that it may be difficult to prosecute before a jury. Others suggest that it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Important in this discussion is how they were able to even conceive of such a scheme. In therapy, medical practice, social services, etc. professionals are taught to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. In the case of bankers, apparently the rules are to obfuscate everything and rely on the investors not asking questions.

This is the free market in action. Take the suckers for all they have. Goldman Sachs has not even attempted to defend its actions as ethical or even above board. When your defense is that the case will be hard to prove in court, there seems to be an admission of improper behavior.

As I write this, Goldman just announced record profits for the first quarter. Goldman Sachs: making money the old fashioned way - stealing it.

More Blackwater Crimes

Lost amid the Goldman Sachs indictments on last Friday was the news that officials of the firm formerly known as Blackwater were indicted on weapons charges. Former president of the company, Gary Jackson and the former general counsel, Andrew Howell, along with three others were charged with possessing and trading in illegal weapons.

Blackwater, whose founder Eric Prince has been implicated in murder according to work by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation in August 2009, has changed its name to Xe in an effort to hide from their past. Allegations of arms smuggling and lawless behavior have long dogged Blackwater.

More shocking than these allegations is that the U.S. government continues to do business with these thugs. Hiring mercenaries to fight wars is contrary to good sense and the values of the country. Blackwater, Xe and whatever other names they use to hide their behaviors must be held accountable for their actions. Banning them from any further work in the name of the U.S. must occur immediately.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't Think About a Pink Elephant

If I tell you to not think about a pink elephant, the first thing you do is think about a pink elephant. In order to not think about it, you have to first think about it. This is the nature of repression. Attempting not to think about something is ultimately futile. In fact, efforts to not think about something is often the quickest path to obsession. Throw in an absolute taboo on an activity that one is trying not to think about and suddenly the obsession goes underground and mutates.

This bring us to priests and celibacy. With the continuing saga of the pandemic of pedophile priests now dragging the Pope into the cover-up it is not surprising that the Church refuses to address the root causes of its problems. The psychological make-up of those who will undertake a lifetime vow of celibacy must be called into question. According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, sex is a basic physiological need akin to food and water. Adult who voluntarily ignore such a need are unlikely to function in a psychologically complete manner.

The idea and ideal underpinning celibacy from a psychoanalytic perspective is that the sexual desire will be sublimated into good works and service. The ideal is usually far from the reality. While some priests, maybe even a majority, achieve this state of sublimating their sexual energy, there are many who clearly do not.

This is the crux of the problem: many individuals who would take a vow of celibacy do so out of a desire to flee from sexual impulses with which they are uncomfortable. The flaw here is that this is analogous to thinking of anything but a pink elephant. The vow of celibacy reminds them that they are not to engage in the behavior and now that they are in the priesthood, even the thoughts become forbidden and there becomes an isolation around the individual.

It is this isolation and forbidden aura around sex that causes some sort of mutation of the sex drive. Yes, I am stating that the requirement of celibacy is linked to the pedophilia. It is likely that many pedophile priests would be classified as immature type pedophiles. By this I mean that they are emotionally immature themselves as regards sexual development. This type of pedophile can be particularly dangerous in that they seem so innocuous and even child like at times. This does not change the fact that they are adults knowing abusing children. With priests, the inherent trust mixed with the social power of the position make them even more dangerous.

The issue of celibacy must be addressed along with the issue of pedophilia. It may not be is cause but it is certainly its cloak and crucible.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Symbol of Shame

I live in the South, and every day as I drive around I encounter Confederate flags on vehicles. Occasionally, I'll see the same symbol on t-shirts and hats. The governor of Virgina, Republican Bob McDonnell, has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month.

What's up with these folks? What can possibly be up with any identification with the Confederacy? The Confederate states were losers who fought for an immoral cause. Don't give me any of this culture talk. That culture is inexorably tied to the practice of slavery and treasonous actions against the United States. Those who talk of Southern culture today are paying homage to these sorry behaviors.

At this point someone will no doubt argue that not everyone owned slaves. That is true. It is also true that not all Germans were Nazis. However, most Germans seem ashamed of the past history of their country and are horrified at the display of the swastika. In fact, Germany has laws that actually forbid the display of the swastika even in artistic and historical contexts.

The Confederate flag should rightly be held in the same contempt. It is a symbolic representation of slavery and an attempt to defy the most basic laws of the nation. The Confederacy should not be celebrated, it should be condemned.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Hope He's Playing Chess

It has often been said of Barack Obama that he is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. The conclusion of the health care reform battle certainly leads some credence to this idea. Further, through populist messaging and public anger, he has painted the Republicans into a corner over banking reform. If they continue to be obstructionists, they will also be seen as siding with the banks and no amount of free market rhetoric will change that perception.

But what is going on with Obama and energy policy. At a time when it is clear we need to invest in clean, sustainable green technology and infrastructure, he comes out for nuclear power, clean coal, and off shore drilling. Can this really be? Or is it that Obama is once again setting up his opponents? Let us hope that this is only a misdirection ploy that will culminate in green investment. Please Obama, be ten moves ahead, because right now you seem to be surrendering the game on the opening moves.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Christian Soldiers?

Talk about missing the point. Yesterday, nine members of the Hutaree Christian Militia in Michigan were arrested for a plot to kill police officers. They then intended to kill even more people at the funerals. Referring to police as a "brotherhood," the group had apparently expressed its willingness to kill innocent people who stumbled upon them in order to carry out their actions.

It seems strange that people who carry guns and seek to overthrow the government claim to be motivated by Jesus. The man of turn the other cheek seems to have followers who believe in loading the extra clip. Hutaree is just one of hundreds of such groups motivated by anti-government sentiments according to the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups. While many of these groups also have racist agendas, the Hutaree belong to the branch of extremists that work hate into their religious values.

As I've said before - if your religion is telling you to kill people, you are missing the point.

But why should any one be surprised. Just because the founder of the religion preached peace and turned the other cheek, no one should expect that of the followers. The hate branch of Christianity is just as alive, and just as misguided, as the hate branches of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the other -isms out there.

The danger of religion lies in the fact that the moment someone decides that he/she has god on their side, there is no stopping that person from believing that every self-deluded, irrational, violent act is justified. The Hutaree, which must mean "incoherent apostates" in some language, are not the first to twist religion for their purposes, nor will they be the last.

I like this Christ, but I do not like Christians. They are so un-Christlike. - Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, March 29, 2010

Par-tay Values

It was just reported, in a filing for the Federal Elections Commission, that the Republican National Committee spent close to $2000 for an evening at a strip club in Hollywood. According to the Rachel Maddow Show, the strip club features a lesbian bondage theme in its acts. Two thousand dollars at a strip club in one evening for the party that has championed itself the bastion (and arbiter) of morality. This clearly redefines party values. But $2000 in one evening? David Vitters, John Ensign and Mark Sanford must have all been in town.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

American Enterprise Institute: One Giant Leap Towards GroupThink

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fired David Frum earlier this week when he wrote an article criticizing the GOP's approach to health care. Stating that their strategy had back fired, Frum was fired simply for stating an opinion. The substance of Frum's remarks are irrelevant. The issue is that an alleged think tank would fire one of it's fellows for analyzing a political event. In essence, he was fired for doing his job.

Frum's real offense was that he questioned the conservative movement. When so called policy institutes and think tanks will not allow deviation from a particular party line they are no longer legitimate organizations.

The American Enterprise Institute has lost all credibility.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hell Froze Over

Hell has frozen over. It must have. The Democrats finally passed health care. After squandering a year trying to prove they could not legislate, the Democrats put their overwhelming majority to use and passed health care legislation.

The Republicans, the party of No, and the Tea Baggers, the party of know nothing, have responded by having a tantrum. Hurling racial slurs and homophobic epithets at members of Congress, spitting on at least one other member, and on one occasion taunting a man with Parkinson's, the opponents of the measure demonstrated their utter contempt for humanity.

Vowing to run on repeal of health care, the right wing continues to show they do not get it. Citing polls that show people oppose the health care bill they miss the primary reason - which is that it doesn't go far enough.

This is a start and for that both Obama and Congress deserve their due. But it is just a start. This journey should not end until the U.S. has free, universal, national health care.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting For Senate - Will This Bus Ever Arrive?

Significant legislation has been piling up in the Senate for some time now. According to The Progressive Professor site, 290 bills have passed the House and await action in the Senate. Among the measures is a bill removing earmarks given to for-profit organizations. Conservative Democrats are opposed to it because it will cost jobs. Republicans say their opposition is all about principle and they just want all earmarks removed. Both groups leave out their pockets being stuffed with contributions from these same organizations.

Another bill languishing concerns removing the middleman from the Student Loan Program. At present, private banks administer the governments money to recipients, adding costs to both the lender and recipients. Cutting out the banks and making the government the direct lender would save billions. Who could object? Well, Republicans and conservative Democrats. They claim this will hurt the job market because, it seems, they fear bankers will lose their jobs. There you go, side with the bankers, and then wonder why you lose in November.

National school standards, needed to correct the race to the bottom caused by No Child Left Behind, has also stalled. Conservatives claim this would be too much government interference. I guess they think it was okay to force the states to lower their standards so they would not be punished under the provisions of No Child Left Behind, but somehow it is wrong to reward those who raise standards.

This story is getting tedious. No matter what the issue, the script reads the same. President Obama talks of moving forward on a new initiative with a fresh spirit of bipartisanship. The House of Representatives quickly pass legislation. John Boehner attacks and says "Speaker Pelosi has rammed another bill down our throats." Eric Cantor urges caution about "changing the fabric of our nation." Rush and Beck go apoplectic. Palin continues to be incoherent. And then we get to the Senate. Harry Reid announces that the bill will be carefully considered and all opinions sought. Mitch McConnell will denounce the bill as government expansion on an unprecedented scale, but announce that he is once again "willing to be bipartisan and negotiate." Then Reid appoints Democrats who don't really like the bill to negotiate with Republicans who are planning to stall and negotiate in bad faith. A watered down version with no teeth eventually emerges from the appropriate Senate committee, passing along party lines.

Then comes the filibuster. Well, not an actual filibuster but a threat of one. This virtual filibuster has served to completely stifle the Senate for some time. Acting as if there can be no votes unless there are sixty votes for something has stymied action on numerous bills. Ah, but the Democrats had sixty you say. Yes, and this is where the next act starts. Raise the curtain on a few "moderate" Democrats who suddenly find reasons to object. This is the hostage scene. Suddenly, a few see the opportunity to grab some pork, power or votes and threaten to bring it all down unless they get their way.

Procedure and process then enter as the fall guys. It's the filibuster we are told. But no one is ever forced to filibuster because somehow that might be going too far.

And that's how a bill doesn't become a law.

Granny D - Gone But Not Forgotten

Long time activist, Doris "Granny D" Haddock died March 10, 2010 at the age of 100. A life long New Hampshire resident, Granny D ran for Senate in 2004 against Judd Gregg. She walked across the country to raise awareness for campaign reform at the age of 89. Continuing to make her voice heard until the end, she serves as a model of citizenship. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Their Own Worst Enemy

The Democrats are back in town. You would think after all these years of getting whipped in elections and having one bad bill after another shoved down their throats that they would be kicking ass and taking names. Of course, you would only think that if you didn't know the Democratic Party. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this party can't even pass legislation when they have overwhelming majorities.

Fight among themselves. Why sure, why not? Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) has decided to take them all down with him if possible. In an story that keeps changing, first resigning for his health, then admitting allegations, now being forced out, he seems intent on damaging the party. As if it needs help with that. Can you say Charlie Rangel? What is up really? You've been in power ten minutes and everything is blowing up. Of course, were these scandals Republican we would see how big time politics are played. Tom DeLay kept power even when he was up to his eyeballs in scandal. Mark Sanford is still governor.

Come on guys, can't you get it together. Eight years of Bush slamming everything through even if Cheney had to be brought out into the light to break a tie vote in the Senate. Even with an alleged filibuster proof majority you got nothing done. By the way, accept the fact that Lieberman is in it only for himself and cut him loose. Don't just take away chairmanships, kick him out of the caucus. Let him sit with the Republicans awhile. They'll throw him back.

Reconciliation, schmeckonciliation. Just pass health care reform. Ram the public option through. That's what the people really want and you all know it. Let the Republicans filibuster. Even if each one talks for a whole day, making a biblical total of forty days, then have a vote and do something significant. By day twenty the whole country would be at the Republicans heals but it would be too much to expect the Democrats to do something smart. How is it that Democrats are so good at policy and so bad at politics and Republicans are so good at politics but so bad at policy? All that ever gets passed are bad bills when Republicans are in power and watered down useless ones with Democrats.

Democrats, stop being your own worst enemy.

Free Markets and Flat Earthers

As many of you are no doubt aware, there is a Flat Earth Society. This society professes to believe that the earth is flat and refutes all evidence to the contrary. It has never been clear to me that this is more than an elaborate joke that even the members certainly knew to be untrue.

So it now seems with those who continue to tout free market principles. After the past hundred years when free market principles have on at least two occasions nearly destroyed the world's economy it is hard to believe there are still adherents to the idea of unregulated capitalism. Rapacious greed and an amoral approach to business almost assure that those who are unethical will take advantage of any available opening. Lack of regulation, the free market way, makes for an uneven playing field with the honest always going uphill.

Beyond the question of the unethical is the actual behavior of the free marketeers. When they are in trouble the rules no longer apply and they need some government intervention to succeed (or plunder the Treasury as the case may be).

But the ultimate flaw in the free market ideal is the idea that the market takes care of all problems. Unfortunately people die as the market figures out what products are unsafe. Yes, now we know that China gets rid of its toxins by melting it into plastics for children's toys and that cigarette companies deliberately hid information about the effects of their products, but by the time we get around to scientists finding conclusive evidence of cell phones causing brain cancer and that plastic is the greatest hazard to life on the planet, the free market will have made its profit. The idea that the market takes care of it all is an interesting abstract concept but frightening in the real world.

Even with perfect access to perfect information (the greatest absurdity of all the assumptions of free market capitalism) the reality is that the free market has proven anything but free. It is merely a structural means that allows the most unethical people to steal money and call it business.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bayh Blames Bloggers

Senator Evan Bayh (IN) announced yesterday that he will not run for re-election this fall. Despite being well ahead in most polls Bayh quit unexpectedly and did so in such a fashion that no one else could qualify for the primary. The Indiana Democratic Party will now pick the primary candidate.

Citing the partisan bickering and the hostile climate, he even took a swipe at progressive bloggers for criticizing him as he announced he would not run again. When a senator has become so thin skinned that he can't take the heat from pundits I guess it is time to go.

Bayh should have no question as to why he faced so much opposition from progressive bloggers. One of the Democratic road blocks to health care reform, Bayh has for years been Republican-lite. But it was the manner in which he resigned that Bayh showed himself worthy of the scorn he has received. His resignation likely helps the party choose a candidate who can win, but it deprives the voters of their chance to have a voice. A career politician from a political family, Bayh's resignation exemplifies the triumph of politics over democracy (maybe I should drop the "lite" from "Republican-lite").

Dick Cheney: War Criminal

I know, the headline is no surprise. It's just that the man keeps admitting it. This past Sunday, Valentine's Day 2010, Dick Cheney bragged that he had opposed the Bush Administration's attempts to back off torture and stop waterboarding. Making his round on the morning news shows, Cheney unequivocally indicated that he supported waterboarding. He then continued on to criticize the Obama Administration's handling of national security.

What's up with this guy? Eight years in office, he spent most of it in an "undisclosed location," emerging only to shoot his friend in the face in a hunting (if releasing birds from boxes is hunting) incident. You couldn't get this guy to answer a question or utter a word while in office. Even his residence was blurred on satellite map sites. Now that he's out of office, he won't shut up.

Please Dick, go back to an undisclosed location.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Distinguished Gentleman From Alabama

Senator Dick Shelby of Alabama is working hard to distinguish himself from his colleagues in the Senate. In a chamber filled with ineffectual and incompetent members, Shelby has risen to the top of the obstructionist pyramid. Placing a blanket hold on at least 70 federal nominees, from post that mean nothing to those that are crucial to the running of the nation, Shelby tried to grind the government to a halt all by himself.

Approximately one hour ago Shelby announced that he would drop most of the holds with the exception of three. Two of these three were the Assistant and the Under Secretary of the Air Force. These targets relate directly to Shelby's real reason to place a road block in the way of staffed government. Pork. Shelby placed the holds until defense contracts in Alabama are secure.

Gumming up government for a little pork is not the only means by which Shelby is trying to claim the title of Chief Obstructionist. He is also the prime culprit holding up banking reform in the Senate committee that regulates this segment of our economy. Here he is standing for his base - his contributors. When did conservatism become about protecting banks that are so fiscally reckless that they nearly destroyed the economy of the world?

This is what passes for leadership in this country.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Teabaggers Go Limp

The first annual Tea Party Convention was held over the weekend and was a resounding flop. Plagued by infighting that threatened to derail the whole convention, many groups and speakers pulled out, leaving on Sarah Palin to fluff up the crowd.

In the end, only about 600 people showed up for the event. The final speech by Palin was given before an audience in a ballroom that appeared sparsely peopled even though the tables were spread around the room. Even Michelle Bachman didn't show. When you're too loony for her, you're ready for Bugs and Elmer.

I took heart in this fiasco. Despite having the full force of Fox News to advertise the event plus the media's fascination with this rudderless movement, in the end there was little interest. The convention itself revealed the Tea Party movement to be a disjointed group of individuals with nothing in common except a lack of ideas and a need to scream about their loss of white privilege, I mean, "freedom."

Platitudes and anger are the hallmarks of the teabaggers. Ideas have little place in their movement. Sarah Palin is their perfect spokesmodel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Year In: The State of the Union

Obama, one year in:

-Gitmo is still open.
-The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.
-Health care still hasn't been passed.
-Economy continues to reel.

I should be pissed or at least disappointed. I probably would be if I thought of Obama as some sort of messiah or for that matter did not understand how government works (more on that later). Efforts to portray him as a socialist have led me to see many of those so opposed to him as bordering on ridiculous. His first year has been more subtle and filled with shades of gray than to allow a superficial up or down assessment.

He is a political incrementalist. Not necessarily my style but I see the logic behind such an approach. It is also this approach that has frustrated many of his most ardent (and unrealistic) supports.

Yet to assess his first year one must distinguish between what he has accomplished, what he has attempted to accomplish and what he is likely to accomplish. To be fair in this assessment one must be honest and note that the President of the United States is not a dictator and can only enact legislation so far as the Congress goes along. In essence, as Teddy Roosevelt pointed out, the real power in the presidency lies in the bully pulpit, the ability to force opinion that will then force the hands of politicians.

Also, as preface, it is necessary to point out what seems to be a completely contradictory set of values blisters him for not getting things accomplished while working simultaneously to thwart any effort he makes. Let's look at Guantanamo as an example: It is true that he has not closed the place as he stated. However, if the full effort here is examined, it becomes apparent that the real block to closing Gitmo is not Obama but rather the manipulation of political and public opinion by members of Congress to prevent any actions that might lead to closure. The reality is that the number of prisoners has been drastically reduced and continues to shrink. Obama continues to pursue the closing and I give him credit for that. On the other hand, John McCain advocated closing Gitmo long ago but now opposes it because it scores political points.

The war in Iraq. While there are still troops there, this war is for all purposes winding down. The U.S. never completely leaves anywhere as the hundreds of thousands of troops all over the world attests, but this war is done. If you're going by when the last troops leave, then WWII and the Korean War are still ongoing. If you mean done as in stopping the further waste of resources and an end in sight, we're there.

Afghanistan. This is Obama's biggest mistake. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from pouring any more resources down this rat hole. I think that Obama is motivated by political concerns that seek to refute any calls that he is weak on security. Of course, that is exactly what would have happened if he had done the correct thing and pulled out. Nonetheless, he should have started this debate with the public and the fight with Congress to end this war.

Health care has been a debacle. Obama likely erred by not pushing for a one-payer system if only as a bargaining chip. In trying not to appear too radical he ended up making a tactical error and then got called a socialist anyway. Of course, the real blame for how health care reform has played out must lie with the Democratic leadership. Even when they had 60 votes, Reid was too lame to get anything through. The Democrats in general played a game where they appeared to represent the people while they assured failure for anything that might threaten the insurance industry. The Republicans revealed themselves to be obstructionist who negotiate in bad faith. Ultimately though the blame falls on the Democrats who turn an eighteen vote majority into a minority. If the Republicans want to filibuster, then damn it, let them talk until they drop.

The economy. Unemployment is at 10 percent, probably closer to 17 if you take in the underemployed and those who've given up and no economist expect this to end in the foreseeable future. Forfeitures and foreclosures are up and there is not much promise ahead. On the other hand, the home market is rebounding and job losses will probably level at around zero this month. I liken his task here to catching an anvil: when he first grabbed hold it pulled him down further until he finally gained control.

Obama takes a lot of heat for deficit spending yet most economist caution that this is not the time for deficit reduction. Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner in economics, has argued that the stimulus should have been larger and the only thing that can rescue the economy is government spending. I know many of you hate to hear that, but a paralyzed economy is in no one's interest.

One thing the Obama administration has done that has gotten surprisingly little attention is the recouping of the bailout money. The approximately $700 billion that Henry Paulson tried to steal from the Treasury for the largest banks has been largely returned. Paulson's accomplice Tim Geithner, may have finally served his purpose in pointing out where the bodies were buried and now appears to be on his way out the door.

Of late, Obama has been striking an increasingly populist tone when it comes to the economy. Proposing all kinds of tax cuts for small businesses and individuals, he also took Wall Street and corporations to task in the State of the Union address. His deficit reduction plan is pure gimmickry but served to make an interesting point as Republicans who had advocated a deficit reduction committee suddenly came out in opposition. He has maneuvered the Republicans into a position that they are blatantly supporting big business and the banking industry over the people.

Obama has also reversed years of declining American influence and reputation around the world. Even those who are opposed to his policies must acknowledge that he has done an enormous amount in changing the view of America in the world.

Obama has also pressed for increases in investments in education and infrastructure developments. These are two areas where it is clear that America has fallen behind and is destined for diminished stature on the world stage unless we quickly address our deficits. How hard the opposition fights these ideas will be a measure of how interested they are in the well being of the country versus how interested they are in playing politics.

Viewing a four-year-term of office as a four-quarter game provides an apt analogy. The expected franchise savior was met with an all out swarming full court defense at the opening whistle. Double and triple-teamed, every dirty play possible, tripping, pulling his shorts, standing on his toes, fouling after the whistle, etc. was used. Whenever he gained momentum, an endless string of timeouts were called and occasionally a fight broke out in the stands. His bench was useless.

Despite all this, the first quarter ended even. The other team has managed to turn the refs against them (polls show Republicans are blamed 2-1 over Obama for the countries woes) and he has started the second quarter strong. When Fox News cut away from his meeting with GOP house members it was clearly because he was dunking in their faces.

No, Obama has not been perfect nor has he solved every problem of the country. Anyone who thought he would was either naive or stupid. There have been pratfalls, primarily over health care, but even that can still pass (providing someone tells Harry Reid that 59 is more than 41). As pointed out herein, foreign relations are much improved, the economy is no longer in free fall, $700 billion given away by the previous administration has been returned to the Treasury, civil liberties are no longer ridiculed by the president, and we no longer expect to be embarassed when the leader of our country make a speech.

Science has been restored to its place in the decision making process. Environmental regulations are being enforced once again. Competence is more important for a job in the administration than political loyalty. The United States is important in the world for more than its military might. New trade alliances have been developed with India, undercutting China's influence. Corporations are no longer expecting free reign.

We are at a crossroads in our history with the country quickly becoming ungovernable due to partisan politics. More than anything else Obama has provided a calm voice that recognizes the complexity of the world. While the right wing likes to portray him as a Bolshevik, he clearly is a centrist interested more in pragmatic politics than ideology. However, it is just this effort to portray him as other than he is that is the source of his renewed popularity. When the man accusing you of a credibility gap is orange from a tanning booth, when the opposition party suddenly votes against its own bills when adopted, when what passes for debate is to question whether the president was born in the country, then it becomes increasingly difficult to look at Republicans as anything but political opportunists putting their own interests ahead of the nation.

In sum, Obama is still getting the feel of the office. Suffering from unrealistic expectations he was bound to have difficulty living up to them. However, to say that he has not accomplished anything is to believe the Fox News narrative of the world.

I guess people would prefer the first year of his predecessor.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bedtime for Democracy

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) just released a decision striking down limits on the actions of corporations in political campaigns. Specifically the new ruling will allow for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote their own candidates and agendas. The result largely dismantles the McCain-Feingold Act and also overturns two prior Supreme Court decisions.

Adding insult to injury the decision is based on the "free speech" rights of corporations. Justice John Paul Stevens writing in dissent referred to the ruling as a "radical departure" from settled law. McCain himself took to the Senate floor to warn against the ruling. Never has free been so costly.

It is noteworthy that the justices who voted to overturn precedent have all spoken against judicial activism. This ruling is the epitome of just that behavior. Throw in the fact that the shaky legal precedent that corporations are people (Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886) lies at the very heart of their ability to even bring the case and this appears to be a sign that the Supreme Court has lost sight of the goals of the Constitution.

In total, this ruling will serve to diminish the free speech rights of individuals as they are drowned in the din of advertising by corporations. This ruling will enshrine tyranny of the corporate world over the individual. The protection of the people has been trampled by providing an inherent advantage to wealthy corporations and organizations.

With this ruling, democracy is done. Corporations will now control the political process. Elections will become advertising campaigns and the only constituents that matter will be those with a Board of Directors. How long before candidates no longer identify with political parties but instead use corporate affiliations?

Today it is bedtime for democracy. Tomorrow we awake to the dawn of corporatism.

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