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.

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. mnn.com. 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