Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Now that he's resigned as Calumet County District Attorney for sending dirty text messages and, thanks to fellow Wisconsin Republican scumbag AG J.B. Van Hollen, will not go to jail for it, Ken Kratz has plenty of free time to pursue his new career as a legal advice columnist.
"Dear Mr. Kratz: My boyfriend recently beat me and tried to kill me. What can I do to ensure that he never does this to me or other women ever again?"
"Dear tall, young, hot nymph: Are you the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA ... the riskier the better?"
"Dear Mr. Kratz: I was raped repeatedly by my husband recently and I don't know if I should take him to court for fear of reprisal. What do I do?"
"Dear tall, young, hot nymph: I'm the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph but I am the prize!"
"Dear Mr. Kratz: My boyfriend tried to strangle, rape and kill me but I'm afraid when I get on the witness stand, I'll freeze and not be able to speak out against my attacker. What advice can you give me?"
"Hey … Miss Communication, what’s the sticking point? Your low self-esteem and you fear you can’t play in my big sandbox? Or???"
"Dear Mr. District Attorney Kratz: I was beaten so badly by my attacker that I fear I've lost all my self-esteem and that I may not speak out against any man who assaults me in the future. What do I do?"
"Dear tall, young, hot nymph: I would not expect you to be the other woman. I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you’d be THE woman! R U that good?"
Ken Kratz is the former sexually harassing District Attorney of Calumet County, Wisconsin. His legal advice column is syndicated in over 850 newspapers.
Monday, March 28, 2011
By Susan Lindauer, former U.S. Asset who covered Libya at the United Nations from 1995 to 2003
(Editor's note: Susan Lindauer herself wanted me to post this on Pottersville to remind everyone what's really going on in Libya. Plus, it ought to be worth knowing that, while we're paying well over three and a half dollars for a gallon of gas and the petroleum cartels are using the uprising near the oil fields and refineries as an excuse to gouge us at the pumps, Libya in reality produces only 8% of the world's petroleum and isn't even on the list of the top 15 oil exporters to the United States.)
Who are we kidding? The United States, Britain and NATO don't care about bombing civilians to contain rebellion. Their militaries bomb civilians every day without mercy. They have destroyed most of the community infrastructure of Iraq and Afghanistan before turning their sights on Libya. So what's really going on here?
According to the CIA, the following never happened…
Last October, US oil giants— Chevron and Occidental Petroleum— made a surprising decision to pull out of Libya, while China, Germany and Italy stayed on, signing major contracts with Gadhaffi's government. As the U.S. Asset who started negotiations for the Lockerbie Trial with Libyan diplomats, I had close ties to Libya's U.N. Mission from 1995 to 2003. Given my long involvement in the Lockerbie saga, I have continued to enjoy special access to high level intelligence gossip on Libya.
Last summer that gossip got juicy!
About July, I started hearing that Gadhaffi was exerting heavy pressure on U.S. and British oil companies to cough up special fees and kick backs to cover the costs of Libya's reimbursement to the families of Pan Am 103. Payment of damages for the Lockerbie bombing had been one of the chief conditions for ending U.N. sanctions on Libya that ran from 1992 until 2003. And of course the United Nations forced Gadhaffi to hand over two Libyan men for a special trial at The Hague, though everybody credible was fully conscious of Libya's innocence in the Lockerbie affair. (Only ignorant politicians trying to score publicity points say otherwise.)
Knowing Gadhaffi as well as I do, I was convinced that he'd done it. He'd bided his time until he could extort compensation from U.S. oil companies. He's a crafty bastard, extremely intelligent and canny. That's exactly how he operates. And now he was taking his revenge. As expected, the U.S. was hopping mad about it. Gadhaffi wasn't playing the game the way the Oil Bloodsuckers wanted. The Vampire of our age—the Oil Industry—roams the earth, sucking the life out of every nation to feed its thirst for profits. Only when they got to Libya, Gadhaffi took on the role of a modern-day Robin Hood, who insisted on replenishing his people for the costs they'd suffered under U.N. sanctions.
Backing up a year earlier, in August 2009 the lone Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people, Abdelbasset Megrahi, won a compassionate release from Scottish prison. Ostensibly, the British government and Scottish Courts granted Megrahi's request to die at home with dignity from advance stage cancer—in exchange for dropping a legal appeal packed with embarrassments for the European Courts. The decision to free Megrahi followed shocking revelations of corruption at the special Court of The Hague that handled the Lockerbie Trial. Prosecution witnesses confessed to receiving payments of $4 million each from the United States, in exchange for testimony against Megrahi, a mind-blowing allegation of judicial corruption.
The Lockerbie conviction was full of holes to begin with. Anybody who knows anything about terrorism in the 1980s knows the CIA got mixed up in heroin trafficking out of the Bekaa Valley during the hostage crisis in Lebanon. The Lockerbie conspiracy had been a false flag operation to kill off a joint CIA and Defense Intelligence investigation into kick backs from Islamic Jihad, in exchange for protecting the heroin transit network.
According to my own CIA handler, Dr. Richard Fuisz, who'd been stationed in Lebanon and Syria at the time, the CIA had established a protected drug route from Lebanon to Europe and on to the United States. His statements support other sources that "Operation Corea" allowed Syrian drug dealers led by Monzer al-Kassar (also linked to Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal) to ship heroin to the U.S. ON Pan Am flights, in exchange for intelligence on the hostages' whereabouts in Lebanon. The CIA allegedly made sure that suitcases carrying heroin were not searched at customs. Nicknamed the "Godfather of Terror," Al Kassar is now serving a prison sentence for conspiring with Colombian drug cartels to assassinate U.S. nationals.
Building up to Lockerbie, the Defense Intelligence team in Beirut, led by Maj. Charles Dennis McKee and Matthew Gannon, suspected that CIA infiltration of the heroin network might be prolonging the hostage crisis. If so, the consequence was severe. AP Reporter Terry Anderson got chained in a basement for 7 years, while 96 other high profile western hostages suffered beatings, mock executions and overall trauma. McKee's team raised the alarms in Washington that a CIA double agent profiting from the narco-dollars might be warning the hostage takers whenever their dragnet closed in. Washington sent a fact-finding team to Lebanon to gather evidence.
On the day it was blown out of the sky, Pan Am 103 was carrying that team of CIA and FBI investigators, the CIA's Deputy Chief assigned to Beirut, and three Defense Intelligence officers, including McKee and Gannon, on their way to Washington to deliver a report on the CIA's role in heroin trafficking, and the impact on terrorist financing and the hostage crisis. In short, everyone with direct knowledge of CIA kickbacks from heroin trafficking died on Pan Am 103. A suitcase packed with $500,000 worth of heroin was found in the wreckage. It belonged to investigators, as proof of the corruption.
The punch line was that the U.S. State Department issued an internal travel advisory, warning that government officials should get off that specific flight on that specific day, because Pan Am 103 was expected to get bombed. That's right, folks! The U.S. had prior knowledge of the attack.
Unforgivably, nobody told Charles McKee or Matthew Gannon. But other military officials and diplomats got pulled off the flight—making room for a group of students from Syracuse University traveling stand by for the Christmas holidays
It was a monstrous act! But condemning Megrahi to cover up the CIA's role in heroin trafficking has struck many Lockerbie afficiandos as grossly unjust. Add the corruption of purchased testimony-- $4 million a pop— and Megrahi's life sentence struck a nerve of obscenity.
It struck Gadhaffi as grievously offensive, as well—The United Nations had forced Libya to fork over $2.7 billion in damages to the Lockerbie families, a rate of $10 million for every death. Once it became clear the U.S. paid two key witnesses $4 million each to commit perjury, spook gossip throughout the summer was rife that Gadhaffi had taken bold action to demand compensation from U.S. (and probably British) oil corporations operating in Libya. More than likely, Libya's demands for kick backs and compensation extended to other European oil conglomerates as well—particularly France and Italy—who are now spearheading attacks on Libya.
I knew last summer there would be trouble. Payback would be a b—tch on both sides. You don't lock an innocent man in prison for 10 years on bogus charges of terrorism, and expect forgiveness. The United States and Britain had behaved with remarkable selfishness. You've got to admit that Gadhaffi's attempt to balance the scales of justice demonstrated a flair of righteous nationalism.
Alas, Gadhaffi was playing with fire, no matter how justified his complaint. You don't strike a tyrant without expecting a tyrant to strike back.
And that's exactly what's happening today.
Don't kid yourself. This is an oil war, and it smacks of imperialist double standards. Two articles by Prof. Chossudovsky at the Global Research Centre are must reading: "Operation Libya and the Battle for Oil: Redrawing the Map of Africa" and "Insurrection and Military Intervention: The US-NATO Attempted Coup d'Etat in Libya?"
There is simply no justification for U.S. or NATO action against Libya. The U.N. charter acknowledges the rights of sovereign nations to put down rebellions against their own governments. Moreover, many observers have commented that plans for military intervention appear to have been much more advanced than U.S. and European leaders want to admit.
For myself, I know in my gut that war planning started months before the democratization movement kicked off throughout the Arab world—a lucky cover for U.S. and European oil policy. Perhaps too lucky.
As Chossudovsky writes, "Hundreds of US, British and French military advisers arrived in Cyrenaica, Libya's eastern breakaway province" on February 23 and 24— seven (7) days after the start of Gadhaffi's domestic rebellion. "The advisers, including intelligence officers, were dropped from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk." (DEBKAfile, US military advisers in Cyrenaica, Feb. 25, 2011) Special forces on the ground in Eastern Libya provided covert support to the rebels." Eight British Special Forces commandos were arrested in the Benghazi region, while acting as military advisers to opposition forces, according to the Times of London.
We're supposed to believe the United States, Britain and Europe planned, coordinated and executed a full military intervention in 7 short days— from the start of the Libyan rebellion in mid-February until military advisers appeared on the ground in Libya on February 23-24!
That's strategically impossible.
Nothing can persuade me that Gadhaffi's fate wasn't decided months ago, when Chevron and Occidental Petroleum took their whining to Capitol Hill, complaining that Gadhaffi's nationalism interfered with their oil profiteering. From that moment, military intervention was on the drawing board as surely as the Patriot Act got stuck in a drawer waiting for 9/11.
The message is simple: Challenge the oil corporations and your government and your people will pay the ultimate price: Give us your oil as cheaply as possible. Or die.
Don't kid yourself. Nobody gives a damn about suffering in Libya or Iraq. You don't bomb a village to save it. The U.S., Britain and NATO are the bullies of the neighborhood. The enforcers for Big Oil.
Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan have something in common. They have vast and extraordinary oil and mineral riches. As such, they are all victims of what I call the Vampire Wars. The Arab Princes get paid off, while the bloodsuckers pull the life blood out of the people. They're scarcely able to survive in their own wealthy societies. The people and the domestic economy are kept alive to uphold the social order, but they are depleted of the nourishment of their own national wealth.
The democratization movements are sending a warning that I don't think Big Oil, or their protectors in the U.S. and British governments understand or have figured out how to control. The Arab people are finished with this cycle of victimization. They've got their stakes out, and they're starting to figure out how to strike into the heart of these Vampires, sucking the life blood out of their nations.
And woe to the wicked when they do!
This article may be reprinted in full or part with attribution to the author.
Former U.S. Intelligence Asset, Susan Lindauer covered Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria/Hezbollah from 1993 to 2003. She is the author of "Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq."
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Burial of the Living
I write this on the second anniversary of the Great Purge of 2009 when I was forcibly evicted from my home and family of 15+ years, having devoted virtually every dram of my energies for the betterment of that ungrateful family and pumped virtually every penny of the $200,000+ I ever earned during those 15+ wasted years into that house.
A month later to the day, I lost my job and therein begins a mere anecdote, a simple little overlooked footnote of the real tale of the Real America, the one Sarah Palin will never tell you about, the Real America that has begun the slow process of burying the living, Corporate America clutching that golden shovel to begun the ground breaking ceremony of the interment of Working America.
We have come not to praise Jurassicpork but to bury him and those he holds dear so the world can get on with its getting and spending and not have to listen to his endless tirades about poverty both personal and collective. God, won't he shut the fuck up?! the world seems to say every time I put fingers to keyboard or raise my embittered voice in agony.
It is now exactly 23 months since I have last held a job, O Lord, and after 31 years in the workforce I am now officially an unemployable dinosaur because I am now suddenly not experienced enough, educated enough, because my teeth aren't white enough, my credit rating not high enough, or maybe because I break water when I try to walk upon it or break wind when I make water. Whatever...
Whatever the reason, O Lord, thou hast forsaken me. And however righteously one may rail against the banks, the corporations, the government or whomever is responsible for my state of redundancy, at some point one is supposed to grab their bootstraps whether or not they exist and to PULL like Horatio Alger on crystal meth until one hath pulled themselves out of the muck and mire.
Even the most pitiable of us get tiresome which is why God really gave Job a break. In the movie The Beach, the man screaming in agony from a shark bite in the leg was eventually excommunicated by the others with a single caretaker because, O Lord, he was harshing their buzz with his screams of agony. At a wake for a cancer victim there are at least several who are relieved not so much at the end of the suffering of the departed but an end to their suffering.
But April Fool's Day will come soon with the attendant bills and that is not a joke and no laughing matter so I beseech thee for a break whether it come in the form of manna from heaven delivered by a really hot chick on a clamshell a la Botticelli or in Paypal donations or a job or, best of all, a book contract.
Hear me, O Lord, for I am at the end of my rope and it is looking more and more like a noose.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
(Note: If you could help out JP and the Missus, it would be surely appreciated. Hopefully, in a week or so, he'll be imparting some mind-fucking news. The Paypal link is both below the title of this post and at the bottom of the index page. Thank you in advance. - MF)
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Failure and tragedy, like water, seek the path of least resistance. And it’s perhaps no coincidence that the words “trailer” and “failure” are almost perfect rhymes. In the American mind, the two are perfectly synonymous. That’s because we tend not to look beyond end results and aftermaths. We see trailer parks, tent cities, people living under bridges and think not “refugees” or “victims” but “failure.” Assumptions are dangerous but those of us who are more fortunate can live with that kind of danger. - Opening paragraph of my memoir, American Zen
To cite just one example, the relationship between Barack Obama and GE Chairman, CEO and Artful Tax Dodger Jeffrey Immelt is so close, it's a miracle Michelle Obama hasn't filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Indeed, when Obama turns over in bed at night, one can imagine his elbow hitting Immelt in the face.
Indeed, naming Immelt to head the president's commission on job creation seems like a sarcastic jibe or slap in the face: Immelt's GE has done more to ship US jobs overseas than almost any other corporation. This is necessary to a tax-dodging corporation that has to set up dummy and shell companies and incorporating overseas (such as Halliburton moving to Dubai), taking US jobs with it. Yet no one has ever dared suggest to Immelt that the first thing he should do as Job Czar is to bring GE jobs back to American shores.
And don't even think about criticizing either Immelt or GE for that paradox or you'll get publicly bitchslapped by Obama's circus Carney.
This is but one example of how thoroughly Corporate America has infiltrated the highest echelons of our government. If you need another to see this trend, look at Obama's new Chief of Staff, former JP Morgan Chase goon William Daley, a guy who made almost $9 million last year working for a mega bank that has done more than its fair share of throwing people out of their homes.
And if you need more examples of just how deeply Goldman Sachs, to name just one other mega bank, has both infiltrated and exfiltrated our government in some darkly comical musical jobs game, check out this CBS investigation that aired almost a year ago.
Our economy, to quickly and neatly unpack it and lay it on the bed, is based on fraud and corruption. There is hardly even the appearance of corporate accountability let alone any real accountability. Corporations with its greasy, grasping paws found in the cookie jar have but to pay up to 9 figure "fines" to the federal government and that money doesn't even come out of their pockets. It's often paid for by the shareholders and taxpayers they remorselessly ream on an hourly basis. Daley's old company, JP Morgan, also used that sleazy trick when they got hit with a $700,000,000 fine when Daley was working for them.
A survey released just last September found the gap between rich and poor in the US is the greatest than at any time in American history. And things aren't any better in China, where 130 billionaires live in what you would think is the last Communist stronghold on earth.
To paraphrase Lord Acton, Wealth corrupts and absolute wealth corrupts absolutely, regardless of nationality, political or economic ideology, whether you're a capitalist or Communist, human nature is easily corrupted by money and the impunity and insularity it all but guarantees.
But anyone raising the specter of class warfare is automatically letting themselves in for a right wing shouting-down of fomenting rumors of class warfare. Which isn't so much a rumor as a fallacy: In order to have a war, there has to be some parity. Otherwise you're not talking about a war but a brutal invasion and occupation.
Who knows where, how and when it started but between the time I was a young man and now, our national economy became one based on good and services to one based on debt. Lobbyists were always a problem in government until they ceased becoming a problem and became an accepted part of the legislative process. Suddenly, President Kennedy standing up to Big Steel seems like a fairy tale out of Camelot because one cannot imagine a chief executive today standing up to any corporation, especially one that had contributed heavily to his campaign.
Now, it's accepted that corporations such as GE not only should be allowed to essentially write self-dealing policies but that they pay not a single penny in taxes (in fact, Uncle Sam owes GE some $3.2 billion in tax breaks and deferments).
Now, it's accepted that internet providers get to essentially write policy and to cripple a compliant FCC and have its own self-dealing policies upheld by federal courts.
Now, it's accepted that bills such as the "Consumer Protection and Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act of 2005" are written not by Congress but by other self-dealing corporations such as credit card companies, banks and other lenders.
Now. it's accepted that some banks and corporations are too big to fail and ought to be bailed out to the tune of trillions with neither oversight, enforceable conditions nor accountability after almost literally tearing down not only America's but the world's financial market.
And it's accepted that public union workers, the elderly and the indigent will have to continue giving and giving in the community spirit of shared sacrifice while billionaires and multibillion dollar corporations continue to not pay a penny in taxes, that Social Security, Medicare and collective bargaining will have to be the first things to go.
Meanwhile, to show how much they care about us, the wealthy will continue snuggling up to the poor literally side by side almost as if to rub their grimy faces in it for not being rapacious, greedy or sociopathic enough to share in their good fortunes.
It's an infinitely complicated mess but the fallout isn't nearly as hard to see. The rich are simply getting richer while the poor are simply getting poorer. While John McCain, who married a $100,000,000 beer fortune with 110 pounds of flesh attached to it, can't remember how many houses he owns (10), low income and middle class families are getting kicked out by Sheriff's Departments for foreclosing on their one mortgage on the one house they own in which their children have grown up because usurious banks made them pie-in-the-sky no-money-down, low interest loans that then turned into crushing debts within months of ownership.
And it's accepted that these people with the least amount of money and power are the ones who are to be blamed for bringing down the global financial market and for selling these toxic mortgage-backed securities to megabanks. And it's also accepted that we victimized taxpayers and homeowners not only should reward and encourage bad behavior by bailing out these white collar terrorists against our will but to allow the government to do it all over again.
To quote Dickens, it's the best of times and the worst of times, depending on which side of the wall and guarded gate you live on. It's also the most incredulous of times when one considers what we're willing to believe. And if Lewis Carroll were alive today, he'd realize that our political and corporate structure has made his nonsense fiction look amateurish by comparison.
Friday, March 25, 2011
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
That sometimes even history's most hideous lessons are worth forgetting.
Today is the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the worst industrial accident in New York history and one that claimed the lives of 146 men, women and children.
In lieu of private unions, this is what the workers at Triangle Shirtwaist had to endure:
And a job at Triangle Shirtwaist was considered a plum job a century ago, which ought to give you an idea of how much more brutal the other sweatshops in New York City were.
By 1911, shirtwaists, or women's blouses, were beginning to go out of vogue. Adding to Triangle's problems, literally thousands of other smaller sweatshops in the garment district were making the same product for retailers. The only way for Triangle to remain competitive was to produce in massive volumes. That required draconian policies in the workplace and to put greater pressure on the workers, many of them as young as 13, to produce and meet quotas. It was a precursor of the sweatshops we saw until a few years ago on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Triangle was located at the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in what is now Greenwich Village not too far from the Stonewall Inn. Toward the end of the working day, a fire started in a clothing bin on the 8th floor. Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, Triangle's owners, had blocked all but one door to the exits and stairwells. In an eerie prescience of September 11th and the World Trade Center, this forced dozens of the panicking workers to jump for their lives from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors to avoid the fire and smoke.
The funerals for the workers were, to say the least, heavily attended, drawing tens of thousands of mourners and pro-labor activists. The disaster forever changed building codes, building inspections, workplace safety and was the major impetus behind the forming of private unions such as the International Lady Garment Workers Union.
Or were they changed forever? To prove what a career criminal he was, two years later Max Blanck was again found locking his doors during business hours and was fined a mere $20.
The owners got off scot free and even made a pile of money off the dead workers. During the criminal trial, their ambulance chasing lawyer used chicanery to discredit one of the prosecution's key witnesses and had her testimony dismissed on the grounds the city's DA had coached her. They were acquitted and even though they were found to be responsible during the civil trial in 1913 in which they were forced to pay a paltry $75 for each fatality, the insurance company paid out $60,000 over the size of the settlement, meaning they made $400 for every dead worker.
This could almost be construed as a precursor to the "Dead Peasants" insurance enjoyed for years by many leading corporations today.
A century later, Blanck's and Harris's legacy lives on in the sweatshop owners all over the world, in the lobbyists who continually bribe lawmakers and officials regarding the relaxation of workplace safety and in the Koch brothers and the Republicans they bribe and employ to remove from the latter day workplace landscape the last vestige of unions both public and private.
Such people would lay the blame for the fire squarely on the anonymous worker who'd carelessly tossed a match or lit cigarette into the bin rather than the owners who'd caused the deaths of nearly 150 innocent human beings by locking the doors because they suspected all their underpaid wage slaves to be thieves. The owners, they'd tell you, were the real victims in spite of making a profit of $325 per corpse.
Newly christened Republican Governors Scott Walker (WI), Rick Scott (F), John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI), Chris Christie (NJ) and others would tell you that it isn't the grasping, rapacious corporations that are at fault but public unions, relegating public union workers who often put their very lives on the line on our behalf to the status of welfare queens for wanting and getting affordable health care and an actual pension.
Many of these freshman Republican Governors were backed by a criminally clueless Tea Party that plainly didn't know what it was backing. Scott Walker, for instance, never, ever campaigned on a platform for stripping collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public workers (save for the police and firefighters who'd supported him). Considering several of these candidates were bankrolled in part by the Koch brothers and that some of them (such as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Indiana's two-term Governor Mitch Daniels) come from a corporate background, it's hard to see where else their administrations would've gone if not against the public unions.
This suspiciously coordinated attack on unions has a manifold purpose: To strip power from public workers, to outsource to private and costly corporations the duties and functions no longer budgeted for and to strip labor of its money and political power (In short: Defeat the black guy in 2012.).
It doesn't matter that stripping such rights away from public unions already willing to negotiate in some misplaced good faith with Republican policy-makers would not impact on any state budget such as Wisconsin's. This is now a national movement that has gained much more traction than that for recall elections for Republicans who are bound and determined to catapult us back in the days of the robber barons who never gave a thought to their workers' safety and even profited handsomely from their gruesome deaths.
Across Greenwich Village near Christopher Street sits the Stonewall Inn, another place of invaluable historical importance. 42 years ago this July, a riot erupted between gay patrons and straight activists and the NYPD, providing the gay rights movement with its first crucial pillar that led to the legalization of gay marriage in what is now five states.
But as with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire a century ago today, there are factions that are hell-bent to take away those hardwon rights that are just as zealously determined to take America back to the 19th century when gay men and women could be murdered, beaten and persecuted with impunity.
Religious and ideological conservatism and corporate greed and callousness are sicknesses of the human spirit and no lesson, no matter how hideously instructive, retains its force against such cancers of the human soul.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
On the 6th of this month, I warned that the president was fucking up big time and not being proactive enough against the world's dictators. But it seems as if he's swung to the other extreme and had never once considered diplomacy in the Protean transition from impartial onlooker to primary military aggressor.
I know, I know. Gadhaffi's nuttier than a squirrel turd but you have to at least make the diplomatic effort so you can legitimately reach further toward the center of the table and use military might.
Still, one doesn't have to squint to see the disturbing similarities between Iraq and Libya: A clearly insane strongman of an oil-rich nation who'd been in power for decades who nonetheless was no longer a threat to us and being bombed by a "coalition" that just happens to be led by US fighter jets, the bombing starting on March 19, of all days, with the British playing a hyped cameo role but a cameo role nonetheless.
The only thing that's missing is support from the president's opposing party and outrage from the so-called leftists who are bound and determined to support Obama no matter what he does just as surely as Republicans will condemn him no matter what.
So far, we haven't lost anyone, although a fighter jet recently went down with little fanfare.
I'll leave the infinitely complex geopolitical ramifications to the wonks like Juan Cole and Nick Kristoff. My "job" is to give a citizen's worm's eye view of what's going on around us and this stinks to high heaven, plain and simple. As Jon Stewart pointed out, we already have two wars on our plates and this isn't like paying attention to the baby war because the older ones can take care of themselves.
One could make a case, as Michael Moore recently had, that revolutions are supposed to be won by the indigenous people, without outside interference. Yet as noble a narrative as that is, Moore seems to forget that that's not exactly how we'd achieved our own independence from the British.
The one question no one seems to be asking is, "Why Libya?"
Libya was a relative newcomer to the unrest in the Arab world, suffering serious fallout from the violent regime change in Tunisia and Egypt. In fact, not one regime in the Middle East has been toppled while every Arab country in northern Africa with an unpopular leader has been unceremoniously thrown through the palace gates.
Save for Gadhaffi. Ah, Daffy, the Michael Jackson of dictators, a guy whom we'd all but forgotten if not forgiven for his past acts of terrorism against Americans. Now suddenly, removing Gadhaffi is the most important thing on our agenda. Not balancing the budget, not creating jobs, not getting us the fuck out of Afghanistan and Iraq, not helping the Japanese with their even graver crisis, not pressuring the terrorist Israelis for their criminally under-reported bombing of the Gaza Strip...
It's removing an old potato-faced madman well past his prime and dresses in clothes that look as if they were ransacked from the Three Stooges' wardrobe.
Here's another question no one is asking: Did anyone ask the Libyans what they thought of our interference, especially the ones that killed our troops in Iraq before scuttling back to Libya?
And, as always, no matter who's sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, you can always count on some frustrated poet at the Pentagon to dream up stupid titles such as "Operation Odyssey Dawn."
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
(Note: If you could help out JP and the Missus, it would be surely appreciated. Hopefully, in a week or two, he'll be imparting mind blowing news. The Paypal link is at the bottom of the index page. Thank you in advance. - MF)
or, Scott Not So Free.
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
"Your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a difference and I can certainly use it again." - MA Senator Scott Brown to David Koch, March 4, 2011
The multibillionaire Koch brothers, people who have pumped more money into Republican and pro-corporate causes than most nations spend on defense combined, must like right wing politicians named Scott. We know they'd propped up Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign to the tune of $43,000, now my junior senator Scott Brown was recently seen sucking up for a donation from David Koch. Last month, they'd chipped in $5,000 to Brown's campaign, according to their disclosure filings, and when Brown was running for office a little over a year ago, the Koch brothers were even more generous, dumping over $50,000 into his runoff campaign (that includes $20,000 in PAC money to the Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee.).
Not coincidentally, this Brown donation was just before the Supreme Court's now-infamous Citizen's United vs the FEC ruling.
The video above shows Brown, at MIT not during a fundraiser but at the dedication of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, begging for campaign contributions like a $25 hooker crashing someone's birthday party on rent day. That same day, in a fawning NY Times interview, Koch half-jokingly expressed the fear that Ian Murphy's prank on Scott Brown would hinder access to the politicians that he bribes.
This should have caused more of a stir than Koch whining about how he's been made the bad guy because he and his brother have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to not just conservative causes but anti liberal causes such as affordable health care and workplace and environmental safety to name just three. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the primary movers, shakers and financiers of the Tea Party movement that targeted Democratic lawmakers with harassment are white collar terrorists. But try convincing David or Charles Koch of that. And try convincing the "liberal" NY Times of that, as well. In the second paragraph, the dutifully prostrate Michael Cooper described Koch as merely "a billionaire who is perhaps best known for his family’s contributions to conservative causes."
Calling the Koch Brothers people who are "perhaps best known for (their) family’s contributions to conservative causes" is like calling Sauron a jewelry aficionado. And it's thanks to pseudo-liberal rags like the NY Times that the Koch brothers are best known for their largesse to conservative causes. Because if we had a real, non-corporately subsidized mainstream media, the Koch brothers would be called out as right wing, white collar terrorists that pollute the environment only slightly less than BP and are dedicated to smashing public unions and had financed smear campaigns against school teachers even in states in which they don't live.
And the reason why that Koch joke didn't get more play in the media and called out for what it is is because in today's day and age, a billionaire who'd pumped tens of thousands of petrodollars into an anti-progressive, anti-union candidate's campaign is supposed to get immediate access to their employees, don't you know.
To play Devil's advocate for a moment, the NY Times hasn't been entirely supine as last October they published an article exposing the Koch brothers' secret agenda not to mention past beneficiaries of their "generosity", including Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two major movers behind the Citizen's United ruling 14 months ago.
So the obvious liberal kneejerk answer is to hit them where they're most sensitive: In their wallets. But that's easier said than done. The Koch brothers own many corporations and produce many products while polluting the environment (they're among the top ten polluters in the US, according to a Political Economy Research Institute study a year ago.). They own Georgia Pacific, a major paper producer as well as polluter. To boycott the Koch brothers' products would almost involve walking around with a dirty rectum, using sponges to wipe your countertops and printing documents on brown butcher's paper.
The Koch brothers will tell you, as David Koch said to Michael Cooper of the Times, that political activism is a mere hobby involving a mere bag o' shells and that they donate far more money to philanthropic causes. That may be true, as whole wings of natural science museums and entire cancer research facilities have the Koch brand name plastered all over them.
But being philanthropists and seeming to give back to the community is the tactic used by other billionaire criminals like Pablo Escobar, who built schools and hospitals where his drugs were respectively sold and treated in its aftermath.
The Koch brothers' financial "folderol" in the political sector is a matter of public record, but much of that money was given before Citizen's United was ruled on 14 months ago. Imagine how much more damage the Koch brothers can do in a new environment in which campaign finance "reform" is now officially a laughingstock and where they can pump untold billions into "conservative causes" and without having to file campaign finance disclosure forms.
The Koch brothers have all but declared war on the environment, education, worker safety, affordable health care, unions and who knows how many other causes and organizations that are necessary for a healthy democracy. We can start by boycotting their products but their very tentacular reach all but guarantees that wouldn't put a dent in their personal finances. We know we cannot trust the mainstream media to get and keep the word out about these white collar terrorists. If you but connect the dots, you will eventually draw a gigantic dollar sign crushing a stick figure.
As always when the system breaks down, it will come down to the citizenry so it will be up to us to execute this Koch block that is so necessary for the survival of our nation.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Something tells me this clown is white. I don't know. But while reading his profanity- and sexist-laden screed to Pam Spaulding for a post she wrote yesterday about Sarah Palin (claiming she would've won three years ago if she'd been at the top of the ticket), one can practically smell the golf club wax and mayonnaise.
Well, I can't resist jumping in on a good flame war uninvited regardless of what either party thinks. We liberals can't just let such idiocy go unchallenged. In fact, it is the intellectual imperative and moral responsibility of the intelligent and erudite to lampoon the factually challenged and willfully ignorant without quarter or mercy.
So, this one goes out to you, Bill Carpenter, Sr. of Auburn, CA.
First, in the interests of context, here's what seems to be his screed in full and before you read that, it might behoove you to read Pam's original post on Palin yesterday:
I want you to know EXACTLY who sent you this mail, I have guts similar to Sarah Palin and I dare you to challenge me concerning my view of you and your posting.
Bill Carpenter Sr
I watched the entire interview ( LIVE ) so don't try to spread your bullshit around. Sarah Palin said no such thing. Only you liberal jerks would believe anything written on your pages. Look in the mirror BITCH, if you don't faint first you will see a serious lier. You wouldn't admit the truth if it was to your benefit.. Since I believe you are so stooooopid, the string end goes in last.
( HEY BITCH, HE IS A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER NOT A PRESIDENT)
I don't know why she couldn't use his proper title, ( BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T WANT TO SAY ASS HOLE IN FRONT OF ALL THOSE PEOPLE ) but Palin seems in many ways stuck back in 2008, constantly re-litigating her grievances and sure that if she just tells us that "candidate Obama" is inexperienced, we will believe her. It's as if she doesn't quite grasp that while she was doing reality TV shows, he's been in the White House. ( PLAYING GOLF, FIGURING OUT BRACKETS, WRONG I MIGHT ADD, ENTERTAINING MUSLIMS, BLACKS AND UNION LEADERS. ARE YOU TOO STOOOOPID TO SEE THAT.)
OK, Bill? You have tragically mistaken for a hero and someone with guts Sarah Palin, a vacuum-skulled mental anorexic who quit midway through her first and only term as Alaska's governor when the scandals got too numerous and when the call of the wild (crooned by opportunistic literary agents, right wing publishers and TV producers) was too strong to resist.
Perhaps it's because of Reagan's budget cuts to California's public education all those decades ago or maybe you were home-schooled and your Momma was busy singing Hosannas with you while she should've been teaching you real profiles in courage like FDR, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and virtually any other liberal in American history.
Whichever the case, it had obviously eroded your reading comprehension (and spelling) skills. Sarah Palin did, too, claim that she would've won the presidency if she'd been at the top of the ticket. Indeed, this is the sole moment of clarity that Palin has had since John McCain threw a dart at a US map in August 2008 and hit Wasilla. For the flannel-tongued Palin, this is pretty unambiguous. I would think you would be smart enough to see that.
But no. You had to go on a profanity- and misogynistic rant and defend a woman you likely have never met nor would likely ever meet (her security would plant you six feet under head-first were you to get within 10 feet of her, I'm sure), a woman who is as blissfully unaware of your pathetic, semen-flecked existence as she is of foreign policy.
Let me tell you one thing, Billy boy, and hopefully it'll rattle around in your head long enough to form some rudimentary neural groove: Your chosen heroine is a fraud. The only thing that is authentic about her is her ignorance and errant stupidity, ignorance and stupidity that is only reinforced by Teabagging assclowns like you. It's because of the support of racist, Pearl Beer-swilling shit stains like you and your ilk that Palin's head has swelled larger than James Sensenbrenner's ass. It is people like you who encourage her.
But you're not totally to blame, Billy boy, because you're just an anonymous foot soldier in the war on intelligence, job security and education. The real culprits are the spittle-flecked, predatory cocksuckers at Threshhold Publishing, the Discovery Channel, ambulance chaser-cum-literary-agent Robert Barnett and Fox "News" who saw fit to further bloat her unjustified ego, turning trash by a racist ghostwriter named Lynn Vincent into an instant bestseller (thanks largely to right wing organizations buying them up in bulk thanks to unconscionable buyers so they can then give them away at Republican functions.).
That is, they were piling money at her feet of Pla-Doh when they weren't mocking her behind her back under a cowardly veil of anonymity (thank God Nobel laureate Saul Bellow isn't alive to see his son Adam do to the family's literary legacy what 300 pound lifers do to newbies in prison showers).
She's hysterically hypocritical about the "lamestream media". She sneers at them with her trademark, spurned-head-cheerleader venom except when she's got another reality show or ghostwritten piece of tripe to sell, picks fights with late night talk show comedians, makes up words on Twitter and insults our President while he's on foreign soil (such as when he was in Hong Kong).
And, speaking of our president, he used to be a community organizer, a pretty damned noble cause, if you ask me, but now, thanks to 72,000,000 of us, he is the President of the United States whether or not your reptilian, racist pulp of a brain wishes to acknowledge that (By the way, his brackets were 80% correct out of 5 chosen).
It's notable that white supremacist groups, gun sales and militia group enrollment skyrocketed after the black guy took over. In light of these inconvenient facts, it is a cause of neverending mirth to see you people turn red and quiver your jowls with right proper white outrage at being labeled as gun-clutching racists. How come Tea Bagger rallies rarely feature faces that aren't white or sunburned? How come gun sales went through the roof when the black guy got elected, despite him having no agenda in the slightest to take away your guns?
How come the black guy is now at fault for a high unemployment rate, a spiraling deficit, two unwinnable wars? All these things and much, much more began when your dimbulb poster boy Dubya was illegally and illegitimately squatting in the White House like a noxious tick beneath the nation's dermis. But suddenly they're issues when a man darker than John Boehner is in the Oval Office.
Which brings us back to Sarah Half Term, a woman followed by scandal and rightful ridicule like stoners following the Grateful Dead. Yeah, she energized McCain's campaign for about 15 minutes (every idiot gets their 15 minutes and Palin's has been long overdue to end for over 2 1/2 years). And that's because she brought out every racist, gun-clutching, 1st cousin-fucking, right wing, nimrod nutjob in the land. In other words, people like you, Bill.
Then the inexplicable happened: Even Republican voters suddenly woke up and came to the conclusion that between McCain and Palin, they didn't know enough about the salient issues to challenge a 3rd grader. Palin did a Hindenburg in front of Katie Couric (then blamed Couric time and again for asking specific, blunt questions) and the McCain campaign was forced to turn her into Osama bin Laden and make her unavailable to the media.
She's spread lies about death panels, doesn't know what the Vice President's job would've consisted of, doesn't read newspapers, doesn't know the basic rudiments of intelligible English, is a fraud as an "author", is a fraud on her reality TV show and is a political fraud who never served a full term in any political capacity except as mayor of a one-moose town named Wasilla.
And yet, somehow, you've turned this woman into the next Joan of Arc so she can lead the poor oppressed white man to the Promised Land where white people are white, black people are black and that's the way it'll stay, where public unions have no power, no money and no way to protect their workers while people who can buy and sell your first born child 100,000,000 times over get one enormous tax break after another, in which the environment is shat on, consumer protections are gutted and in which Social Security and Medicare will be privatized and put on the craps table better known as Wall Street.
The greatest coup the Republican Party ever pulled off was during the Southern Strategy in which they convinced you mouth-breathing bigots that voting against your own basic interests by voting Republican decade after decade was the way to go. This mode of thinking, far from burning out or losing traction, had hideously bloomed to the point where you hold up as your right wing icon a hillbilly grifter presiding over a collection of adulterers, underachievers and future porn stars, someone who would sneer at you and have you publicly humiliated if you said you didn't plunk down $30 for her books or watch her fraudulent TV shows.
It is people like you, Bill, who are gleefully turning us into the third world country and banana republic we are, because you lack the inherent ability to more carefully choose your heroes and protect your, and our, mutual self interests.
May God have mercy on your soul, you pathetic waste of trace elements.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Maybe Kansas state Rep. Virgil Peck's problem is he's watching too much Sarah Palin's Alaska or Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Running Man. But at a state assembly in Kansas recently, Virgil Peck seriously proposed "Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem."
"Immigrating feral hogs." Not human beings but "immigrating feral hogs." Shot from helicopters.
Yeah, I can see how, like Iowa's Steve King, Virgil Peck, a guy who also lives in a landlocked, midwestern state, would be so fearful of "immigrating feral hogs." And, believe it or not, this wasn't even the most heartless suggestion proposed of late for dealing with the so-called immigration problem.
Last June, some bald-headed mick bigot out of New Mexico by the name of Tom Mullins seriously proposed using land mines at the border.
Only slightly more humanitarian was King's fellow Iowan Dr. Pat Bertroche's suggestion that we implant microchips in immigrants. Both of the last two suggestions may have been midterm election sops thrown to the racist Teabaggers, maybe not.
But Peck obviously won re-election in southeast Kansas. And King, still inexplicably a United States Congressman, four and a half years ago seriously suggested using electrified fences along a border he doesn't live anywhere near, likening the immigrants to cattle.
If you think this isn't racist, consider, #1 that all this anti-immigrant rhetoric is coming from white Republicans and, #2, there doesn't seem to be any concern about the US-Canadian border, just the southern border with Mexico (although the Minnesota state house seems to be keeping a wary eye on them there Canucks, too, just in case they're thinking of giving up their evil, Socialized health care system for our bloated, expensive and corrupt one and 9+% unemployment rate). They're just careful enough not to specify the southwestern border.
But we all know what and to whom they're really referring in their thinly-veiled dog whistle language.
There is something extremely sinister going on in this country and when one sees how truly evil and venal the Republican Party has gotten in the last two years, thanks in large part to Republican and Independent voters, one sees a trend that too readily lends itself to an apocalyptic mindset.
Undocumented workers are evil. Unionized public employees are evil. Gay people are evil.
But Wall Street and the upholstered ticks that make up the top-earning 2% in the country? Hey, they're job producers. Let's give them another tax break.
These people used to be laughed at because until a couple of years ago, before the black guy got elected president, they were on the fringes of mainstream society, the kind of lunatics who sold mimeographed books at White Supremacy rallies dealing with post-apocalyptic survival and evil Jewish bankers.
Now they're elected officials, some of them at the federal level. A lot of them are chucking their mimeographed books and getting book contracts from an increasingly conservative publishing industry. They're now getting serious air time on TV and radio.
Meanwhile, much saner and humane progressive voices are still waiting for their version of Fox News, for their people to get serious air time on TV and radio while white Republicans advocate the mass murder of brown human beings just looking for a better life.
Here's an idea: How about we hunt Republicans from helicopters? Even without a spotter, I'd be glad to come out of retirement for that. Let's start with peckerheads like Peck. Then, after we've vaporized into pink arterial spray every Republican with Barrett 50 calibers, let's put every illegal alien we can find on welfare, SSI and unemployment. Let's give 'em all free, Congressional-class health care, HUD-subsidized housing in white Republican neighborhoods starting with Lou Dobbs' and make all their kids and relatives back home automatic citizens just to detonate the heads of whatever Republicans escaped our sniper scopes.
After all, if you want to preach audacious hatefulness, I say we fight fire with fire. I'm serious. Let's kill all the Republicans because, after all, the illegal immigrants just want jobs. The white Republicans are the ones advocating murder and they ought to be put down like the feral pigs we all know they are.
Friday, March 18, 2011
It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am.
I guess that's why they call me,
They call me the working man.
What does this say about Haim Levine after he tried to use his words to judge and attempt to degrade me? I gracefully ignored this folly for 177 shows. I fire back once and this contaminated little maggot can't handle my power and can't handle the truth. I wish him nothing but pain in his silly travels especially if they wind up in my octagon. Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words -- imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists. I urge all my beautiful and loyal fans who embraced this show for almost a decade to walk with me side-by-side as we march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong. - Charlie Sheen
What does this say? That in no country at no time in the Industrial Age has the working man, on whom everything depends, has ever been the hero. What else does it say when the only unemployed people who become more popular and become more in demand than ever are celebrities and politicians who don't even want to show up for work?
Generally, I leave the Charlie Sheen/Michael Jackson/Lindsey Lohan blogging to nasty little fucks like Perez Hilton, another example of a marginally-employed wasteoid who's somehow been turned into a latter day folk icon who can sell ad space on his marginally pornographic blog for $50,000+ a pop. But the news that Charlie Sheen, a man who makes the likes of Martin Lawrence, James Woods, Mel Gibson and Wynona Ryder look like capstans of sanity by conspicuous relief, is a more desirable candidate for president than both Obama and Sarah Palin had stirred something inside me.
Consider the case of Charlie Sheen, who jumped the shark and Oprah's sofa like a spittle-flecked, anti-Semitic lunatic on Alex Jones' show, of all places, and pissing and moaning about losing his job on Two and a Half Men. Essentially, as I'm sure we all know whether we like it or not, Sheen got fired for badmouthing his boss (never a good idea, no matter how big you are), making borderline anti-Semitic slurs in the process because he was coddled a little bit less than usual for not showing up for work.
In the real world, you get fired for that and when you try to complain about your unfair treatment, people tell you to shut the fuck up and start reading the classifieds. They don't go on whirlwind international tours called "The Terrible Torpedo of Truth", collect over a million followers on Twitter and get hailed as a folk hero of the working man.
In the real world, you don't get one enormous book deal thrown at you after another, get hired by the highest-rated cable news network in the galaxy, have the Discovery Channel build a show around you while blatant evidence of fraud dogs you like a Doppleganger and you don't make millions for not doing what you're paid to do. Your Twitter and Facebook accounts wouldn't be shaping policy at the highest levels of government.
In the real world, if you get fired, you don't get unemployment and you certainly don't get signed to a lucrative tour that'll make you enough millions to continue living a bloated, coddled lifestyle.
Fortunately, we don't live in the real world.
In this Bizarro version, these peoples' names are bandied about as polling fun fodder for deadly serious issues such as who'll be running this country after next year while the real working people who've been put out of work are actually ignored by those few companies who are actually hiring.
Sarah Palin and Charlie Sheen and how their celebrity and fortunes have bloomed since they quit and got shitcanned from their respective jobs are not what's wrong with this country but it sure as hell is symptomatic. Sheen's anti-Semitic tirade put 200 crew members out of a job in an industry where job security is measured weekly in Neilsen ratings and is considered solid if you're employed for more than 22 episodes.
Yet when they're revealed as bigots, antisemites, thieves, alcoholics, and sex and drug addicts who've done more than their part to tear down the most sacred institutions in the human experience, we idolize them moreso than Joe Lunchpail who gets up at dawn every morning or work in the dead of night for less and less money to make sure civilization continues functioning.
These are the people who educate our children, who inspect airplane parts to make sure hatches don't blow at 35,000 feet, who keep our streets safe from crime, who run into burning buildings without a thought of their own safety to save our loved ones, who care for us and our loved ones during medical crises, who keep our neighborhoods clear of our garbage and who do literally tens of thousands of unsexy jobs that'll never be put on posters in teenagers' rooms but are infinitely more important than someone whose own is to entertain for 22 minutes a week for 22 weeks out of 52.
You want Charlie Sheen for President because you think it'll be like when his Dad starred in The West Wing, Democrats, Republicans and Independents? You think who will lead our nation after 2012 is a laughing matter by getting people to say that a bigoted lunatic enjoying momentary notoriety is preferable to the incumbent President?
Be careful what you wish for, America, because you might put ideas in Charlie's addled head and you just might get it.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
We all have a favorite joke and this one happens to be mine. So what better day to share it than on St. Patrick's Day?
A conservative Irish judge went pub crawling after a hard Friday at court. He was known as a law and order judge and had an image to maintain but after such a hard day, his Irish thirst was raging.
After he crawled out of his 6th pub, he vomited all over his brand new suit and racked his reeling brain for what to tell his teetotaling wife Brigit. Then he got a brilliant idea.
He poured himself through the front door and said in an outraged voice,
"Ah, Brigit, you'll never guess what happened to me this very night. I was walking home from the courthouse and this drunken yobbo staggers up to me and threw up all over me brand new suit. Well, I had him arrested and when I see him in court on Monday, I'll be givin' him 30 days in gaol, I will. Now, be a dear, Brigit, and clean me suit, will you? There's a lass."
"Very good, your honor," said Brigit and she set about cleaning his suit.
The weekend passed and Monday morning arrived. The conservative judge, dressed in his newly-cleaned suit, thought it prudent to reinforce his lie one more time. At breakfast he said to his wife,
"When I see that suit-soiler in court today, I'll be givin' him 30 days, I will!"
"Well, your honor," began Brigit, "you'd better be giving him 60 days because he shit in your pants, too."
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
or The Devil is in the Details.
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
There's no reason why, technologically, we can't employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way. Japan does it and France does it, and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way. - President Barack Obama, October 2009
It's Japan's curse, perhaps a fated one, to be dogged every once in a while by radiation. First Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then Godzilla, now the earthquake and tsunami that's caused havoc in the northeast side of Japan. President Obama's own curse? Sitcom timing regarding his inevitably ruinous energy policies.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, built by General Electric in the early 70's, has been verging near catastrophe. 50 to 100 Japanese power plant workers, or what makes up a skeleton crew at the plant on a slow day, are valiantly battling the intermittently exposed core trying to prevent a full-blown meltdown as we saw at Chernobyl almost exactly 25 years ago. Uniting them is a solidarity and brotherhood only understood by other reactor workers and seen among policemen, firefighters and soldiers. Typically, neither the Japanese government nor the Tokyo Electric Power Company that owns the nuclear plant hardly even acknowledge the life-endangering toil of these brave workers on which Japan's well-being rests.
We saw much the same callous disregard for human life in the Ukraine. The Soviet government refused to even admit that Reactor 4 at Chernobyl had melted down and was spewing radioactive dust all over that part of the world. It wasn't corporate profits that were at stake but the upcoming May Day celebrations and Soviet pride and prestige that were on the line.
While much of eastern Europe and Scandinavia (and, yes, eventually Japan) were getting poisoned by radioactive fallout, the government of Mikhail Gorbachev silently but frantically sent hundreds of local and surrounding firefighters into the burning inferno without adequate briefings of the danger nor personal protective equipment (PPE) and the casualties began to mount immediately. Those who had rushed into the reactor and, later, the Russian helicopter pilots who'd built the sarcophagus that still more or less encases Reactor 4 to this day, soon died.
600,000 "liquidators", as they were called, were soon rushed to the scene to purge the Ukraine and surrounding areas of radioactive contamination. This included merely burying farm equipment, euthanized livestock as well as shooting dogs and cats (so they wouldn't escape the 40 km Zone of Exclusion). Even on the periphery of the epicenter, many of these liquidators fell ill because of radiation sickness. Their children were born with genetic defects now common in Chernobyl, Pripyat and the surrounding area such as thyroid cancer and atrial septal defects (a hole in the heart).
There was a stunning lack of concern for human life, even given the Soviet Union's historically hideous human rights track record, and it was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. Within 5 1/2 years, the Politburo voted to shut down the USSR and start a new government.
Fast forward 25 years later. A new Russia, a new American President. Yet the only constants from the bad old days are the 40 year-old reactors in Japan and the insistence that nuclear power is still safe despite glaring evidence to the contrary from the Land of the Rising Sun. As with the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and subsequent oil spill almost a year ago, President Barack Obama is telling us there's nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, let's continue conducting business as usual. After a brief moratorium on offshore oil drilling, the Interior Department's MMS continued handing out leases with minimal to no safety standards being met.
To make his point, Obama, while defending his plan to aggressively expand our nuclear power plant footprint, even had the obligatory Japanese person in the background as window dressing to remind us that there was nothing to worry about, because there's nothing at all synonymous with Japan and nuclear catastrophe.
Somewhat in his defense, this president has been dogged with horrendous timing. Mere weeks before the Deepwater Horizon exploded (on Earth Day, at that) and spilled tens of millions of gallons of crude oil onto the Gulf Coast, the president embraced the Republican/Palinesque mantra of "Drill, baby, drill!" and announced we were opening even more of the Gulf Coast to offshore oil drilling.
Then, right in the middle of the president's plan to revamp our energy policy, a 9.0 earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan resulted in a 23 foot tsunami that pushed four of Japan's reactors into crisis mode, setting several on fire and risking a meltdown that could theoretically be 10 times worse than Chernobyl. Now, once again uniting with racist Republicans that are bound and determined to see him fall next year no matter what he does to appease them, Obama is telling us to "Calm down. I've got this. Nothing to see here, folks."
Jacqueline Marcus of Buzzflash also reminds us (emphasis mine),
European leaders stand as a direct contrast to President Obama's sense of confidence. Germany, Switzerland, Britain and others have decided to suspend nuclear power plans and they're also considering shutting down current plants for safety examinations, especially older plants that were built in the 1970s.
Another problem: The 45 year-old idiocy of planning to build nuclear reactors in an earthquake-prone area such as the Pacific Rim is, unfortunately, not restricted to Japan.
As Marcus reminds us, the Diablo nuclear power plant in California was built, with an idiocy rivaled only by the Japanese, not only directly on the San Andreas Fault but near three others. To give you an idea of the sheer level of stupidity that went behind Diablo, it took a newbie engineer aged 25 to discover that the plant's seismic blueprints had been reversed, thereby compromising overall integrity of the vulnerable twin towers.
During storms, water intake from both its primary and secondary cooling systems are scaled back by 80% to prevent kelp from clogging the intake valves. Cutting back on the cooling system is what brought us the Chernobyl disaster in the first place and lack of water through failed pumps is what's exposing Japan's reactor cores to this day.
As the Watergate-era maxim goes, "Follow the money" and if you follow this money trail long enough, it's not hard to see where Obama's real allegiance is. The CEO of General Electric, which designed and built the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, remained on Obama's Economic Recovery team, even after it was revealed early in the administration's history that GE had pulled an Enron and used sleazy accounting tricks to mislead its shareholders and investors by inflating its profits. Jeffrey Immelt, a so-called tree-hugger, is no longer on that council because he got promoted last January as the head of Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
That's why one has to laugh when, days after the president's inauguration, Immelt wrote to the shareholders to whom he was lying about company profits, "The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner."
Obama has hardly been a regulator of any industry or individual company, especially GE. What Obama wants, GE wants. What Obama says, GE says. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, we're not getting a single indication that Obama is interested in being a regulator as much as "an industry policy champion", especially if that policy benefits Obama's closest corporate chums. In fact, GE was Obama's 18th most generous contributor to his presidential campaign (Goldman Sachs, if you're curious, was #2 at almost a million bucks and Citigroup was #6.)
The Devil, or el Diablo as it were, is in the details and one need not be a detective/journalist on a par with Greg Palast, who's forced to ply his trade with the less cajone-endowed American MSM, to see where Obama's true allegiances lie.
As Marcus says while flinging her gauntlet to the ground,
Given the fact that there have been major earthquakes around the world, I'd like to see President Obama stand in front of the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant when an earthquake hits and announce: "I'm confident everyone! I'm confident!"
But the president will never do that, perhaps because he's aware of his own rotten timing regarding energy policy. And it would be fitting, if not inevitable, for such a press conference to host a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault to show America the true face of el Diablo and Hell.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
While I never actually admitted it, when I'd do my erstwhile long column on Sunday morning/afternoon, I'd poach from Frank Rich's column for ideas on where to go. Actually, "poach" perhaps is a too-larcenous word: Perhaps I should say I took cues from Rich's weekly Op-Ed and zig-zag off on my own lonely tangent ("The road less traveled"? I usually need a machete to go where I'm going.). And today, I'm about to do it again.
I was a relatively late newcomer to Frank Rich's genius. I didn't begin to read the Op-Eds until I became a political blogger over six years ago (rivaling Rich's 17 year-long tenure at the Times in blogger years). Later, when that venerable institution made the colossal blunder of trying to put their Op-Ed columnists behind the velvet rope of Times Select, thereby making them available only to paying subscribers, my interest in the Op-Ed, and Rich's canon, really took off. Back then we bloggers would vie to see who could poach Rich's byline first and get the coveted link (and maybe, Oh God, the Big Headline) on Buzzflash when it was still Buzzflash.
Rich didn't have the brutal elegance or write the perfumed poison pen belles letters of a James Wolcott nor did he turn into some tiresome nickname-slinging insider like Maureen Dowd. Somehow, over the course of nearly 20 years, he'd avoided espousing controversial, and bigoted, opinions that would end his career. It's to his enduring legacy that he never suffered the same fate as Helen Thomas.
Any newspaper is bigger than the sum of its parts but that hasn't been the case of the NY Times. They are no bigger than the sum of its parts, especially since Frank Rich has now passed into its hallowed Halls of Posterity. Rich, as one could expect, made a graceful exit, taking only one potshot at his former employer when he wrote in his swan song Op-Ed, "Neither it nor any other institution is infallible, as was illustrated most recently during the run-up to the Iraq invasion."
Indeed, not only had the NY Times dropped the ball on that, as it had during Vietnam, but also on 9/11, Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina (.pdf of the original article, not the silently-amended one in the Times' archives), etc. Judith Miller, in fact, was so embedded with the weapons inspectors and the Screaming Eagles that she was practically writing policy and was squarely in the middle of the Valerie Plame outing. And who that follows the Times can forget the fake articles of Jason Blair?
Not only that, to this day they're still censoring the late Molly Ivins because of a PG-13 joke about "chicken pluckers," hardly the grudge that one would expect for a newspaper branded for decades by conservative mouth breathers as being a bastion of liberal propaganda. Like Rich, Ivins, the ultimate liberal pundit, felt the Times was too claustrophobic and creatively stifling.
For 17 years virtually every Sunday, Rich produced hundreds of articles skewering Bush, the right wing and outrages that helplessly swam into his eagle-eyed ken. Making relevant connections between seemingly unrelated news items, Rich forced us to expand our outlook and to acknowledge the deeper connective tissue that drives our country and its policies. Rich was often at his best when he'd briefly slip into theater/movie critic mode and make some spot-on cultural reference such as the article almost exactly a year ago about Wall St. crooks running roughshod on Main Street and the late Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Four and a half years ago, when Obama still hadn't served out his third year in the US Senate, Rich had warned us that the junior senator from Illinois was "not a miracle elixir." Obama's two plus years in the White House has proven Rich to be a prophet in a par with Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce.
With Rich's departure after today's column, the NY Times has gotten a lot poorer. Maureen Dowd's never been the same since winning a Pulitzer for helping to almost take down the Clinton administration over a blow job. Bob Herbert's just tiresome. Paul Krugman's good for economic viewpoints but his acumen has been noticeably absent since the start of the Obama administration. And not too many of us are sufficiently intrigued with Middle Eastern/Asian affairs to much care what Nick Kristoff says about anything.
As the Times' Opinion Editorialist-at-Large, Rich spanned this great nation, its policies, its prejudices, its triumphs and its stupidities with sartorical humor and always controlled outrage. With a last tongue-in-cheek observation, Rich wrote, "That’s one reason America is so thrilling to write about." In other words, as the Chinese say, "May you live in interesting times."
The problem is, The Times isn't nearly as interesting now that Frank Rich has fled to New York Magazine.