Monday, August 31, 2009

If You're NOT Worried About The Perma-Fost Melt, Pull Your Stupid Fucking Head Outta Your Ass And Start, Goddamn It!

Via Grist (whose headline was somewhat more delicate)
:If we lost just 1 (One) percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we’d be close to a year’s contributions from industrial sources. I don’t think policymakers have woken up to this. It’s not in their risk assessments.”
—Permafrost expert Chris Burn of Carleton Universiy
Pure methane, gas bubbling up from underwater vents, escaping into northern skies, adds to the global-warming gases accumulating in the atmosphere. And pure methane escaping in the massive amounts known to be locked in the Arctic permafrost and seabed would spell a climate catastrophe.

Is such an unlocking under way?

Researchers say air temperatures here in northwest Canada, in Siberia and elsewhere in the Arctic have risen more than 2.5 C (4.5 F) since 1970 — much faster than the global average. The summer thaw is reaching deeper into frozen soil, at a rate of 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) a year, and a further 7 C (13 F) temperature rise is possible this century, says the authoritative, U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In 2007, air monitors detected a rise in methane concentrations in the atmosphere, apparently from far northern sources. Russian researchers in Siberia expressed alarm, warning of a potential surge in the powerful greenhouse gas, additional warming of several degrees, and unpredictable consequences for Earth's climate.
We are so fucked. There was a window, probably 30 years ago, when things might have turned around. But Raygun tore the solar panels off the White House, and argued the trees contributed to global warming, and everybody sort of danced away from the problem.
But there's no doubt the north contains enough potential methane and carbon dioxide to cause abrupt climate change, Gustafsson said by telephone from Sweden.

Canada's pre-eminent permafrost expert, Chris Burn, has trekked to lonely locations in these high latitudes for almost three decades, meticulously chronicling the changes in the tundra.

On a stopover at the Aurora Research Institute in the Mackenzie Delta town of Inuvik, the Carleton University scientist agreed "we need many, many more field observations." But his teams have found the frozen ground warming down to about 80 meters, and he believes the world is courting disaster in failing to curb warming by curbing greenhouse emissions.

"If we lost just 1 percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we'd be close to a year's contributions from industrial sources," he said. "I don't think policymakers have woken up to this. It's not in their risk assessments."

How likely is a major release?

"I don't think it's a case of likelihood," he said. "I think we are playing with fire."
Don't light a match north of Skagway; you'll get blown right the fuck UP!

"Imagine": Moral (and Historical) "Relativism" Considered

TomGrams often are as much worth reading for Tom's own contextualizing contributions as for the writers whom he features. This is one such occasion:
On this one-way planet of ours, it's hard sometimes to imagine things any other way, but for a moment let's try. Imagine, for instance, that in recent years the director of Iranian intelligence oversaw a program of "extraordinary rendition" aimed at those who were believed to be prepared to commit acts of terror against that country's fundamentalist regime. Practically speaking, what this often meant was kidnapping suspects -- some quite innocent of such aims -- off the streets of Middle Eastern or South Asian cities and transporting them secretly to Iran, to "black sites" set up abroad, or to allied regimes known for their torture practices.

Imagine that these suspects, once in the hands of his agents -- the Geneva Conventions having been declared not applicable to them -- were then tortured, abused, and sometimes murdered. Imagine that, for this, the director, in a public ceremony with great hoopla, was awarded the Ayatollah Khomeini Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the land, and on retiring honorably wrote a bestselling memoir about his years in office. Imagine as well that, to help Iranian interrogators, lawyers close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had rewritten the law so that acts which the world had long agreed to be torture were now redefined as not so, and on that basis, they were instructed to do such things as waterboarding suspects, even as the fundamentalist regime regularly announced that, on the basis of its own definitions, it did not condone torture.

If such a scenario had occurred, we know what we would think of such people. We know what our media would say about such people. We know what we would demand as a fate for such people -- that they be brought to justice. The present regime in Iran has proven itself quite capable of committing its own set of horrors and tortures. The above description, however, could not be mistaken for the recent history of any agency but the CIA and associated outfits under the purview of the top officials and lawyers of the Bush administration. Indeed, George Tenet, CIA director from 1997-2004, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor possible, by George W. Bush in December 2004, when much of the above was already on the public record (and the president certainly knew far more). Tenet did then write At the Center of the Storm, a bestselling memoir, and so on.

Now, a new administration is in power and it has decided to investigate CIA interrogations -- but only those acts by Agency operatives (and its private contractors) that went beyond the bounds of Bush administration extremity, beyond the bounds, that is, of that administration's pretzled definitions of what was not torture. The rest gets a pass.

On the day that decision made headlines, another report, "U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight" by David Johnston in the New York Times, barely got noticed, even though it indicated that a now-notorious program of the Bush years would be continued in the Obama era. In other words, the U.S. will go right on turning terror suspects over to third countries for incarceration and interrogation (something criticized by Barack Obama in his presidential campaign), only with undoubtedly meaningless "diplomatic assurances" of no-torture policies. (Johnston did not even mention the kidnapping part of the process.) I'm still waiting for someone to ask the question: Why turn suspects over to seedy regimes if you don't expect them to act seedily?

Had China announced that it was going to turn rebel Uighurs captured outside the country over to Uzbekistan, or Myanmar made it clear that it was planning to send dissidents kidnapped in Thailand to Syria, we would denounce such policies to the skies. But it's us, and as Nick Turse, TomDispatch associate editor and author of the remarkable book on American militarism, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, points out, we are the great exception. If we do it, it essentially doesn't count -- and perhaps more remarkably, it never dents our urge to stand on the highest moral ground around and accuse others of heinous acts. Of course, when you still want to think of yourself as the planet's sole superpower, you naturally feel you have license to do such things, and leave yourself out of the equation. It's evidently the global equivalent of James Bond's license to kill, or Monopoly's get-out-of-jail-free card. Tom( Emphasis supplied. W)
This by way of introduction to Nick Turse's recent, telling column comparing the release, by Scottish authorities, of accused/convicted (but likely rail-roaded) Libyan intel agent alMegrahi, and the reaction in Libya, with the anncouncement last week also that (former) Lt. William Calley had issued an apology for the mass-murders he oversaw and in which he notoriously admitted actively participating, in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai, 40 years ago. Neither Al Megrahi nor Libya were EVER conclusively linked to the Lockerbie bombing. Many, many people--including the Scottish authorities--now appear to believe the bombing of PanAm 103 was Iranian-sponsored and directed pay-back for the USS Vincennes ("accidental") shoot-down of an Iranian airliner filled with 280 civilian pilgrims in the Persian Gulf some months earlier.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Max Keiser: The Banksters Are Running the Prison

Part Deux:

Menage a'Trois:

Are you convinced yet, that the Obamanistas don't give a rolling, rotting rat's ass about 'people.'

Shamelessly scammed from Antemedius:
Racketeering 101: Bailed Out Banks Threaten Systemic Collapse If Fed Discloses Information
by Tyler Durden, August 27, 2009, Zero Hedge

And so the guns come out blazing. The Clearing House Association, another name for all the banks that were bailed out over the past year with the generous contributions from all of you, dear taxpayers, are now threatening with another instance of complete systemic collapse if Bloomberg's lawsuit is allowed to proceed unchallenged, let alone if any of the "Audit The Fed" measures are actually implemented.

As a reminder, The Clearing House Association consists of ABN Amro, Bank Of America, The Bank Of New York, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

In a declaration filed in the Bloomberg Case (08-CV-9595, Southern District of New York), the banks demonstrate no shame in attempting to perpetuate the status quo with regard to the Federal Reserve and demand that the wool over the eyes of the general population remain firmly planted in perpetuity.
The Clearing House submits this declaration because the Court's Order threatens to impair the ability of our members to access emergency funds through the New York Fed's Discount Window without suffering the severe competitive harm that public disclosure of their identity will cause.

Our members have accessed the New York Fed's Discount Window with the understanding that the Fed will not publicly disclose information about their borrowing, especially their identity. Industry experience, including very recent and searing experience, has shown that negative rumors about a bank's financial condition - even completely unfounded rumors - have caused competitive harm, including bank runs and failures.
Surely transparency would facilitate rumor-mongering to an unprecedented degree. After all rumors spread much easier when everyone knows the true financial condition of banks.

And here, in plain written Times New Roman, you see what racketeering by a major bank consortium looks like:
If the names of our member banks who borrow emergency funds are publicly disclosed, the likelihood that a borrowing bank's customers, counterparties and other market participants will draw a negative inference is great. Public speculation that a financial institution is experiencing liquidity shortfalls - which would be a natural inference from having tapped emergency funds - has caused bank customers to withdraw deposits, counterparties to make collateral calls and lenders to accelerate loan repayment or refuse to make new loans. When an institution's customers flee and its credit dries up the institution may suffer severe capital and liquidity strains leaving it in a weakened competitive position.
Pardon me if I am a broken record here, but would rumors not spread much less if there was more transparency, if investors and other financial intermediaries were fully aware of the conditions of their counterparties, if banks did not have to cover their billions in reserve losses by pretending they are viable and essentially being constant wards of the state?

The Banks' racketeering has gone on for far too long.
This is true, but there is no longer any legal expedient by which it might be possible to instill even a chinchilla of fear into their ravenous hearts.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kewl Beans! Really!!!

Via PourMeCoffee, this remarkable new tool in pursuit of critical literacy (they done it with Shakespeare concordances for a hundred years; it was only a matter of time):
Fightin' words.

Playing around with Capitol Words. In addition to getting word clouds for particular politicians, you can find out which politicians say particular words.

By overwhelming 2-1 margins (follow links below for details):

* Thadeus McCotter (R-MI) says communist the most.
* Trent Franks (R-AZ) says nazi the most.

I was reminded of this, sobering little exercise, still poignant after all these years:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Who's Paying The Bill To Kill Health Insurance "Reform"

Air America had the link (via e-mail):
More than 70% of the American public agrees that a public option for health care is a good idea. That fact is terrifying to insurance companies that have hustled billions of dollars out of a dysfunctional health care system for decades. The insurance industry is the only one buying the phonies who have caused such a ruckus at those town hall meetings.

On The Energy Front, Things Are NOT Improving Either

The first three items in TP's ThinkFast, daily round-up are energy/climate related stories, and though the TP folks cast them in a positive light, it's hard to share their enthusiasms, guarded though they may be. The Big Money is just beginning to weigh in to co-opt the energy reform debate. And no public initiative in recent times has been able to overcome the weight of the Big Money. Big Money always wins (else, why have it?).

Item I.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has found that 55 percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling energy issues and nearly 60 percent support changes in U.S energy policy being proposed by Congress and the administration. Fifty-two percent support a cap-and-trade system.
A narrower majority, 52 to 43 percent, back a cap-and-trade system; that margin is unchanged since June. A cap-and-trade system would set a ceiling for the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and it would allow firms to buy and sell emissions permits.

"Something definitely has to be done," said Marian Eldridge, a former legal secretary from East Windsor, N.J., who participated in the survey. "Anything's worth a try at this point." She said she tries to "ignore the politics; you get discouraged." But she said that higher energy costs were "inevitable" and that "we're too dependent on other countries."

Despite public support for an energy and climate bill, the prospects for legislation remain uncertain. The House narrowly passed a measure in June, but not before inserting a multitude of provisions for consumers, interest groups and corporations. The Senate remains divided over how to move forward, and getting 60 senators to back an end to debate could be difficult. Adding to that challenge is the thin public support for the cap-and-trade approach if it were to raise consumers' costs. Although 58 percent of those polled would support the plan if it reduced greenhouse gas emissions and cost them an extra $10 a month, support drops to 39 percent if new monthly costs reached $25.
Which leads to a nifty seque to Item II.
Business lobbying groups are launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to defeat climate change legislation. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are targeting the Waxman-Markey bill “as a threat to the economy” by claiming it would raise energy costs.
Fear works, always, of course, and especially appeals to job fears in a time of economic distress. (My plan for the hundreds of thousands of obese "Health Insurance Parasite" office workers displaced by the nationalization of health insurance would be to turn 'em all over to Van Jones, who can teach 'em to do really vital work: green technology installation and maintenance. If they're too obese/out-of-shape/stupid to handle that, tough; they can live off their stored fat for a while.)

Thence to Item III, where you learn HOW they always seem to win:
The astroturf grassroots lobbying firm Bonner & Associates, which sent fake letters to congressmen on behalf of coal companies, is now blaming the embarrassing incidents on a temporary employee. The firm claims it was “the victim of a fraud” perpetrated by a temp who joined the firm “with the pre-determined intent of engaging in fraudulent activity.”
Yeah, right. And I have a couple of high-rise office buildings in lower Manhattan I'd love to sell ya...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The (Intemperate) Thanks Of A Grateful Nation

There IS one thing, which I had forgotten, and which--now reminded of it-- forever shades my opinion of Ted Kennedy toward approval. That is, in 1987, he, almost single-handedly, Saved the County from that vile, fascist fucker, Robert Bork; who, had he then been confirmed, would likely be the Chief Justice today. For that service alone, Ted Kennedy should have earned the eternal thanks of a grateful (un-Borked) nation.

Here's what Kennedy said of Bork at the time (and what was at the time described as the determinative critique of the laughing fascist fuckwit Raygun was determined to shove down the throat of the country as his parting gift):
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."
This position, and having the temerity to utter it, earned Kennedy the eternal, ferocious animus of the wackloon/fundie/flying monkey Right, whose agenda he had too carefully, too accurately described.

I had forgotten this until this morning, reading the accounts of Kennedy's career. At TAPPED, today, columnist A. Serwer reminded us:
Kennedy's statement wasn't so much wrong as it was expressed in the kind of intemperate manner that ruffles feathers in Washington. The fact is, Bork believed only "political" speech was protected by the First Amendment; he, like many other conservatives, didn't believe that women have the right to make choices about whether to carry pregnancies to term; he was critical of the idea that illegally obtained evidence shouldn't be used in court; and while nominally agreeing that the 14th Amendment prohibited racial discrimination -- as opposed to discrimination based on gender, which he thought it didn't -- in practice, he opposed every single piece of legislation ever passed in order to guarantee the civil rights of African Americans. Searching through old news reports, I can't speak to Kennedy's allegations on Bork's views on evolution in schools, but it's fairly clear that Bork's personal beliefs are anti-evolution
Jeffrey Toobin writes that Kennedy's characterization was "crude and exaggerated, "but it wasn't really all that off the mark. It was just nasty -- and in Washington, D.C., how you say what you say matters more than whether or not it's true. Especially if you're a liberal.
Some motherfuckers deserve "nasty," and both Raygun and Bork are in that number, imho...I would happily have shat in Raygun's dead mouth, or in Bork's living one...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homo Novens

From Boing-Boing:

Wooster Collective spotted this fun prank at Bristol Zoo where an informational placard about Homo Sapiens was installed outside the zoo's cafe. Click the image to read the sign.

Blue Gal Gets It

Long version here. And don't forget how Malkin and Co pitched a fit when Homeland Security warned and warned about this just months ago. May her words "Obama hit job" never come back to haunt any of us.

And Dear Tweety: Yeah, you don't want to say someone might shoot the President. We get that. The correct response to that is "we don't give in to [domestic] terrorists." Throw that back in Sarah Palin's face. Really.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Y/Our Name

The DoJ released the IG's report (pdf) on "abuses" to detainees, yesterday. At Obsidian Wings, Publius supplied a handy precis:
The highlights include: (1) mock executions;
(2) threatened rape of family members;
(3) threatened murder of children;
(4) kicking and beating a detainee with a metal flashlight to death;
(5) threatening naked hooded detainees with power drills;
(6) blowing cigar smoke in detainees' faces until they got sick;
(7) waterboarding with massive volumes of water far beyond what OLC authorized (to make it "poignant");
(8) stress positions that nearly caused shoulder dislocations;
(9) scraping detainees with stiff brushes;
(10) choking a detainee with one's bare hands until they nearly pass out;
(11) subjecting detainees to extremely cold temperatures and water dousing;
(12) "hard takedowns" (sometimes in diapers); and
(13) beating detainees with butts of rifles (followed by kicking them).
Nobody who exerted supervisory authority--nobody above the rank of stooge, that is--will EVER be held to "account" for ANY of it.

"We've got to look forward, not back."


Monday, August 24, 2009

Scotland Purchases Good Will (and Oil?) With Humanitarian Release

So it appears, from the perspective on one observer from the land which invented "real-Politik." Courtesy of "Watching America":
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

Realpolitik in Kilts

By Wolfgang Koydl

"The Americans, by the way, totally understand their British cousins, despite the shrill tones emanating from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators in Washington."

Translated By Ron Argentati
20 August 2009
Edited by Katy Burtner

It’s not about morals or compassion, it’s all about multi-millions in investments. The Scots let the Lockerbie assassin go free because they want Libya’s oil.

Scotland’s natural gas deposits in the North Sea are rapidly being depleted, but gigantic new gas reserves have just been discovered off of Libya’s coast. No one need know more than that in order to understand why the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi, was pardoned by the Scottish government and the resulting trans-Atlantic fallout with Washington.

It has nothing to do with old-fashioned concepts like atonement, vengeance, morals or compassion. It’s all about multi-millions in investments, corporate bottom lines and, lastly, also about whether radiators will go cold and lights will go out in Great Britain within the next few years.

If a competitor is awarded the contract, the resources will be lost

Energy giant British Petroleum (BP) has invested billions of dollars in developing Libyan natural gas reserves. It would be a great investment, provided BP gets the right to exploit the resources. Should the contract be awarded to a competitor (the United States, for example), the resources will be lost to Britain and British jobs will also presumably be lost, along with tax revenues to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in London.

When so much is at stake, a man like Megrahi is reduced to a minor irritation, to an unimportant pebble in the cogs of a great machine that must not be allowed to stop running. His continued imprisonment, according to the Libyans, was the only thing standing in the way of finalizing the contracts that British firms will find so profitable.

For the Scots, charity begins at home

Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister, and his Minister of Justice, Kenny MacAskill, recently shoved into the bright spotlight on the international stage, are now in full agreement with the otherwise disliked Labour government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Scots may still wear the kilt, but they know that charity begins at home and that the existential energy crisis predicted by experts for the coming years won’t be held back by Hadrian’s wall, the traditional dividing line between Scotland and England.

The Americans, by the way, totally understand their British cousins, despite the shrill tones emanating from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators in Washington. Their public protests are really only meant for the families of the American Lockerbie victims.

The government in Washington has known for a long time that Megrahi would be pardoned and that they could do nothing about it. They would have done precisely the same had Meghari been imprisoned in the United States, because America hungers for energy as well, and American companies want to get their share of the Libyan resources, too.

One can call that hypocrisy. Or realpolitik. The end result is still the same. (Emphases original. W)
It's hard not to agree, given the evidence. Besides, it's never been entirely clear that Meghrahi was actually implicated in the bombing.

If there is ANYONE More Cynical Than I, It Is Chris Hedges.

Not to put TOO fine a point on it, but:
Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health care system.

They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care.

The sick do not have a choice. Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health.

And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed.

This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits.

It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies.

And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder.
The foregoing was originally published as a single paragraph, but the litany of abuse deserves more attention than that. The REAL issue, as I and others have remarked is who will get their greasy, blood-drenched fingers on the MONEY. That's the4 argument now. It has NOTHING whatsoever to do with heatlth care. coverage, or medicine of any kind.
The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation. “Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time,” says David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation, “so there is a vacuum on the outside.” And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for abuse.

“It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product,” says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. “Next the government will tell us a Pinto in every garage, a lead-coated toy to every child and melamine-laced puppy chow for every dog.”

“Health insurance is not a race to the top; it is a race to the bottom,” he told me from Cambridge, Mass. “The way you make money is by abusing people.
And if a public-option plan is not ready and willing to abuse patients it is stuck with the expensive patients. The premiums will go up until it is noncompetitive. The conditions that have now been set for the plans include a hobbled public option. Under the best-case scenario there will be tens of millions [who] will remain uninsured at the outset, and the number will climb as more and more people are priced out of the insurance market.”
The whole piece is much longer, much bleaker, much more "real" than anything you'll read from the Obama Kool-Aid Korps. As anyone with a scintilla of gray matter more than a sea anenome has known since 'jump street,' there has NEVER been ANY chance that Obama would actually CHANGE the balance of power in Health Care...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wholly Crap!

Sunday's Fundies.

We'll lead with this from blogger "The Future Was Yesterday":
People are always seeing religious images in all sorts of materials, usually images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. The sightings bring scores of people to gaze, make all sorts of inane remarks and even worship. I have a slew of these "sightings" in archives.
I copied the bird poop video and article when it hit the news, even ABC published it. One of Dan'l's commenters had it on his blog so I didn't post it here. Now there is another one, less publicized, so I'm posting both for your amusement. Also a funny image of Jesus on a dog's butt. Jesus' head is represented by the dog's anus, while Jesus' feet rest on the dog's testicles. Jesus' arms spread towards each buttock (if dogs have buttocks). Now, don't anybody get all in a religious frenzy over this. (Photo: image of Jesus on dog's butt):
Elsewhere, on C&L today, Mike, tracking the whack so you don't have to, had his occasional comprehensive precis:
HOLY CRAP: Warriors for Christ...God Calling...Texas bible scholars...Ayatollah Kit Bond...The kindness of God...Just Repent...Diseases caused by sin...Liberal Jesus...Are you there, God?...Idaho says no...Lutherans to allow gay pastors...Holy-War Fever...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Every Fish In Every Stream, Every Lake, Every Pond, Every River and Every Sea

...In the whole fucking country is contaminated with mercury.

Let me, no, let's let the US Geological Survey repeat:
A federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday found the toxic substance in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation's streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish from 291 streams nationwide. While all fish had traces of mercury contamination, only about a quarter had levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.
The culprits?
...The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methyl mercury — a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.

Some of the highest levels in fish were detected in the remote blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, where surrounding forests and wetlands help in the conversion.

Mercury was also detected in high concentrations in western streams that drain areas mined for mercury and gold. At about 59 of the streams, mostly in the West, mining could be contributing to the mercury levels, the researchers said.

"Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others," said Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study.

All but two states — Alaska and Wyoming — have issued fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination. Some of the streams studied already had warnings.

Demand development of clean, sustainable, renewable energy production.

Breaks MY Fucking Heart: Some of the Rich Are Growing Poorer!

(Below: John McAfee is auctioning off this property in New Mexico to pay bills. His worth has fallen to about $4 million from a peak of about $100 million. Photo: Chris Richards for The New York Times )

I know the following tale is a bit of a harsh for your weekend-morning buzz, dashing once again your nascent hopes to be able to cheat and steal yourselves into untold MILLION$$$, but I thought you should know. It makes me very sad (/snark) to imagine all the pathologicaly pushy, arrogantly arriviste, parvenu poseurs in(e.g.) Santa Fe frantically scrambling to peddle their expensive trinkets to keep their long snoots above the rising tide of collapse. Yeah. Right!

Via Yahoo & the NYT:
The rich have been getting richer for so long that the trend has come to seem almost permanent.

They began to pull away from everyone else in the 1970s. By 2006, income was more concentrated at the top than it had been since the late 1920s. The recent news about resurgent Wall Street pay has seemed to suggest that not even the Great Recession could reverse the rise in income inequality. (2007 was the best year EVAH for the wealthy. W.)

But economists say — and data is beginning to show — that a significant change may in fact be under way. The rich, as a group, are no longer getting richer. Over the last two years, they have become poorer. And many may not return to their old levels of wealth and income anytime soon.
Right there my little middle-class, retired, Social Security heart started to break. Oh, the shame of it! To have ridden so high, and now to be reduced to mere single-digit millions! It was just too sad. But I read on:
For every investment banker whose pay has recovered to its prerecession levels, there are several who have lost their jobs — as well as many wealthy investors who have lost millions. As a result, economists and other analysts say, a 30-year period in which the super-rich became both wealthier and more numerous may now be ending. (Notice the subjunctive mood of the verb "may?" W.)

The relative struggles of the rich may elicit little sympathy from less well-off families who are dealing with the effects of the worst recession in a generation. But the change does raise several broader economic questions. Among them is whether harder times for the rich will ultimately benefit the middle class and the poor, given that the huge recent increase in top incomes coincided with slow income growth for almost every other group. In blunter terms, the question is whether the better metaphor for the economy is a rising tide that can lift all boats — or a zero-sum game. (What it REALLY means is that wealth is becoming even MORE concentrated, as the number of the "rich" declines, and their wealth finds fewer, newer hands. W)

Just how much poorer the rich will become remains unclear. It will be determined by, among other things, whether the stock market continues its recent rally and what new laws Congress passes in the wake of the financial crisis. At the very least, though, the rich seem unlikely to return to the trajectory they were on. (Awwww. Now I really am fucking devastated! W.)

Last year, the number of Americans with a net worth of at least $30 million dropped 24 percent, according to CapGemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Monthly income from stock dividends, which is concentrated among the affluent, has fallen more than 20 percent since last summer, the biggest such decline since the government began keeping records in 1959.
Lemme see: A 20% decline in the dividend income, for someone bringing in, say $10 million/annum (a not-imaginary number) that way -- NOT working for it-- would knock 'em down to a measly $8 MILLION? Shit, Henry, sell the baby! And before you become 'verklempt' with emotion, consider:
Since 1980, tax rates on the affluent have fallen more than rates on any other group; this year, the top marginal rate is 35 percent. President Obama has proposed raising it to 39 percent and has said he would consider a surtax on families making more than $1 million a year, which could push the top rate above 40 percent.

What any policy changes will mean for the nonwealthy remains unclear. There have certainly been periods when the rich, the middle class and the poor all have done well (like the late 1990s), as well as periods when all have done poorly (like the last year). For much of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, both the middle class and the wealthy received raises that outpaced inflation.

Yet there is also a reason to think that the incomes of the wealthy could potentially have a bigger impact on others than in the past: as a share of the economy, they are vastly larger than they once were.

In 2007, the top one ten-thousandth of households took home 6 percent of the nation’s income, up from 0.9 percent in 1977. It was the highest such level since at least 1913, the first year for which the I.R.S. has data.

The top 1 percent of earners took home 23.5 percent of income, up from 9 percent three decades earlier.
One positive: Perhaps we may soon actually have evidence whether "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. ..."

Money Talks: Kill "Hope!"

Doctors & Big PhRma: "We're the good guys,; we're on the same side."

In the 2008 election cycle, Obama received more money than any other candidate-by a breathtaking margin- from: "health professionals" ($11,716,570), Health Services/HMO's" ($1,425,501), the pharmaceutical industry ($2,124,560), and hospitals ($3,335,944).

DOTOF™: Elián Maricón at WWL, who notes:
According to Derrick Jensen, our collective efforts to facilitate change will amount to nothing as long as we remain trapped in the billowy vice grip of hope. In order to be truly free, we must all experience the death of hope--cognitively,viscerally and spiritually...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Capital Punishment: Fun For The Whole Of 'Real' America

Pornographers Are The Most Honest Businessmen

They, at least, give full weight.

Larry Flynt, the premier pornographer of our era, and often an unlikely political activist for liberal values, is back to rub the noses of the hypocritical oligarchs on their own shit. His record is not unnblemished, of course. He was once actually arrested for contempt by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And he has famously embarrassed the rich & famous.

It will, perhaps, be recalled that Flynt offered a $1Million-dollar bounty for tips on the sexual peccadilloes of GOPuke leaders and partisans. Today, on Antemedius, "the Big Fella" offers a tribute to Flynt in his on-going, ferocious critique of the Plutocrats.
While Larry Flynt may not be someone who's total package an average American might ever embrace whole heartily, he is someone who should garner our respect and attention, to at least listen to, and consider for his views on the hypocrisy of the plutocracy and how they would suck the last breath out of all of us common folk, as they grasp at every opportunity to build their own, selfish, treasure chests:
In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters."

...The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did -- knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) -- was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight -- and we've all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.
Flynt goes on to cite other examples of how the plutocracy controls the economy and the government, even stating that every national financial collapse, from the 1929 stock market crash to the present, was triggered by Goldman Sachs. Flynt's writing makes for interesting reading, citing more history, including the reason for Shay's Rebellion (which was in the news recently as part of the context of the provocateurs [my view] who showed up at presidential speaking events with fire arms strapped to their bodies).

Ever the Don Quixote, Flynt proposes that we all fight back against the hypocrisy, and theft of our nation by the plutocrats:
I'm calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.

Let's set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn't effective -- if the politicians ignore us -- we do it again. And again. And again.

The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It's time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.
...A casual reader might chalk all of this up to just some paranoid crackpot, but Flynt has neven been just a crackpot, he is someone who has studied the human condition, someone who does have moral values about hypocrisy and the shafting of the common man and has never been afraid to stand up for his rights. Maybe Larry Flynt is not tilting at windmills, but rather sounding an alarm for all of us.

Jeezus fucking christ!@ MAYBE???

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Case of Troy Anthony Davis

Troy Davis, as you may know, is a (black) former sports coach from Georgia, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for the August 19, 1989 murder of (white) off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail under unresolved circumstances in a dark parking lot in Atlanta.

Throughout the trial and subsequent appeals, Davis maintained his innocence, claiming he was wrongfully convicted of the crime as a result of false identification.

After the trial and first set of appeals, seven of the nine prosecution eyewitnesses who had linked Davis to the killing recanted or contradicted their original trial testimony, claiming police coercion and questionable interrogation tactics.[1] The witness who first implicated Davis and has remained consistent, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, was initially a suspect in the crime. Coles was seen acting suspiciously the night of MacPhail's murder and has been heard boasting that he killed an off-duty police officer.[2] There is only one witness who did not recant his testimony and is not himself a suspect in the murder, but he made an in-court identification of Davis two years after the crime.

Last week, the Supreme Court--over the objections of Antonin ("Tony, the Toad") Scalia and Clarence ("Unca Tom") Thomas--ordered a federal district court in Georgia to consider and rule on whether new evidence "that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes [Davis'] innocence."

Davis could still be executed, which would be--by many lights--a gross and criminal injury to justice. Prosecutors and judges, generally, and in the Soputh particularly, hate to revisit cases in which they may, in retrospect, be seen to have acted in undue, and racially animated haste. They hate to see anyone convicted of anything released. However many people are now urging President Obama, if the potentially exculpatory evidence is not allowed, and the sentence of death is re-instated, to pardon Davis.

Which ain't gonna happen. No Way! Period! No Chance!


The biggest reason that Obama can't issue a pardon to Davis was exemplified by the "Rev. Wright" flap, exaggerated by the Skip gates fiasco, and further exacerbated by the whole "birfer/deather/guns-at-rallies" phenomena, which is nothing but an elaborate surrogate for the racial animus of the protesters: If, as a (even if only HALF) black president interferes in the case of a Black defendant already convicted of killing a white man, there will be unholy hell to pay amid the raving racist contingent, probably amounting to half the white population in the country. He will be accused of racism, or favoring the interests of black citizens over whites, of undermining the fundaments of the judicial system, all for the sake of freeing a (guilty!) "ni66er."

Resentment, fostered by right-wing/racist demagogues (Beck, Limbaugh, Dobbs, O'Reilly, Hannity & Savage, mainly) will explode at this "blatant" act of "racial preferrence." It will happen...

And the cops will not eagerly exercise civil authority against the violent, raging, (well-armed) white, middull-class...

Here's my theory, in fact, on why the "authorities" were not and will not be more aggressive in isolating and/or disarming the armed militia-types lately frequenting (mainly Dim/Presidential 'town-meetings'. It is/was that the the local lconstrabulary were afraid to be seen by their local constituents to be protecting a black--any black, even the President--from "legal" threats from whites.

It's race, stupid: If you are ever in doubt about the sources for legal injustice in the USer system, look first to the race of the victim and the alleged perpetrator...

"Fund Them All And Let God Sort it Out..."

Apparently, the (I'm guessing) Roman Catholic governor of Illinois, a certain Patrick Quinn, trying to appease karma for the sins of his immediate predecessors, saw the dispersal of large amounts of Federal largesse as an opportunity to win Divine favor back for Illinois, and...well here's how American's United For the Separation of Church and State charmingly describes it:
In a letter to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Americans United insisted that the Constitution clearly forbids the use of public funds to subsidize religion.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed an infrastructure-improvement bill allocating $40 million in grants to at least 97 religious organizations within the state. The bill fails to place any restrictions on these organizations’ use of the funds.
The problem with this grand, nay, grandiose gesture is that it is probably deeply, and fundamentally unconstitutional. AU's complaint continues:
“We ask that you review all of the grants to recipients identified on the attached list, as well as any other grants slated for religious organizations, to ensure constitutional compliance,” AU’s letter asserted. “Pervasively sectarian organizations should be denied the funds altogether, and for all other organizations, restrictions and safeguards must be put in place to prevent state funds from being used to advance religion.”

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said he is deeply troubled by the constitutional implications of the Illinois grants.

“Government is forbidden by the Constitution to fund religion,” said Lynn, who is an ordained minister. “When grants are made to religious groups with no safeguards whatsoever, the rights of taxpayers are clearly being infringed.

“No American should ever be forced to contribute money in support of religion,” Lynn continued. “The state of Illinois needs to move swiftly to ensure that public funds are not being misused for religious purposes.”

The Chicago-Tribune reported that the bill earmarks $250,000 for renovations to the Friendship House of Christian Service in Peoria, awards $150,000 for “facility improvements” at the Salaam Conference Center of Muhammad’s Holy Temple of Islam in Chicago and assigns $700,000 for capital improvements at St. Malachy School, a Catholic elementary on Chicago’s West Side, among many others.

Americans United’s protest to Illinois state officials was joined by the Anti-Defamation League. The letter was drafted by AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Staff Attorney Ian Smith.
Interesting that Gov. Quinn's generosity is so ecumenical. It suggests to me that the diversity was/is a camouflage or a device to ensure plausible deniability, or a way for the state to dispute claims of 'establishment' by being 'catholic' in its bestowals.

But the AU is no less ecumenical, joining the ADL to protest--though that might be explained by the apparent over-looking of needy Temples or Schulls...At least the Trib story didn't mention any...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Progress: "...The Entrails Of The Last Priest..."

The estimable Prof. Friedman, on ReligionClause, reports the following bit of good news (though it is likely to ratchet-up the pressure to depose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez).
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
New Venezuela Education Law Eliminates Religious Education In Schools

Last week Venezuela's National Assembly passed a controversial new Education Law that impacts the teaching of religion in schools. According to a Catholic News Service report yesterday: "One clause of the new law, which covers all levels of education and both public and private institutions, requires education to have a 'lay character … in all circumstances' and leaves religious education to families." According to a report Saturday in the Miami Herald, the new law "gives a major role in education to the so-called 'communal councils,' which are community assemblies mostly dominated by the ruling Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela." Opponents who say the new law gives Hugo Chavez's central government too much control over schools say they will seek a referendum to overturn the law. (Emphases supplied. W.)

Why such a remarkably rational piece of legislation should be regarded as "controversial" is an open question. It is one of the accepted functions of the State to provide the means to acculturate children in the mores of the national culture. I do not believe the State--any State--should permit (much less be the sponsor of) any form of sectarian or even generalized religious indoctrination in public schools. I subscribe to the following dictum: "Treat your 'faith' as you do your genitalia: Keep it private til somebody asks..."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The New "Nigerians"


At LAST! My big chance for untold wealth, free!

Imagine my delight and surprise when I received this in my E-Mail today, under the rubric: CAN I TRUST YOU!‏

Hello friend,

My name is Scott Whittington, I am an American soldier, I am serving in the military with the 1st Armored Division in Iraq , as you know we are being attacked by insurgents everyday and car bombs.We managed to move part of funds belonging to Saddam Hussein's family in 2003.

The total amount is US$12 Million dollars in cash, mostly 100 dollar bills,this money has been kept somewhere outside Baghdad for some time but with the proposed troop in increase by president Barrack Obama, to end the suicide bombing and make peace with Iraq militant and terrorist ,we are afraid that the money may be discovered hence we want to move this money to you for safekeeping pending the completion of our assignment here.


We are ready to compensate you with good percentage of the funds, No strings attached, Iraq is a war zone, we plan on using diplomatic means to ship the money out as military cargo to your home, under diplomatic immunity cover.

I am contacting you in confidence, all arrangement for the successful delivery has been put in place, all we need from you is to receive the cargo from the diplomat, If you are interested I will send you the full details, my job is to find a good partner that we can trust and that will assist us. Can I trust you? When you receive this letter, kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest.

Alternative Email Address:
Regards ,

Sgt. Scott Whittington
This has gotta be legit, right? I mean it's an American soldier, not some skeevy African widow. Anybody else want in on this? I can be generous...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The "Tinkerbelle" Market, Part II: More Smoke & Mirrors

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism:
I don't believe in market calls, and trying to time turns is a perilous game. But most savvy people I know have been skeptical of this rally, beyond the initial strong bounce off the bottom. It has not had the characteristics of a bull market. Volumes have been underwhelming, no new leadership group has emerged, and as greybeards like to point out, comparatively short, large amplitude rallies are a bear market speciality.

In addition, this one has had some troubling features. Most notable has been the almost insistent media cheerleading, particularly from atypical venues for that sort of thing, like Bloomberg. Investors who are not at all the conspiracy-minded sort wonder if there has been an official hand in the "almost nary a bad word will be said" news posture. Tyler Durden has regularly claimed that major trading desks have been actively squeezing shorts. There have been far too many days with suspicious end of session rallies.

The fall in the markets overnight, particularly the 5.8% drop in Shanghai, seems significant in combination with other factors:

More bank woes...Consumers tapped out...Foreclosures set to rise...Fed in a box...More AIG losses...Lack of political leadership (all with attendant explanations. W.)
Here's the money quote:
Ed Harrison has called him a (half-)black Herbert Hoover. If the economy takes another down leg, it will further confirm his inability to do anything other than compromise and try to spin it as success. The confidence game worked when he was a new President, but nice talk and not much action is already wearing thin. We could use someone at the helm who is willing to plot a course and stick with it, and instead what we have is someone long on charisma and short on resolve.
Not to mention, there are STILL a couple million ARMs that are getting ready to reset in September, with consequent foreclosures, and attendant popular devastation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This is Ob-FUCKING-Scene! 14 Thousand Families Collected 6.1% Of ALL US Income

As the USer economy crawls toward yet another 'jobless recovery', Sam Pizzigati, on the CAF blog, records the following report in the iniquitous inequities of the USer system of wealth (mal)distribution:
Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who many now consider the world’s top authority on the incomes of the super rich, has never been one for sweeping statements. He tends to let his data do the talking. But his latest data — from the crunching of just-released IRS tax records for 2007 — have wowed even Saez.

America’s most affluent, those data show, have never grabbed a greater share of the nation’s income than they did in 2007. The nation’s top .01 percent of income-earners in 2007 — taxpayers who made over $11.5 million — pulled in 6.04 percent of all income, the highest top .01 percent share of the nation’s income since the IRS started keeping records back in 1913.

The year 2007, a rather awestruck Saez noted earlier this month (PDF), “was an incredibly good year for the super rich.”

The 14,588 families who made up 2007’s top .01 percent averaged $35,042,705 in income, 1,080 times the $32,421 average income of America’s bottom 90 percent. The gap between the top .01 percent and the bottom 90 percent, before 2007, had never stretched over 1,000 times.

Was 2007 the most unequal, top-heavy year in American history? That depends on how you define the top. If you’re looking at only the tippy-top of the income distribution — families in the richest tenth or hundredth of 1 percent — 2007 “wins” the inequality honors hands down.

But if you define rich a bit more broadly, as the top 1 percent, the rich of 2007 don’t quite match the sticky fingers of their awesomely affluent counterparts back in the late 1920s.

In 1928, the last full year before the Great Depression, America’s most affluent 1 percent took in 23.94 percent of the nation’s income. The comparable figure for 2007's top 1 percent: 23.5 percent.

Those 1928 wealthy would see their share of the nation’s income drop sharply as the Depression deepened. Economic shocks to the system, as Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez notes, almost always cost the rich income share, since profits from businesses and stock market wheeling and dealing tend to “fall faster than average income” during economic downturns.

But what happens next can vary enormously. After the Great Depression, the super rich share of America’s income stayed down — for over a generation. The quarter of the nation’s income that the top 1 percent collected in 1928 actually shrank all the way down to 10 percent in the early 1950s and didn’t start rising appreciably again until after Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election.

After the recession early in the 1990s and the downturn in the early 2000s, a totally different story. The super rich income share did dip after each of these recessions, but only momentarily.

Why did the super rich share of the nation's income go down and stay down after the Great Depression and come right back up after the recessions of recent years?

No mystery here. During the 1930s and early 1940s, as Saez points out, the New Deal put in place financial regulations and progressive tax rates that prevented “income concentration from bouncing back.” In the 1990s, by contrast, Congress and the White House (BOTH "parties"!) deregulated financial markets. In the 2000s, the two joined to cut taxes on the rich.

So what will happen after our current Great Recession ends? That remains the $64,000 question of our time. In the 1980s, we let market fundamentalists dismantle a huge chunk of the New Deal legacy. The institutions that had kept America's super rich less than super — most notably, progressive taxation and strong trade unions — begin to go by the wayside.

In their place came the record inequality that the new Saez figures so dramatically document — and, over the last year, the worst economic times that Americans under 70 have ever seen.

“We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income inequality is efficient and acceptable,” says Emmanuel Saez, reverting back to his customary eminently sober academic tone, “and, if not, what mix of institutional reforms should be developed to counter it.”

The rest of us can’t afford to be so understated. Those reforms, starting with higher progressive tax rates on high incomes, can’t begin too soon.

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality.

Progressive taxation rates? Like: 50% of every fucking dollar over $5 million/annum, no matter the source, up to 95% of every dollar over $10 million/annum.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

There Is No Justice...

Early today, a columnist on BuzzFlash, Michael Winship a moderate and level-headed kind of fellow (known for, among other things, his collaborations with Bill Moyers, another reasonable, moderate person), inscribed in the Byte-o-sphere an essay on the failings, irrationalities, and other strategies by which the insane goat-fuckers of the Right are opposing health-care reform, and postulating ways they could return to sanity. He illustrated the dilemma with a story from his own autobiography, concerning the last days of both his parents.
In the months and years prior to my mother's death, the kind of end-of-life counseling that health care reformers are talking about -- not the bizarre, phony "death panels" falsely conjured by Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Betsy McCaughey and others, now including Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) -- would have been welcome.
He concluded
One way to reestablish some shred of that credibility would be any kind of viable health care reform alternative from the GOP. Another would be to engage in a more reasoned debate. Neither has happened so far, and in the heat of the current ugly fray, neither seems likely.
Taken aback that anyone would actually welcome the 'restoration' of the GOP, I replied:

1) Universal, single-payer health insurance such as is provided by every actually civilized country on earth, is such a "no-brainer," from a cognitive and socio-political perspective that there really are no 'rational reasons' to oppose it. So the Pukes and their lumpen-Orcs oppose it with fear, lies, and irrationality (animated by the best example of institutional racism--as if there were any other kind--that you could ever expect to see outside a designed experiment).

2) Why should anyone care that the GOPukes restore credibility? They control the agenda without a shred of it now, even though the Dims are nominally "in power." There is NOTHING about the GOPukes, qua "party," that is in any way worth restoring, and there hasn't been since wretched Ronnie Raygun sent Bush and Casey to (treasonously) negotiate with the Ayatollahs to block the "October surprise" and ruin Jimmy Carter's chances for re-election.

For that little escapade, I'd like to see all the participants' bones decaying in labelled gibbets along Pennsylvania Ave...

There is no justice in this life, and there is no "next" life. So if these fucking stupid, racist, moronic, knuckle-dragging, asswipe sunsabitches are gonna suffer for their sins, it's gotta be in the here and now...
The best thing you can do: Shun Pukes...all of them, even if they're family...

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Part Of "Sold Down The Fucking River" Eludes Your Fine Discernment, Friendz?

Last week, Obama made behind-the-scenes deals with the epitome of all greasy slimeballs, (former Rep.) Sleazy Billy Tauzin, the capo of Big PHRmAbig, one of the biggest corpoRat players in the so-called 'health insurance reform' debate, ensuring that, whatever else happened, the BEEG MONEY wouldn't lose anything.

Whew. That's a relief. That Obama can shake hands with Tauzin tells me all I need to know about Obama's tolerance/sympathy for any smelly patch of reeking cat puke.

Obama is desperate to have something he can sign and trumpet as 'health insurance reform', with attendant photo ops, dancing girls, wild beasts, marching bands, and animal sacrifices, on prime-time, right AFTER the Super-Bowl, around the first anniversary of his inauguration. That is to say, he is not desperate to reform the health insurance morass. No. He is desperate to have a SHOW of reforming health insurance, in which he gleams with a righteousness.

Ralph Nader was on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now today. The headline is a nice precis of what the 'official' plans entail:
“You Do Not Cut Deals with the System that Has to Be Replaced”:
Ralph Nader on Secret White House Agreements with the Drug Industry

What is emerging here is what was being planned by the Obama White House all along, which is they would only—they would only demand legislation that was accepted by the big drug companies and the big health insurance companies.

You can see this emerging over the last few months. President Obama has met with the heads of the drug companies and the health insurance companies. Some executives have met with President Obama four to five times in the White House in the last few months. He has never met with the longtime leaders of the “Full Medicare for Everybody” movement, including Dr. Quentin Young, who is a close friend of his in Chicago; Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the head of the Health Research Group of Public Citizen; Rose Ann DeMoro, the leader of the fast-growing California Nurses Association—not once in the White House.

That’s all you need to know to realize that the deal that’s being cut here is from Obama to Senator Baucus, the Blue Dog senator from Montana, who is cutting a deal, largely in private, with right-wing Republican senators and getting it through the Senate and presenting Henry Waxman and John Dingle and others in the House with a fait accompli.

So whatever they pass in the House will be watered down in the Senate-House conference. And what we’ll end up with is another patchwork piece of legislation, allowing huge and expanded profits for the health insurance companies and the drug companies, and continuing this pay-or-die system that has plagued this country for decades, a system that takes 20,000 lives a year, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s about fifty to sixty people who die every day.
I don't know. Fifty or 60 people per day seems a small price to pay to ensure the profits and perqs of this vital industry, one so adept at separating its clients from their financial resources. Fifty or 60 people per day die in incidents involving automobiles, too, and nobody says they're bad people...As for a solution (you know, people are always asking the powerlesshow WE'D run the zoo), Nader makes a cogent and eminently sensible suggestion: if the Obama regime REAALLY wanted to implement a more general program, here's what they should do:
I would go for full Medicare for everyone, because people understand Medicare. Forty-five million people get it. They have free choice of doctor and hospital. It’s a three percent administrative burden, compared to 20 to 25 percent for the Aetnas and the private health insurance bureaucracies. It’s something that people understand. It’s something we should have had in 1964; instead of just for the elderly, it should have been across the board. That’s what I would go for. It’s supported by a majority of the people, majority of the doctors, majority of the nurses. It’s clear. It’s understandable. It doesn’t deal with unenforceable deals like the so-called drug industry—

What "Health Care/Insurance" Reform WILL Include

This is what it's gonna look like (from Michael Brenner, a "senior Fellow" at the "Trans-Atlantic Institute, on a Huff-Post today):
A quick review of what has survived an unbecoming process of deal making exposes the dismaying reality. For starters: no public plan; no wealth tax to help pay for cost incurred; no right for the government to bargain with Pharma on drug prices; no meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure that vested, for profit interests comply with whatever undertakings, explicit or tacit, that they have made. What do we gain? Not much. A commitment that everyone must be insured, yet with a much weakened employer mandate to accomplish it. An elimination of the most egregious practices of insurance companies re. e.g. pre-existing conditions, arbitrary termination of coverage. Some small subsidies for the working poor. These last are minimal. Someone earning $20,000 a year will get no subsidy unless insurance premiums reach $2,400 -- according to the Finance Committee bill. Good luck all you folks who work for $10 an hour -- you'll need it.
Obama tubed the pooch--though why anyone would ever have expected him to do otherwise is completely and totally B E Y O N D me--and this 'historic opportunity' to actually fix the problem of health care for average Americans is rapidly lapsing--as anyone with a brain and qa sense of history could and should have predicted.

The big mistake was always thinking that Obama (or anyone, really) would buck the Owners. They like things as they are: Status Quo. Change is bad--that is, expensive.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Don't Know Whether To be Terrified Or Scared Outta My Fucking Mind

Chekhov declared a gun on the wall in the first act must be fired by the end of the third.

In the way of life imitating art, with guns falling to the floor, or loonies packing 'em to attend Presidential rallies, the measured yet playful tones of the blip by Megan Garber, on CJR today, seems to me to belie a very serious, very dangerous, very consequential line has not already been crossed. She conveys the news that David Frum, Bushevik speech-writer and apologist, is worried about the tenor of the 'conversation":
Frum: “The guns are coming out. The risks are real.”

By Megan Garber

This has been, in the health care debate, The Week of the Gun.

David Frum shoots back:
It’s not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him.

But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health-care ideas are too ambitious and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable.
The by-play in the comments includes this, from Y'r Ob'd't S'v't...:
I am greatly afeared that that horse is outta the barn.

Banking back the rhetoric isn't gonna put the genie back in the bottle. The Right's eliminationist rhetoric has struck a chord. Racism is rampant (albeit mostly tacit and implicit).

Frum and his fellows are hoist on their own petard. Give them joy of it, and hope nobody actually gets hurt (though it was clear to me that Beck, and Limbaugh, at least, were doing their Regal impressions: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest," hoping that they could shake loose another Scott Roeder, who'd mebbe get off a "lucky" shot at Obama).

NOW they're backing away from it? They've aroused and fed the beast. How they now kill it is their problem, but it IS their problem...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Are Corporations, Emerging Powers and Petro-States Snapping Up Huge Chunks of Farmland in the Developing World?

(Toles' cartoon used w/out permission)

Because the next "bubble" is gonna be in 'commodities,' i.e., food. The planet's population of humans seems to be expanding, and the capacity to feed the new arrivals is gonna be crucial.:
"In the past six months, big players in the global economy have grabbed 50 million acres of arable land, from Africa to Southeast Asia."
Scott Thill, on Alternet today, makes the following case, which seems (unfortunately) irrebuttable:
Stop me if you think you've heard this one before:
Investment banks, sovereign wealth funds and other barely regulated financial entities in search of fat paydays go on buying binges structurally adjusted to maximize their earnings reports and employee bonuses, while simultaneously screwing their business associates and everyone else in the process. It's all done in near-total secrecy, and by the time everyone finds out about it, they're already in the poorhouse.
That's more or less the playbook for the derivatives and credit-default swaps gold rush that ruined the global economy, which cratered in 2007 and has yet to recuperate.

The bubble money has now moved on from housing and turned to the commodities markets, especially global food production. Given what that money did to the housing market, things don't look good for local communities whose land is being bought up by governments, sovereign wealth and hedge funds, and other investors on the hunt for real value in a hyperreal economy.

Entrenched and developing economic powers -- the U.K., China, South Korea, India and more -- have launched land rushes to outsource production of everything from staples like rice, wheat, corn and sugar to finance bubbles like biofuels. That includes oil-wealthy Gulf States, which recently feasted on commodities speculation that exploded oil prices in 2008.

The hard numbers are alarming: According to the Guardian, in the last six months over 20 million hectares (around 50 million acres) of arable land, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, have been sold or negotiated for sale or lease. That's about half the size of all arable land in Europe, or the size of entire U.S. states North Dakota or Oklahoma.

The aptly titled report, " 'Land Grabbing' by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries," from the International Food Policy Research Institute, which declined to be interviewed for this article, explains that "details about the status of the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are often still murky."

It's no wonder: The economic valuation of land and water has increased in concurrence with both price commodities and the ravages of climate change, whose droughts, wildfires and other extreme environmental events are quickly shrinking what's left of the planet's arable land and clean water.
To say nothing of the growing, profit-driven impetus to switch production from edible crops, to bio-energy crops to feed the fuel needs of a growing planet.

When food supplies change in the wild, populations evolutionarily suited to consume such resources either increase or decrease, depending on the direction of change. Malthus used this observation to predict (so far, correctly) that populations would continue to expand to consume the amount of food available to support them. It's true of all creatures, though humans alone, apparently, have the wherewithal to intervene in natural cycles to increase production of food when the natural events would indicate a diminishment. So human population is immune to (small) decreases in natural foodstuffs.

Nothing about humanity's current situation is in any way 'sustainable' in the long term. "Speculating" in this incipient tragic reality is ghoulish, although not unexpected.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Liberals" Owe Nader, McKinney, and The Greens An Apology

The more things change, the more Obama butt-fucks the polity. It was, unfortunately, NEVER gonna be any different. One of the more daunting political apoerias has always been the patently delusional belief that anyone who gained the approval of the OWNERS to run for, and be elected, President would, thereaffter, pose the tiniest scintilla of a challenge to the hegemony of the elites, aristos, oligarchs, bosses, landlords, etc--i.e, the richest, mostly invisible .01 percent...Especially a "marginal" candidate, a black/brown person or a woman.

The understandably irascible Chris Hedges, this morning, at TruthDig, is unstinting in his (continuing) disapproval of the policies and politics of the "Pope of Hope.":
The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.
Yeah, you might be wondering: How IS this 'different' from the Busheviki?
The sad reality is that all the well-meaning groups and individuals who challenge our permanent war economy and the doctrine of pre-emptive war, who care about sustainable energy, fight for civil liberties and want corporate malfeasance to end, were once again suckered by the Democratic Party. They were had. It is not a new story. The Democrats have been doing this to us since Bill Clinton. It is the same old merry-go-round, only with Obama branding. And if we have not learned by now that the system is broken, that as citizens we do not matter to our political elite, that we live in a corporate state where our welfare and our interests are irrelevant, we are in serious trouble. Our last hope is to step outside of the two-party system and build movements that defy the Democrats and the Republicans. If we fail to do this we will continue to undergo a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that will end in feudalism.
The only thing with which I'd quibble with in Hedges discourse is his use of the "future" tense. It's here, friends. Full-fledged and slouching towards Jerusalem...Therefore:
Our task is to build movements that can act as a counterweight to the corporate rape of America. We must opt out of the mainstream. We must articulate and stand behind a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working men and women. We must give up the self-delusion that we can influence the power elite from the inside. We must become as militant as those who are seeking our enslavement. If we remain passive as we undergo the largest transference of wealth upward in American history, our open society will die. The working class is being plunged into desperation that will soon rival the misery endured by the working class in China and India. And the Democratic Party, including Obama, is a willing accomplice.
There's more, including excerpts from Nader's recent speeches. But the important point is that Obama, the "centrist," is positioning US for servitude, and "we" need to stand up and fight it...