A Close Look Now!

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School and was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New York Times, is the author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

The radical Christian right has no religious legitimacy.

It is a mass political movement.

It is interchangeable, in many ways, with other traditional political movements ranging from fascism to communism to the ethnic nationalist parties in the former Yugoslavia. It shares with these movements an inability to cope with ambiguity, doubt and uncertainty. It also embraces a world of miracles and signs and makes war on rational, reality-based thought. It condemns self-criticism and debate as apostasy. It places a premium on action. It dismisses those who do not bow down before its god—and the leaders who claim to speak for God—as heretics and traitors. This movement shares with corporatists, who are busy cannibalizing our society for profit, the belief that there are a chosen few who know the truth and therefore have the right to impose it.

The citizen, the individual, no longer has any legitimacy in this new world.

Apocalyptic visions like this one have, throughout history, cowed populations and inspired genocidal killers.

Infiltrating Opportunist

I posted August 30 that Sarah Palin did not suddenly appear on the scene late in McCain’s campaign but has cultivated her career to reach the national scene. Perhaps part of her drive to infiltrate our government for her religion, Palin had put significant effort into catching the attention of Republican insiders.

And she’s been promoted for at least a year by the most influential Republican pundits helping to position her. Stephan Hayes, a writer among the caffeinated crew at Weekly Standard, reported in How Palin Got Picked. On the air last spring, Rush Limbaugh promoted Palin as Vice President, “Mother of four, she is a ‘babe’, you have to notice.”

The only mainstream media story I’ve noticed about the hidden positioning of Sarah Palin is published October 28 by Richard Cohen at the Washington Post. He reveals that top conservative editors and writers were invited to the Alaska governor’s mansion in 2007 – a coterie of ideologues.

Sarah Palin says on the stump in carefully crafted speeches that she is not an insider but in truth she is glued to the rafters in a very small, secretive and arrogant clubhouse.

It’s the New Yorker, which stands out this year for robust and fearless journalism, that offers detail.

Sarah Palin promoting herselfThe Insiders, by Jane Mayer

Palin’s sudden rise to prominence, however, owes more to members of the Washington élite than her rhetoric has suggested.

Upon being elected governor, Palin began developing relationships with Washington insiders, who later championed the idea of putting her on the 2008 ticket.

She’s had D.C. in mind for years.

An interview with Jane Mayer by Amy Goldman is here:
The Real Story Behind How McCain Chose Sarah Palin

Oct 28 2008, George Monbiot at the Guardian sums up why we should put an end to Sarah Palin and rebuild our political media.

How was it allowed to happen?

How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance?

How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington – the degradation of intelligence and learning in American politics…

Hot Hot Wheels

Mattel Hot Wheels CorvetteMattel is now worth more than GM.
Newsweek says, “That’s right—Wall Street thinks the maker of toy cars is worth more than the largest real carmaker in America.” Mattel’s Hot Wheels does $1 billion a year in global sales and has sold 4 billion Hot Wheels since 1968.

A collector paid $70,000 for a 1969 VW bus with a surfboard sticking out the back.

I wonder where the factories are?

Crude Cuba Crude

[AP] For 17 years the United Nations has voted to lift the 46 year trade embargo against Cuba. This year’s vote against our policy was a 185 to 3 landslide. Only Israel and Palau joined with the United States.

Cuba, of course, turned in vitriolic speeches and celebrations. The White House and John McCain, of course, demand free elections and release of prisoners. The EU believes that “the lifting of the US trade embargo would open Cuba’s economy to the benefit of the Cuban people.” India, Russia and China report that economic embargo hurt people, but did you know the U.S.A. is the Number One source of aid to Cuba – more than $200 million last year?

But look?
TIME reports Cuba’s Oil Find Could Change the US Embargo
Between 5 billion and 10 billion barrels of oil lie beneath the waters off Cuba’s northwest coast.

To learn about Cuba today, here’s a relaxing travelogue through Cuba by Dervla Murphy, a travel writer with the duty of accuracy. “By being strictly factual they can make a small contribution to future generations’ knowledge of how things were in countries A, B or C when they went that way.”

The Economist Endorses Obama

The Economist endorses ObamaThe Economist
America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world

“In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.”

Pesticide Overspray Ruling

Pesticide OversprayOrganic Farm Prevails Against Pesticide Spraying

Landmark ruling sends a clear message to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation that pesticides that evaporate and move to non-target property with wind or fog need to be strictly regulated to prevent future property damage. Judge awards damages in the sum of $1 million.

Here’s a briefing on ‘spray drift’ & ‘genetic drift’ with sample letters if farms or landscapes are threatened.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors. – Robert Frost

Republican Firing Squad

National Republican Senatorial Committee:
Republicans from the top of the ticket on down are making a remarkable appeal: Vote for me, because the rest of my party seems headed for defeat. [story at USAToday]

The Democratic senatorial committee says, “Looks to me like a circular firing squad.”

Because he asks questions

Nature Magazine endorses Barack Obama

America’s choice
The values of scientific enquiry, rather than any particular policy positions on science, suggest a preference for one US presidential candidate over the other.

Some will find strengths in McCain that they value more highly than the commitment to reasoned assessments that appeals in Obama. But all the signs are that the former seeks a narrower range of advice. Equally worrying is that he fails to educate himself on crucial matters; the attitude he has taken to economic policy over many years is at issue here. Either as a result of poor advice, or of advice inadequately considered, he frequently makes decisions that seem capricious or erratic.

On a range of topics, science included, Obama has surrounded himself with a wider and more able cadre of advisers than McCain.

Is a Federal Agency Immune?

NOLA levee break, FEMA photoU.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval’s 40-page ruling “paves the way for the first and only trial that will likely be held on how the Army Corps of Engineers drowned New Orleans.”

The trial will decide “questions of material fact” about what caused the flooding.

From the New Orlean’s News Ladder:

We just wanna swing this coconut for the people again… since we know everyone is busy getting they holidaze on’n’all… but this Trial by Jury will be happening right about time for Mardi Gras, in 113 DAYS!

It will be the trial of the century.

It will make or break the story of the Corps of Engineers’ Negligent Homicide in the Federal Flood of New Orleans. This trial by jury will also test our ability to have any hand in our own flood control for the future.

All the King’s horses and all the Queen’s men don’t matter one gnat’s ass If The Levees Break Again.

What is Middle Class?

What are we told about the middle class?
Charles Smith has gathered a few facts. Generally, we think about income from $45,000 to $125,000, but we fail to include expenses, the roller coaster of inflation and debt and costly services such as insurance.

What if we looked more deeply? Charles is proposing taking a new look at our definition of middle-class:

  1. No more than 30% of net income is spent on housing, either to own or rent.
  2. 6-8% of net income is saved–not including retirement IRAs or 401K plans.
  3. No more than 15% of net income is spent on medical and dental expenses, including insurance.
  4. The household can afford to pay tuition, fees and books for two household members living at home and attending a 4-year state university/college.
  5. Food (including meals away from home) costs no more than 15% of net income.
  6. The household can pay cash for a recent-vintage reliable used vehicle, and can support the one reliable vehicle and a “beater” old vehicle for secondary use; the household carries no auto loans.
  7. The household pays off all credit card purchases monthly and carries no consumer credit balance.
  8. The household can afford to take a domestic vacation once a year without incurring debt or tapping the 6-8% of income set aside for savings.
  9. If the family owns a residence, the equity stands at a minimum of 50% of market value.
  10. The household maintains at least 6 months’ living expenses in readily accessible savings.

By these standards, how many households in the U.S. are truly “middle-class”? Not very many.

Charles asks, “Do you think this is a fantasy world? This was the world in the U.S.A. from 1955 – 1975.”

Nobel Winners for Obama

American Nobel Prize winners endorse Obama, by Jay McDonough

Seventy six American Nobel Prize winners endorsed Barack Obama in a strongly worded letter [pdf] rebuking the Bush Administration’s contempt for science.

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant and declining federal support. The government’s scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama’s approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation’s competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation’s and the world’s most urgent needs.

Jay McDonough says, “I’m sure the decision to support Barack Obama was made a lot easier last week when Sarah Palin scoffed at the use of federal money for research using fruit flies. Most sixth graders know the dominant role fruit flies have played in the understanding of genetics, including the understanding of birth defect genetics. Or, perhaps, it was Ms. Palin’s belief that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth at the same time, about 6,000 years ago.”