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.”

Are you better off?

Ronald Reagan:

“Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? If you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.”


Bail Up

NYTimes on JPMorgan Chase:

Asked how an infusion of $25 billion of bailout funds would change the bank’s lending policy, an executive said the money would be used to buy other banks.

I’ve said before:

Several of the banks that have received our Treasury funds are using the money for MnA and takeovers.

Typical of the Bush years, ain’t it?

Bailout funds being spent in ways Congress never foresaw

The $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan was intended to go to buying up distressed mortgages and other bad assets. Instead, it’s gone to equity stakes in banks, and at least one bank used the money to buy a rival. It’s also likely to be used to buy stakes in life insurance companies, and maybe to help struggling Detroit automakers.

Sharing Taxes

sharing toys“Now, because he knows that his economic theories don’t work, he’s been spending these last few days calling me every name in the book.

“Lately he’s called me a socialist for wanting to roll-back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class.

“I don’t know what’s next. By the end of the week he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” – Barack Obama

E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One

Patents for Free

Xerox extraction technology for cleaning soil and waterXerox is releasing for free 11 patents used for removing solvents from soil and water. Anyone with a contaminated site can use the technology – old gas stations, dry cleaners and chemical facilities – more than 178,000 sites across America.

The process involves removing the volatile organic pollutants directly from the water and soil with a 50-horsepower vacuum. The time saver: both the ground and water are cleaned simultaneously, instead of separately, with the vacuum sucking up 98 percent of volatile organic solvents, such as carcinogenic toluene, benzene and others.

Over 175 firms are releasing patents to help with environmental cleanup. Eco-Patents Commons developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development puts environmental sustainability patents into the public domain.

More than twenty years ago I joined with Diamond Shamrock, a Texas oil and chemical firm, to bring new clean up technology to market. They had appointed the nation’s first officer of environmental management and had several research programs directed toward decontaminating land. Our goal was to use slurries of newly developed bacteria mixtures to clean contaminated soil under gas stations and refineries.

After many months of testing and promotion, the program failed to bring the technology through regulatory agencies. Instead of robust decontamination, a policy known as ‘out gassing’ was chosen where land is left fallow for months or years. Removing licensing fees and using tested methods may change the economics and again provide an opportunity for ‘true’ clean-up of contaminated soil and water.

The panic of loneliness

A fellow spends a year alone on an island:

“We have an idea of who we are. An identity. And we hold that in place. We actively hold it in place. It’s also held passively in place by our culture. We are constantly, in our relationships, putting out signals asking for affirmation of who we are.”

On his lonely island, Kull finds that we in this society strongly desire to satiate and confirm ourselves through consumption and production. Our identities have come to depend on it. But in the process, we sacrifice our critical awareness, and become ignorant of the fact that our excessive reaching out for a feeling of being important and being alive actually does very little to achieve the experience of vitality.

“My goal in the wilderness was not to conquer either the external world or my own inner nature,” Kull writes in Solitude, “but to give up the illusion of ownership and control and to experience myself as part of the ebb and flow of something greater than individual ego.”

The underlying economic system

Michael Mandel reveals that the real problem with the economy is that long accepted patterns of cross-border technology transfer, trade and finance are simply unsustainable.

…here’s the problem:

At the same time Americans were borrowing, their real wages were falling — and not just for the least educated. By BusinessWeek’s calculations, real weekly earnings for college grads without an advanced degree have dropped every year since 2002.

You can’t pay back rising debt with falling wages; something had to give.

The first thing that broke were subprime mortgages, given to less creditworthy borrowers. But once investors started to look, they realized that the entire global edifice was built on an impossibility.

The bad news is that government injections of capital into banks around the world can slow the damage, but they cannot fix the basic problem. The global economy has to go through a readjustment process that will be difficult even if policymakers can restore confidence in the financial system.

Policymakers should stop talking about investor confidence as if it exists in a vacuum. Instead, they should focus on the real goal of stimulating the creation of innovative new goods and services that the U.S. can produce and sell on global markets. That would reduce the amount of borrowing the country has to do, and help create a sustainable global economy.

This crisis is not any fun. But if it shakes up companies and government, and forces them to focus on innovation, the end result will be stronger, more solid economic growth.

McCain is a hustler

McCain’s private definition of ethics:

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Years after he resurrected his political fortunes from the Keating Five savings and loan investigation, John McCain promoted an Arizona land swap that would’ve benefited a former mentor and partner of the scandal’s central figure.

The owners of the Spur Cross Ranch, a dramatic 2,154-acre tract of Sonoran desert just north of Phoenix, in the late 1990s sought to sell it to a developer who planned to build a premier golf course surrounded by 390 luxury homes.

And he fumed in anger when threats were unsuccessful.

The Woe Republicans Chart

Bretton Woods II is a major upcoming meeting of G7 and many other nations. The meeting may shake-up the world’s financial architecture.

Central Bank rules will be examined, chartered houses will be restrained. Transparency will increase. Tax havens, libertine corporate globalism and pirate lending may be curtailed. There’s an excellent background here, Bretton Woods II: New Lifeline for Ailing Giants, by John Vandaele.

Debt and balance of payment requirements may put the United States in a challenging position. Nothing in the jingoist ideology of the Republican campaign acknowledges or deals with these problems.

We need change. Combining inflation, unemployment and plunging asset prices… the misery index is now at record highs:

[pdf at Peterson Institute]