Friday, November 11, 2016

WHAT IS FASCISM?

A recent Truthout article, "The Fascist in November" claims that Trump is a Fascist.  Of course this is nothing but misplaced historical concreteness.  If as the authur, William Rivers Pitt, claims, Fascism is the merger of state and corporations, then we've had fascism for some time.  Of course, at most ours is not a structural fascism but a functional fascism.  But that does not make Trump more fascist than Obama or the Clintons.  But to cast allegations such as this is an easy and transparently polemical way to avoid concrete, political and historical analysis.  It is at best lazy thinking but more likely ideologically and culturally crippled thinking.

For those dissatisfied with this election outcome (and how could one not be?), this is the time for action.  Part of such action, and at this point in our viciously anti-intellectual history, is developing a real democratic discourse with a theoretical heart.  We can no longer, if we ever could, hope for a political silver bullet, to save the day.  Government is one of those silver bullets.  But parliamentary democracy is dead. 

It is time for a new grassroots movement to unite the neo-populist right and left.  It is time to go beyond the embarrassingly smug, self-righteous political correctness that wants to sum up our problems in terms of such bureaucratic and also polemical categories as racism, sexism, fascism, religious chauvism, militarism, etc.  Whereas Trump's detractors want to reduce him to these categories, this is simply another way of not moving forward practically and theoretically.  

Trump has called out the ideological function of political correctness and provides the opportunity to think beyond it and go beyond our so delicate pseudo-sensitivities to the suffering of others.  Let's stop reducing the causes of our suffering to the symptoms attacked by the political correctness police.  Let's move on to the real causes such as the oligarchs running the show and the corporations corrupting the law, culture, and the value and virtue of community.

So all you sobbing Clinton supporters out there can take comfort in the words of Gandhi: "When I despair," said Mahatma Gandhi, "I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall."

If Trump is one of the tyrants, then, if Gandhi is right, he will fail.  So far Clinton is more implicated in murder.  Witness her support of Iraq war. She has proved herself to be quite capable of imperialist tyranny. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Perversion of Political Correctness: Divide and Conquer in the Name of Unity

The Democrats ideologically re-invoke the myth of the melting pot and how we should all just get along, respect one another and presume political and cultural unity.  I think a reverse psychology is at work here.  The very attempt to end discrimination, hatred, ethnocentrism, etc., without addressing the question of the integrity, identity, needs and interests of the mass of Americans at the infrastructural level is simply mind and emotion control, further dividing us.  In other words, we are discouraged from expressing or even admiting to ourselves what we really feel, believe, want.  The new myth serves the purpose of effectively homogenizing the pseudo-political populace to the end of easy manipulation and control, easily mobilized for war and consumption, especially the consumption of war.  The liberal media machine generates endless false political issues and discourses for public consumption.  We remain drastically dumbed down, deluded and endlessly essentially disenfranchised especially politically.

The dump-Trump movement within the Republican Party purports to be "offended" by Trumps out-of-bounds behavior.  They are really terrified that he will crash the party of the insiders.

In fact the putative liberal compassion and sense of justice further serves to divide and conquer.  It's not convincing and doesn't solve our social/cultural problems.   In the name of justice if not civility, the Liberals suppress the undercurrent of suffering, exclusion and opposition to a system that self-righteously postures itself in the mode of Christian loving kindness but propagates economic policies and laws that preserve the imbalance of power, wealth and knowledge.  The divisions, anger, hatred, ignorance of the other, remain.

The Republicans and Democrats, best characterized as the "Republicrats," have the same essential infrastructural interest and global concerns.  The fear regarding Trump is not really his supposed authoritarianism, crassness, supposed lack of sensitivity, lack of compassion or political incorrectness but the fear that he won't play ball with the 1% and their political lackeys like the Clintons, the Bushes, the Koch brothers and other elites of the political class.

The Republicrats want us to act as if there is a cultural unity when such multi-cultural integration and re-constitution of community is a long way off if ever.  Life in contemporary America is threatening, insecure, fragile and hard to believe in.  

So I suggest Trump should be allowed to crash the party and enable the possibility that our real divisions be dealt with materially and not psychologically.  Especially the division of the mass from the 1% and their financial control of economy and politics.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Wondrous Irony of Bill Gates

Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout by choice.  Apparently that great institution hampered his creativity.  It's ironic that his contributions to the Common Core fiasco contradict his actual life choices.  Why should Gates now choose to impose a draconian standardization mode for education that suppresses if not destroys the very conditions of creativity that his own life attests to.  Given that Gates was instrumental in conceiving if not actually helping to write the Core curriculum, it seems he now chooses to impose his own self-contradictory values on the nation.  Possibly power does corrupt and add a lot on billions of dollar on top of that and it corrupts absolutely. 

Moreover Gates seems to find no qualms in utilizing a cancerously over-centralized national government to carry out his misguided megalomania.  Even though the US Constitution gives the central government no powers to oversee let alone invade and colonize public education, Gates as well as the government conveniently ignore this.  Thomas Jefferson warned against the incursion of central government in education.  He warned that such incursion would lead to the standardization of thought and the death of diversity of thought, thus the death of democracy thereby.

The Core Curriculum is in no way about fostering creativity, critical thinking, autonomy or social responsiblity.  It is about mass control, fueling our success in the global economy and catering to the needs and demands of corporatism.  The curriculum may be standardized but a child cannot.  There may be a common curriculum but this is no "common child." 

The control of education must be returned to localities.  Educational revolution is community revolution and returning thereby the very locus of control of democracy itself to the community.  All politics is local politics.  And all education is local education.

Arne Duncan, Czar of Education, claimed there was a confusion of standards in the States.  The only confusion was in his struggle to find a way to homogenize and centrally control education.  Of course one way to do it is to reduce it to a method of control and domination and institute that through a bureaucratically centralized regime in Washington that has managed to expropriate education from the lives of people and the learning experiences of children. 

We are losing our kids and turning them over to the new "Big Brother."  Let the revolution begin and take back your children.  I wonder where Bill Gates kids go to school and what curriculum they are subjected to.  I'll bet it's not the "common core."  Chances are that he will not subject his own children to this mass "socialization" experiement, which is sure to fail.  The sooner the better.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

  The following is a Forbes article on a vision for higher education.  I follow up with a critque of this "vision."

SUNY Signals Major Push Toward MOOCs and Other New Educational Models

March 20, 2013, 4:55 am
The State University of New York’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday endorsed an ambitious vision for how SUNY might use prior-learning assessment, competency-based programs, and massive open online courses to help students finish their degrees in less time, for less money.
The plan calls for “new and expanded online programs” that “include options for time-shortened degree completion.” In particular, the board proposed a huge expansion the prior-learning assessment programs offered by SUNY’s Empire State College.
The system will also push its top faculty members to build MOOCs designed so that certain students who do well in the courses might be eligible for SUNY credit.
Ultimately, the system wants to add 100,000 enrollments within three years, according to a news release.
Even before the SUNY announcement, it had already been a big week for nontraditional models for awarding college credit. The U.S. Education Department on Monday said it had no problem with spending federal student aid on college programs that give credit based on “competency,” not the number of hours students spend in class.
Empire State College’s prior-learning assessment programs operate on a similar principle. Students who can demonstrate that they have acquired certain skills can get college credit, even if they did not acquire those skills in a college classroom.
The new SUNY effort will aim to copy the Empire State model across the system, said Nancy L. Zimpher, the chancellor.
“This resolution opens the door to assurances to our students that this kind of prior-learning assessment will be available eventually on all our campuses,” said Ms. Zimpher in an interview.
SUNY is just the latest state system to use novel teaching and assessment methods to deal with the problem of enrolling, and graduating, more students.
Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington have enlisted Western Governors University, a nonprofit online institution that uses the “competency” method, to help working adults in those states earn degrees. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are building programs aimed at helping their own adult students redeem their on-the-job skills and knowledge for credit toward degrees. And California may soon use MOOCs to deal with overcrowding in some courses at its public colleges and universities.
Ms. Zimpher said the prior-learning expertise at Empire State would make it possible for the New York system to undertake the new effort without calling in outsiders.
“Usually when you have an outside vendor, it’s to deliver something that you don’t know how to do,” she said. “In our case we actually know how to do this, and we know how to do it well.”

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                                       THE LIMITS TO EDUCATIONAL EFFICIENCY


       With the “real winners” in the “coming revolution in higher education,” there will also be real losers.  The real question is whether the real winners are worth the cost in terms of real losers.  More specifically, the question is whether what is lost in this so-called revolution is worth losing it.  But what is that which will be lost?
       To answer that question, however, what the author of the above Forbes article values, intends and finds expendable with respect to education has got to be considered.  The highest values here, of course, something called educational “productivity.”  This should stop us in our tracks immediately to ask the question whether this is even the language within which such a problem as “educational revolution,”(like to or not) should be discussed.  But before we ‘reach for our guns,’ let’s not lose sight of a value underlying the productivity interest.  That value would be “efficiency.”  Thirdly, our author seems to value “high quality pedagogy,” which we can’t argue with.  But of course for him/her/them such pedagogy will come from Berkeley, Cambridge or MIT.  There doesn’t seem to be much room here for we poor, ignorant smucks who teach at community colleges.  But Kolowich shows his hand in the following paragraph:
    Institutions of higher education reflect the labor markets they serve, and in most countries there is tremendous pent-up demand among both students and private employers for a new kind of education. Both sides of the labor market, as well as national governments focused on long-term economic growth, want education that is less expensive, responsive to changing economic conditions, and delivered to students at their pace. “
       This new “business model” of education is an instrumentalized education.  It is one that serves business and industry.  Of course our anonymous authors give lip service to the Humanities by invoking ‘Shakespeare’ as one of the offerings in the new educational revolution, but of course, the professor must come from Cambridge.  This is education with efficiently packaged modules to impart profitable knowledge, useable knowledge.  This is education is service of the profit motive.
Our author pays lip service to such “rebundling” of education in the interests of “local demand.”  Again of course this is business demand, industry demand, market demand.  But the real concern for localities is not whether such ‘education’ serves the economic needs of local economies.  The real concern, or, more real concern, is the loss of community education and local educators who can lead the processing of such mass education at the level of local political needs, democratic needs and scholarly needs.
Once we have whittled down the international faculty to the truly great minds who can teach us all, who is left to lead local discourse as to the virtues of such globally centralized if not elitist education.  The educational “big brothers” who will conduct universally applicable education will not be personally interested in nor apprised of the local issues, whether economic or political.  Nor should they be.  But neither should they be permitted the privilege of speaking for the applicability or relevance of knowledge, whether economic or humanistic, to my real local community or other real local communities.  Kolowich emphasizes “critical national needs” and international needs places the primacy of local need in the shadows of the driving force of globalism and macroeconomic forces that leave localities either jumping on the bandwagon or perishing. 
There seems to be no political issue here at all.  It seems that educational revolutions can take place which unilaterally transform local educational “needs” and interests without consulting local voices.  Education is revolutionized technologically as if this interpretation of educational technology is universally applicable and beneficial without consideration for its “localized” meaning and effect.
Only the “rock stars” of education will be given the right and privilege to educate “us.”  The big loser here will be locally interpreted and practiced education.  That is, an education which can take account of the need for community education as political education in the interest of local power and self-determination will be crushed under this Orwellian vision of “mass” education.  Unfortunately it will likely be a mass education which will create masses, masses indifferent to local uniqueness and integrity.  Just as mass democracy occludes the nature of democracy, mass globalized education will drop education out of the picture of genuine learning, discourse and the contextualization of such learning within places and times and for real people.  
       The so-called winners will be the presently disenfranchised masses of third world countries which “the markets” want to colonize.  Such ‘colonization’ will be at the expense of real, local community autonomy, self-understanding and self-determination. 
       The global educational village will become the global educational reservation or concentration camp.  My advice to all you professors who are not “rock stars” in celebrity academia is to get your resumes out or start taking some of these new online courses from some really efficient teachers.  Then you may get a new job in the highly educated mass market of the brave new economy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SOCIAL JUSTICE and POVERTY

We have a new Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.  He stands first and foremost for social justice, especially in his concern for the poor.  Poverty will be his focus.  Hopefully, the notion of  'poverty' will be expanded beyond the economistic reduction which the media has already begun to accentuate.  Poverty is not only about material impoverishment but, in the extreme, also spiritual impoverishment.  More specifically and to the point one could be no more impoverished than when one has been sexually abused as a child by a priest of the Catholic Church.

If this Pope does not take seriously child abuse, this spiritual scourge that eats at the foundations of Catholicism and the heart of Christianity, then he will rank no more highly than any within the lineage of Popes thus far.  Until now no Pope has taken the corruption of abuse seriously.  Why?  It continues.  Cover-ups continue.  Lack of compassion continues.  Systematic deferral of the problem continues.  Paying the problem to go away continues.  Dealing with this paramount issue has not even begun.

Facing and dealing with the issue of child abuse will shake the foundations of this church.  They know this.  If they confront the infinite depth of this sin, the structure will shift beyond imagination.

Interestingly Bergoglio takes the name of Francis. Francis was never ordained, preached poverty and repentance.  The patron saint of nature.  Will Bergoglio vow poverty?  Repent?  Respect the Environment?

Will Bergoglio impoverish "poverty?"  Or will he deal with the absolute curse of "poverty" as a whole? When 'poverty' is understood in its robust and deeply rooted sense it will enable dealing with the desecration of innumerable children by sexual abuse, the denigration of the environment by materialism run amok and the decay of the very essence of the spirituality of the religious life itself.

Jesus said that what we do to the least of them, we do unto him.  Who could be lesser than the child?  Who more innocently vulnerable?  Bergoglio could make himself "naked" like Francis.  He could make the Chruch "naked" to its loss of its own soul.

Like the proverbial 'Emperor,' the Church has no clothes.  And as the fable goes, it took a child to speak the truth, an abused and forgotten child.




Saturday, December 08, 2012

RADIOACTIVE NIAGARA?

Even Low-Level Radioactivity Is Damaging, Scientists Conclude

Science Daily (Nov. 13, 2012) — Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded in the Cambridge Philosophical Society's journal Biological Reviews. Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years, researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud found that variation in low-level, natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health.
The review is a meta-analysis of studies of locations around the globe that have very high natural background radiation as a result of the minerals in the ground there, including Ramsar, Iran, Mombasa, Kenya, Lodeve, France, and Yangjiang, China. These, and a few other geographic locations with natural background radiation that greatly exceeds normal amounts, have long drawn scientists intent on understanding the effects of radiation on life. Individual studies by themselves, however, have often only shown small effects on small populations from which conclusive statistical conclusions were difficult to draw.
"When you're looking at such small effect sizes, the size of the population you need to study is huge," said co-author Timothy Mousseau, a biologist in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. "Pooling across multiple studies, in multiple areas, and in a rigorous statistical manner provides a tool to really get at these questions about low-level radiation."
Mousseau and co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud combed the scientific literature, examining more than 5,000 papers involving natural background radiation that were narrowed to 46 for quantitative comparison. The selected studies all examined both a control group and a more highly irradiated population and quantified the size of the radiation levels for each. Each paper also reported test statistics that allowed direct comparison between the studies.
The organisms studied included plants and animals, but had a large preponderance of human subjects. Each study examined one or more possible effects of radiation, such as DNA damage measured in the lab, prevalence of a disease such as Down's Syndrome, or the sex ratio produced in offspring. For each effect, a statistical algorithm was used to generate a single value, the effect size, which could be compared across all the studies.
The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.
"There's been a sentiment in the community that because we don't see obvious effects in some of these places, or that what we see tends to be small and localized, that maybe there aren't any negative effects from low levels of radiation," said Mousseau. "But when you do the meta-analysis, you do see significant negative effects."
"It also provides evidence that there is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation," he added. "A theory that has been batted around a lot over the last couple of decades is the idea that is there a threshold of exposure below which there are no negative consequences. These data provide fairly strong evidence that there is no threshold -- radiation effects are measurable as far down as you can go, given the statistical power you have at hand."
Mousseau hopes their results, which are consistent with the "linear-no-threshold" model for radiation effects, will better inform the debate about exposure risks. "With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there's an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it's only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level," he said. "But they're assuming the natural background levels are fine."
"And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants, medical procedures, and even some x-ray machines at airports."
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Best regards,
==
lou ricciuti,
http://www.ask.ne.jp/~hankaku/english/niagara_fall.html,
http://www.iicph.org, www.artvoice.com, Union of Concerned Scientists,
** Niagara Falls - Lewiston - Porter, New York, "Los Alamos East,"
* The free world's largest ore-to-metal uranium production center.
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Scroll to reference: "Sites and Contractors - Appendix A,"

** "Electro Metallurgical Company (Niagara Falls, New York), a subsidiary of Union Carbide, was the MED's largest ore-to-metal uranium production plant. From 1942 to 1953, the plant processed uranium tetrafluoride (green salt, UF
4) into uranium metal. The plant was also called the Union Carbide and Chemical Electro-Metallurgical Division Works." http://www.hss.energy.gov/healthsafety/ohre/new/findingaids/epidemiologic/orise/app.html,
United States Department of Energy - Office of Health, Safety and Security,
Office of Human Radiation Experiments, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.
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** In Western New York state more than a dozen commercial production and experimental Manhattan Engineering District (MED) -- Manhattan Project, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), US-ERDA - Energy Research and Development Agency, USDOE - Department Of Energy, and GoCo [government owned, contractor operated] related manufactories, foundries and laboratories.
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Local-to-Soil Burials include: Element 94 - Pu from Human Radiation Experiments (HREX) and related lab equipment, one-third to one-half of the world's mined supply of radium 226 and related uranium residues and processing wastes including Sengier's Congolese -- Afrimet K-65 (60-65% uranium), Apollo Lunar Project moon fuel & mass- perchlorate production, burn-offs and burials, Tom Brokaw's "disposed-of" office, irradiated heavy-equipment Case 450 front-loader buried whole, 38' diameter metallic Hortonsphere (suspected early experimental reactor use), along with burials of graphite, zirconium and other reactive, solid, sintered, powdered metallic, chemical and radiological materials.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

From Obstruction to Gridlock

Of course the next post will be "From Gridlock to admitting we live in a rigidly class divided society." But prior to that,let's look into the future. Present "gridlock" is occurring in that nothing is happening politically; no one is thinking; the talking heads are still talking about Romney's funeral, the catch-22 the Republican party(or should I say 'rich class mouthpiece') finds itself caught in, or, even Thanksgiving, or Black Friday. Now the Repub's have found another target, Susan Rice.The Repub's will latch onto anything, even secession from the union movements, to detract from the political matters at hand.  It doesn't seem to matter that a look backward at such obstructionist tactics, if not strategy, show them for what they are.  In fact 'gridlock' is a strategy for the Repub's.  Such resistance and non-cooperation as politics is dangerous yet revealing of the impotence, the effete and enervated character of "republicanism" today.  So while backroom meetings haggle of the so-called 'fiscal cliff'--another scare tactic to allow the parties to get away with doing nothing of ultimate political value or significance--democracy continues to degrade, and de-politicization of the masses becomes more subtle and deepens. So looking into our political future is the same as looking into our past.  Given that facts don't matter in politics these days, an irrationalist nihilism tightens its grip and normality becomes a zombification of the normal in which most agree with Jack Nicholson when he said, "this is as good as it gets."  So money continues to 'matter' more than ever and what really matters doesn't seem to be real. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

OBSTRUCTIONISM BEGINS WITH BENGHAZI

Investigating the Benghazi incident is one thing. Making it a matter of cynical hyperbole for the media machine and red meat for the unrequited right wing is another matter. The Republican lynch mob rhetoric makes anyone aware of the last four years of Republican obstructionism suspicious that we are in for more of the same--more subtle and less blatantly bold but still obstructionist in spirit. The state of the nation-state may actually move them to at least appear as if they are doing something. At least a bone will be thrown to the people. Yet it won't be sufficient to deal with the continuing crisis of an impotent Liberalism hog tied by a capitalism run out of ideas. The only support they have from "the people" to continue such anti-democratic if not unconstitutional behavior is from the likes of the fringe of the fringe Conservative Majority Fund. In other words the Republicans are out on a limb without any net. Furthermore, if Elizabeth Warren manages to push through filibuster reform, the bland Old Party will have one less tool to prevent the system from having some semblance of usefulness in reducing the misery of the 20 million or so out of work and possibly soon out of hope. Stopping progress is easy for the 1%. They can wait indefinitely for the masses to flip flop and return them to power once again. Possibly,, however, the new young Republicans will force the hand of their party's establishment. But what they can imagine themselves to be beyond a front for the rich is yet to be seen. Their talk regarding acknowledging and responding to the "the new demographics" of the country hardly makes space for the re-visioning of conservatism. This would amount to old policies and attitudes with only new strategies and tactics to presumably maneuver the masses into acceptance of an apparent alternative once Obama's efforts prove to be relatively futile and, in effect, more of the same managerial liberalism and obsolete empire building and global policing.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

RADIOACTIVE NIAGARA

RE-PRINTED FROM ARTVOICE: On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers for Man O’ Trees, the company that three years ago won the ill-fated contract to reconstruct a deeply contaminated stretch of Lewiston Road in Niagara Falls, filed a lawsuit against the City of Niagara Falls; its mayor, Paul Dyster; the Niagara Falls City Council as a body and its individual members; the city’s engineers and lawyers; and a host of its consultants. The 105-page complaint alleges a multitude of sins, ranging from conspiracy to fraud to breach of contract. The lawsuit’s allegations, in a nutshell: • The above-named defendants were eager both to repair a road that had been deteriorating for decades and to address the radioactive contamination that studies indicated lay beneath the pavement. • Because it would be difficult for the cash-strapped city to win federal or state funds for an expensive environmental remediation project, officials set their eyes instead of plentiful federal stimulus dollars available for road work. • City officials therefore underplayed the environmental remediation aspect of the job, characterizing it as a road reconstruction project. • Thus, the specifications of the job conveyed to bidders were designed to make the bidders think they were engaging a road project. • For example, contractors were told they “may encounter up to 500 cubic yards of radioactive material” and advised to budget $500,000 for its removal and disposal; in fact, by the time Man O’ Trees had completed 30 percent of the job, the contractor had removed nearly 3,000 cubic yards of radioactive material at a cost of $4 million. • The bid documents also failed to indicate that the winning contractor would need to have a Radioactive Material Handling License from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; only after Man O’ Trees had won the bid was the company told that it would need to acquire that license, which delayed the beginning of work on the project for six months. • The defendants misrepresented the variety of and danger posed by the radioactive contaminants, referring to it sweepingly as low-level “radioactive slag”; in fact, Man O’ Trees encountered thorium and uranium isotopes consistent with the region’s industrial history, especially its engagement in early efforts to produce materials for atomic weapons and reactors. • The city’s consultants set a removal threshold for radioactive waste at 9,000 counts per minute, more than twice the “ambient radiation levels in the area.” Even that material was taken to a way-station and “further investigated” by the city’s consulting engineers, from the firm Wendel Duchscherer, to determine whether the waste should be shipped to a disposal facility or returned to the ground. In one case, the lawsuit alleges, Man O’ Trees was instructed to return waste that measured 80,000 counts per minute to the ground, rather than dispose of it. • The lawsuit also alleges that Man O’ Trees was ordered by the city and its consultants to ignore areas where radiation levels measured “in excess of 180,000 [counts per minute] and in one report almost 300,000 [counts per minute].” • The city and its consultants refused requests by Man O’ Trees to establish a written protocol for handling radioactive waste as it was encountered. • A city engineer, Tom Radomski, who lived on Lewiston Road at the time the project started, allegedly ordered his property remediated. then moved his family to Lewiston, and was subsequently fired for failure to meet the city’s residency requirement for some employees. We’ll post the entire lawsuit and its supporting exhibits, along with further analysis, on AV Daily at Artvoice.com. On June 22, the City of Niagara Falls filed a complaint against Man O’ Trees for breach of contract, essentially accusing the company of abandoning the job. That accusation is not without merit: When it became clear that the city was not going to pay Man O’ Trees $2.9 million the company’s owner, David “Bear” Pfeiffer, felt it was owed for removing radioactive waste, and when negotiations to resolve the endless disputes the project engendered came to naught, and when the city and its consultants began to limit his employees’ access to the work site, Pfeiffer told us that he ordered his men off the job. But the equipment and materials remained, because, according to Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei, who is representing Man O’ Trees, Pfeiffer hoped eventually to reach a deal that would allow the work to continue. Instead the city sued and prepared new bid materials, hoping to hire a new contractor to finish the job. In those bid documents, Bartolomei says, the city maintains that the contractor may encounter as much as 150 cubic yards of radioactive waste—another lowball figure, according to Bartolomei, which proves the point of the lawsuit: The city does not want this project to be characterized as a cleanup, no matter how much radioactive waste material it uncovers, because it can only fund a road project. The new bid documents also do not require the new contractor to obtain a license to handle radioactive material. In the new bid documents, the city informed bidders that the materials and equipment Man O’ Trees left on site would be available for their use. On Friday and Saturday, Pfeiffer and his employees responded by returning to the site to remove their possessions, including heavy equipment, precipitating a showdown with police and city officials. Police impounded a front-loader, under orders from city officials, who argued that it was in the city’s right-of-way and lacked a license plate. The lawsuit claims that Man O’ Trees is owed $14 million for work performed, and asks for hundreds of millions more in punitive damages, arguing that the city and its consultants have waged a public war on the company, denigrating the quality of its work in the media. “They’re trying to destroy my company because I’m speaking out about what’s going on up there,” Pfeiffer told Artvoice earlier this summer, in one of several long conversations in which he described how the project went south, and how he became concerned, as both a matter of ethics and liability, for the health of his workers and people living nearby the project, whose own properties were contaminated with radioactive waste. “But I won’t let them ruin me,” he said, “and I won’t be quiet.” Reader Comments

Monday, January 23, 2012

MYOPIC ECONOMICS: Policy for the Rich, Politics as Usual for the People

POSTED AT AlterNet January 22, 2012
The Economic Idiocy of Economists
By Mark Weisbrot, Comment Is Free


The American Economic Association's annual meetings are a scary sight, with thousands of economists all gathered in the same place – a veritable weapon of mass destruction. Chicago was the lucky city for 2012 this past weekend, and I had just finished participating in an interesting panel on "the economics of regime change", when I stumbled over to see what the big budget experts had to say about "the political economy of the US debt and deficits".

The session was introduced by UC Berkeley economist Alan Auerbach, who put up a graph of the United States' rising debt-to-GDP ratio, and warned of dire consequences if Congress didn't do something about it. Yawn.

But the panelists got off to a good start, with Alan Blinder of Princeton, former vice-chairman of the US Federal Reserve, describing the public discussion of the US national debt as generally ranging from "ludicrous to horrific". True, that. He asked and answered four questions.

First, is there any urgency (to reduce the deficit or debt)? No. The government can borrow short term at negative real interest rates, and long-term at about zero. The world is paying us to hold their money. That is anything but a debt crisis. The Fed is out of bullets, he said – referring to the fact that the US Federal Reserve had lowered short-term rates to zero and had used quantitative easing to help keep long-term rates low. So we need more fiscal stimulus, preferably spending that focuses on actually creating jobs. Amen.

Second, should we focus on the next decade? No, he said, and noted that the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO's) budget deficit projections over the next decade are about 3.6% of GDP, which is not much to get agitated about. Also true.

Third, is government spending the problem? No, he said, it's healthcare costs, and mainly the rising price of healthcare (that is, not the ageing of the population). Most important truth yet! (More on this below.)

Fourth, is the public really up in arms about the deficit? No, actually, theycare more about the economy and jobs. As they should.

Blinder concluded that since this is an election year, we can forget about having any fact-based discussion of these issues in 2012. Happy New Year, he said, and the audience laughed. Well, that was refreshing, I thought – an economist telling the unvarnished truth to hundreds of his people at the annual meetings.

But a rapid descent into hell was imminent. Former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin was next, talking about the need to "repair" social security and Medicare. The United States has all the characteristics of countries that run into trouble, he said. Then he warned that the US is going to end up like Greece. This is one of the dumbest things that anyone with an economics degree can say.

Hello, Mr Holtz-Eakin! Have you ever heard of the US dollar, the world's key reserve currency?

The United States is not going to end up like Greece, any sooner than it will end up like Haiti or Burkina Faso. A country that can pay its foreign public debt in its own currency and runs its own central bank does not end up like Greece.

In fact, even Japan is not going to end up like Greece, and Japan has a gross public debt of about 220% of its GDP, more than twice the size of ours and vastly larger – again, relative to its economy – than that of Greece. And the yen is nowhere near the dollar in its importance as an international reserve currency. But the Japanese government is still borrowing at just 1% interest rates for its ten-year bonds.

At this point, it was clear that this panel, other than Blinder, was living in a dystopian fantasy world. Next up was Rudy Penner of the Urban Institute, another former CBO director. His perspective was not much different from that of Auerbach or Holtz-Eakin. He complained about the polarisation of the political process, which prevents the two major parties from reaching an agreement. It's not partisanship, he said: House speaker Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan knew how to be partisan, but they were able to reach agreement on the 1983 social security package and the 1986 tax reforms. And yada yada.

He might have added that we have had 25 years of lying about social security since then, and even Reagan didn't dare try to privatise social security. And, of course, social security can currently pay all promised benefits for the next 24 years without any changes.

These arguments about polarisation really pose the key issue: from the viewpoint of the 99%, it's not polarisation, but weakness in defending our interests that is the problem. President Obama compromised much more than he should have last year, offering cuts to social security and Medicare, in exchange for a long-term budget deal. The 99% are just lucky that the Republicans were too extremist to make this kind of a "grand bargain" with Obama.

The last panelist was Alice Rivlin of the Brookings Institution, another former CBO budget director and Fed vice-chair, as well as a member of the president's (2010) National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. She agreed with Blinder that we need more stimulus. But we can only get this if we agree to long-run spending cuts – including social security, of course. Yuck. This is a political strategy that is sure to end in disaster, given the prevailing state of misinformation and disinformation.

During the discussion, Blinder – who identified himself as a Democrat – expressed his frustration in not being able to convince fellow Democrats to cut social security. Double yuck. The average social security check is about $1,177 a month, and a majority of senior citizens are getting most of their meager income from social security. Why these people insist on creating more poverty among the elderly, especially when the program is solvent for decades to come, is beyond me.

I got to ask the first question for the panel. I called attention to Blinder's presentation of the long-term budget problem as almost completely a problem of the rising price of healthcare. I pointed out that you could take any country with a life expectancy greater than ours – including the other high-income countries – and put their per capita healthcare costs into our budget, and the long-term budget deficit would turn into a surplus.

My question was simple: are Americans so inherently different from other nationalities that we can't have similar healthcare costs? And if not, then why are we talking about long-term budget problems – instead of how to fix our healthcare system?

None of the panelists offered a serious answer to this question. Auerbach, the moderator, said that other countries have rising healthcare costs, too. And some of the others said or implied that healthcare costs were rising at an unsustainable pace worldwide.

But this is nonsense. The United States pays about twice as much per person for healthcare as other high-income countries – and still leaves 50 million people uninsured. This is a result of a dysfunctional healthcare system that has had healthcare prices rising much faster than those of other high-income countries for decades.

What the budget hawks are basically telling us is that we must assume that insurance and pharmaceutical companies will have a veto over the provisions of healthcare reform for decades to come. And that, therefore, we must find other ways to make up for these excessive costs, including cutting social security and other government spending, and pushing us into higher rates of poverty and inequality than we already have.

And even worse in the short run, all this crap about the deficit and the debt will be used to block the necessary stimulus measures – "stimulus" has already become a dirty word that Democratic politicians are afraid to utter. This means high unemployment and a lot of unnecessary misery in the world's richest country for the foreseeable future.

A dismal performance for the dismal science, on some of the most important issues of the day. Of course, there are other economists, including Nobel Prize winners such as Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and Robert Solow (full disclosure: the latter two are members of CEPR's advisory board), who would offer more sensible views. But this panel was, sadly, representative of economists with the most influence on public policy.

With a brain trust like this, a lost decade for America looks likely – unless the citizenry can steer a different course.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.
© 2012 Comment Is Free All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/153848/

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The People's Taxes Subsidize the Rich

FROM: ALTERNET.COM:

The Real Reason Big Macs Are Cheaper Than More Nutritious Alternatives
By David Sirota, Salon
Posted on July 15, 2011, Printed on July 16, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/151660

This story first appeared on Salon.com.

The easiest way to explain Gallup's discovery that millions of Americans are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than they ate last year is to simply crack a snarky joke about Whole Foods really being "Whole Paycheck." Rooted in the old limousine liberal iconography, the quip conjures the notion that only Birkenstock-wearing trust-funders can afford to eat right in tough times.

It seems a tidy explanation for a disturbing trend, implying that healthy food is inherently more expensive, and thus can only be for wealthy Endive Elitists when the economy falters. But if the talking point's carefully crafted mix of faux populism and oversimplification seems a bit facile -- if the glib explanation seems almost too perfectly sculpted for your local right-wing radio blowhard -- that's because it dishonestly omits the most important part of the story. The part about how healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone right now, if not for those ultimate elitists: agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians they own.

As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism -- the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.

In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses' specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to "choose" the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.

Corn -- which is processed into the junk-food staple corn syrup and which feeds the livestock that produce meat -- exemplifies the scheme.

"Over the past decade, the federal government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop ... artificially low," reports Time magazine. "That's why McDonald's can sell you a Big Mac, fries and a Coke for around $5 -- a bargain."

Yes, it is a bargain, but one created by deliberate government policy that serves the corn industry titans, not by any genetic advantage that makes corn derivatives automatically more affordable for the budget-strapped commoner.

The aggregate effect of such market manipulation across the agriculture industry, notes Time, is "that a dollar [can] buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit."

So while it may be amusing to use Americans' worsening recession-era diet as another excuse to promote cultural stereotypes, the nutrition crisis costing us billions in unnecessary healthcare costs is more about public policy and powerful special interests than it is about epicurean snobs and affluent tastes. Indeed, this is a problem not of individual proclivities or of agricultural biology that supposedly makes nutrition naturally unaffordable -- it is a problem of rigged economics and corrupt policymaking.

Solving the crisis, then, requires everything from recalibrating our subsidies to halting the low-income school lunch program's support for the pizza and French fry lobby (yes, they have a powerful lobby). It requires, in other words, a new level of maturity, a better appreciation for the nuanced politics of food and a commitment to changing those politics for the future.

Impossible? Hardly. A country that can engineer the seemingly unattainable economics of a $5 McDonald's feast certainly has the capacity to produce a healthy meal for the same price. It's just a matter of will -- or won't.

© 2011 Salon.com
David Sirota is a best-selling author whose new book "Back to Our Future" is now available. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.


© 2011 Salon All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151660/
[w1]

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Toxic Parents and the Neglected Child

If you are having a hard time conceptualizing the irrelevance of the conventional political parties, Democrats and Republicans, to the well-being of the people in this age of the new class war, imagine that they are like toxic parents. That is, the political parties are like those parents who are always narcissisticly arguing with one another. Their venom leaks out all over the neglected children who can't figure out really why the parents are arguing. The parents are not about to let the children know.

Eventually the children will come to believe they are to blame for the dissension; the parents will eventually come to blame the kids. The dysfunctionality will continue into the next generation, unless of course the children realize they have to take their lives into their own hands and stop believing the parents will ever make matters right or explain why it all happened in the first place.

So, like the neglected children the people will some day have to realize they must take their well-being into their own hands and say good bye to conventional venomous politics as usual.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Niagara Times Finally Publishes Useful Information

THIS IS AN ARTICLE POSTED BY "HOBBES" AT NIAGARA TIMES. MAYBE NIAGARA COUNTIANS WILL BEGIN TO WAKE UP TO THE RADIOACTIVE AND TOXIC SHIT HOLE THEY LIVE IN:

March 1, 2011
Welcome to Chernobyl at Niagara Falls

What does the Ukraine have in common with Niagara County, New York? We hear that Pripyat is wonderful this time of the year.

There are more than 100 spots (not counting landfills of more than one-trillion pounds and other radioactive burials at Niagara County) with similar activities spread around Niagara Falls streets, industrial sectors and private properties. For comparison please see:

The reconstruction of Lewiston Road in Niagara Falls is $1.4 million over budget and months behind schedule, according to a Niagara Gazette report earlier this month, and city officials are trying to shed the West Seneca contractor they hired last year to do the work.

The trouble is that the radioactive material that everyone knew was in the roadbed has proved to be more widespread and difficult to handle than city and state officials were willing to acknowledge.

We’ve been warning for three years that the current reconstruction of Lewiston Road and the upcoming reconstruction of Buffalo Avenue pose significant risks to human health and home values. For three years we’ve been warning that studies conducted by the federal government in the 1970s and 1980s suggest that the fill used the last time these roads were rebuilt contained significant levels of dangerous, exotic radiological wastes, which should not simply be shrugged off as “slag” left over from some benign industrial process.

The pre-project environmental surveys performed by defense-contracting giant Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) seemed to confirm our claims: SAIC reported some pockets of contamination along Lewiston Road that registered 100,000 counts per minute on a Geiger counter survey meter, or 4,000 times a reasonable definition of background level radiation. A spokeswoman for DEC recently acknowledged that levels as high as 140,000 counts per minute were discovered in the course of excavating the roadway.

Our opinion of the way the project was undertaken darkened when we learned that the city engineer who signed off on the project parameters, Ali Marzban, turned out not to be an engineer at all. (He has since left the city’s employ.) Our fears were exacerbated when the city handed the work to Man O’ Trees, a construction firm with no experience handling radiological waste. (Indeed, we received reports that Man O’ Trees was falling behind schedule almost from day one of the project, because the volume and activity level of the radioactive materials was much higher than city officials claimed to anticipate.)

The US military and government regulators have stringent rules about the cleanup and handling of radioactive materials such as those found in these Niagara Falls roadways. Why was the city not following those rules, at a bare minimum?

The initial answer to that question is simple: It’s because they would not acknowledge the nature and the volume of the material involved.

With the Lewiston Road project in apparent disarray, it’s tempting to write an I-told-you-so piece. After all, we’ve been doing what we can to chronicle Niagara County’s atomic legacy for 11 years, and warning about these road projects for three. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry, and an even hotter road to fry it on: Buffalo Avenue. SAIC’s study of Buffalo Avenue, where construction is slated to begin this spring, indicates radiation levels as high as 1,000,000 counts per minute. That’s 10 times as hot as Lewiston Road.

Discussions about levels of radiation and the dangers it poses quickly devolve into debates about systems of measurement, what is “natural” and what is “background,” what constitutes exposure, etc. It might therefore be useful to find a simpler context in which to judge the seriousness of the situation in Niagara Falls. The map on the right measures exposure rates to radiation in the Ukraine as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The areas in red measure up to 20 microroentgens per hour (20 mR/h). These are the exclusion zones, where people are not supposed to live or travel. The lower range, in blue, is seven micro- roentgens per hour mR/h.

In the mid-1970s, the federal government commissioned a company called Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc., (EG&G) to perform an aerial radiation survey conducted 300 feet above the roadways of Niagara County. The survey identified dozens of hotspots near the Whirlpool, around the golf course, along Lewiston Road and Buffalo Avenue, and elsewhere around the city. Some of these peaked at 86 microroentgens per hour (with other, higher rates expected on the Buffalo Avenue project). That level of contamination would seem consistent with that detected in subsequent surveys performed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratories and the recent surveys performed by SAIC.

We can all agree that Chernobyl is bad news. When will we take the contamination in Niagara County as seriously?
Submitted by Geoff Kelly, Louis Ricciuti & Stephanie Berberick

February 28, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

GOV. WALKER: ASSAULT ON LAW AND DEMOCRACY



REPRINTED FROM "THE BUFFALO BEAST: THIS IS AN ACCOUNT OF A PRANK CALL MADE BY THE EDITOR OF THE BUFFALO BEAST. EDITOR MURPHY CALLS GOV. WALKER OF WISCONSIN, PRETENDING TO BE DAVID KOCH, HIS BILLIONAIRE FINANCIAL BACKER. WALKER FALLS FOR THE RUSE AND DISCLOSES WHO HE REALLY IS, A WHORE OF BILLIONAIRES AND THE DESIRE TO CONTROL GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS IN WISCONSIN:

Koch Whore
Posted by Murphy On February - 23 - 2011
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answers his master’s call

“David Koch”: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that—because we thought about that…

***

whores

WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS IS REAL. NO NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. THERE ARE NO INNOCENT.
-MURPHY

***

“He’s just hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls.”
-Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) on Gov. Walker (source)

Carpenter’s quote made me wonder: who could get through to Gov. Walker? Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-bid budget? The obvious candidate was David Koch.

I first called at 11:30 am CST, and eventually got through to a young, male receptionist who, upon hearing the magic name Koch, immediately transferred me to Executive Assistant Governor Dorothy Moore.

“We’ve met before, Dorothy,” I nudged. “I really need to talk to Scott—Governor Walker.” She said that, yes, she thought she had met Koch, and that the name was “familiar.” But she insisted that Walker was detained in a meeting and couldn’t get away. She asked about the nature of my call. I balked, “I just needed to speak with the Governor. He knows what this is about,” I said. She told me to call back at noon, and she’d have a better idea of when he would be free.

I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore, who then transferred me to Walker’s Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes. He was “expecting my call.”

“David!” he said with an audible smile.

I politely said hello, not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may be. He was eager to help. “I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott,” I said. He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. I explained to Gilkes, “My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I’d have her deported, but she works for next to nothing.” Gilkes found this amusing. “I’m calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or whatever it’s called. You know, the Snype!”

“Gotcha,” Gilkes said. “Let me check the schedule here…OK, there’s an opening at 2 o’clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number and we’ll put you through.”

Could it really be that easy? Yes. What follows is a rushed, abridged transcript of my—I mean, David Koch’s conversation with Gov. Walker. Listen to the whole call here:



***

Walker: Hi; this is Scott Walker.

Koch: Scott! David Koch. How are you?

Walker: Hey, David! I’m good. And yourself?

Koch: I’m very well. I’m a little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh, what’s the latest?

Walker: Well, we’re actually hanging pretty tough. I mean—you know, amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of whom are in from other states today. The State Assembly is taking the bill up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it’s unamendable. But they’re waiting to pass it until the Senate’s—the Senate Democrats, excuse me, the assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they’re going through. The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit…. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats about and he’s going to announce it later today, and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk—it’s a little procedural thing here, but—can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted—

Koch: Beautiful.

Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them—which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate.

Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

Koch: Goddamn right!

Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?

Walker: …I think the paycheck will have an impact…secondly, one of the things we’re looking at next…we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there’s at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.

Koch: Well, they’re probably putting hobos in suits.

Walker: Yeah.

Koch: That’s what we do. Sometimes.

Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they’re paying for these guy—I mean, people can pay for protesters to come in and that’s not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators—their food, their lodging, anything like that…[*** Important regarding his later acceptance of a Koch offer to “show him a good time.” ***]

[I was stunned. I am stunned. In the interest of expediting the release of this story, here are the juiciest bits:]

Walker: …I’ve got layoff notices ready…

Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union.

Walker: [bragging about how he doesn't budge]…I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum…so we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…

Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.

Walker: I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. I have a slugger with my name on it.

Koch: Beautiful.

Walker: [union-bashing...]

Koch: Beautiful.

Walker: So this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. [Talks about a “great” NYT piece of “objective journalism.” Talks about how most private blue-collar workers have turned against public, unionized workers.]…So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, “Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”

Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.

Walker:Yeah.

Koch: Yeah.

Walker: Good stuff.

Koch: He’s our man, you know.

Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.] Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

Koch: You’re the first domino.

Walker: Yep. This is our moment.

Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there?

Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground [Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this [stuff about all the people protesting, and some of them flip him off].

[Abrupt end of first recording, and start of second.]

Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting flipped off by “union bulls,” and the decreasing number of protesters. Or some such.]

Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.

Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.

Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that? I went on “Morning Joe” this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they’re off the deep end.

Koch: Joe—Joe’s a good guy. He’s one of us.

Walker: Yeah, he’s all right. He was fair to me…[bashes NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also on the program.]

Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she’s a real piece of ass.

Walker: Oh yeah. [story about when he hung out with human pig Jim Sensenbrenner at some D.C. function and he was sitting next to Brzezinski and her father, and their guest was David Axelrod. He introduced himself.]

Koch: That son of a bitch!

Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?…

Koch: Well, good; good. Good catching up with ya’.

Walker: This is an exciting time [blah, blah, blah, Super Bowl reference followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and explaining to his staff the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan fired the air traffic controllers]…that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn’t a pushover. [Blah, blah, blah. He's exactly like Reagan. Won't shut up about how awesome he is.]

Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support…it’s all about getting our freedoms back…

Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]

Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million!

Koch: Bye-bye!

Walker: Bye.

***

So there you have it, kids. Government isn’t for the people. It’s for the people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to collectively bargain? You can’t afford a seat at the table. You may have built that table. But it’s not yours. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class. It’s guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. These are known knowns, and now we just know them a little more.

But money isn’t always power. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this—reminded us of this. They can’t buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.

The revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.

***

____________________

Monday, January 17, 2011

Diagnosing Division in America

I reprint an article by Bob Confer published in the Lockport paper. I could not respond to it on his website because my post was too long. So I re-post Bob's article here and respond to it.

Divided by design
From the 17 January 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

DIVIDED BY DESIGN
By Bob Confer

America has been split in twain by the Tucson shooting. Those who align with the Democrats insist on painting those who lean Republican as enemies of our nation, breeders of hate so pervasive that they are more responsible for the murder of 6 innocents – and the attempted assassination of Congresswomen Giffords – than its conspirator Jared Loughner ever could be. It has been a sickening roller coaster ride that showed the left displaying the vitriol that it claims to be against.

Lost in the ensuing back-and-forth was what mattered most, the lives taken and lives affected by the gunman. Political gamesmanship dominated what should have been a period of time that highlighted a nation in mourning yet one so proud of itself that it would not waver in its principles of being a government by, for, and accessible to the people.

It was grossly un-American.

Or was it?

This division is nothing new. This post-shooting hysteria is a perfect snapshot of what American politics has been and will ever be. We are a nation divided by the contrasts of 2 parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

That conflict, though, is only a mask. The parties, especially within the inner-workings of our outsized federal system, are more intertwined than we’ll ever know. Think of how easily war was "declared" by President Bush at the behest of Congress or how the Patriot Act passed with limited fireworks or how Congress so tamely allowed trillions in economic rescue during the recession or how body scanners magically appeared within days of the attempted Christmas underwear bombing.

We, as a people, were made to be divided on those and similar issues, yet the dominoes had already been set into play beforehand by the powers-that-be on both sides of the supposed aisle. Big stuff like that slips by hurriedly under the public fray. Instead, it's the minor issues or those that are long-term in transformation (hot button issues like public assistance, corporate welfare, abortion and guns) where the party leaders play the political football that keeps us captivated while making us oblivious to matters affecting our everyday lives.

To make things like that happen requires a careful manipulation of the masses, brainwashing if you will, through the modern press and our educational system. The shooting fall-out has shown that Americans who were taught so very little about government and civics in our schools are ill-equipped to discern right from wrong, good from bad, truth from fiction in the amalgamation of so-called news and commentary spewed from television sets, the radio and the internet. Case in point, last week, like lemmings millions – yes, millions - of Americans followed lock-step the utterly stupid belief that right-wingers were responsible for the mass murder, even though it was apparent Loughner is anything but a Conservative.

The political leaders have created a perfect subterfuge. As we bicker over who made who kill who, think of the absurd legislation that's been mothballed for years by the Republican and Democrat powerbrokers that's just been begging for an incident like this: Are they devising means to limit public access to Congress and the entire federal system? Are they looking for ways to regulate the way you are allowed to speak – and even think -- about elected officials and bureaucrats? Are they developing methods of controlling peaceable assembly? Are they conspiring over ways to spy on our internet activities?

The answer is “yes” to all of those questions because once Tucson’s dust has settled and we’re all licking our wounds from the ongoing hate game, Americans will be more than willing to abandon some of their rights and privileges to “make things better”.

That’s how the game works: Drain our emotions and energy by forcing us to expend them on one another and then we’ll lack the vitality to fight the system. Our voices are and will be lost in the din of a divide manufactured by a big government intent on advancing its own interests. We’re being played.
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MY RESPONSE TO BOB'S ARTICLE:


Dear Roberto, this is what I’ve been trying to argue for 15 years or more. Thank you for this piece. Absolutely wonderfully to the point! As I put it: America is divided not along Democrat/Republican lines but along the lines of, on the one hand, a New Class, i.e., the Washington elite of power and money brokers who are a new social and political class and, on the other hand, the amorphous, homogenized mass of people, i.e., their “clients,” dubbed the Client Class. But as you say so well, they, the New Class, hide their unity behind division, crisis and fabricated foreign enemies. We are divided by wealth, education, values and ideology. They pretend that we are a unified mass democracy, which by the way is a contradiction in terms. We can never be “unified” at a mass level on the terms of and in terms of the present pseudo-federalist, corporate and centralist organization of America. The revolution consists of a renewal of authentic federalism, a return to community as the source and locus of all politics, not these so-called political parties. Party politics is dead, except as subterfuge and control of the political behavior and discourse of the masses. And of course a new American “Individual” must emerge in this return to Federalism, community and a reconfiguration of the people in terms of a new “social individual.” This a political cultural revolution we are seeing if we let go of the “old skins” and prepare for the new wine. What we are seeing is a re-politicization of America. It is unfortunate but possibly inevitable that the wake-up call must be announced by a deeply disturbed individual, namely, Jared Lee Loughner. But I contend he is a congealed, symptomatic reflection of what we are as a whole. We are sick in our political hearts, desperate and in need of radically new direction. This is what all this gun toting is about: symbolism of a “radical” violent break with the past. But it need not be done with guns and more killing. It is done simply by returning to community, come home from the wars and military bases in foreign lands, around 800 of them, and build your life in community. Ye who are weary come home, come home. Withdraw the “blood supply” from Washington and watch it wither like the big, malignant cancerous tumor that it is.