Monthly Archives: February 2014

Frack You

I saw a news story today about a very wealthy man. A mean REAL rich. He made over 40 million dollars last year. He must be working his butt off. I am presuming he takes no vacations, so that comes out to $770,000 per week. $154,000 each DAY. Let’s say this guy works 10 hours a day. That’s $15,400 an HOUR.  Just give this some perspective. A minimum wage worker (at $ 7.25 per hour) would gross $15, 080 per YEAR. $15,400 per hour vs. $15,080 per year. That is one hard working dude.

His job ? CEO of Exxon Mobil, the number one fracking company in the world. For those asleep during the Bush years. First, you were lucky. Next, during the Bush years the Cheney-Bush administration convinced Congress, in 2005,  to EXEMPT fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act . That’s right. If they want to frack your drinking water, there is nothing the EPA can do about it.  (Although recently the EPA did find a loophole that will enable them to have some control over the issue).

Which brings us to lawsuits. Citizens groups are suing all over the country to try to limit or end this very questionable practice. Why ? In some cases their water spigots emit methane instead of water. Fracking is loud and detrimental to property values. Their kids have gotten sick. An odd phenomenon recently has been increased earthquake activity near fracking sites. Hmmmm…Take something out the ground and it moves ? Who would have thought? Usually these citizens groups are overwhelmed by corporate legal teams and simply can’t afford the legal expenses. So, they give up.

But not in Texas. One wealthy area is fighting against fracking. It is destroying their multi-millon dollar estates. It threatens to disrupt their bucolic existence. It is loud. And the water towers associated with it are ugly.  They want it stopped. And they have the money to fight it out in court.

Which brings us full circle. You see, the $ 40,000,000 a year hard worker I was talking about lives in that area. He and his wife have a homestead and an 83 acre ranch. They don’t like the water towers. They don’t like the possibility of noise and disruption and escaping methane gas. And who is this wealthy guy ? In case you forgot.  The CEO of ExxonMobil, the biggest fracking company on earth.

The very same  CEO who has consistently defended fracking as safe, quiet and wholesome, when done next to YOUR house . When the methane leaks in YOUR neighborhood. When the property values plummet on YOUR street. For this CEO I have two words. Frack you.

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I Don’t Understand

What is the point of the latest Arizona state government attempt  to discriminate against homosexual Americans? Why are they taking the time and the energy to draft a bill for the sole purpose of stopping some of the citizens of their state from receiving services ? Hopefully Governor Brewer will veto this piece of nonsense. But even if she does, one has to wonder what these people are thinking .

While most of us are very tolerant of others there are a few people in power who seem intent on demonstrating hatred and bigotry. How do these folks get elected? Are the majority of citizens in Arizona so disturbed ? Is it something in the water ? A lack of education? Inbreeding? Is there a “bigotry” gene or is it learned behavior?

When a small group of people in leadership positions are so openly hateful it is no longer a local issue. It should be of concern to all of us. Other states have passed anti-homosexual laws already. This kind of sickness CAN spread. Like the swine flu. Or a plague. And for normal people this way of thinking and hating is difficult to understand.

The issue is not religious beliefs, as the sponsors would try to say. Like a used car dealer spray painting  over a rust bucket of an automobile, these “lawmakers” try to hide the corrosion of their bigotry under a fresh coat of paint. Freedom of religion. Nonsense.

Freedom of religion does not extend to taking ACTIONS against our neighbors. You are free to believe what you want, but you are not free to  act on those beliefs to the detriment of others. The Bible says you can beat your wife. The US government says you can’t. The attempt to cloak bigotry in the mantle of freedom of religion is both cynical and absurd.

When you decide to open a business you accept the fact that ALL citizens have the right to use that business. When you accept a job at a hospital or police force you understand that you are required to serve all the people. You benefit from the legal system and taxes paid by ALL citizens. You accept the rules of living in a democracy.

We are not a religious state. If you want to live under Shari’a Law there are plenty of Islamic possibilities. If you so hate homosexuals there are over 30 nations in Africa with anti-gay laws that will welcome you. And Comrade Putin has his arms open wide, waiting for your entrance into that glorious nation. You’ll love it there.

But in the USA? No. We don’t do that here. I would say that the Arizona legislators who thought this up and voted for it should be ashamed of themselves. But the act itself demonstrates they have no shame. So, it is up to the voters of Arizona. What kind of people are you, anyway? What kind of US citizen supports a law designed only to dehumanize others?

I don’t understand the bigotry. And  I hope I never do.

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Neocon Papers 5:Toxic Deregulation

West Virginia. North Carolina. Texas. Deregulation.

If there is anything close to a mantra for the neoconservatives it is the idea of “deregulation”.

The argument for deregulation goes something like this. The government, most especially the federal government, over regulates our lives. Not our lives,  really. It over regulates big business. And because the government over regulates big business that does a number of things. First, it drives big business into massive debt. Second, it depresses the economy because it reduces employment. Third, it makes the cost of doing business more expensive, thereby passing on the cost of goods and services to the consumer. So, if government would stop regulating business all three of those areas would be improved. More businesses. More jobs. More profits. Sounds logical.

Except. We have tried it. It failed. The philosophy attributed to Reagan,  called Reaganomics was an attempt to limit regulations so businesses could thrive.  That philosophy has been the mainstay of Republican “thinking” and to a great extent has been embraced by many Dems as well. Since the 1980s we have seen the federal government loosen rules on lumbering, mining, oil drilling and gas drilling. We have seen the EPA gutted and reduced to a weak organization unable to enforce the laws. The same EPA created by Richard Nixon and the GOP in the knowledge that unfettered business has made a cesspool of much of America.

But big business pushed  back. And won. And as the GOP took state houses they have consistently sought to turn back or ignore reasonable environmental safeguards. Those in favor of safeguarding the air and water were labeled as “tree huggers” and “eco-terrorists” or “communists” who opposed “free enterprise”. Job killers. Of course, the near depression of 2007-2009 demonstrated that Reaganonomics was a colossal failure. Where is that booming,  deregulated economy we we promised?

So, today we can see just a few of the results of that GOP success. Texas. A deregulator’s dream state. Fracking goes on unregulated (except by a weak state agency). People in parts of Texas are exposed not only to water pollution but air pollution as massive quantities of methane emerge from the ground. Studies show methane contamination in Weatherford , Texas. No one knows the long term effects of this so the Texas response has been to do nothing to protect the citizens. And the EPA has had the same response. We’ll have to wait and see. But keep fracking. Deregualtion.

In West Virginia this year we saw the pollution of the largest city’s water supply (Charleston). An uninspected tank leaked toxic materials into the river. Then, in a display of incompetence that rivaled the Keystone Kops we had the governor telling folks to drink the water. Others in the department of health saying don’t drink the water. The company (Freedom Industries) admitting, after about a week, that SECOND toxic chemical had been emitted. The government of West Virginia telling folks finally. …(Well, it’s your call. Drink the water or don’t…unless your pregnant…then you shouldn’t…..) Schools closed , then reopened because tests showed the water was safe. Then closed again because these chemicals showed up  again.  Deregulation.

Another GOP state. North Carolina. This story keeps getting better and better. When Duke Energy (company with close ties to the governor) was sued by consumer groups for  dumping COAL ASH in rivers the state stepped in and took over the lawsuit. It then guaranteed that Duke Energy could not be sued by any public entity, only the state. But…but…but…What about the EPA? Evidently the EPA rules allow STATES to determine the validity of lawsuits and remove the original litigants. That’s right. The GOP “deregulators” will determine how to enforce the EPA rules. The fact that the new governor worked for Duke Energy for over 20 years and has at least $10,000 worth of stock (that is the maximum he is required to report) had nothing to do with the decision. So, Duke Energy can dump coal ash into the water supply. Pay a small fine. (But they “promised” to clean up the mess. They “promised”) And  continue to do business. Deregulation.

It is no  accident that these are GOP lead states. Business can be  good if you can dump your waste into the public water ways. Or pollute the air. And pay no meaningful fines. Good for business. Creates jobs. No downside.

Of course someone will have to pay. Pay for the massive coal sludge clean ups of North Carolina’s waterways. Pay for the clean up of the river continuing to flow into the Charleston water supply. Possibly even install new water pipes. And pay the medical costs in the future for damaged children and adults in Texas,  North Carolina and West Virginia. Because these are real disasters. Man made. Someone will be shelling out billions of dollars over the next 20 years for these and countless other disasters. It won’t be “Freedom Industries”. It won’t be” Duke Energy”. It won’t be the natural gas industry in Texas.  It won’t be the “deregulators”. Can you guess who ?

The neocon mantra continues: Deregulation. Deregulation. Deregulation. Let the next generation pay for it.

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The Most Holy Church of the Republican Party

What has happened to the Republican Party, affectionately known as the GOP (Grand Old Party)? Is it even a political party, any more, or a religion?

A political  party usually has a set of policy goals, or ideals, it wishes to achieve. Maybe lowering taxes, improving the environment, going to war (or more rarely, going to peace), providing jobs, etc. These policies attract voters. Or repel them. But in any case, the goal of a political party is to get something done.

Through out our history politicians have known that they cannot achieve everything they aspire to. Doesn’t stop them from aspiring, but it leads them to the common sense notion of “compromise”. The idea that my group cannot get our way all the time because there are other groups that think differently. Other groups that want other things. Other groups that have other ideas. Good politicians, at the national and international level, have always sought to find some reasonable common ground. They can do that because party principles are just that. Ideals. Goals. Hopes for what the future will look like.

Religions are quite different. Religious leaders have a direct pipeline to the will of god. Be it Jesus. Or Buddha. Or Allah. Or Jehovah.  The list of gods is endless. Because they have the actual word of god there can be no compromise. Religious tenets are not ideals or goals…they are inflexible laws. Written in stone. Commandments. So religions, by their very nature, cannot accept the idea of compromise. How can you compromise with the will of god?

So the GOP problem. In the 1970s and 1980s the GOP made a conscious effort to attract religious leaders into the party apparatus. Not just as individual citizens who may have similar beliefs,  but as organizations sanctioned by the will of god. We see the slow development of a political party into a religious organization. And once you invite your unemployed uncle in for a weekend it is sometimes very difficult to throw him out. That is the problem the GOP faces today. They did bring the problem in themselves, but it is now a problem for all reasonable folks.

The Tea Party wing of the GOP is, in effect, a religious organization. More accurately called the “Tea Religion”. And the god to which they bow is the sacred cow of cash. And the sacred mantra  they chant is the mantra of “No Taxes”. Not as a tactic or a point of debate. Not as an idea to be discussed, thought about, considered and acted on. No. That is what a political party would do. The mantra is sacred. It cannot be discussed. Deviation from the religious doctrine is heresy.

We have seen this over and over as solid, old fashioned fiscal conservatives are challenged within the GOP primaries by younger religious ideologues. There can be no deviation from the doctrine. There is no room to compromise or even discuss the issue. You are either 100% in favor of the religion or you are a heretic. No compromise. No middle ground. And we know what happens to heretics.

We have always had minor political parties to the far right and far left. The Know Nothings, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the Bull Moose and the Libertarians come to mind. But those organizations act like political parties, not religions. The Tea Religion is different. Not in that it has a narrow ideology, but in its power within the GOP. So the GOP will need to decide.

Will the GOP turn out the Tea Religion and return to a more traditional path? Will it split into two groups, the religious ideologues and the pragmatic conservatives? Or will the conservatives give up and allow the ideologues to take over, maybe dropping out and becoming independents?

Time will tell. But I suspect that the Tea Religion will not go away. We have always had their ilk in our midst. But I also suspect that they will continue to be marginalized. Most Americans do not want religious fundamentalists, even those whose god is “Cash”, to control our society. They understand that compromise is the only way to govern effectively.

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NFL Sissies…Step Up

Michael Sam is 6’2″ and weighs in at 260 pounds. Michael Sam was the SEC defensive college player of the year. The SEC is the best conference in college football. Michael Sam is a certain first round draft pick this year. Or should be. Michael Sam is gay.

Michael Sam came out and publicly said he was gay. His Missouri teammates knew it. The coaches knew it. He knew it. They didn’t care. He can play football.

Someday, 10 years from now, this will not be news. But it is today.

There are plenty of athletes in every sport who are homosexual. It does not stop them from being professional athletes. Professionals in a highly competitive occupation. But most keep it to themselves. For fear of public humiliation. Fear of discrimination. Or because it is no one else’s business. In a perfect world it would not matter. But the world of sports is not perfect.

Michael Sam has come out. It is time for the other homosexual athletes to support him. There are plenty of gay athletes in football, baseball, basketball, soccer and all sports. Time for them to stop being sissies. Come out. Support this young man. The closet has been opened for you.  You should not have to go public. It should not be a big deal.  But it is.

But Michael Sam has given you the chance to say,”Yes. I am an athlete. I am gay. So what”. Do it now and those 10 years may be closer than your think. Don’t be sissies.

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Will I Be Shot in Florida

I am worried. I am going to Florida next month, just for a couple of days. But I am worried. Here is why.

Last year a young black kid, armed with Skittles, was murdered on a public street. Walking home. He possessed no weapons. Except for Skittles. An older guy, who happened to be white, shot him. Dead.  His defense. He (the killer) had questioned the kid’s right to be on the street and followed him. The kid (according to the killer), then challenged him and a fight ensued. He felt his life was in danger. And in Florida that evidently gives you the legal right to kill someone.

Another case. (I think it was Florida). A guy is texting his babysitter in a movie theater. Annoying. But the movie had not yet started.  A guy behind him (again, an older white guy) complained. An argument broke out. Popcorn was hurled. The older guy pulled out his gun and killed the texter/pop corn thrower.  His defense. He thought his life was in danger.

A third case, going to the jury as I write. A man (an older white guy again) pulls up to a car with its music blaring. He tells the black kids to turn it down.They mouth off to him. He pulls a gun out of the glove compartment. He fires three times into the car. As the car pulls away he fires 7 more times. A kid is dead. The killer’s defense? He thought his life was endangered. He felt he had the right.

Three killings. Three victims armed with Skittles,  popcorn and a music cd. All dead. Because an older white guy felt his life was endangered.

I am not black. I am an older white guy. And I fear for my life. Will I be shot by some black kid if I visit Florida? Will he be justified in killing me? My reasoning.

As a young black man I would now suspect every old white guy. Every old white guy MIGHT be carrying a gun and might put my life in danger. As an older white guy I wonder.  Do I dare take out my cell phone around a black kid?Will he think it is a gun? Do I smile at the checkout clerk and reach for my wallet ? Will he think I am carrying “heat” and decide his life is in danger? Do I dare play Bob Dylan on my car radio? Will some black kid take that as an indication that I am threatening his life and decide to act first?

Luckily I have taught many teenage black kids in my former life as a social studies teacher. I know that most of them have the common sense and decency not to shoot someone for no reason other than a paranoid fear of the perceived “other”. Still,  I wonder if I should go to Florida. I would hate to be killed based on a stereotype. The stereotype of crazy, paranoid old white men.

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Good News…for a change

The GOP today decided to vote to extend the debt ceiling for another 13 months so the US government can pay it’s bills. Well, not exactly. In reality only 28 Republicans voted for the measure. Enough to insure its passage with Dem votes.  So, what may this mean?

First and most important, the US will not be defaulting on payments. Contracts already signed and goods already delivered. Contracts underway. Interest payments. This means that for the next year, at least, American business and the rest of the world knows that the US will make good on any debts.

Second and not as important, what does this mean for the GOP? Does this mean they are finally willing to give a little and actually work with Mr Obama? Or does it simply mean that they know this is an election year and they are fearful of once again being seen as the party of “No”? Doing nothing is not much of a platform to run on.

Third, what about Boehner? While he was able to convince most of his fellow Repubs that this issue was not worth fighting, does this mean he has reasserted control of the GOP? Could he have gotten 150 votes if he had wanted to? Is this a step in leading his party to a more sane, cooperative governing style?

Fourth, what about the Tea Party? This was a very public defeat for that small group of radicals. Is this the first step in slowly ridding their negative influence on the GOP? Or will they return with a vengeance and once again try to block any progress? Or are they biding their time, hoping for big victories in the fall so they can oust Boehner from leadership and even install Cruz as Senate majority leader?

Time will tell. But for now, cooler heads have prevailed. And while some may ciaim this is a “Democratic” or “Obama” victory, that is not the case. It is a victory for common sense, stability  and fiscal responsibility. Long overdue.

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Why Immigration Reform Will Not Pass

Both political parties have talked about immigration reform for years. More agents on border patrol. More deportations. A path to citizenship.

According to the “patriotic” wing of the GOP,  illegals are blamed for just about every ill you can think of. They crowd our emergency rooms. They overcrowd our schools. They vote in amazing numbers (at a higher rate than US citizens, evidently). They are the reason for taxes. I think they may even be causing global warming (if the deniers would admit it existed).

Of course, the fact that illegal immigrants actually contribute more to the system, in terms of cheap labor, taxes and buying power, is irrelevant. In the age of “Fox Facts” real facts take a back seat.

So, the Dems want , or claim they want, immigration reform. But the GOP has basically said it is DOA, at least for this year.  With good reason.

The last thing the financial interests which support the GOP, and to some extent the Dems, want is closed borders. Too many businesses and industries thrive on illegal labor. The benefits to major corporate interests are legion.

Illegals cannot demand fair wages. Or working conditions. Or anything, really. They live under the constant threat and fear of deportation. The agricultural and meat processing industries make million, if not billions, by harnessing this low wage labor. No union contracts. No overtime. No testy union negotiations to deal with. No factories or fields that have to meet health standards. A capitalist’s dream.

Imagine what would happen if  all the illegals disappeared tomorrow. Who would take those jobs?  Would these industries be non-unionized for long? What would happen to the wage structure in order to attract US citizens  to those jobs? What would happen to corporate profits? What costs would these industries have to incur to meet safe standards for working conditions?

The same is  true in the construction industry. It is no accident that Congress passed a labor law when distributing money for Hurricane Katrina. A law that specifically denied the demand that American union  workers provide the labor for reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. As a result you had thousands of illegals move up from central America  to rebuild the houses, roads, etc. Non-union, underpaid labor.

This is why for all the whining and groaning about the “illegals” that we hear coming from the right wing we should understand that these same right wingers have never been serious about immigration reform. The very folks who keep them in Congress would be financially harmed if any meaningful immigration laws were enforced. That is also why Congress funds only 20,000 people to run the entire ICE program. In a nation of over 300,000,000 the ICE is supposed to control the borders, process citizenship applications and track down illegals. As well as monitor businesses for compliance. Anyone believe that is possible?

Illegal immigration is here to stay. It’s good for big business.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I was born 64 years ago today. Often we tend to think that we don’t make much progress. But we do. We also sometimes regress. Here is my take  (a quick take) on the good, the bad and the ugly since I was born in 1950.

The Good: Space travel. Understanding DNA. Unimaginable improvements in health care. Blacks can now eat in the same restaurants as whites. And marry each other. As can homosexuals. Cell phones. Air travel.The internet. Understanding of climate change. The disabled are no longer hidden away.The environmental movement.Scientific achievements in evolutionary theory, gene theory  and just about every other field of science. EPA. The Voting Rights Act. And so much more.

The Bad: Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Trickle down economic theory. Overemphasis on sports in high schools. Fundamentalist religion, here and abroad. Terrorism. 9/11. Weapon sales to petty dictators and gangs worldwide. Genocides. Voter suppression. Science deniers. Environmentally induced cancers.  Over processed food. Vulgarity disguised as free speech. Wall Street. And so much more.

The Ugly: Fox News. Race hatred rekindled. Putin. Drugs in pro sports. The gun lobby.  Many “entertainers”.

 

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Filed under ACA, Conservatives, Education, healthcare, Neoconservative, neoconservatives, Obamacare, Politics, Society

Christie’s Problem

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has a problem. His candidacy for president of the US is just about over. He seems to have placed himself in a box with no way out. Let me explain.

Christie tried to make a name for himself by his “hands-on” style of leadership. A straight-talking-no-nonsense- get-things-done kind of guy.  His photo ops in the aftermath of the Sandy hurricane are legion. Talking with common folks. Giving assurances. The man was in charge. And the man was gettin it done!

Now come the scandals, or problems.  The closing of the George Washington Bridge lanes by one of his staff. The lack of oversight over the distribution of federal Sandy aid. The allegations of linking Sandy aid to political favors. The construction of high rises with Sandy money. The connections with Christie and key business associates in the Hoboken land deal.  Which raise the issue.

If Christie is a hands-on get things done kind of guy, was he involved in all these shenanigans? Was he privy to any of these questionable, possibly illegal dealings? If so, he has problems. Corruption.

If Christie, as he claims, knew nothing (What did I do? What did I do?) that raises another issue. At least two of his close associates and staff have already taken the 5th amendment. Does not mean they were guilty of a crime, but it does mean their lawyers think they MAY be guilty of incriminating themselves. Christie’s hand-picked employee at the Port Authority has already left and is seeking a deal with the federal prosecutors. And there are others. So, if Christie was NOT involved in any of these activities (the bridge, the land deals, the misuse of Sandy aid) what does this tell us about his judgement?

Is he so gullible as to surround himself with potential criminals. Or least people with incredibly poor judgement and a seeming lack of ethics ? So far all those under investigation have been political employees, not civil servants. All were brought in by Christie or his people. Does this tell us he has extremely poor judgement when it comes to hiring ?

In either case Christie is in trouble as far a place on the national ticket is concerned. Do we want a president who uses his office to  illegally funnel money to his friends or to punish folks who live in areas that do not endorse him ? Do we want a president who is so naive as to surround himself with crooks and incompetents ?

No matter how this plays out in New Jersey, you can be sure the GOP presidential hopefuls will be lining up to take Christie down if he has the arrogance to consider himself worthy to be considered for the presidency.

 

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