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OilBurnLast Sunday, on NBC's Meet the Press, David Alexrod and Bob Woodward were invited to the "roundtable" to discuss Obama's low approval ratings. Alexrod replied:

Well, you know, I'm having flashbacks when I hear that number, David, because I remember when I was in the White House in the spring of 2010, and we had the oil leak in the Gulf, and Washington was in a twitter about that. And our numbers were damaged by that. And it was, you know, "Why can't they get it done? Why didn't he know what was going on in the mineral and mine service? This is Obama's Katrina."

And then we plugged the leak, got reparations for the people in the Gulf, helped repair the Gulf. And, you know, it wasn't mentioned in the 2012 campaign. So I think it's very hard to make judgments in the midst.

Bob Wooward responded to Axelrod:

It's a good framing of the question. Obviously we don't know. And you're right, health care is not the BP oil spill, it's something that's going to go on for years and decades.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 07:42

Pro-Nuke Scientists Should Go to Fukushima


FukuIFour climate scientists have made a public statement claiming nuclear power is an answer to global warming.

Before they proceed, they should visit Fukushima, where the Tokyo Electric Power Company has moved definitively toward bringing down the some 1300 hot fuel rods from a pool at Unit Four.

Which makes this a time of global terror.

In response more than 150,000 petition signatures from www.nukefree.org and others will be delivered at the United Nations this Thursday, November 7, asking for a global response to this disaster.

Since March 11, 2011, fuel assemblies weighing some 400 tons, containing more than 1500 extremely radioactive fuel rods, have been suspended 100 feet in the air above Fukushima Daiichi's Unit Four. "If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool, the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs," says Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. Former US Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, an expert on fuel pool fires, calculates potential fallout from Unit Four at ten times greater than what came from Chernobyl.

Published in Guest Commentary


HardhatThey're not Birthers, wackos, Christian nationalists, or particularly consumed by whether President Barack Obama is a Marxist or a socialist. Nevertheless they are steadfast conservatives hell bent on turning back the clock on the rights of workers; destroying what's left of organized labor, undermining struggles by non-union workers, and eliminating many of the achievements workers have fought for over the past seventy-five years.

Couched as a response to difficult fiscal conditions, Republican governors and Republican-led state legislatures – many of them in battleground states -- have been working hard at eviscerating the rights of public employees. Public workers, however, aren't the only target of wealthy right-wing funders, major corporate lobbies, and corporate-funded lobbying organizations; non-union and private sector workers are also seen as fair game.

And, despite the bad publicity it received over its involvement with Stand Your Ground legislation in a number of states -- information that was revealed in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin -- the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is playing a prominent role in an anti-labor coalition whose agenda is moving along at breakneck speed.

Published in Guest Commentary


CalhounRegular readers of mine may wonder why I am spending so much time on Ted Cruz. He did not get what he apparently wanted out of the last budget/deficit crisis, repeal of “Obamacare.” He is being roundly criticized, even by reactionaries in his own party like Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Sen. Trent (Fix my Porch) Lott, for helping to engineer the government shutdown (being roundly blamed on the GOP) and the threat of fiscal default. Nationally, he is polling terribly. Yet he seems not to care. So why, we must ask, is that so. Because in terms of what his real goals are, he didn’t lose. He won.

Ted Cruz had three goals for his “anti-Obamacare” crusade. First, he was clearly out to make himself the legislative leader of the Tea Party Reactionaries in the House of Representatives. As a Senator, to accomplish this he had to do something very unusual in the Congress: reach across the Capitol Rotunda to the other House. But he did that and he became the most visible leader of the “anti-Obamacare” faction in the Congress. (Oh yes, of course the GOP would love to repeal Obamacare, not, as many observers have noted, because it is a bad law [well, since it leaves the system in the control of the “health” insurance companies it is, but that’s another story] but because they are afraid that it will become at least a modest success --- and guess whose name will be on it forever?)

Second, it is becoming more apparent by the day that he (and his powerful, wealthy, Corporate State backers) wanted to place himself in the running, now, for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. (Why, he has already gone to Iowa, with the first primary over two years away.) He sees that his path to doing this is to place himself as far to the Right as he possibly can, continuing to follow through on the “Rightward Imperative” that has been central to the politics of the GOP since the time of Goldwater (of which I have written on a number of occasions).

Published in Guest Commentary


StethoscopeIt takes chutzpah, or perhaps just an extraordinary lack of self-awareness, to argue vehemently that a program should never be implemented -- and then complain it isn't being implemented well enough.

But that seems to be the new Republican position: We want the Affordable Care Act, and we want it now.

Given that House Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare, you'd think more of them would be cheering the "debacle" of a barely functioning website that keeps people from signing up. Instead, they demand to know who is responsible and insist that heads should roll.

The sense of urgency surrounding the program is palpable -- and largely artificial. The Obama administration royally screwed up the launch, no question about it. But there's time to get it right. Plenty of time.

The real deadline for creating a sleek, seamless, customer-friendly website allowing people to buy insurance through the federal exchanges isn't three weeks or even three months. It's three years and change -- the time President Obama has left in office.

Published in Guest Commentary


Billboard"To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong."

Move over, WeBuyUglyHouses.com and Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. Here was religious faith on a billboard, refuting non-belief in letters three feet high. I was visiting Los Angeles, driving with a friend along La Cienega Boulevard, when this king-size ad for religious certainty smacked us in the eye.

Turns out that Answers in Genesis, an evangelical organization with money to spend, took the God debate to billboards this month in New York and Los Angeles. They were pushing back against a group called the American Atheists, who at Christmas time last year sponsored a billboard featuring images of Jesus and Santa Claus with the words: "Keep the Merry, dump the myth."

OMG, a billboard war about the existence of God. The whole thing agitates, for me, an endemic cultural despair that has little to do with the point of view of either organization. Well, we've reduced politics to an advertising game, not to mention health and love and pretty much everything else — that is to say, we've reduced all that was once sacred to commodities with price tags — so why not the whole God-vs.-science thing, i.e., reality? It's already been reduced to a survey question.

Published in Guest Commentary


KristallnachtThe watchdog group the Institute for Research & Education On Human Rights is reporting that the National Socialist Movement is planning a rally in the Kansas City area on November 9. According to IREHR, "Most of the chatter about the would-be rally place it in downtown Kansas City, Missouri; although the NSM leaflet advertising this event places it in Kansas City, Kansas."

Why has the NSM chosen to rally on November 9?

Kristallnacht – Night of Broken Glass

Seventy-five years ago, in the late evening and early morning hours of November 9–10, 1938, Adolph Hitler unleashed his Storm Troopers and gangs of Hitler Youth in cities throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops. The violent anti-Jewish pogroms resulted in deaths, massive destruction and deportations. Those assaults on the Jewish community became known as Kristallnacht (literally translated as "Night of Crystal" and often referred to as "Night of Broken Glass").

Published in Guest Commentary


Government Shutdown RallyPride seems to come in different shapes and sizes these days. And standards vary according to wherever the political winds transport them. Ann Coulter said she was "so proud" of Republicans for shutting down the government and hoped more Republicans like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz would be elected in order that the right-wing goal of defeating the affordable care law could be realized. Host Sean Hannity agreed, of course, and it seemed that the nasty chorus of ultra-conservative views would continue as before to keep the country embroiled in endless partisan rhetoric.

She said it was a brilliant tactic deserving of praise, and she hoped more of the same would develop in the near future. Coulter and other wingers are fast talkers and sound at times almost rational. According to Cruz, "There is no Senator in this body, Republican or Democrat, who is more principled, who is more dedicated, who is more fearless and willing to fight for the principles that make this nation great than is Senator Mike Lee." MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said he admired Lee as well, even though he wasn't in favor of shutting the government down. What, in fact, was so admirable about costing the government billions of dollars while the country ground to a halt, and thousands of jobs were lost?

And where do the self-proclaimed 'values voters' fit in? Are they a special breed of super-patriots prepared to set an example for the rest of us to emulate? Do they have a secret code to discern moral parameters for people who are too dim to make those determinations for themselves? There are no adequate explanations for how such voters reached the values that influence their votes and send them into paroxysms of cheering and applause. One can only guess at the driving force that encourages enthusiasm of such magnitude - - perhaps it is just a great well of ignorance that rises up to engulf the empty surround that passes for thoughtful deliberation. Values voters, indeed; however did we reach a point where charlatans and hucksters deliver versions of our language that defy meaningful translation, and yet are celebrated among those for whom rational debate holds no appeal?

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 06:51

Eugene Robinson | The Out-of-Control NSA


HURTLet's get this straight: The National Security Agency snooped on the cellphone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Perhaps for as long as a decade? And President Obama didn't know a thing about it?

Either somebody's lying or Obama needs to acknowledge that the NSA, in its quest for omniscience beyond anything Orwell could have imagined, is simply out of control.

The White House has not denied news reports -- courtesy of disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden -- that the spy agency eavesdropped on Merkel's phone calls. Press secretary Jay Carney said that "the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor," which sure sounds like an admission that such "monitoring" took place in the past.

This is a problem. Merkel is the de facto leader of Europe, which makes her, from the U.S. point of view, perhaps the most important allied leader in the world. Moreover, she and Obama have not only mutual respect but also a genuine rapport -- or used to. Her government huffily demanded an explanation and said such spying "would be a serious breach of trust."

Published in Guest Commentary


DeepwaterSlickOn April 20th, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded off the Gulf of Mexico, claiming 11 lives, followed by an estimated 200 million gallons of oil that polluted the sea and shores with black poisonous tar for three months. The world’s worst oil catastrophe in history left the Gulf’s fishing and tourist industries in an extremely depressing situation. It’s not exactly accurate to claim that life on the Gulf is completely dead. The oil industry is booming.  But thanks primarily to British Petroleum’s and Halliburton’s decisions of gross negligence i.e. putting profits first over safety, the tourist and fishing industries are struggling to say the least, (read Dahr Jamail’s Gulf Ecosystem in Crisis) which is the reason BP was forced to set aside a relief fund of $20 billion dollars for victims of these Gulf businesses; some did well from the settlements, but many are in dire straits.  Moreover, BP is still sitting on most of that relief fund money.

Cleanup has been an ongoing nightmare. Scientists are now concerned about the possibility of restoration given the damage that was done to the fragile ecosystems, specifically the food chain that has been “dissolved” from harsh chemical pollutants: viz. the combination of oil and the potent toxic dispersant Corexit. Corexit is largely the culprit that has literally dissolved the food chain vital for regeneration of marine life.

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Tragically, the likelihood of recovery is slim to say the least due to the fact that the US government allowed BP to drop tons of the highly toxic dispersant, Corexit, over vast areas of the Gulf for long periods of time, areas that included sensitive oyster and clam estuaries. No other government in any other civilized country would have been that ignorant, that careless to allow an oil company to dump tons of toxic chemicals on top of millions of gallons of oil. It’s the equivalent of unloading truckloads of decomposing acid into the ocean. The consequences have been unspeakably horrifying and heartbreaking: thousands of dolphins have washed up on the shores, dead, with their eyes literally burned out of their sockets, eyeless shrimp, deformed fish with lesions, and above all else: no fish.

Published in Guest Commentary
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