Friday, September 9, 2011

Would You Like Some Radiation With Your Water?

A matter of risk: Radiation, drinking water and deception by KHOU in Houston, TX.

An excerpt: "For the past year the KHOU 11 News I-Team has been investigating the quality of the tap water in Texas. What they found was surprising: That many of the states' communities have a real problem with radioactive contamination in their local drinking water. However, the team also discovered that many of those consuming it didn't know they were also being exposed to a health risk." A 5-part, one-hour special by KHOU 11 News' Investigative Reporter Mark Greenblatt:

Part 1 - Central Texas: Water So Contaminated It Makes Plumbing Radioactive
Part 2 - Texas Officials Hid Amount of Radiation in Public's Water
Part 3 - Houston: Water Under the Federal Radiation Limit, But Still A Risk
Part 4 - The U.S. EPA: What It isn't Telling You About Radiation In Your Water
Part 5 - Changes and Reactions: How Citizens and Local Government Responded to Our Reporting

Follow the link above to find links to all five parts of this important reporting. Part One is embedded below.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bread and Circuses.

Ah, its time for modern Bread and Circuses. Otherwise known as the start of the NFL season.

Although, here in modern times, its more just circuses. They can't give us 'bread'. That would be considered, well socialist. We can't be giving bread to people just because they are hungry. Of course not, feeding people is so anti-American that most cities are passing laws keeping people from doing this on their own.

So, we just get circuses. I guess they can sell expensive tickets to the circus. Millionaires become bigger millionaires by selling expensive tickets to their circus. And, by getting us poor plebes to put up our tax dollars to build them the biggest, grandest circus tents ever made.

But hey, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the circus. After all, that's what they are there for. Its better than spending the night worrying about not having a job when the unemployment checks are a fading and distant memory. I guess I'm ready for some football!

Facebook Jobs Poll

When I go to Facebook, I see a 'sponsered poll' asking about whether people "Do you think President Obama has a plan to create jobs and get our economy moving again?" Its not the poll that I find interesting, but the breakdown of responses and what it shows about the electorate.

28% Yes
60% No
12% Don't really know why I bothered answering this poll since I don't have an opinion.

To me, that tells me that there's 28% of the populace that are still Obama-bots and who blindly support him no matter what. I mean, its obvious that Obama doesn't have a plan to create jobs that he's willing to propose. After all, the man's been President for three years. If he had a secret plan to create jobs, I'm pretty sure he'd have let us know about it by now.

Or, perhaps more accurately, if Obama had a secret plan to create jobs that could still pass muster with his banker backers who funded his last campaign and whom Obama is undoubtedly dialing for dollars every day now to fund his next campaign. Its not that no one can come up with a plan to create jobs. Heck, as far back as FDR, people knew how to do that.

Nope, if Obama is following Herbert Hoover's economic recovery plan of giving all the money to the bankers and then hoping that this maybe accidently creates a job or two, but not two many because we don't want those pesky workers thinking they can ask for a raise, its not because no one there can figure out what FDR figured out about creating jobs. Its just that Obama is there for the bankers who put him there, not for people searching for jobs. The only reason they are talking about 'jobs' now after three years of giving all the money to the bankers is because an election is coming and they need to fool the people yet again.

And, Obama and the Democrats are down to the hard-core 28% who would believe them if they said the sun set in the east and that its a Republican plot to convince everyone that it really sets in the west who still support them.

My basic mental model of American politics is that each party has a base of roughly 40% who will support them in an election. Even if the party puts a truly awful candidate forward, like Mondale or Dole, they'll still get a minimum of about 40% of the vote.

What that 28% tells me is that about a quarter of the people who will normally vote Democrat no matter what are to the point where they believe Obama is a liar, and that Obama has no interest in helping out someone like them. 3/4's of the Democrat base are still drinking the kool-aid, but about a 1/4 has given up on Obama. And of course the 40% who will vote Republican and pretty much the full 20% of various independents who sit in the middle have all correctly figured out that Obama isn't going to do a thing about jobs. Not really.

The part I can't figure out at all is why the left is so silent and useless in this situation. This should be a banner year for people wanting to organize to the left of Reagan/Bush/Obama both within the Democrat party and outside of it. Yet, there's no primary challenge to Obama within the Democrats. There's very little noise about any of these pro-war, pro-corporate Democratic congresspeople being challenged in their primaries. And there doesn't seem to be any decent campaigns springing to life to the left of the Hoover-Obama Democrats, with the Green Party doing its best impersonation of a dead parrot nailed to a perch.

This should be the happy-hunting ground for political campaigns that are to the left of the Reagan/Bush/Obama crew. A quarter of Obama's base have given up on him, along with all the independents. Yet, the left is silent apparently willing to sit back and let Ron Paul, the Tea Party and others on the right try to organize in this season of great discontent.

I continue to think that the political left in this country likes to lose, and always chooses the path and the strategy that most guarantees that they are going to lose. The fact that the left is apparently sitting out the most fertile political climate they've seen in 20 years is only the latest dot to connect in that chain.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Children's Endless War?

1984 by George Orwell
- The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.

Perpetual War by TARIQ ALI
US General Petraeus (currently commanding the CIA) tells us: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually . . .. Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

The key thing to realize is that they do not want peace. Peace is not their goal. Right now, a trillion dollars or more is being taken from all of us in the form of taxes. That money is then spent to fight this endless war. Their biggest fear is that someday we might stop giving them the money.

Anyone alive in the early 90's saw this. The great bogeyman, whom generations of Americans had been told that we had to constantly fight, suddenly collapsed. That Evil Empire, the Soviet Union, suddenly collapsed despite people like Robert Gates telling us that they were actually a huge threat that demanded that we spend hundreds of billions of dollars fighting.

This collapse left a great void. And the government types and the Pentagon types who want to keep taking a trillion dollars are more from us suddenly were searching for a new enemy. They needed something or someone whom the American people would fear as much as they had feared the great Soviet threat, in order to to keep the billions and trillions of dollars flowing to them. They floated all sorts of ideas, the remnants of which can be seen in old Chuck Norris and Tom Clancy movies from the 90's. Evil drug lords who threatened to control the world. Evil Chinese billions who are going to be the yellow tide that swarms over the world. Evil Russian generals who might retake control of the Russian military and then suddenly attack us because ... well... they never really had reason. Just the fact that they were Russians or Chinese was always assumed to be enough of a reason on its own.

Then came Osama Bin Laden and 9-11. I'm not a big believer in consipiracy theories about how this was an inside plot. But, I'm not at all above believing that there are people who would use those attacks in order to make sure a trillion or more dollars a year keeps flowing towards them. And I'm not above believing that the deaths of thousands of people wouldn't faze them from keeping that money flowing towards them.  There's an old bumper sticker about how wouldn't it be great if someday the schools had all the money they needed and the Air Force needed to hold a bake sale to build its bombers. There are generals who hate schools and hate bake sales, and who want to make sure the money comes to them instead.

For that, they need a war. And the bad thing about wars in history has always been that the wars end. The wars end and the soldiers are expected to go back home. And the people expect that one day we'll spend money on their children's schools and giving Americans decent health care. That is not an optimal outcome for the generals who have their hands on our money. They don't want to go home and be civilians. They don't want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on education and health care and bridges that don't collapse. They want to keep the money and power that first our long endless war against communism, and now our long endless war against terrorism, gives them.

Its up to us to say no. Its up to us to take our country back. Vote for a real peace candidate this next election. They probably won't have a (D) or an (R) after their names, unless they are some sort of maverick the rest of their party hates. Nope, odds are you'll have to look a little deeper down the ballot, or maybe even put your name on the ballot, to cast that vote.  But we need to cast those votes in this next election.

We need to end these wars now. We need to bring our troops home and we need to spend our hundreds of billions of dollars on American jobs to rebuild America's economy. Its time for the American people to say no. We don't want Orwell's endless war as the future of our children.

James Madison, 1787
In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Was There an Alternative?

Looking Back on 9/11, a Decade Later, Was There an Alternative? by NOAM CHOMSKY

Its always worth finding out what Prof. Chomsky is thinking. The link above leads to his piece on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, and its very much worth reading in full. Here's just a couple of tastes to get you to follow that link.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the U.S. “He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them,” Eric Margolis writes. “‘Bleeding the U.S.,’ in his words.” The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap… Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction… may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” — particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

and ...

In 9-11, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the “horrendous crime” of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty,” an accurate judgment. It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse. Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the president, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror center that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists — call them “the Kandahar boys” — who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment. It happened.

CIA: "One Hell of a Killing Machine"

How the Agency Became "One Hell of a Killing Machine" The CIA and the Drones by GARETH PORTER

In human history, its never been a good thing when a government turns into a killing machine.

During 2010, the CIA “drone war” in Pakistan killed as many as 1,000 people a year, compared with the roughly 2,000 a year officially estimated to have been killed by the SOF “night raids” in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Sep. 1 Washington Post.

A CIA official was quoted by the Post as saying that the CIA had become “one hell of a killing machine”, before quickly revising the phrase to “one hell of an operational tool”.

The shift in the CIA mission’s has been reflected in the spectacular growth of its Counter-terrorism Center (CTC) from 300 employees in September 2001 to about 2,000 people today – 10 percent of the agency’s entire workforce, according to the Post report.

Now lets see, our propaganda machine is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of their great victory around 9-11. If we think back, one of the big parts of the tragedy of 9-11 is that our intelligence agencies failed to put together the bits and pieces of information that they did have in order to predict and thwart the deadly attacks of that day.

In response, we had commissions and inquiries and reports that pointed out the failures. Now, what have we done to fix that problem?

The agency’s analytical branch, which had been previously devoted entirely to providing intelligence assessments for policymakers, has been profoundly affected.

More than one-third of the personnel in the agency’s analytical branch are now engaged wholly or primarily in providing support to CIA operations, according to senior agency officials cited by the Post. And nearly two-thirds of those are analysing data used by the CTC drone war staff to make decisions on targeting.

Some of that shift of internal staffing to support of the drone has followed the rise in the number of drone strikes in Pakistan since mid-2008, but the CIA began to lay the institutional basis for a bigger drone campaign well before that.

So, we know on 9-11 our billion dollar intelligence agencies let us down. Just like they failed to predict everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the collapse of our Egyptian dictatorship. So, what's the answer the brilliant folks running things come up with? Lets shift nearly a third of the intelligence analysts over to be a part of the killing machine and away from doing something that might be useful like piecing together the clues that might just prevent another disaster for the American people.

Yeah, that'll work.

So, lets review. In order to protect Americans, the CIA has become "one hell of a killing machine". Those killings of course piss off the friends and family circle of the people we kill, as well as the friends and family of all the innocent "collateral damage" that piles up like waste coming out the back of our 'killing machine'. This in turn means more future terrorists who will be willing to die in suicide attacks in order to revenge their loved ones. Meanwhile, the part of the CIA that might be able to detect such attacks coming and maybe, just maybe warn us and protect us is cut by 1/3rd in order to supply people to the killing machine that in the long run is probably just creating the groundwork for future 9-11's.

Feel safer now?

Now, however, Petraeus’s personal view of the drone war may no longer be relevant. The CIA’s institutional interests in continuing the drone war may have become so commanding that no director could afford to override those interests on the basis of his own analysis of how the drone strikes affect U.S. interests.

In all of human history, its never been a good thing when a state becomes a "killing machine". Its always been a very hard machine to turn off once it has been created.