Thursday, May 28, 2015

Errrr.....NO One Is Taking Joan Walsh Literally!

Joan Walsh used a reductio ad absurdum ploy to show how bad SNAP limits COULD  become if abominations like Brownback's KS limits on SNAP purchases were accepted. 

Evidently, the blogger who took issue with my take on poverty in Colorado and food stamps, seems to believe I took Joan Walsh's words literally as opposed to a metaphor of  (extreme) reference for what Repukes are trying to do in states like Brownback's Kansas. So let me clear the air here once and for all.

When I gave Joan's quote from a piece:

if you’re in Wisconsin, and relying on food stamps, remember that Republicans don’t want you to have ketchup on your hamburger.They’d probably rather you didn’t have a hamburger at all, but Wisconsin farmers and ranchers have clout, and so proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program made room for Wisconsin products. But they still don’t want you to have “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.” Or ketchup. Or spaghetti sauce. Really.

I (and she) intended it as a reductio ad absurdum illustration of how bad it MIGHTget if bully programs like those Brownback has tried to implement in KS aren't halted or demolished. To remind readers, this was in reference to Brownback's ill -conceived notion of  limiting what Kansas food stamp-welfare recipients can purchase. That included but was not limited to, some minor pleasures, such as KFC chicken, Snickers bars, giant bags of M&Ms, or even playing an arcade game or two, buying a lotto ticket or paying to go for a freakin' swim.

Joan's point and mine then, is that if a brain dead scalawag like Brownback can get away with this shit in Kansas, what's to stop another state  from preventing or limiting people from buying food perks with their SNAP money - things that make burgers taste better like ketchup (catsup) or sauce for spaghetti, or hot sauce for rice, or bbcue sauce for spare ribs - oh wait, I forgot they mustn't eat ribs either!  Poor folk gotta stick to rice, oats, and such with no flavor.

Oh, and god forbid they try lobster thermidor or go to Red Lobster for unlimited shrimp. You see what I mean?   Thus, if one accepts Brownback's stupid limits one could see the pukes going even further to deprive SNAP folks of the good things of life. And my point was - as well as Joan's -, they SHOULD be able to enjoy those damned things even if receiving gov't benefits! (Certainly up to the limits they can afford, so if they have $22 left on the last day of the benefits month they ought to be able to get a bucket of KFC chicken - OR a few Five Guys burgers! It's not the state gov't job to wag fingers and say "Oh no!" for fuck's sake.)

The reasons were made clear in and excellent WaPo piece ('What Kansas Gets Wrong with Welfare Decision')  by Emily Badger but perhaps my blogger critic did't get them or didn't want to. To re-reference the point of the piece, Badger flayed the "logic" behind the Brownback bunkum noting,  "the decision is problematic in at least three really big ways" . This was after already skewering  the underlying  canard that it provides  "protection for the taxpayer who shouldn't be asked to help people who squander gov't money on 'vices'".

Ms. Badger's three arguments again:

1) Economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money in the rash ways advertised by Brownback.  The poor are actually much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have much less of it - as Gweneth Paltrow learned when she tried the "SNAP Challenge" and gave up after 4 days. (She'd already exceeded the $29/ week  limit.)

2) Moral principle of equivalence:  She observes: "We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove they are pursuing a degree that will get them a real job as opposed to say philosophy or English Lit. We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home interest deduction to prove they're not using their homes as brothels."   In other words, the strings we attach to gov't aid are uniquely for the poor - as if being poor itself is somehow immoral-  requiring criminal monitoring- like for a felon wearing an ankle bracelet.

3) Prejudicial perceptions:  In many ways the lack of application of a moral principle of equivalence (2) arises because Americans who receive other government benefits fail to see they are also in the recipient class. They don't recognize that, like the poor, they are also getting something from the government and hence - at taxpayer expense.  The issue, again, isn't the specific benefit form - whether Medicare, VA benefits, or Social Security - but that ALL come at taxpayer expense!

But this is covered up in two ways: (i) the belief that their benefits are different because they are "special" or "earned" so can't be classed with SNAP or welfare, and (ii) their benefits are always "submerged" (hidden or more concealed) than compared with a SNAP recipient who must actually produce a special card (see image) at the grocer's so is immediately recognized as "on welfare".  Thus, the SNAP card inadvertently becomes a "badge" of shame that enables other gov't beneficiaries to instantly make judgments.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler, cited by Ms. Badger, calls the judgmental gov't  beneficiaries part of the "submerged benefits state". This means their own benefits are more "out of sight, out of mind". Thus a SNAP card and a welfare check are "incredibly visible ...while tuition tax breaks and Medicare are not".   This submerged state, then,  is evidence of a basic and pervasive double standard.

It is time we remove that damnable double standard which was the actual thrust of Walsh's reductio ad absurdum. In other words, irrespective of the gov't benefits received (VA,Social Security disability, Social Security proper, SNAP) we let recipients spend them any damned way they wish up to the practical limits they can afford  - without, for example, resorting to theft or shop lifting to satisfy them. (I.e. once your monthly benefit is exhausted,  that's it - THEN you pinch pennies and maybe settle for rice instead of KFC chicken or Five Guys burgers)

Is that point clear enough? I hope so!

Why Oil Spills, Leaks Are Not Ending Anytime Soon

Owner to check ruptured pipeline’s integrity at four other spots
Cleaning up the Santa Barbara oil spill. Feds have now issued a cleanup order to the company.

The horrendous images of sea birds and seals gooed up with black oil on the California coast near Santa Barbara may cause many to want to lose their lunch - and with good reason. This recent underground pipeline failure caused up to 105,000 gallons of crude to spill into one of the most picturesque beaches of the coast and has threatened many species of aquatic animal.  No cause has yet been determined though the spill is among the largest in the U.S. over the past few decades.

The oil covered sand and rocks with a tar-like goo and a fifth of the crude reached the Pacific Ocean turning it into a brackish scene no normal person would stick even a toe into, e.g.
Santa Barbara oil spill

But if you believe such leaks or spills can be stopped anytime soon, you are dreaming. The reason is that neither the oil industry or the government seems willing to invest the billions needed to bring the aging pipeline and delivery infrastructure up to scratch. As a point of reference, nearly two -thirds of all the leaks since 2009 have been linked to the corrosion of the material - as well as welding and equipment failures. These are problems associated with older pipelines - though they can occur in newer ones as well. The so-called failure rate can in fact depend on a number of factors.

The potential for massive failures and leaks also inheres in the fracking infrastructure now operating across dozens of states. In the documentary 'Gasland II'.  Tony Ingraffea, a Cornell Professor of geological engineering.  explained clearly and with easily understood diagrams, how cement can fail and methane can migrate into ground water owing to failure in fracking pipes..  Referencing one of the pipes, Ingraffea sketched the interior cement annulus of 1 -inch which is the sole barrier between the fracking contaminants and the water supply. As he observed, "what you don't want is for that cement to fail".

"Failure" includes: corrosion, crumbling, or disappearing entirely as a barrier over time. If that happens, then "what's down there" (i.e. the contaminants) can get into the annulus. For effect, Ingraffea then rubbed out the chalk barrier representing the cement in the annulus,  and indicated an arrow moving into it from outside. To quote. Ingraffea:

"So now shallow gas goes into the open annulus, pressurizes the annulus, and the gas migrates into an underground source of drinking water."

Once this happens, other frack contaminants can also migrate into the water, such as benzene, toluene and dozens of  other cancer causing chemicals.

In the case of fracking,  Ingraffea noted that the cement failure phenomena he illustrated was "very well known and at least as long as we've been drilling wells and casing them".  He added that in his view there were only "three things that are certain: death, taxes, and fracture".  In the latter case, he explained that among the thousands of gas wells including those offshore, there is a probability that 1 in 20 will immediately show a failure (opening between the well casing and rock), and that meant methane migration. It also meant anything else stored in the rock, including salts, heavy metals, other deleterious things now have a pathway.

That is, 5 percent of all wells will be affected rapidly and woe betide any home owners in their vicinity. Ingraffea invoked the 100,000 odd wells in PA alone, noting that failure rate meant  5,000 wells immediately failed in Pennsylvania alone. That translates to 5,000 methane migrations into the ground water and ruination of citizens' lives. Just one well going bad means one aquifer will be polluted, such as in Dimock. PA

Even the companies don't deny the disastrous leaks and assorted documents Josh Fox obtained show that. For example, in one document, from Southwestern Energy, a diagram clearly showed that the gas well had a cement barrier with a casing that prevented gases from migrating upwards. But this wasn't a Powerpoint poster about drilling wells but rather about how cement and casings fail and allow methane gas and other substances to migrate into aquifers.

Another document from Schlumberger, showed that cement failure occured at alarming rates - as depicted in one of their graphs showing 'fraction of wells affected by cement failure' vs. the well age in years.  The graph depicted a failure fraction of 40 percent after only 12 years, and a failure fraction of 50 percent after 30 years.  That meant if 1.5 million new wells are added in the U.S. by 2025 as projected, 750,000 will leak after thirty years. If 180,000 are added to PA, that means 90,000 will leak after 30 years.
Crude oil pipelines fare no better and leaks can often spring from human error - such as a backhoe striking a pipeline in a vulnerable place, as well as natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes) and welding failures. When we visited the Alaska pipeline in March, 2005,

We were informed by our guide that repairs were already underway to several sections they believed wouldn't be able to withstand even a minor (Richter 4.0) earthquake.

In the case of the pipeline causing the Santa Barbara spill, Plains All American Pipeline LP- the company which operates the pipeline and its subsidiaries, have reported 223 accidents since 2006 which have resulted in a total of 864,300 gallons of spilled oil, hazardous liquids with damages payouts topping $32 million. (With 25 enforcement regulations by federal regulators)

In 76 percent of the incidents corrosion was determined to be the major cause. Meanwhile, failures in materials, welds, and other equipment were cited more than 80 times.  The company and its affiliates have the fifth highest number of significant pipeline accidents since 2006.

Last Friday, Plains All American Pipeline insisted it "spent $300 million last year on maintenance and integrity".

Bit what they haven't said, and no other pipeline company likely will (whether for crude transport or fracking) is that the more pipelines generated the greater the incidence of failures. In a world of limited resources the maintenance costs will always exceed benefits beyond a certain level. The question is what is that level? If the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) gets passed there will be no limit on the demand for additional fracking infrastructure and crude pipelines in the U.S. - to meet global demand. There may then be such a frequency of spills, leakage that no amount of maintenance will contain them - or fed enforcement regulations.

Bottom line, if the oil industry continues to get its way - especially with indiscriminate fracking as well as drilling in the Arctic - look for a very bleak, and blackish oil spill future!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Right Wingers Still Don't Get It On Hunger And Food Stamps

In Joan Walsh's piece cited at the end of my May 26 post, she wrote:

if you’re in Wisconsin, and relying on food stamps, remember that Republicans don’t want you to have ketchup on your hamburger. They’d probably rather you didn’t have a hamburger at all, but Wisconsin farmers and ranchers have clout, and so proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program made room for Wisconsin products. But they still don’t want you to have “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.” Or ketchup. Or spaghetti sauce. Really.

This is the point the Right wingers continually dodge and evade.  They don't want the poorest, no matter their station, background or jobs (e.g. "tattoo artist") to have any comfort (or comfort food) whatsoever unless they're living in a low public services state (like AL or MS) and working their hands to the bone. It doesn't matter if they can't get enough benefits - tough shit - then they ought to move - say from a place like So. Colorado. Meanwhile, they are ok with the lazy rich getting anything they want out of the rest of our hides - using tax dodges, "trusts",  or whatever rentier gambits they can think of to avoid paying their fair share.

Another blogger believed he was very smart pulling up my earlier blog and questioning the image authenticity for a child I claimed to be in the throes of hunger. He said it was a "medical condition". But psychologists and health specialists will tell you that there is very little difference in a child's expression when in the maw of a developmental disability and the extreme anguish suffered in hunger and deprivation. Can he prove the child was not at some point in a similar state due to hunger? No he cannot. The blogger also questioned the circumstances pertaining to the image of Mashel McDonald making oats. He interrogated the setting and specifically pursued the background (D. Post) story to learn her dad was a tattoo artist that moved to Colo. to obtain "marijuana" for his sick child. But so what? This is irrelevant and a red herring. Many parents are now moving to this state precisely for this same reason and I wrote about this earlier, e.g.

In most cases the MJ actually pursued is CBD or Cannabidiol,  the MJ-derived substance referred to  as 'Charlotte's Web'.  While CBD has been described as a "strain of marijuana" the fact is, it is not. According to MJ researcher Joel Stanley.

Its importance lay in treating assorted developmental disabilities, including Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy. SO why do the right wingers drag this stuff in, including that Pop may be using a bit of weed to calm his nerves too - after all he has to be worried about his sick child? Because it fits in with their noisome template portraying all the welfare or food stamp recipients as being either forlorn losers, slackers, alkies or druggies. In other words, to use Joan Walsh's term - to reduce all these people to "garbage"! But the fact of the matter is that MOST are working poor.

Never mind! Because anyone who's working poor disrupts the Right's druggie-loser caricature, so they don't wish to go there. Better to keep the drugged out, obese (from overeating) and alcoholic tripe going to push the narrative that these people don't deserve any more than they're getting and likely not even that! (Btw, $880 a month for disability in Colorado is not a lot! )

The other lame case made, despite over 300,000 poor families in Colorado - which I guess the blogger expects all to simply pack up and move to MS - is:'Why are they living in a state with high living costs?' But if we all thought that way, I guess we'd all move to Mississippi!  Hell, it's cheaper! The reasons not to are as diverse as there are problems endured by the resident families,  including: our state has more public services available along with the assistance to help people seek them out (my niece used to work for such a public service), our state has better education facilities including for bilingual kids, and our state has better medical facilities, free clinics for the poor.

So again, we have a red herring, a distraction. Besides, if cannabidol can provide relief for a kid's tics and seizures why not live here, where at least the caretakers aren't going to be busted as they would in AL or MS? 

The notion of  just packing up and moving to a "cheaper state" and lower living costs is also absurd on its face. For one thing the thousands of currently struggling Denver workers and families didn't START out living in expensive surroundings!  No , they began in affordable neighborhoods, but could not have foreseen how the fracking boom would lead to thousands moving to Denver and environs every year - buying up homes, renting apartments - and driving up costs. Or, the many rich "amenity migrants" moving here buying up second homes - driving home prices into the stratosphere.

Having already purchased homes, and having jobs - why would they now just move to a cheaper state with no assurance they can get the same work?  Also, where is there any assurance that some form of gentrification won't also occur in these cheap states and drive up home, rental prices? There isn't any! In fact, any movers could be going from the "frying pan into the fire"- especially if it's much more difficult to get benefits! Sure it would be easier for those in apts. and I already noted how many - owing to a state law - had their leases revoked because of "refurbishments".  But again, who is to provide support for these people - many of them seniors in their 70s, and 80s?

It is very easy to proffer "solutions" shot from the hip but more difficult to get at the underlying systemic problems that spawn poverty. Sadly, however, this is the biggest and hardest fact the RIght tries to avoid:: that poverty is a systemic result of irresponsible capitalism and not the fault of the poor (which marks the fundamental attribution error - blaming oneself instead of the fucked up society)

As I noted in a previous blog post on this issue:

ALL citizens are entitled to pursue happiness whether they are poor or rich!  To limit their pursuit using artificial laws is against the Constitution!

Thus, even SNAP recipients must be enabled to pursue happiness even on a limited scale - and this must be defended as their RIGHT under the ninth amendment. That means they ought to be able -  bogus state law or no - to enjoy a bit of luxury when they need to and if they have enough left
 from taking care of immediate needs to afford it.

They damned sure ought to be able to buy catsup if they want, or candy bars, ice cream or even fried chicken - to spice up their lives - and hell, smoke a little MJ now and then without the pseudo-moral scolds like Sam Brownback having a shit fit and wagging fingers. If we don't wag fingers at the parasitical rich why do we do it at the poor? Well, because we see the poor as powerless, while the rich can maybe give us some goodies. Thus, in our skewed and warped vision the rich become celebrities while the poor are downgraded to garbage.

We'd gladly kiss the rump of Donald Trump if he'd comp us a room and a meal at one of his hotels, but we'd spit on a poor, homeless man because well...."He's too lazy to work".  In such a warped vision it's easy to forget the words of Yeshua: "Whatever thou doest for the least of my brethren that you do unto me".

Note the key words: LEAST of my brethren, not greatest, or richest.

Poverty is not chosen! This is the biggest lie circulated by the Right's poltroons in the GOP - most of whom would happily lick the boots of the Koch brothers, or Sheldon Adelson - in order to get some extra campaign largesse.

I don't expect the likes of these charlatans to change stripes, but I do expect people, ordinary citizens, to have some modicum of compassion on those struggling without attacking them for their benefits - or proclaiming they don't deserve them because they may be a tad overweight, tattoo artists - or god forbid - smoke an MJ weed or two using their benefits $$.

Sheesh! How about we go after the REAL parasites, the rich?

Stanislav Petrov: The 2nd Man To Save The World

Most Americans who've had a proper introduction to recent American History are aware of how JFK pretty well saved the world (much of it) back in October, 1962 at the peak  of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As we know, Kennedy rejected the Joint Chiefs pressure to bomb and invade Cuba in favor of a naval blockade. Just as well, since as his former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara observed (in his documentary 'The Fog of War') Castro would have launched over 100 armed ballistic missiles had that happened.

McNamara learned of this while on a conference visit to Havana in 1992, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the crisis. McNamara had asked Fidel what he would have done had the U.S. invaded Cuba. Castro didn't hesitate, informing him that over 100 armed (with single megaton warhead) missiles would have been sent flying.

Flabbergasted, McNamara pressed him: "You really would have destroyed your country?" and Fidel replied, "Yes, and you would have too in a similar situation!"

Echoing the 'better dead than Red' meme entrenched in Americans at the time.

How close we came to nuclear war at the time was well documented in the excellent book of the tape transcripts: T'he Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis’, by Ernest R. May and Philip K. Zelikow (1997, President and Fellows of Harvard College).

Therein , on p. 347, for ’10:00 A.M. Oct. 24” one finds:

At the time the quarantine became effective, the Strategic Air Command moved from the general Defense Condition 3 to Defense Condition 2, the level just below general war. In addition to ICBMs and submarine-based ballistic missiles, every available bomber – more than 1,400 aircraft- went on alert. Scores of bombers, each loaded with several nuclear weapons and carrying folders for pre-assigned targets in the Soviet Union, were kept continuously in the air around the clock with shifts- refueled by aerial tankers, taking turns hovering over Northern Canada and the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet government was presumed to be aware of these developments.”

On p. 183 one beholds Gen. Curtis  LeMay saying that "We have got to do more than take out the missiles" and he demands a massive air strike as well.  Here's how that would have played out: At the first hint of U.S. attack planes picked up on Cuban radar most or all of the 100-odd Soviet IRBMs would have been launched. The targets would mainly have been U.S. east coast cities: Miami, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, but a number of the missiles would have struck interior cities including Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago and possibly Milwaukee.

Even as those missiles were in flight, the Kennedy White House would have been forced to go to Defcon 1, or full war condition, even as the Soviets - also now acknowledging what was happening (realizing Cuba's missile launch would make them a target), launched their own missiles. In the space of about 30 minutes, as McNamara pointed out, some 7,500 missiles would have been in the air headed for targets in the USA and USSR.  Since most warheads at that time were in the 1-10 megaton range, the full nuclear exchange - lasting maybe an hour would have resulted in possibly 300 million dead and massive clouds of radiation polluting the rest of the planet via the trades and other winds.

The world escaped at least partial obliteration, thanks to Kennedy's use of reason over reaction.

Flash forward now to September 26, 1983.   A Soviet satellite detects five U.S. ICBMS heading toward the USSR.  This detection immediately causes alarms to sound at the Soviet Central Command in Oko with backlit screens flashing LAUNCH!    Standard operating procedure at the time dictated that the command be followed with a full scale missile launch - including all 3,000 or so Soviet ICBMs - all armed with multi-megaton warheads.

But something didn't seem right to Stanislav Petrov, lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces.  Why only five ICBMs? Surely if the Americans had really planned a pre-emptive nuclear attack they'd have thrown their whole arsenal at the USSR.  

Using his reason, like Kennedy did 20 years earlier, Petrov declared the system's indication a false alarm. Subsequent investigation showed that he was right: no missiles were approaching and the computer detection system was malfunctioning.  According to the Wikipedia account:

"It was subsequently determined that the false alarm had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites' Molniya orbits, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite."

Alignment of a satellite with sunlight on high altitude clouds nearly led to a full retaliatory response from the Russians and likely nuclear war? Yes, indeed, and the near breakdown showed a nascent weakness in the Soviet early warning system and also raised concern about the U.S. system too - also based on hair trigger alarms.

While there remains debate on the role Petrov actually played in the events that day, just as there remains debate on Kennedy's role, all generally agree that his voice of doubt- and reasoning -  was enough to leverage restraint.  Analogous to how Kennedy's doubt that an invasion was the answer in 1962 leveraged a restraint on precipitous action that might have led to a major nuclear exchange.

We have had then two men saving the world at different times. The question is: Will a third person come to the rescue with the next geopolitical or  technical snafu? Or will our luck have run out?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The New Reality: Global Mean Temperature Expected To Rise 4C - Not 2C

A gut check is now on for the deniers of human-generated climate change: the rate of warming and the increase in temperatures from it may actually  have been deliberately underestimated so as not to stir panic. (However, keeping it honest, I have written many posts indicating that typical numbers have been lowballed and we are actually much closer to the runaway greenhouse than many believe)

Flash forward now to Shell Oil Company, where internal documents just released show that company scientists have  assured top executives that global warming in the far north means Shell can aggressively lease tracts of the formerly ice-bound Arctic Ocean and move floating platforms up there to extract even more oil and gas from the newly ice-free seafloor.

These documents flatly declare that a 2˚C temperature rise is passé and that a 4˚C rise is already in the cards, moving towards a staggering 6˚C rise . That is an almost 11˚F temperature rise globally! and has always been the increment that Carl Sagan specified as the immediate trigger for the runaway greenhouse. Sagan, recall, posited (in his Ph.D. thesis) that Venus' extremely high temperatures - hot enough to melt lead- had been spawned by a runaway greenhouse effect on that planet.

Venus may well have started with more agreeable temperatures, and actually had large bodies of water, then at some later point in its history reached a tipping point, perhaps similar to one which we are now approaching on Earth.  The onset of the Venus tipping point meant that the planet overheated from excess CO2 (added after its carbonate rocks began to expel the gas from overheating)  and as it did so the water on the surface evaporated. This would have then filled the atmosphere, making it even more efficient at trapping heat, which would have caused more evaporation (of any oceans), and so on.  This is what we mean by a "positive feedback loop".

Here on Earth we are faced with a positive albedo feedback mechanism playing a major role - driving us toward the runaway. This concept was well explicated by Sagan in one of his essays, 'Ambush : The Warming of the World', in his book 'Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Beginning of the Millennium':

"Melting of ice caps (already occurring) results in diminished albedo (reflection of solar radiation back into space), and a darker Earth surface - with more infrared radiation absorbed - reinforcing the tendency while enhancing the melting effect, leading to further darkening of the surface, reduced albedo and more melting."

This mode of positive feedback is what we're faced with in the melting of the Arctic, see e.g.

The question of the moment becomes: What can be done, if anything, to avoid the worst? Look for corporate America and the bought out poltroons in Washington to start pushing for “technical fixes,” as a New York Times opinion-page writer did a week ago. But this kind of “Hail Mary” effort is doomed to fail as I have pointed  out before:

 Let's be clear all of these techno-baloney "solutions" are advanced in order to dodge the necessary revolution in our economic system - which is based almost entirely on indiscriminate and excess consumption. (70 percent of the GDP is based on consumption.)  So, fixes like tinkering with the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth by increasing cloud cover or injecting sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere - at this stage - is like trying to douse a kitchen fire with a cup of water. It simply can't work given the scale of the problem.  The most effective solution would be to control our carbon inputs, but in the name of holy consumption, this is what we're not prepared to do.

For now then, the best that can be said is that we are leaving behind the period of denial and the false hopes. As in the case of the lone nuts influence in depicting the Kennedy assassination, the climate change-global warming deniers have now been exposed as ignorant knuckle draggers....or deliberately corrupt disinformationists attempting to subvert public awareness. In either case their sway has now receded to comic proportions and is only kept alive in screwball enclaves on the web.

But here's a sobering thought in terms of the damage already exacted by the climate change deniers:

Climate scientists say, at this point, if we want to try and hold global warming to the 2˚C limit *  we will have to halt the production of internal combustion engines, shut down most corporate farming, close down all coal-fired power plants, massively convert to on-site solar and wind power generation, and most importantly, stop pumping and digging carbon-based fuels out of the ground.

In other words,  we’re talking about a revolution -- a total shift away from an economic model that elevates “growth” and consumption to the be-all of human existence.  One that generates billions of tons of crap  (smart phones, ipads, iphones etc) each year to pander to human wants, as opposed to focusing on human needs.

Sadly, it's a revolution that can't happen now - and might never have transpired in any case- given the powerful forces of money, power and influence (think Koch brothers) arrayed against it. To grasp just the issue of influence, consider that until relatively recently the corporate media treated the denier narrative and the scientific one as merely two sides of a debate in the interest of "objectivity".  All the time and output wasted in this spurious debate could have been used for education.

Now, we all likely will pay the price.

The maximum increase in temperature that would prevent runaway heating and the resulting chaos of mass extinctions, huge human die-offs and the likely collapse of civilization,

Hungry Kids On Food Stamps Is No Freaking Joke!

A 12-year old in San Luis County, Colorado boils oats for her family's dinner. They are not living it up and abusing their benefits as too many lazy thinkers seem to believe.

I realize it's become 'cool' these days to mock those on food stamps and welfare - especially for the nattering nabobs on the Right - who have a penchant for portraying these critical programs as "gimmes" for "takers" and "welfare queens". But if the ones who pose this BS were to step out of their FOX-ified fairyland boxes they'd see a real story unfolding with millions of proud citizens (NOT slackers) struggling to get decent paying work and put food on the table without falling back.  All of these people would bristle at any suggestion that they aren't doing all they can to hold it together and often, government assistance comes as a last resort. (To satiate their kids' hunger, not theirs.)

By way of example, Colorado itself is now a hotbed of poverty, including child poverty - as the coded map below shows, with the greatest poverty for counties  coded in dark orange and ochre.

As a recent Denver Post investigation (May 23, 1B) showed, many kids don't get enough to eat at night - even with food stamps - and must be somehow consoled by their stricken parents when bed time arrives and their bellies are still growling These are people, by the way, often working two or more jobs but who are squeezed in the economic conditions now plaguing our state as well as many others. Can those who mock them as "parasites" on the public dole see through the evil PR spread about them (often by the denizens at FOX) to the truth? One wonders.

A young child wracked by a medical condition is consoled by her mother in San Luis, County. She could as well also be depicted in the throes of terrible hunger.

While some may whoop it up and make jokes about the situation and that it's being "exaggerated"  or "hyped" by the "loony Left", the reality is far more brutal. The causes are also a lot more complex than portraying needy recipients as  "welfare queens" a la caricatures in cartoons or set media (e.g. from FOX)  images . These actually comprise only the odd exceptions and belie the extent and sad reality of genuine desperation. Believe me, a kid in the throes of hunger is no laughing matter, or fodder for claims of liberal  'hype"!

Typical families in San Luis, County live in 500-700 sq. ft. homes  - many of adobe construction with no windows. They often must travel more than an hour just to get to work and taking even one sick day is an unheard of luxury. They know even one missed day, hell one missed hour to attend to a sick child - could well be their last. (Our state like many others has businesses which have fought ferociously against paid sick leave. The best most can expect now is to have sick days bungled in with vacation days.)

 These people are fiercely proud and independent,  beholden to no one or to government handouts.  They only file for SNAP benefits as a last resort because their children are suffering and no parent of any mettle can allow that!  Further, they don't use those benefits to skylark and live high on the hog since in most cases - even with just simple purchases of rice, oats, and a tiny bit of chicken - the money often expires with a week or more left. And so they must try to make up the difference at food banks, such as Care & Share. It is a stressful, difficult existence always subject to contingencies.

 The children - including two of those shown in the accompanying images, are among the one-third of kids living in poverty in Southern  Colorado counties, including San Luis and Rio Grande.  All the families live in deadly fear of something as simple as getting a small raise - since a jump in pay can mean an increase in rent (or loss of public housing if the income now renders them disqualified), loss of free child care and a reduction in food stamps.  This is owing to the draconian laws which insist on "offsetting" benefits  if by some chance a family's financial circumstances improve - even a smidgeon. In this way the families can never ever get ahead.

In Denver and its suburbs there are often just as many impoverished, hungry kids- but concentrated in smaller areas near the urban core. Many of the reasons have to do with issues that outsiders may not grasp - chiefly "amenity migrants" (tr.  rich fucks) moving to places like Aspen, Boulder and Denver to be closer to recreational opportunities (and the mountains). In the process of buying 2nd homes - vacation homes - they drive up the prices and rents so much that no one of average means can afford them. This applies to most ordinary workers making maybe $50,000 a year or less.

How long will that last in an overheated housing and rental market? You figure it out given average rents now of $1350 a month and average home prices of $294,000 each in the Denver Metro area.  The dire effect of this imbalance is that either the communities' actual workers ( firefighters, teachers, cops, cooks, housekeepers) have to move far away to where home-rental prices are more reasonable, OR they are forced to go on food stamps to make up the difference if they remain. To make jokes that they are abusing their benefits is beyond the pale especially as MOST of those receiving food stamps via the federal programs are working.

But these insipid portrayals continue in the right wing mega-media as well as in assorted lesser media like blogs and Facebook pages. The modus operandi also never changes: portraying the abuses of a few as the generic norm of the many. Paint the recipients - including the starving kids - as craven whelps on the take just trying to grab what they can at taxpayer expense. As opposed to hard workers, or disabled people trying to make ends meet. It is also interesting that this is the same M.O. employed to try to make a specious case for tougher  voter I.D. laws when all sensible people know that the instances of deliberate voter malfeasance by fake I.D.  are fewer than the number of medium-sized asteroids that have crashed to Earth in the past 20 years.

Instead of making jokes about the plight of these people  such as 12-year old Mashel McDonald  trying to boil enough oats for her family to eat for dinner in their 500 sq. foot adobe home - we ought to be applauding them for their stoic and proud demeanor and "keeping on keeping on".  Despite getting no breaks and only minimal SNAP benefits,  they have valiantly succeeded in sustaining their lives in a hostile environment.  They have asked for no more gov't support than they absolutely need - ditto for most of San Luis' residents.

See also:


"if you’re in Wisconsin, and relying on food stamps, remember that Republicans don’t want you to have ketchup on your hamburger. They’d probably rather you didn’t have a hamburger at all, but Wisconsin farmers and ranchers have clout, and so proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program made room for Wisconsin products. But they still don’t want you to have “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.” Or ketchup. Or spaghetti sauce. Really.

For now, that’s all grandstanding. SNAP is a federal program, and the Obama administration hasn’t allowed states to restrict food purchases that way. But that hasn’t stopped GOP legislators from trying."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Acknowledging My Father's WW II Service - And Granting His Last Wish

Five and a half years ago my dad, a World War II vet, passed away from pneumonia. Today, he's remembered for not only his war service (36 months in the Pacific Theater) but also his steadfast raising of a large family. Dad's military combat was waged on two fronts: against the Japanese Empire in the Philippines and New Guinea on the one hand, and against malaria on the other - with no fewer than five hospitalizations.

On the war front, Dad fought in the Battle of Buna, which was even bloodier than Guadalcanal, but which gets little attention from WWII historians these days. Dad - and many others - would add that he fought in the only "just War" in recent history - given that the Allies were lined up against a genuine, formidable foe, equipped with warplanes, tanks, destroyers, U-Boats, aircraft carriers - not just IEDs- intent on global domination.

Being a "good" (just) war also meant national sacrifice. It de facto  meant not only mass rationing for then citizens in the States, but also higher taxes to fund the war effort. To fix ideas, some numbers can help concerning World War II:

- A total of 16.1 million served, of whom 6.1 million volunteered - including dad (over a year before Pearl Harbor)

- 406,000 were killed (nearly the population of Cleveland) and 671,000 were wounded

- By war's end 12.1 million were still in uniform (compared with 3.1m in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War)

- In 1950, 28 percent of all men 18 and over were WWII veterans - while today barely 1 percent of men and women are active duty military.

The preceding are all based on Census data, but it actually understates the wartime mobilization. For example, looking just at men aged 15 to 39 in 1940 (my dad was 20), between 50 and 60 percent served in World War II.

These stats disclose not only a massive mobilization in response to a real threat - but a collectively unifying dynamic not present today. The effort involved almost everyone, and even if you weren't in uniform you were likely in a factory welding tanks, planes .. .or using your ration books to purchase groceries while also paying higher taxes. NO one complained! As my dad put it, anyone calling for no taxes during the massive War effort would have been branded unpatriotic at best, and a traitor at worst.

Not one person complained about heavy new taxes during the four years of the U.S. fighting in the Pacific theater, or in Europe, though we've seen no similar pay-go with over thirteen years in Afghanistan. Nor did people bitch in the immediate post-war period when the high taxes helped to finance the Marshall Plan - to help pay for the reconstruction of Europe.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the War,  tax rates as high as 91 percent at the upper end helped finance the interstate highway system, new schools and other projects.

By contrast, since the launch of the two recent U.S. invasions and occupations (Afghanistan, Iraq), I have not seen one single tax raised to pay for them. This means the sacrifice is not spread out, and it also tells me that the politicians and congressional lawmakers themselves understood these were not real wars. If they did understand (and the wars were real), they’d find the means to pay for them, not impose the burden as a tax on future generations.

Indeed, one of the most cognitively dissonant recollections of the past fourteen years was right after 9/11 when on one side of their mouths the Bushies were describing it as the “worst attack since Pearl Harbor” and on the other side of their mouths, telling Americans to go out and do their patriotic duty by SHOPPING! (Bush also suggested going to Disneyworld. Seriously! The largest fantasy facility in the world and he insisted we take refuge there!)

Dad's final wish - at the time of his 89th birthday in May, 2009, and about two and a half weeks before he died, was that my book on the JFK assassination ('The JFK Assassination: The Final Analysis') be completed and published "even if it means an independent or self-publishing company".  He was that committed to it especially after reading several proof chapters before he fell ill.

From that fatal Sunday (Nov. 24, 1963)  Oswald was shot down in cold blood , he never believed Lee had a role in the vile killing of a President he loved and respected. In his own words: "He's just a workingman set up to be the patsy. Anyone who's ever hunted  ducks or geese knows you always have a decoy. That's exactly what he was!"

As for the Warren Commission, he never bought that pile of rotten fishwrap and said more than once it was "LBJ's protection from prosecution" (He'd followed the Bobby Baker scandal closely.)  When I told him I was dedicating the book to him he was overjoyed, "the happiest birthday" he'd had in some time.

Was dad, a decorated WW II vet, a "conspiracy kook"? Not in any way, shape or form - not even remotely. He was a fully trained, enlisted soldier,  familiar with the firing of rifles in different conditions under stress and knew Oswald's alleged feat didn't add up,  "especially with that damned Mannlicher-Carcano".  He knew, much better than the Warrenite fraudsters and groupies, what was feasible and what wasn't. Even before the files were released, and Gerald R. Ford had been shown to have altered the back wound position to the base of neck, e.g.

he knew the "single bullet' theory didn't fly. According to dad, and leaving out the expletives: "It was the biggest, $^#@*&! lie ever perpetrated on the American people!"

At my dad's funeral in July, 2009.

When dad died on July 12, 2009, I learned afterward (from my mom)  he'd left his collection of JFK books and memorabilia - including several mint condition JFK coins from 1964 -   to me.

Above: Magazine on JFK from December, 1963, below: JFK half dollar from 1964.

Each day these items as well as service medals, remind me of his contribution to his country, and also how he will be sorely missed this Memorial Day. (Which falls on his birthday this year. He'd have been 95.)

His last wish was fulfilled with the  publication of my JFK book, for which he saw proofs for the Introduction, and Chapters 1-3 (before revisions in 2013). My one regret is that he never got to see and hold the final published edition.