Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lowering Standards Will Make For A Dysfunctional Military


At my dad's funeral in July, 2009. He fought in World War II, the Battle of Buna Gona.

Okay, first let's get it straight that I am in no way "anti-military". Incredible as it may seem to some readers I was foursquare for Reagan's dispatching the Marines to Grenada in 1983, after Maurice Bishop, Gen. Hudson Austin and their band of  commie renegades had staged a coup and then slaughtered hundreds using anti-aircraft guns. I even wrote an article on "Operation Urgent Fury" while in Alaska in 1985-86, for the benefit of campus liberals who mistakenly believed it to be an outright American invasion. It wasn't. The heads of nine Eastern Caribbean nations had begged Reagan for help, including then Barbados PM Tom Adams.

I am also a huge WWII collector (stamps, books, videos, tapes), and its history is one of my avocations. I remain convinced now as ever that our entry into that conflict was essential. It was what could be called a "just war" and even a necessary one. In fact, my dad served in the Pacific Theater and fought in the Battle of Buna Gona in New Guinea  - now known to have been even bloodier than Guadalcanal. My dad's war diary brought this to life and one Australian (Head of its WWII Memorial Museum in Canberra) told me while in Switzerland last September,  he'd love to include it in his  New Guinea display. Alas, I had to inform him it was no longer in my possession but my sister's.

Anyway, if I were truly anti-military none of the preceding would hold. I would not be collecting and delving into items related to WWII nor would I have become so informed on it. Nor would I have applauded the U.S. entry into Grenada to bring down the bloodthirsty regime of Gen. Hudson Austin - whose sights were set on Barbados next.

What I am "anti' is the following:

- Anti-bogus wars or military adventures, including Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan

My conviction is our service people go through too much to have their energies, lives expended on wasteful exhibitions of national machismo or arrogance. If they are to be sent into harm's way it ought to be for a damned good reason - not for oil, or territory or new resources for capitalist markets.

- Anti-- military industrial complex

Note here that the military is not the same as the military-industrial complex. The latter is the cancerous entity Ike warned us about in his January, 1961 Farewell address. It is a military culture - including political, social and economic - gone awry and interested only in its unchecked expansion and insinuation into every fabric of the national being as well as into every statehouse. Ike warned that we must always be prepared to say 'no' to this complex and to be wary of its costs (at the expense of other domestic needs) and self-proclaimed reasons for existence.

All the above is by way of the recent news (Denver Post, March 31, p. 12A) that the U.S. Military is now considering lowering its enlistment standards. This according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaking at his former Philadelphia high school. Carter claimed that current military recruitment and retention has suffered from "two recent wars" (as I noted above, they were bogus) and also corporate America squirreling away the best and brightest.

The first thing I note here is the military wouldn't be under such recruitment pressure if in fact it was more wary of the conflicts it enters. But given there's been over 200 in which we've become embroiled since WWII it's no wonder this is a problem. Ditto with retention. Of course, this also falls on congress and our presidents to be more sensible and not send our men and women into every conflict they think matters to national security - which has become too wide an umbrella.

Anyway, Carter, at his HS address, said that standards may need to be lowered to re-infuse the ranks. The problem is they've already been lowered several times over, including (during the Bush years) approving "waivers" for former criminals to enter the services. No surprise we saw what happened in the wake of this nonsense, including undisciplined yahoos pissing on captives in Iraq, others raping Iraqi  females, and others engaged in travesties like Abu Ghraib. When you bring former criminals into your military culture this is what you have to expect.

So what Carter now proposes is easing age requirements to bring in older people and providing student loan repayments to attract college grads. I have no quarrel with either of these but I do if he plans to again increase "bad behavior" waivers.

If the U.S. military is to be a top fighting force then it can't allow a horde of bad apples to come in because recruiting quotas aren't being met. The Bushies did this over 2005-07, including letting many in with felony convictions, and we saw what happened.

What would my dad have said to this? Well, he'd have been appalled that the military would stoop to allow in Neo-Nazis, gang bangers, Aryan nation creeps or plain rapists and thieves just to make quotas. He would also question having to serve alongside such reprobates because frankly - he wouldn't trust them to watch his back.

If we're going to have a military, fine, but let's ensure it's world class in terms of personnel, and also when we send it on a mission that mission isn't a bogus one hoked up by hubris or trying to be "cop of the world" to appease some misplaced exceptionalism.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The U.S. Wants Arctic Oil When Fracked Stuff Runs Out....Really?


Comparison images of Arctic (top) and Antarctic sea ice changes for summer minimum and winter maximums. (From National Snow and Ice Data Center)

The news that a U.S. Energy Dept. advisory council  wants a push for more oil drilling in the Arctic once the fracked shale oil runs out, borders on insanity.  For one thing, grabbing that extra oil will almost certainly hurl us into the maw of the runaway greenhouse effect, see e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2015/03/life-changes-at-cusp-of-runaway.html

It will also push the planet past the critical 550 gT threshold noted by Bill McKibben, meaning much harsher climate conditions once we pass the 2C increase mark. Why take this reckless action? Energy greed and fossil fuel addiction. In the latter case, the gov't predicts the shale boom won't last beyond the next decade - which is true.

By then, most of the U.S. landscape will have been gutted into a near Moonscape by the frackers, emulating sci fi flicks when the aliens invade and extract all our resources - leaving only craters and deserts. Water also will have reached crisis shortage levels on account of the water-intensive nature of fracking (4 mil gallons used per frack well, then toxic brine removed after the frack that must be disposed of).  And we won't even go into the pollution of soil and air, e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2014/05/now-fracking-pollutes-soil-as-well-as.html

So, because the powers that be have decided the U.S. must "keep domestic production high" the push is on to drill the Arctic into submission. According to Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon and chairman of the council's committee:

"There will come a time when all the resources supplying the world's economies today are going to go in decline. So this will be what's needed next."

And then when that runs out, what will you do? The fact is every last drop of oil - more than the 4,400 gT McKibben asserts we mustn't touch, will be needed to "support economies" if population continues growing along with demand. Also, if alternate energy isn't developed, such as solar.

Even if the Arctic is drilled it won't slow the decline in economic growth and living standards which is tied to the degraded nature and difficulty of getting contemporary oil.  For example, current fracked oil (from shale) costs on average $70 a barrel to extract. If the oil price is less than this (as it is now at $50. bl), that means the source isn't even at "breakeven" point in terms of energy returned on energy invested.. By contrast, the light sweet crude oil we'd been getting earlier returned nearly 18 times more than the cost to extract it per barrel. These are signs Peak Oil has come and gone (estimated in 2005) but most people don't even know what Peak Oil means. It doesn't mean the oil has stopped or slowed in production, it means the era of cheap oil is over,  making everything more expensive.

Neil Lawrence, Alaska Director for the National Resources Defense Council, has said (Denver Post, Sunday, p. 19A):

"If there's a worse place to look for oil, I don't know what it is".

He's correct.

In a blog post 4  years ago, I warned about the impending signs of ice sheet breakup and melting in Greenland in connection with the phenomenon known as "Jokulhlaup" (cf. ‘Jokulhlaup Observed in Greenland ice sheet’, appearing in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 89, No. 35, 26 Aug. 2008, p. 221). The cited paper specifically noted an increased frequency in occurrence of “jokalhlaups”or sudden glacial bursts of melting runoff from glaciers.

It was this phenomena that also played a role in the “unusual cracks" that set off the separation of a “chunk of ice the size of Manhattan” (19 sq. miles)from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northern Arctic. In the case of the increasing Greenland Jokulhlaup we are looking not just at one massive breakoff, but the loss of perhaps 45% of the entire Greenland ice sheet on account of the underground splintering effects producing ever larger cracks in the ice and the inability of it to support the overlying permafrost and other ice. Thus, onset will be sudden and perhaps more like a "terror attack" from nature.

Needless to say, if drilling commences on the scale suggested for the Arctic, jokalhlaups will dramatically increase, and arguably ...the end of human reign on this planet will be much closer.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indiana "Religious Freedom Restoration Law" IS a License To Discriminate!

Let's not mince any words here, the Indiana "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" is nothing of the sort. It is more plausibly named "the Bigotry in the name of religion restoration act" as it seeks to license wanton discrimination by invoking the codswallop of "religious freedom". But even Hitler and his Nazi henchmen knew implicitly how much could be done to turn people's brains to mush merely by clever wordplay. (The most clever being the greeting sign at Auschwitz, "Arbeit Macht Frei", or work makes one free.)

This law, going into effect in July, ostensibly "protects the right of people or businesses to follow their religious beliefs" in terms of any civil exchanges, interactions or trade.  But in fact, it gives license to chaos and widespread discrimination based on one's perceptions of his or her "religious principles". Most intelligent people - including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce - know if unleashed this stupid law will create havoc hence the mass demonstrations we saw yesterday in Indianapolis.

Though technically aimed at the LGBT  (gay) community, there is absolutely no assurance the discrimination would halt there, given how dogmatic and widespread religious memes and beliefs are. For example,  many pharmacies could refuse serving people they regarded as 'sinners'  - say denying birth control pills to young, single women or couples that they knew were living together but unmarried.

Owners of home improvement stores might decide that they want no Jews around because after all, they "killed our Savior".  Private hospitals -operating as businesses - might decide that they will serve the needs of no declared atheists, or  known pro-choice folks or gays on their premises either. Restaurants would feel free to bar anyone who might wish to celebrate a known pagan festival at their venues.

 In other words, you'd invite a society bordering on chaos, and don't think for a moment that  the thousands of excluded folk would just sit there and take it! And let's note one more thing, in principle this is no different from Walter Block's argument (described in my Jan. 11, 2014 post) that the Woolworth's lunch counters in the South in the early-60s were free to discriminate against blacks because "No one is compelled to associate with people against their will."

But, in fact, they are IF they are engaged in commercial trade! To paraphrase my reply to a Block booster in that earlier  post, bringing it up to date with the subject of this post:

The restaurateur or trader is afforded certain privileges (via licensing) to trade or provide services (such as food) in the public domain. Hence, the so called "freedom" is limited to do whatever they want - and hence that can't include refusal of service unless there are extenuating circumstances, i.e. the customers enter drunk and disorderly. The trader doesn't have the latitude to refuse service on the basis of  skin color, the other person's own beliefs, sexual orientation, pro-choice stance or nationality. Sorry!

And I damned well stand by that in the case of this Indiana law as well! One Indiana custom leather maker, Casey Sampson - interviewed on CBS last evening - clearly doesn't get that. He began his ignorant comment saying:

"We're not here to discriminate. We're here to serve anybody we can".

Errr.....no, Roscoe. You're there in the public, commercial domain as a trader,  to provide services to anyone who wants, provided they act the part of decent citizens on entry to your establishment, and their project is not beyond your resources or capabilities.

Not content with his lamo initial statement he goes on:

"Just as they have the right to live their life their way, I believe we should have the right to live how we want to."

And you do, provided the "living of your life" concerns the private sphere and doesn't include  the domain of public commercial trade - which you were licensed to do. (And I note, BEFORE this new law came in,)  Thus, "living one's life" does not include the realm of commercial trade or services, which the people he refers to certainly aren't engaged in. They merely seek to purchase trade or services they are due as citizens of one of these United States.

What they do in their own private lives should be no concern of Casey's or the law's, or any other religious personae who stood by while it was signed.

Mike Pence, the Indy Guv, is equally ignorant claiming the law is "about protecting business owners" which is blatant nonsense. From what?  Having to serve people whose beliefs or lifestyles they may not agree with?

He added: "This isn't about  legalizing discrimination but about  restricting the government's ability to intrude on the religious liberty of our citizens".

Translation: "This is about the state government restricting the federal government's ability to defend the rights of minority citizens in our state"

The truth is hard to spell out, eh guv? So don't mind if I do it for you!

National businesses (like Apple, Starbucks etc.), meanwhile, do not intend to subscribe to this foolish law, and other businesses are reconsidering moves to Indiana - which is good. The best way to teach these knuckleheads is to not move new businesses into the state, and also for right-thinking citizens  to boycott all those businesses that are inclined to go with this ridiculous law.

Let them all see what happens when their overhead overtakes income at the end of the year. Wanna bet most will be shuttered because the numbers of bigots alone won't support them?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Crazy In The Cockpit: Could This Air Tragedy Have Been Prevented?


Germanwings-Pilot Andreas L. war bei Neurologen und Psychologen in Behandlung
The Psycho before he commandeered the controls of Germanwings 9525

The name "Andreas Lubitz"  will now live on in infamy along with that of Timothy McVeigh, Adam Lanza (Newtown massacre),  James Eagen Holmes  and Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold, the Columbine killers. As most of us are now aware, this Lubitz melted down just after the Germanwings flight took off from Barcelona, Spain, en route to Dusseldorf, Germany. After locking the pilot out of the cockpit he set the altimeter's  automatic flight path on a dive to 100' altitude. Of course, as we know, in a place like the French Alps, no such altitude would be reached and the jet actually crashed into the side of a mountain at about 4,000 ft. with all 150 lost.

The evidence now in, from German sources and others, is the guy had a "psychotic episode". The German paper Die Welt reported today he was being treated for "severe psychosomatic illness" and actually had been prescribed anti-psychotic meds for "strong subjective overload syndrome" . He tossed his meds away along with the prescriptions (according to reports).  In addition, he'd received a medical note of dispensation that he was unfit  to fly- including on the day he arrived for the Dusseldorf flight!  In other words, this psycho never should have been anywhere near the plane - far less inside the cockpit.

Reinforcing this, yesterday morning  on MSNBC, the clinical psychologist Dr. Ruth Wittersgreen proposed how the psychotic episode would have unfolded. First, there would be Lubitz dealing day to day with the stress of hiding his severe mental illness (which was so severe he had to be monitored over time) from the company. Second, if he fell into a pattern of sleep deprivation this would have directly triggered the "psychotic episode".

Amdist all this many have been asking, as one expert did on CNN this morning:

"Why this tragic communications breakdown between those treating Lubitz and the airline?"

Indeed. And here we also have parallels with the case of Aurora mass killer James Eagen Holmes, who was also being treated for severe psychological illness (at the Univ. of Colorado, Anschutz campus) prior to his rampage at an Aurora theater, slaying 12 and severely wounding dozens.  Why wasn't this information passed on to the proper authorities? The  canned excuse of "patient confidentiality" simply doesn't cut it -especially when the patient had produced violent diaries depicting himself as the "Joker" slaying people in a cinema. This all ought to have been out in the open, shared with the proper authorities.

In like manner, the fact Andreas Lubitz had been issued antipsychotic meds, as well as  been issued an "unfit to work" notice, ought to have been known by Lufthansa.  This was after he'd reported waking up screaming from nightmares.  THEY should have known of his condition in the immediate time sense and by virtue of the medical personnel informing them, not trusting a psycho to share it!  Of course, he would be determined to hide it, as we saw. Thus, this incident will militate in the future for medical professionals to directly share their diagnoses with airlines. No more hiding treatments, or "sick notes".

And no more balderdash that "he was fully fit to fly" - spouted out of abject ignorance  traced to dated information. With much higher scrutiny, including background checks - not just for criminality- this tragedy might have been prevented.

It also might have been prevented had people -e.g.  at least one of his ex-girlfriends, spoken the hell up after he was claimed to have said.

"After tomorrow everyone will remember my name."

Which interjects other famous declaratives issued the day before monumental tragedies, including:

"After tomorrow, those goddamned Kennedys will never bother me again!" - LBJ, night of Nov 21, 1963, to his then mistress Madeline Brown attending a party at Clint Murchison's Dallas home

"By tomorrow our names will be burned in everyone's memory!" - Dylan Kliebold in video diary kept by Columbine killers, Apr. 18, 1998.

Alas, no proactive moves could be made in response to the last, since it was only revealed after the Columbine massacre. On the other hand, timely action for the other two might have stopped an assassination, and a murderous airline crash.

Lastly, this incident is only the most recent in a string of deliberate pilot crashes since 1982 including:

- Feb. 9, 1982:  Japan Air Lines crash blamed on captain declared "mentally unstable" (174 lost)

- Aug.21, 1994, Royal Air Maroc flight intentionally plunged in Morocco by unstable pilot (44 lost)

- Dec. 19. 1997, Silkair plane deliberately crashed off Indonesia. (104 perished)

-- Oct 31, 1999: Egypt Air co-pilot yelling "I rely on Allah" crashed plane with 217 on board into Atlantic Ocean.

- Nov. 29, 2013, Mozambique Airlines captain believed to have deliberately crashed  plane in Namibia, 33 killed.

While these incidents are rare, in terms of general aviation statistics, they do induce dread in people because we disdain the possibility that a psycho might grab plane controls and take us on a one-way trip to perdition. The only way to prevent such events in the future is to delve into personnel backgrounds for signs of psychological  'hiccups' . No airline (or pilot)  squeamishness on this score ought to be tolerated.

No one deserves to be in the position of  an unwilling captive on a flight commandeered by a psychotic, left screaming with fellow victims in the final minutes as they approach their certain doom.  And hundreds of distraught family members left to mourn in the aftermath. We wouldn't tolerate this BS for terrorists, and we shouldn't for psycho pilots or co-pilots!

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/missy-comley-beattie/61543/andreas-lubitz-the-adam-lanza-of-air-travel


http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/eric-margolis/61566/terror-in-the-sky




Friday, March 27, 2015

Lower Living Standards For Generations To Come? Thank Global Monetary Policy

In many areas of the corporate Pollyannish press one reads about the expanding future and how many millions of more gadgets and processes will make our lives easier. Oh, and it'll all be much cheaper and we'll each even have our own drones and driverless vehicles.  To read some of this codswallop one would think a limitless cornucopia is soon upon us and everyone will basically be on "Easy street". Don't believe it for a second.

As the Mar. 25  Financial Times article ('QE Will Lower Living Standards Long Term')  puts it:

"The prospect of improvement in economic growth is largely a monetary illusion. ....Lacking the political will necessary to address the issues, central bankers have been left to paper over the global malaise with reams of fiat currency"

By "paper over" the FT means the ongoing practice of QE or quantitative easing  - which has already resulted in the Federal Reserve infusing more than $4 trillion into the U.S. bond markets and - combined with essentially zero interest rates - fed a ginormous stock market bubble.

Accentuating this low note, a report by the Bank of America -Merrill Lynch has projected that the year 2015 will mark the first decline in growth since 2009 the year after the financial meltdown and credit crisis. The FT piece notes how the Fed's QE, for example, has "perversely morphed into a new monetary orthodoxy" where central bankers themselves use their balance sheets as tools to implement fiscal policy.

This as opposed to politicians doing it via new regulations, tax reforms, monetary policy. But see - the politicos these days have no courage. They are all basically spineless worms who so fear the T-word they are afraid to actually practice representation. Thus, as the FT notes:

"The politicians lack the willingness or ability to implement labor and tax reforms."

So, because of these venal jackals, the banksters (in which I include central banksters)  are de facto allowed to set policy with their QE. But long term it isn't working and the world will become poorer for it, that is - the world our children will inherit.

Much of this follows from the extent to which QE policies damage fiscal health. For example, the FT points out correctly the negative impact of QE on interest rates. The depressed returns available on fixed income securities (such as commercial paper), largely as a result of QE, effectively act as a tax on investors, including individual investors.  At the same time the QE is providing a subsidy to borrowers.

If you have your money stashed in a money market fund for commercial paper - which is used to fund new  business investment - there is little reward given the 0.5 percent rates, so there is a bigger incentive to pull the money out and put it elsewhere for higher yield (say in an online bank for a fixed income account for which the interest is doubled.)  Practiced widely such pullouts will  dampen investment and stifle new business. As the FT puts it:

"The cost of QE is greater than the income lost to savers and investors. The long term consequence is likely to permanently impair living standards  for generations while creating a false illusion of reviving prosperity."


Less on the radar but surely playing a role in declining living standards is the ever degraded quality of energy sources. For example, current fracked oil (from shale) costs on average $70 a barrel to extract. If the oil price is less than this, that means the source isn't even at "breakeven" point in terms of energy returned on energy invested.. By contrast, the light sweet crude oil we'd been getting earlier returned nearly 18 times more than the cost to extract it per barrel. These are signs Peak Oil has come and gone (estimated in 2005) but most people don't even know what Peak Oil means. It doesn't mean the oil has stopped or slowed in production, it means the era of cheap oil is over,  making everything more expensive. Plainly put, our current energy -intense civilization is simply unsustainable in an era where only low EROEI oil is available.

You can read much more on this aspect here:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2013/09/44-trillion-in-deficits-by-2024-minus.html

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Duck Commander" Phil Robertson's Degenerate Anti-Atheist Rant Reveals He's Devoid of Morals, Humanity

At the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast  on Friday morning, Duck Dynasty "Commander" Phil Robertson - juiced on self-righteous indignation,  waxed on uninterrupted about some kind of grotesque fantasy situation in which a family of atheists is bound, gagged and raped. That the “Duck Dynasty” clan leader had a national platform upon which to spew bullshit was basically an indictment of our whole society, and in my opinion - a further sign  this society has lost its collective mind, judgment and reason.  What this asshole basically allowed is that he has no concept of atheism, nor any of morality - far less humanity. He's demonstrated himself, in so many words, to be vermin.

I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said in the talk which was later broadcast on Christian conservative radio host Rick Wiles’ program, “Trunews.” “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. Then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them, and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him, and then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now, is there dude?”
But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.”

Back up, butt brain. No atheist says "there is no right or wrong". What we say, as I repeated in my recent book ('Beyond Atheism, Beyond God'), and earlier from 'The Atheist's Handbook to Modern Materialism' is that morality must be predicated on physical reality not an imagined supernatural one. It must be founded on practical ethics, not absolutist nonsense. This implicitly  means a pure Materialist philosophy which also implies provisional ethics.

Let me elaborate on the first. As genuine Materialists, we can examine the astronomical evidence and determine that our planet is possibly the only inhabited one, at least in our galaxy - if not the cosmos. We can also ascertain that this terrestrial life is possibly all that exists in the cosmos and hence that we must strive to enhance and support it in any way possible. We should emphatically not squander what we have now, while awaiting a mythical afterlife.  Nor squander the lives of others as this crazy co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently did  - killing 148 people in the French Alps because he wanted to take out himself.

As Materialists we refrain from looking to any hypothesized deity for deliverance, or lay blame for human ills on some mythical demonic entity. On the contrary, Man alone is responsible for his actions and is the ultimate master of his fate. As  Materialists, then, we  maintain that Man need not suffer extinction as a species if he has the courage and vision to assume control of his destiny through the use of reason.

It isn’t necessary to wave a bible or the ten commandments at a Materialist, nor quote the "golden rule". The true Materialist, by definition, respects his fellow men and reveres all life, since he recognizes (through his philosophy) that they share a planet that may be unique in the cosmos. Thus, the true Materialist treasures and conserves the Earth's finite store of resources, since he comprehends that Earth also has one life to live - and there is no more after the existing resources are consumed.

If dunderhead Robertson knew any of this then he'd realize that his confabulated deviant fantasy of raping little girls  and their mother not only flew in the face of atheism but  common decency and humanity. Indeed, only a depraved pervert deprived of any humanity would come up with such an abomination in his feral mind.  It,  indeed, shows Robertson lacks any scintilla of humanity....or residue of morality.

Now what about provisional ethics? Any persistent observer of human social interaction will note that the vast majority of people are law-abiding and decent folk who naturally practice a common-sense, utilitarian ethics similar to what has been described. For proof, one need only look as far as the upstanding Atheist or agnostic who inhabits every community and who - though he disdains a deity, nevertheless treats his fellows with compassion and respect. No supernatural law or commandment ordains this behavior. Instead it is the conscious and deliberate recognition that the promotion of the welfare of others is directly linked to one's own welfare.


Unfortunately, what the religionists have done is to take the natural code of ethics most people follow and embellish it with a blizzard of superstitious precepts and injunctions. When these are stripped away one arrives at provisional ethics. As described by Michael Shermer ('The Science of Good and Evil'):

"Provisional ethics provides a reasonable middle ground between absolute and moral relative systems. Provisional moral principles are applicable to most people, for most circumstances, for most of the time - yet flexible enough to account for the wide diversity of human behavior"

To fix ideas, in the case of the  nun excommunicated several years ago, for saving a 27 year old mother’s life at the expense of her fetus, the  moral choice was either to let the birth occur and see both mother and infant die, or prevent the birth (because of the mother’s blood pressure complications) and save the mother. She opted to maximize life chances for the mother as opposed to dramatically reduce them for both mother and child. 

This is a perfect example of atheistic morality  in action. Thus, in provisional morality the greater relative good is always chosen over the lesser one. In this case, two deaths with two life saving efforts represented  the lesser good, while one death with one life saving effort represents the greater one. 


 In the case of Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life after being diagnosed with inoperable brain tumor, her choice to end her life was a greater good over merely existing in a debased vegetative condition based on the specious presumption of "sanctity of life" demanded indiscriminately for any and all conditions. (Absolutist morality).  Hence, the greater good here is her ending the suffering and degradation of her life quality rather than allowing it to progress to the stage she was unable to make any authentic choice.

In both cases and many others the atheist disdains and rejects morality that (in the words of Sam Harris): "pursues aims that are flagrantly immoral, in that they needlessly perpetuate human misery, while believing these actions are morally obligatory. "

Adding that such   "pious uncoupling of moral concern from the reality of human suffering" is unacceptable.

We see then that Robertson's portrayal of atheists as total scalawags and renegades with no moral compass is totally off base and in fact, insane. The atheist family he has raped and killed in his debased mental ideation then, must be seen as actually reflecting HIS own lack of morality and no one else's. We assess  from this that his "morality" is debased and perverted since it would slaughter and rape those with a different life philosophy under the assumption they don't care and  believe that "anything goes".

At root, not only is Robertson responsible for hatching such vile swill glorifying  child rape and murder, but the media shares blame for giving this depraved piece of filth  a stage on which to spout his degenerate fantasies - as a basis to supposedly condemn atheists.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pentagon Getting Away With Fiscal Murder Using Spending Gimmick





It fairly boggled my mind when wifey read the piece on salon.com to me yesterday a.m. while having coffee. It had to do with a little known slush fund program that the author (David Dayen) compared to "crack cocaine for the Pentagon".  This slush fund goes under the eye- glazing title "Overseas Contingency Operations" fund or OCO, but it is really an underhanded device to bleed monies from government's tax commons without any accountability. It was one of the things former defense analyst Chuck Spinney warned the warhawks would try if they were never forced to account for "misplacing" $1.1 trillion of funding back in 2002.

That our leaders could actually aid and abet them in this, discloses they are - if not outright traitors - at least lacking any respect for the general welfare clause of the Constitution.  Indeed, this slush fund program (which borders on a black budget)  has enabled other non-military, domestic programs to face severe cuts - including under the draconian sequester baloney while the Pentagon got away Scot free. The reason is that our noisome rat politicos had set the program up so it could suddenly  - at any time-  morph into an "emergency funding" hole . Thus,  taxpayer money could be instantly funneled to the military and no one would be the wiser. Hence, while on paper the Pentagon and military appeared to be sharing in the budget cutting pain, in reality they were sitting pretty and laughing all the way to the bank.

DO the poor little bastards - admirals, five stars and others - need this extra hidden money? In two words, fuck no! In the words of one academic critic, the Pentagon is “a bureaucratic juggernaut accounting for 57% of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40% of all military spending on this planet.”  But instead of bringing our tax dollars home with our troops as they come home from Afghanistan, the Pentagon and allies in Congress want to protect the profits of Pentagon contractors by adding billions to their off-budget slush fund. Oh wait! Did I say troops come home from Afghanistan? Even that's now put on hold and the money to keep them there will come from - you guessed it - OCO!

Meanwhile, 15 million hungry kids had to suffer at the end of 2013 when the federal SNAP (food stamps) program was cut by an additional $9 billion.   Many kids forced to raid dumpsters to try to get adequate food stuffs to eat. But did our bloated military-industrial complex care? Hell no! Why stop the gravy train when our own paid off political whores were behind it?  It is enough to make any proper citizen puke as I nearly did as the account was read to me.

Now, as we read Obama & Co. plan to extend the U.S. presence in Afghanistan we can be sure OCO monies will fund it as opposed to forcing congress to approve the taxes to pay for it. OR...to raise taxes to pay for fighting ISIS. No rational taxpayer would have complaints about fighting the ISIS rats but don't fucking do it under the table!  Put it out there in the legislative domain for citizens and taxpayers to see who will vote to raise taxes out in the open to pay for foreign military expeditions and engagements and who won't,

But let us admit here that this behind the doors sort of operation is inimical to democracy and the democratic process because there is no genuine oversight. There is no fiscal accountability because hidden funds can be piled in anytime it's convenient. This is what tyrants do, for god's sake - usually in military dictatorships.

The development of OCO represents a new mechanism for funding American wars since 9/11, another gift handed out by the George W. Bush Administration. “There’s no prior instance of such a thing in American military practice,” said Gordon Adams a professor at American University who worked on defense budgets at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration.

What it also does - by skirting traditional legislative channels and processes -  is pave the way for perpetual war. As long as money is no object because this slush fund exists, any war can be launched at any time by any nut who might assume the presidency - including Ted Cruz. It is time we held our representatives accountable, including that their setting up slush funds for the military outside of constitutional oversight  is the epitome of being un-American!

 See more at:

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/crack-cocaine-pentagon-exposing-defense-hawks-secret-slush-fund


and

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pentagon-slush-fund-pays-for-isis-airstrikes-irking-some-in-congress/


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Solution of Dimensional Analysis Problems

1)     Use the method of dimensions to obtain a formula for the force experienced by a sphere of radius r moving at velocity v through a fluid of viscosity h.  (Hint: Set out the force as:           
  F = k hx v y r )


Solution: Use the table for dimensions to write them out for each factor:


For Force :  F has dimensions M L T -2


Velocity v  has dimensions L T - 1


h has dimensions M L-1 T -1


r has dimension L


Then, equating dimensions on both sides:


 M L T – 2  = [M L-1 T -1]x [L- 1] y [L]z



We next equate indices for M, L, and T on both sides:


For M:  1 =   x 

 

For L: 1  = -x  - y   + z 

 

For T:   -2 = -x – y


 
Next, solve for each of the indices:

a)  x =  1

b) y =   1

c) z =   3
 

Finally:  F = k h v  r  3  


2)  Repeat the exercise above to obtain the equation  for the period (T) of a pendulum’s swing. (Hint: The pendulum's period T should depend on its length L and the acceleration of gravity, g.)

Solution: Write out the provisional eqn.:

t  =    x  M  y r z


Write out dimensions for each side:

[T]   =  [ L - 2 ] [M]y  {L] z 

Solving for the indices:

1 = - 2x or x = - 1/2

0 = y

0 = x + z or x = - z = - (-1/2) = 1/2

Then:

t  =    k - 1/2   ℓ  1/2


(k  will be found  by separate analysis to be:  2 p)

So that:

t  =    Ö   / Ö g  

Ted Cruz - A Real Life "Greg Stillson" - From the 'Dead Zone'?

Our end-of-the-world obsession is killing us: Climate denial and the apocalypse, GOP-style
Ted Cruz has recently announced his presidential candidacy but there is no doubt that anyone who knows about this guy's background ought to be nervous, especially if he manages to bamboozle enough dopes to vote for him in primaries.  Given the stupidity of too many American voters it's quite possible this zealot could be the Reepo's candidate come 2016.

The New York Times, in a recent piece, describes him as "a conservative with sharp elbows" but he is more than that, he's a damned narcissist - which we certainly don't need occupying the White House.  The Times also described one incident in 2000 in which his inability to take orders became manifest while a junior Bush campaign aide. Cruz had originally secured a ticket to be present in the Supreme Court for Bush v. Gore but was asked to relinquish it to Donald Evans -long time Bush buddy. Cruz "chafed at the very idea, refusing to hand over his ticket and only backed down after an angry phone call from a senior staffer."

"Classic Cruz", according to the Times, but also classic narcissist and egomaniacal zealot - who believes his own ego, desires and pride dominate all other issues. The fact this renegade went so far as to shut the government down with his Tea Party crazies shows where his interests lie, and they aren't invested in the nation's welfare.

The more I saw of Cruz speeches and demagoguery the more they evoked the zealot fictional presidential candidate Greg Stillson, from the science fiction flick. 'The Dead Zone'.  In the movie, Stillson was a junior  Senator  whose messages of "personal responsibility"  and "small government"  combined with firebrand speeches and charisma catapulted  him to the top as a presidential candidate.

Poll after poll showed him locking up the nomination, again, because too many morons bought into his shtick.  The only suspicious  citizen turned out to be a former school teacher: Christopher Walken's crippled character.  However, after a nasty car accident he came away with an unusual talent: being able to see the future merely by making hand contact with a person.

Thus it was during one Stillson campaign stop, the teacher stands in line for the glad-handing and when he does make contact the image of Stillson as President takes hold.   There Stillson is, with a gun pointed at the head of his VP,  demanding he enter his own nuclear codes to complete Stillson's aspiration for a first strike missile launch   "sending the missiles forth to launch Armageddon."

The Veep complies as the new Prez receives the call that "the missiles are flying" and he screams in a voice eerily resembling Ted Cruz': "Hallelujiah! We have made history and fulfilled Bible prophecy!"

Of course, that would be the future had Walken's character not made contact. But he did. Thus, the film ends with the teacher making an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Stillson at a local confab.  Stillson survives, but only by snatching an infant from a supporter- which he holds up in front of his head. In the next instant the would-be assassin is felled by bullets from bodyguards, and Stillson leaves with his entourage,  shaken. However, the media are there with cameras at the ready and catch him using the infant as a shield. He (baby held up in front) makes the cover of all the major news magazines the following week.

The day after, staring at his cowardly image on the cover of Newsweek, he blows his own brains out, his Armageddon dreams unfulfilled.

But, of course, that movie was fiction. There are in reality no such things as crippled school teachers with precognitive powers who can see a presidential candidate's future actions.  If, indeed, Ted Cruz is a real life "Greg Stillson" (even in some limited but disturbing ways) it will be up to the American electorate to ensure he doesn't progress to the stage of being a GOP 2016 nominee.

Then there is the matter of funding. Will the GOP's deep pocket contributors really be prepared to back a zealot like Cruz? I doubt it.  But hey, the "race"  is still early so we will see. I somehow think Cruz jumping the gun on the rest of the field will show them what a narcissist he is and why his claim  to history will be short-lived. If nothing else, the debates next year should expose him to the nation as the Sen. Joe McCarthy-like creepazoid he really is.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Solar Energy Comes of Age in the U.S.

Barely ten years ago, the idea of solar power was still mostly mocked as the limited energy purview of assorted "tree hugger", arugala-munching  elites, but too expensive for the average person.  Even the arugala-munching  elites mainly used it for water heating. The expansion to utility power companies and multi-purpose uses had not yet occurred. Basically, thin -film photovoltaics (PV) had not yet emerged. Silicon had been the element of choice for solar panels, which was more efficient but expensive and difficult to mass -produce. Now that's changed.

Favorable economics for the PV thin-film panels have led to an explosion in solar energy potential most Americans are only dimly aware of. For example, most don't know that on February 9th a utility -scale solar power plant (run by "Desert Sunlight") was officially dedicated.

This occurred on 3,800 acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management - and most noteworthy - is now the 6th operational plant on federal property. (The gov't operates 250 million acres, mostly in the sunny, arid West, perfect for solar panels.)

The problem of utility scale solar plants poses an interesting conundrum. They need to be somewhere with year round sunlight, in a space vast enough to contain hundreds of thousands of solar modules, but close enough to civilization to easily connect to the grid.  Fortuitously, Desert Sunlights plant meets all the criteria, situated just outside Desert Center - a tiny town southeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

The site features millions of 1.2m by 0.6m panels each covered by a thin film of glass that absorbs sunlight and captures elections creating an electric current that flows into wires in the rear of each module. This represents d.c. (direct current) power which is then converted into a.c. by inverters. The converted power is then transferred to the electrical grid via a nearby substation. Each panel generates 90 to 100 watts,

Other facts of the burgeoning solar power industry with which you may be unaware:

- Desert Sunlight's solar plant has 8 million solar panels in all.

- About 160,000 homes are solar-powered by Desert Sunlight

- Fifty two utility scale renewable energy projects have been approved since 2009, including 29 solar plants.

- Solar power is now a $15 billion a year business in the U.S., employing more people than coal mining

- In 2014 alone, solar energy accounted for 36 percent of the country's new (installed) energy capacity

- First Solar has plans to build a 750 MW plant in Riverside, CA, even bigger than Desert Sunlight's.

All these ought to give Americans reason to hope that we've turned the corner on solar energy and perhaps very soon we might be able to pull back a bit on fossil fuels, including fracked oil and natural gas. In any case we have to, there's no issue on it.

Bill McKibben's 2, 795 gigatons is perhaps the scariest number most people never heard of- but Americans need to drill into their craniums. . It represents the total stored reserves of carbon held by coal, gas and oil companies. It was first highlighted and brought to global attention by the Carbon Tracker Initiative - a group of London financial analysts and environmentalists.  It is what the fossil fuel industry plans to exploit in the future by its whole spectrum of methods, whether deep sea drilling, oil shale fracking or natural gas fracking.

It is, in other words, five times more carbon than will already blow a gasket in our world and send it toward runaway greenhouse. It is a number we cannot afford to realize if we want to pass this planet on in any form to future generations.

And solar power may be the key to helping us avoid reaching it!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How Can Women Protect Themselves From Being "Slut-Shamed"?

















Even Sandra Fluke, a literal heroine for the rights of American women in 2012, was slut-shamed for vigorously defending accessibility to contraception via the Affordable Care Act.

The recent case of Kentucky Wildcats' fan (and actress)  Ashley Judd tweeting her opinion about an opponent  team's cheating almost instantly brought the wrath of the alpha male trolls onto her head. In response, in  tweet after tweet these scurrilous vermin hurled sexually violent epithets as well as  physical threats at her. Similar attacks on HBO Girls' star Lena Dunham forced her to take one of the most extreme steps imaginable in the age of social media frenzy: cut off her Twitter feed.

This was indeed, drastic, but for high profile women in the media it may be the only way to secure their character from attacks by internet trolls, who appear to have had a population explosion in recent years. We have also learned from various studies that women online, and especially using social media (Facebook, Twitter) are nearly four times more likely to be attacked than males. The reasons for this are still being debated and examined but one of them is surely based in not yet extending equal rights to women via the Equal Rights Amendment.  Another small part may be, as my wife put it - that women in general are the more genteel sex, and disdain conflict - whereas many males relish it - especially verbal combat. Hence, trolls more often go after the less "combative" types.

Whatever the reason, slut -shaming attacks and general vile misbehavior towards women isn't confined merely to those like Lena Dunham who have high profile TV shows - which also feature a lot of sexy scenes.  For example, we have seen the case of women's reproductive rights defender and spokesperson Sandra Fluke -who was mercilessly attacked by the likes of Rush Limbaugh back in 2012.

Ms. Fluke delivered courageous testimony on the need for contraceptive inclusion in the ACA and her words were promptly twisted by Limbaugh (and other Reich renegades, mainly at FOX) to convey the asinine notion she was pleading for sexual libertinism. Much the same happens to other women day to day who blog about similar issues, for example, or express their thoughts on Twitter or Facebook. (Tracy Clark-Flory comes to mind, and she also writes for salon.com)

Then there is the execrable, actual debasement and exploitation of young women, especially on our college campuses. We already have seen the horrendous rape statistics, and they apply across the board  - to the Ivies, as well as state universities.  But the maltreatment of women extends to college fraternities as well.

In the most recent case, the degenerates based at Penn State's Kappa Delta Rho fraternity created a special secret FB page on which they posted images of women passed out and nude at their frat house, and made it accessible to current and former members. No consent from the women was given, so it is clear that laws definitely were broken and restitution of some form needs to be made. Meanwhile, the national office has suspended the Penn State chapter for a year. We still don't know what the university itself will do but they ought to at least consider what happened to Sigma Alpha Epsilon at OU when that racist rant was shown.

Incredibly, assorted Neanderthals - excuse me - apes, have actually tried to justify or at least diminish the behavior. In the OU case, we were expected to believe the little miscreants simply went slightly ape shit after consuming "too much" alcohol. So, I guess their inner apes got control of their brains. In this case the excuse is made based on excess alcohol, or the inner ape being released under its influence. Under no circumstances were the little dears actual racists. God forbid! In their non-intoxicated state these punks were really 'salt of the earth', prejudice-free citizens.

Meanwhile, a Penn State Kappa Delta Rho  defender actually wrote in the WaPo:

"The fire of indignant, misplaced self-righteousness that looks to ruin people's lives and unjustly ruin reputations is the abuse and violation that should be at the center of discussion, not the humorous, albeit possibly misguided antics of a bunch of college kids."

WTF?! Trying to turn the transgression back on those who exposed it? So let me get this straight, these bozos posted nude images of passed out females without their consent - for the consumption and gratification of their mates - and it is the women's fault for trying to get justice?  Are you kidding me?

These characters really believe it is the women and their defenders trying to "ruin people's lives and reputations" when it is the frat turkeys themselves who have done it by their actions. Of course it is their doing and that is the meaning of personal responsibility. It is exactly parallel to what happens now when a person poses themselves in compromising ways on Facebook, then wonders why s/he was rejected for a job, position,  because an employer found her FB content.

The kid who wrote the WaPo response can bellyache all he wants but in the end what these guys did was not "misguided antics". Misguided antics refers to when we got drunk - like at Loyola, New Orleans- and pissed in a roommate's wastebasket, or filled his pillow case with shaving cream before he hit the hay.  But posting non-consensual nude photos of females in your frat house is NOT ."antics" - misguided or other. This shows how brains have been warped to believe anything goes now.

What can women do to protect themselves? The only choices - until  actual legal consequences can be enacted against these  renegades (e.g. cutting off internet accounts, job firings, banning fraternities) appear to be few:

-  Get off the Twitter feed if you tend to express controversial opinions. Take up blogging instead - which offers a format more appropriate to explaining the reasons behind your opinions.  This is a given when you're not limited to 140 characters. Blogs also afford more filters while Tweets are simply to easy for nasty retorts. This blog is moderated, for example, so I can nip any untoward comments in the bud, at my discretion - which a Twitter feed wouldn't allow.

- In the real world of 3D space, don't put yourself in environments known to be traps - such as frat houses - where alcohol flows and people will lose self-control. 

Yes, college should be a fun place, but frat houses are not the venue to choose. At any university  there are numerous clubs and activities where one is bound to find an outlet for social expression as well as fellowship. These venues are also alcohol -free so there is less chance of trouble.

Theoretically, women should feel free to be able to express their opinions, selves  in any venue they desire, whether for social media or in the real world. They should also be able to go wherever they desire and even consume alcohol if they so choose.  The problem is the male-dominated world we inhabit is not conducive to every opinion delivered in any venue or to every action undertaken without forethought of possible consequences. This doesn't mean women should be fearful about their self-expression or choices but only recognize there are limits to that freedom given the social environment we currently inhabit.

When and if our lawmakers can bestir themselves to act on behalf of women, including passing laws in their interest, then women will surely have more latitude to explore and engage the world - including virtual - without fear....including of "slut-shaming".

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Clutter, Capitalism and Inequality: Why So Many Uncaring 'Muricans ?















Young woman during an Occupy protest in 2011. Young people - under 35 - are more likely to be invested in issues of income inequality.


It was somewhat shocking to read in the Denver Post yesterday ('Income Inequality, Americans Don't Care', p. 12A) how blasé most of our countrymen are to the growing problem of income, economic inequality. It's as if all their brains have been numbed or administered a powerful narcotic. Another possibility is that their consciousness has been falsified by a drumbeat  of framing by the corporate media to ignore the problem or regard it as inapplicable to them. We call this regrettable mental condition "false consciousness" about which I have written earlier, e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-consciousness-or-false.html

Anyway, the Post piece is extracted from  this article in the Associated Press, which pulls data from the General Social Survey and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The saddest aspect of the central article is that the gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to grow, but just as American wages have stagnated, so too has the public’s interest in combating income inequality.

Why? Don't they believe this inequality applies to them? Do they not think it will ever catch up to them? Say after losing a job and health care to a serious illness and having no lifeline, not one - while the elites howl with laughter. Who knows? But one of the most pathetic segments of the piece noted:

"The public's focus on income inequality has remained stagnant over the past 36 years.  Less than half of Americans — 46 percent — say the government ought to reduce income differences between the rich and the poor, a level that has held fairly steady since the survey began asking the question in 1978. Thirty-seven percent say the government shouldn't concern itself with income differences, while the rest don't feel strongly either way"

WTF?! Are these people comatose or zombies? Or, maybe they are so enmeshed in their 'toys' - from X-boxes, to new cars or big homes, they don't care anymore. Consumption has converted them all into deadheads  It's as if all their brains have been numbed, de-sensitized by all the crap they've bought. 

This isn't that farfetched. According to Stanford Professor Janet Spitz in her article: "I Have Way More Stuff Than You': How Is This Normal? ('Democratic Left' magazine, p. 4) , consumption and clutter plays a major role in desensitizing brains to the predicaments of others.  How much consumption and clutter are talking about?

According to a recent article in TIME, p. 44, March 23, Americans now have so much 'stuff' they have to either rent storage units to put it all or their homes have become nests of clutter - with stuff piled up in ever room to the extent the living space is non-existent.  There are now 48,500 storage facilities  nationwide- raking in $24 billion a year. There are so many they "could fill three Manhattans and outnumber all the Wendys, McDonalds, Burger Kings and Starbucks in the U.S. put together".

How is this even possible? Well, one reason is that the consumption is fueling ever lower prices. According to the TIME article: "In the past decade, the cost of cell phones, toys, computers and televisions has plunged - thanks in large part to overseas manufacturing."

But that overseas manufacturing is mainly paying slave wages, after the decent American manufacturing jobs were shipped out  (via "globalization") to places as diverse as Beijing, and Bangalore. So, the stuff you have accumulated basically comes from capitalist wage slaves in poor nations. Your cheapo prices sustains their misery while it befuddles your brain by the sheer accumulation and distractions. All this was well described by Benjamin Barber in his book, 'Consumed'.

Thus, according to Prof. Spitz, a large part of our blasé attitude to inequality derives from being blinded by our own consumption. This in turn is fed by a run amuck market fundamentalism. As she puts it (p. 5): "The rightward ideological shift toward market fundamentalism creates problems for practical democracy too."

Well, of course! Because bastardized Supreme Court decisions like 'Citizens United' have basically converted our election process into a race to the bottom by political whores. Those whose money caches are filled the most and fastest by their corporate owners-  whether the Koch bros. or Sheldon Adelson,  become the winners and get to govern. But they do so for the corporations and special monied interests, not us.  That also includes domination of the media by which can they control what we get to see and hear about issues. If those problems like income inequality are never discussed, or else dismissed, then it will be off people's radar. So no wonder their disinterest. As noted in the Post article, quoting the Center for American Progress’ John Halpin: "This is an elite debate, and it's filtered through partisan lenses. It hasn't been strong enough to change the public's mind."

Well, it should!

People's lack of education also plays into their false consciousness or disinterest in inequality, leading to false beliefs regarding perception of class in relation to income levels. As a first test, ask ten Americans off the street what income class they belong to. Nine of ten, or more likely all ten, will say "middle class" - even if unemployed for a year, on food stamps, and about to have their home foreclosed.

A more concrete study of class in relation to income level was a (2003) survey conducted by The Economic Policy Institute. It asked generally where people thought they were in the economic spectrum: upper 1% (earning $320,000 year or more); upper 5% (> $80,000) or where?

Unbelievably, a full 19% in this random survey claimed they were in the privileged class of the top 1%.!  A virtual statistical impossibility in any random study. In fact, internal survey cross-check questions on income category showed many of these working at a little above minimum wage, and even the highest were at barely $44,000/yr. Nowhere near the 1% threshold! Other commentators at the time on this study (e.g. Froma Harrop, Ellen Goodman) pointed to this ignorance as a basis for supporting such crap as the Bush tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the rich elites. Thus:

A) They didn't know where they themselves fit, and indeed inflated their wealth and positions and

B) they actually believed they'd be millionaires one fine day and be able to partake of the tax cuts. (Or 'death tax' benefits).

In fact, they were deliriously out of touch with reality. As author Michael Parenti has noted ('Dirty Truths') 94% of all wealth comes by way of inheritance, not paid work. So, they are fooling themselves. Unless they have a rich elder relative hidden away with a vast fortune, they'd be better off thinking they may have to work until they're 70 or 80 and even that may not be enough to stay in place.

But sadly, the Overclass and its minions (including the GOP Party, a basic "sub-division") consistently get working class folk to act against their own vested interests by distracting them with moralism ploys - raising "moral" issues like abortion, porn, gays and what not - just long enough so that many working class voters keep they're eyes off the ball when election day arrives. Then these workers wonder why they never get ahead.


Fortunately, there appears to be a ray of hope. Young people, Millennials, appear to be more likely to have income inequality on their personal radar. According to the AP piece:

"Younger adults — those under age 35 — are more likely than older adults to say the government should do something about the gap.”

Let's hope they take up the banner again, perhaps in a revived 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, driven by as many or more people than we've seen act in the post-Ferguson racial milieu. Because, in the end, the two issues are inextricable bound.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Obama's Grades At The 6-Year Mark


Obama after his election in 2008. All things were possible then including straight A's

Time now to assess President Barack Obama's grades at the crucial 6-year mark. These assessments are based on examining his performance and decisions on multiple fronts, from peace diplomacy, to national security, defense of civil liberties, speech craft, environment, transparency, and executive leadership. Brief explanations will be given after each mark, and a lengthier one will follow the lone 'F' earned, for transparency. These objective assessments are more important than ever after watching some of the clips on Chris Hayes' 'All In' last night, featuring right wing crazies at public meetings with Rick Santorum yelping hysterically about Obama "gone crazy" and "destroying our country". Of course, any such jabber disqualifies these knuckle draggers from having any opinion worth consideration!

Now the marks:

Speech craft:   A minus

Based not only on his 'State of the Union' speeches but others given at various venues in the past six years.


Economy: A

Unemployment now down to 5.5 % and stock market at all time highs. What more can be said?


National Security:   A minus

Obama has done everything one can rationally expect on multiple threat fronts, from ISIS, to Iran. Only the crazies are dissatisfied with his approaches and want more wars- expending blood and treasure we cannot afford.

EnvironmentB minus

His veto of the Keystone XL pipeline has gained many kudos from enviros, but this still hasn't damped disappointment with his support of fracking, intentions to do offshore drilling (off the east coast) and the export of low grade fossil fuels elsewhere (cf. The Denver Post, 'U.S. Exports Pollution, Offsets Advances' Dec. 9, p. 15A)

Peace DiplomacyB

Good, and again would be better if it hadn't been for the fact that he needed Russian help to ensure we didn't get into a Syrian debacle two years ago. Never mind, he seems to have found a backbone against neocon pressure for wars, for now. We need him to be especially alert he doesn't make any missteps by courting the neocons and assisting them against Russia in the Ukraine.


Executive LeadershipB

While Obama began as a tepid leader, he's now become a "ball buster" with his executive orders and actions, including on immigration, health care and the environment. It gives the repukes fits but it warms the cockles of liberal hearts!


Defense of civil liberties: D

Let's see: his refusal to oust CIA head John Brennan after the CIA was busted for spying on the Senate, his pursuit and prosecution of whistle blowers under the 1917 "Espionage Act", his refusal to come to the defense of Edward Snowden when he exposed the NSA's awful overreach in the mass snatching of data - violating the Fourth Amendment. The only reason he avoided an 'F' is that he did (eventually) propose a review board for the NSA programs.


Transparency: F

Obama promised full transparency on his election and then promptly dropped the ball....or never wanted it in the first place. His going after gov't whistleblowers has already been noted, but the real wake up call for me was the failure to deliver archival records  (mainly from the CIA) on the JFK assassination in the 50th anniversary year of that event, e.g.
http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/06/national-archives-to-jfk-file-seekers.html

Those of us in the JFK assassination research community were severely disappointed given how many doors had already been opened under President Clinton's watch (when the JFK Records Act was passed.). By comparison it was a giant step backward under Obama.   We suspected that the CIA had notified Obama that they didn't want their 1960s "tradecraft" exposed, but really...seriously, that wouldn't be used any more anyway, including techniques such as: splicing the head of a patsy onto another's body (with a rifle), poison pens to kill witnesses, aerial imaging photography, i.e. frame by frame projection of a film to the rear of a glass screen with minute traces of paint added, then re-shot - which would have been used to alter specific frames in the Zapruder film.

In truth, the only reason NOT to disclose this antiquated tradecraft would have been to protect those actually involved in the conspiracy to kill JFK. After all, if the pertinent documents were released exposing it, then all and sundry would know it COULD be done and those knotheads that howl about "tin foil" hats and an implicit chuckle factor would be put down once and for all.

But while some may believe this National Archives' misstep to be unique, it's actually turned out to be part of a pattern. According to an article in yesterday's Denver Post ('Administration Sets Record For Withholding Documents', p. 11A):

"The Obama Administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Associated Press."

The article also noted:

- The gov't took longer to turn over files when it provided any

- More regularly stated it couldn't find any documents at all

-Refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be newsworthy

- Acknowledged in nearly 1 of 3 cases the initial decision to withhold or censor records was illegal

Worse yet, the backlog of unanswered requests grew by nearly 55% by year's end.  This despite citizens, journalists, businesses and others having made nearly 714, 231 requests for information.

While some may respond with rolling eyes and smug smiles at the seriousness with which files are pursued by some citizens, they really do not get it. They don't get that alert citizens have a responsibility to hold their government (and President) to account. And if they fail to do that - irrespective of whether the issue is the assassination of a past President, drone kills, or NSA secret programs - they don't merit being called citizens.

Obama, fortunately, still has time to pick up the two low grades, but like a student far behind in Calculus or Physics, it will take a lot of sincere effort and plain old hard work.  I for one am confident he can do it - assuming he really wants to!