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Stay classy, USA.

Updated below.

Hurricane Irma is battering the north edge of Cuba as a category 5 hurricane as I write this.  The only comment I have heard on the news about Cuba vis a vis Irma has been relief expressing that by hitting Cuba first, some of the force may be drained off before she makes landfall in the US.

Here’s how the state of Florida is preparing for Irma: mandatory evacuations from cities along the projected path of the worst of the storm.  Repeated announcements that you are on your own to either heed the evacuation notices and get out, or to survive as best you can if you stay.  Repeated warnings to potential looters (note: the term “looters” only means desperate people looking for food or shoes or a free TV after their home just got blown away; it does not refer to the bankers, insurers, and real estate speculators who will rape and pillage the entire area for profit after the storm is over.  Those guys will not only be encouraged to loot wholesale, they will be given tax breaks for doing so.).  Warnings to those who may have criminal charges pending against them that if they seek safety in public shelters, they will be taken to jail because the ID check required as one enters the emergency shelters will expose their status.  The gas stations immediately ran out of gas and the roads north immediately filled with congested traffic.  The airlines jacked up their prices and started cancelling flights.  There were no emergency bus or train services offered, aside from the usual scanty routes already available, because we do not invest in public transportation in the US.  All those people heading north in their cars can only hope they don’t run out of gas along the way.  And where, exactly, they are going seems to be a mystery, as the hotels are completely booked for several states above Florida.  So much for trying to heed those evacuation orders.  After the hurricane, you might be able to get a loan to rebuild your house.  (Or maybe not.  See:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/business/harvey-aid-sba-disaster-loans.html)

Congress has approved some emergency funding for the victims of both hurricanes (Harvey in Texas, and Irma in Florida), at the same time that the current administration is making sure the agencies charged with emergencies like these are defunded and understaffed.  This is the rugged individualism of the US.  You are on your own, although in a somewhat schizophrenic manner, you will be praised for helping your neighbors after the fact, and we all join in with the feel-good sentiment that in an emergency, we “all come together”.  If you haven’t noticed, what they mean is that we “come together” and “help one another out” by sharing our own meager scraps of what we have left after paying taxes and jacked-up exorbitant prices for necessities, while the government only considers “helping one another” to be some socialist plot.  It’s just kind of a shame that the politicians and the media don’t think that spending US taxpayer money on actual US taxpayers should happen except in the most dire of circumstances, and even then, it is done begrudgingly, and demands will be made that US’ians have to give up social spending elsewhere later to pay for it.  Probably not going to get much infrastructure spending in the next budget for the rest of the country, because Congress gave a little something-something to Texas and Florida now, and you may find that Medicare and Social Security get cut to pay for this, as well.  Note must be made here that the ‘infrastructure spending plan’, such as it is, is mostly a plan to give the common infrastructure over to private companies to run at a profit anyway, but now Congress may decide to do away with any public ownership or investment altogether.  When things are rebuilt in these two states, they will be built in the same way they were built before: defiant of the inexorable demands of nature.  If you pave over the swamps and bury hazardous materials under your homes, you get floods because the water has nowhere to go and you get lethal shit released into the air and water when a bad weather event occurs.  In Houston, it is estimated (this is an early estimate, sure to be calibrated upwards as the weeks go on) that two million pounds of hazardous chemicals had been released into the air during the flood.  Texas took care of the problem by turning off its air monitors in the Houston area during hurricane Harvey.  (Can’t worry about what you don’t know, is the theory behind this.)  30,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the floodwaters that people were wading in when two oil tanks ruptured.  The current condition of all the Superfund sites in the flood zone is unknown.  [Superfund sites are locations polluted with hazardous and toxic materials that require long-term clean-up responses.]  In Florida, there are 54 Superfund sites at risk of flooding and leeching out of containment during heavy rains and storm surges; the EPA claims that all of them have been secured, although reporters found no-one working at any of them in the past week.  Nonetheless, no lessons will be learned and nothing will change, as we will insist that our way is the best because we are just that exceptional.   This brings to mind the “healthcare” debacle. The US politicians refuse to ask all those other countries how they set up their universal healthcare systems – which apparently work efficiently enough and save enough money that none of them ever want to give them up – and instead simply declare that universal healthcare is “not feasible”.  And when the insurance costs skyrocket this winter, as they will due to the shortfalls of the ACA combined with the deliberate efforts of Trump and the Republicans to sabotage the little bit that works, the public will be told it was inevitable and that they must accept something even worse.

In Cuba, as compared to the US emergency system, there has been a network in place for decades where each family, household or neighborhood is paired with one or more of the same on the opposite side of the island.  Evacuation transportation, by any and all available means, and emergency routes have been planned in advance to cover any contingency, as part of the networks.  Everyone therefore is able to be moved quickly and they already have a place to stay during the emergency.  Despite the fact that Cuba is hit fairly frequently with hurricanes, there is very little death toll thanks to this pre-planning based on the public good.  Of course, this is an example of Dread Socialism at work, so the media in the US simply doesn’t talk about how Cuba manages hurricane preparedness, nor do they talk about Cuba at all, except as I said above, to crow that by running over Cuba first, Irma will be less dangerous to the US.

To add insult to injury, because there is nothing the US likes more than jabbing sharp sticks in the eyes of small nations everywhere, last night at the same exact time that Irma was making landfall along the northern coast of Cuba, the Trump administration announced that the trade embargo against Cuba is going to be extended for another year, until Sept., 2018.  Trump’s presidential memo states that the embargo, which prevents American companies from importing goods from Cuba or exporting goods to the island nation, has been extended under the Trading with the Enemy Act “in the national interest of the United States.”

I guess this presidential memo stands in lieu of any statement of support for, or commonality with, Cuba during an event that is likely to harm both countries severely.

USA, always classy!

Update, 4:30 p.m. 9 Sept., 2018

Earlier today, the weather services announced that they think the track of Irma will run up the west coast of Florida rather than the east coast (which is what they had predicted a couple of days ago).  This led to newly-declared mandatory evacuations of some cities on the western side of Fla.  These places seem very unprepared, which seems rather odd, given that the hurricane is wider than the entire state. No matter which coast it runs up, the entire state will get hurricane force winds, both coasts will get storm surge, rain and possibly tornadoes.  One would think the entire state would have prepared emergency shelters.  Anyway, about two hours ago, I saw a bit on one of the news shows wherein the reporter was walking along a line of people who were waiting to be accepting into a stadium that had just been opened as an emergency shelter in one of the west-coast Fla. cities.  These were people who had not been under mandatory evacuation orders until around noon today.  In other words, they had just been told they had to leave and, gas no longer being available and the storm making landfall by tomorrow morning, they headed for the only place made ready for them as a shelter.  Thousands of them were lined up, some with babies in strollers and old people in wheelchairs, some carrying packages of bottled water, and little satchels of clothes.  The line wasn’t moving at all.  The stadium can hold about 6000 people (without their wheelchairs, strollers and suitcases).  Why is the line not moving?  As the reporter got to the front of the line, he mentioned that he couldn’t get any officials to talk to him.  However, you could see that behind him, the people at the front of the line were filling out multiple sheets of paper clasped on clipboards before they were allowed to present these papers to some official and be let into the stadium.  A stunningly bizarre insistence on some byzantine paperwork while moving people into emergency shelter.  There is no way in hell they are going to get all those people inside before dark.  It will be dark around 7 p.m. here on the east coast of the US, just a few hours from now, and the eye of the storm will make landfall around 8 tomorrow morning.  But the eye wall is rather irrelevant, since the outer bands are already over Fla, and the winds are picking up right now.  Get the people in and settled, assholes.  Asking for papers to be filled out right this minute is just arbitrary bureaucracy.

Something else: last night, in the wee hours, I caught a re-run of some Fox News segment which apparently aired earlier in the evening.  I don’t know the reporter’s name or the name of the show, and it’s Fox News, so who gives a fuck anyway?  The lady reporter was practically shrieking that the “fake news” outlets were trying to use a hurricane to sell the Fake Idea of fake climate change.  Under her angry twisted-up face, there was a banner which read, “Liberal news sites try to promote global warming.”  She and her co-hosts were appalled that a hurricane, of all things, was used as an example of climate change.  And, they pointed out, the projected path of Irma had been changed, like, a lot over the past week, by the incompetent weather people, all of whom, they insisted, work for the government, which is totally run by liberals and whackaloons, except for the parts run by Trump and the Republicans, but they aren’t the ones to blame for the liberal, fake weather people and their sinister global warming hoaxes, and the altered trajectory of the storm proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is bullshit.  Some people  – maybe a lot of people – watch this crap and believe it.  So let’s consider climate change for a moment, while we are talking about hurricanes and weather.  Imagine you are sitting on your porch on a breezy autumn day.  A leaf falls from a tree and gets caught in the wind.  It swirls and dances around the yard.  Where will it land, you might idly wonder as you watch it flutter about.  Thing is, no matter what you predict, you will probably be wrong; there are too many variables at work, from the air temperature to the ground temperature, to the strength of the breeze, to the air pressure, to obstacles in your yard.  Weather prediction is hard.  It is a science and it is currently enhanced by computers, but it is still hard.  The expected path of Irma changed a little within the past twelve hours because it went over Cuba’s landmass, because the temperature of the ocean below it may have changed a bit, because the prevailing winds shifted a tad, but it is still heading for Florida and it is still a huge storm.  To claim that this slight alteration means climate change as a whole is therefore false is just ignorant.

There are other theories about why we are having massive droughts some places, record-breaking rainfall in others, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires all over the planet aside from man-caused global warming.   You might believe that the weather is always changing and this is just part of a normal cycle of cooling and warming.  You might believe that the government is playing with the weather so as to force us to pay higher taxes to alleviate the bad weather they caused on purpose.  You might think the power companies are hyping a fake story so they can usher in carbon taxes, where they can collect a shit-ton of money from you on top of whatever they rip you off for in normal circumstances.  You might believe that reptile space aliens are screwing with weather patterns as part of their plan to take over the earth.  I’m not sure why Americans are so wedded to their simplistic belief systems that they can only believe in binary truths; everything has to be just one thing or it can only be the exact opposite thing.  We have no nuance in this country and no ability for complex thought.

I think it is proven that the climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels.  But it can also, simultaneously, be true that there are normal cycles of the weather in the long term, and the effects of these normal cycles are merely enhanced by our mistaken overuse of coal and oil.  It can also be true that politicians and energy companies want to abuse the science to foist financial misery on everyone for their own profit.  It can also be true that the US government plays with the weather  – hell, they were already doing it during the Vietnam war, and proud of it.  Probably the space alien thing isn’t true, though.  Point is, it doesn’t have to be all one or the other, and claiming the whole shebang is a hoax is dangerously simpleminded and keeps us from doing what we ought to ameliorate the worst of the effects of climate change.  The climate is changing.  And that is a fact.

Another fact is that the US military wants to, or already is, using the weather as a weapon against other countries.  Don’t take my word for it; read this white paper, written in 1996 as a precis for the Pentagon.  This is major fucked-up fuckery, right here:

Title: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025

Opening disclaimer: “2025 is a study designed to comply with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future. Presented on 17 June 1996, this report was produced in the Department of Defense school environment of academic freedom and in the interest of advancing concepts related to national defense. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.  This publication has been reviewed by security and policy review authorities, is unclassified, and is cleared for public release.”

[This is followed by over 40 pages of how the US can manipulate the weather to create adverse conditions for other countries, to use the weather as a weapon of mass destruction, and to weaponize space for the same purposes.]

http://csat.au.af.mil/2025/volume3/vol3ch15.pdf

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Dakota Access Pipeline.

TYT Politics Reporter Jordan Chariton spoke with Native American activist and executive director of Honor The Earth Winona LaDuke, who explained what the Dakota Access Pipeline is really being used for.

They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it. –  Chief Red Cloud (Mahpiya Luta), Oglala Lakota

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in American Indians, corporatocracy

 

Trump wins. Thank the Democrats.

Donald Trump has won the 2016 election and the Republicans retain control of both the House and the Senate.  

There is no-one to blame but the Democratic party politicians, the DNC, and their big donors. They had a candidate (actually more than one) who could have beat Trump in a landslide, yet they decided they had to do everything in their power, including rigging the primaries and colluding with the media, to give the nomination to a person so universally despised and so obviously corrupt that she couldn’t beat the carnival barker.  Irony of ironies; as the Clinton and DNC emails prove, the Clinton people were pushing for the nomination of Trump as an opponent because they thought he would be easier for her to beat than any other Republican. The fatal flaw of this plan was that the Democratic machine had been rigging everything in favor of the one person who couldn’t beat anyone with enough of a margin to overcome the insurmountable and peculiar electoral college system we use.  [Although they claim she beat Bernie Sanders, running as a fellow Democrat, in the primaries, the evidence of the DNC rigging the primaries is, well, irrefutable at this point and her nomination was cinched by Sanders’ own and finally obvious collusion in merely playing the sheepdog to deliver his innocent flock over to her.]  

Not only that, but the DNC spent all their money – against the party regulations, by the way – on the Hillary Victory Fund instead of spreading it out to the down-ticket Democrats; as a result, they still have a minority in both the House and the Senate. Not to mention that the only down-ticket Democrats that they supported verbally, if not financially, were nothing but ‘Blue Dog’ sell-outs instead of progressives or liberals. Despite losing the hold they had in both houses of Congress and losing state houses all across the country during the 2014 mid-terms, they didn’t bother with getting out the vote, or bother to deal with gerry-mandering issues, or pay any attention whatsoever to what people were telling them – that the economy sucks, people need jobs, Obamacare is really really bad, wealth disparity is dividing the country, Obama didn’t keep any of his promises and people were pissed about it, and everyone is sick of the “bipartisan compromises” that keep making things worse on the ground.  47 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat.  Fully one-third of eligible working-age Americans do not have jobs.  Social Security benefits continue to get cut or remain stagnant despite the fact that people can see with their own two eyes that food, housing and every other expense they routinely have to pay each month continues to increase in price.  Health insurance costs are so high that a family plan now costs more than the average person earns in 6 months.  Wages are effectively lower than they were 20 years ago.  Although the “family income” level was purred over repeatedly by Obama and Clinton on the campaign trail and touted as a sign of how things have improved under Obama, the fact is that according to the reports themselves, family income has not even risen above the level it was in 1999 – 17 years ago.  This is obfuscated by politicians and media pundits who don’t reveal the actual charts, try to equate “household income” with “personal income”, and who never point out the obvious; family income includes the combined incomes of all members of a family living in one household, and we now have the highest number of adult children living with their parents than at any time in our history.  Even if all they have is some measly part-time job at McDonald’s, these young adults contribute to that “household income” number.  Which, despite 1/3 of Americans under the age of 30 having to live with Mommy and Daddy, is still lower than than it was 17 fucking years ago.

I’m just amazed that the political grifters weren’t able to pull off the final fake-out and simply make up the election results like they do the unemployment numbers, economic measurements, or poll numbers and just claim Clinton won; on the other hand, it should occur to everyone that perhaps Trump is just as acceptable to the plutocracy as she is.  Maybe it’s that easy to figure out why they didn’t bother to rig the election – either candidate suffices to get the powers-that-be where they want to be; in total control of all the commons and all the wealth, and so they let the general election play out without interference.   Hell, maybe they did rig it, but didn’t go far enough, underestimating the numbers they needed.  Or – here’s a conspiracy theory for you – maybe Clinton’s health really is so bad that they realized, too late, that they couldn’t let her take office.  It strikes me as odd that she conceded before Trump had officially hit the magic 270 number in the electoral count and well before all the popular votes were in, especially given her determined, bullish, self-righteous pursuit of the office for so many long years.  Or perhaps the investigations into the Clinton Foundation are showing indications that criminal charges are forthcoming; the FBI has not ended those investigations, after all.  However, that will be taken care of by Obama preemptively pardoning Clinton before he leaves the White House so that no charges can ever be filed and the Clinton Foundation’s felonious enterprise will never be publicly exposed.  Perhaps the electoral college will not vote the way it is pledged to, in the end, and Clinton has been told to expect this.  She actually has won the popular vote, after all.  The electoral college does not cast its official vote until Dec. 19.  Supposedly, the electors have to vote the way they are pledged, but they may be convinced to test the system this time on behalf of “DNC primary super-delegate winner” Clinton.  Maybe this election has yet other surprises in store.

The country could have gone either way – more liberal or more conservative – in its presidential decision.  As the results of various ballot measures across the country prove, our societal tendency as a whole is clearly toward the liberal side.  The voters approved measures for legalized marijuana and increased minimum wages in state after state, for example.  It’s the politicians who are trending ever further right.  The Democratic party refused to encourage this social trending and instead offered the most right-wing Democrats they could find.  The voters repudiated that; unfortunately, having been abandoned by the Democrats, voting for Republicans was the only way to voice their discontent.  It wasn’t so much a choice for the conservatives as an un-choosing of the status quo.  In fact, the Republican party can only claim somewhere between 25 and 30% of the voting public as its base.  Clinton, Obama, and her other spokesmen were out there on the campaign trail, however, praising Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright, for God’s sake.  The Republican big-wigs supported Clinton, as did all the neocons and neoliberals.  She talked about the need for more wars (with Iran, China, and Russia, God help us all) and more Pentagon spending, and the only mention made of liberal ideas were to dismiss them as things that might  be “worked out eventually in a bipartisan fashion”.  It all made anything she said about “supporting progressive promises” and “Democratic ideals” look so phony that, in the end, nobody could believe a damn word of it.  I guarantee you, if the Democrats had run seriously progressive candidates and responded to, heeded the message of, the massive support Sanders got and what it implied, this election would have ended differently. It’s too bad, because Trump’s trickle-down economic ideas won’t do a damned thing for any but the wealthiest Americans and corporate cartels, but the people responded at a gut level. They found him to be authentic in his strange, but ultimately Ayn Randian way, and intuitively knew Clinton was a liar, a warmonger and a Wall Street stooge.  Going with their gut feelings was all they had; the billionaires, corporate elites, whorish media, and political parties have finally managed to so dumb down and confuse the population that all the people had left was unfiltered, inchoate anger and primal survival instinct.  They tossed a Hail Mary pass for the one they felt was at least a political outsider, driven by the devil’s bargain that had been foisted on them by party elites.

I think we are going to lose our Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and food stamps benefits no matter who had won, as both parties have been colluding to that end since Bill Clinton was in office.  Obama formed his “catfood commission” as one of the first things he did during his first term, if you’ll recall.  When Obama took office in 2008, he had a Democratic majority in both houses.  And yet he utterly failed to implement any of the progressive platforms he had run on, instead squandering the opportunity (with no objection from the Democrats in either house, mind you) to end torture, take action against the Bush regime, close Guantanamo Bay, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, punish the Wall Street bankers who crashed the economy, or push for universal health-care.  He brought in Timmeh Geithner and other Goldman Sachs men to run the Treasury and immediately assigned Monsanto people to run the FDA and the USDA, granted permits for even more deep-water drilling, and named a charter-schools promoter to run the Dept. of Education.  Within a few years, he had signed the NDAA giving him the ability to assassinate anyone he chose anywhere on the planet (Trump may love that presidential perq), and expanded our illegal “war zone” to seven countries.  Like the Syriza Party in Greece, Obama and the Democrats took office with false promises and immediately handed the country over to everything the people thought they were voting against.  We were given the discipline of austerity measures, a health “reform” that gave exponentially more profits to the private insurers and pharmaceutical companies, and exposed to the quackery of the Federal Reserve programs.  It is guaranteed that now, at this late date and with the Republicans in charge of both houses and the presidency, there will be no re-regulation of Wall Street, all our tax monies will continue to feed the Pentagon, big corporations will still get governmental subsidies while raking in record profits, there will not be an end to the toxic shit dumped into the water and food, every state will be fracked, and every politician in Washington will continue to ignore the wishes of the people who voted them into office.  Here’s the thing: we weren’t going to get anything good out of this election anyway.  You might not have noticed, but neither party talked about actual policies they might implement.  The media never asked questions along those lines, either.  Climate change was never mentioned in the debates, nor the militarization of the police, nor the legality of the US bombing  multiple countries, none of with whom we are legally at war .  Likewise ignored was civil asset forfeiture, NSA spying, and all the other losses of our civil liberties over the years.  Despite Trump’s promises, the House and Senate won’t spend a dime on infrastructure, jobs, or education, and for sure, climate change or environmental issues are completely dead in the water now (those being not even mentioned by Trump), but at least there isn’t going to be any pretense about who both parties of Congress serve any more. And it isn’t the people of the United States; it’s the plutocracy.  Desperate Trump supporters and the die-hard Clinton supporters may not have figured that out yet, and may never; for we are a supremely fact-free and stupid society now.  

[As an aside, I have to mention that Clinton didn’t even bother to address her faithful in person last night.  She phoned in her concession to Trump, had someone announce to the media that she’d speak publicly in the morning, and just left all those Clinton people deserted in the hall where they’d gathered in the assumption that win or lose, she’d at least grace them with her presence.  She didn’t spare a minute for them, however.  All those sad Clinton supporters, mourning the fact that their very own Caligula had lost the election, were left to catch some rest as best they could in their folding chairs until around noon today, when she gave her official concession speech.  I watched that event live when it occurred.  She had the unmitigated nerve to blather on about how the US “treats everyone equally under the law” and about how “the Constitution” and “rule of law” guides us all and makes us such a great country.  Much to my surprise, a bolt of lightening did not come down from the heavens and strike her dead.]

But whatever happens from here on out, put the blame where it belongs: on the Democrats, who insisted that it was the criminal War-pig’s “turn”, no matter what the voters were saying they wanted.  As it turns out, the fact that she pees sitting down wasn’t a big selling point, and that was the only card they had to play.  What’s the old saying?  Democrats stab you in the back, Republicans stab you in the front.  The Democrats sold us out gradually over the years; from Bill Clinton’s time in office onwards, they turned ever more rightward, leaving behind and deserting the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the unions, and the idea that our society and commons should be the primary recipients of taxpayer monies.  We were at a turning point with this election.  We could have gone more toward the right or toward the left in this choice, as I said.  We had candidates who were clearly more to the left of Clinton, candidates who were kept as hidden as possible by the collaboration of the media and the political parties until it was too late, and the left was deserted.  The Democratic power machine deliberately chose to take the rightward lean, they deliberately chose to ignore what their voter base wanted, and in so doing, deliberately threw away a chance to nudge our society ever closer toward true equality and social uplift.  We will pay the price for a long time and the price will be heavy.  

 

 

Notes on the TPP.

The TPP was written in complete secrecy by corporate CEOs and their lawyers, along with official governmental trade negotiators, over a five year period. The trade negotiator for the US is Michael Froman. He served in the Treasury Dept under Bob Rubin within the Clinton administration, during which time the Glass-Steagall Act was overturned, leading directly to the conditions giving rise to the economic meltdown years later.  After that gig, he and Rubin both went to work for Citigroup (big bank and hedge fund a-go-go). In 2013, he became our trade negotiator. I mention this because it’s relevant that our trade negotiator is a big bank guy who worked for one of the banks that helped tank the economy in ’08.

Obama signed the TPP in Feb. this year, as did all the leaders of the 12 signatory nations. None of them, however, has gotten the deal ratified in their countries yet; i.e., the TPP has not been passed through the parliaments or Congresses of any of the 12 nations yet and so has not legally gone into effect.

They have 2 years to ratify the TPP. If it isn’t ratified by Feb 2018, they can put it into force with only 6 countries participating, if the GDP of those 6 countries combined equals 85% of the GDP of the original 12 countries.

The TPP includes an ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] mechanism. This clause allows a company to sue a treaty-participating country for monetary damages if local laws affect their business. It does not allow them to make changes to local laws, but it does allow them to sue a government for “damages”. The ISDS is run by a tribunal of 3 judges: all of whom are corporate heads, chosen by a panel of big corporations. It has been pointed out that previous trade agreements with an ISDS clause have pushed participating countries to loosen environmental and labor regulations in an effort to preemptively stave off potential lawsuits under ISDS, thus inherently influencing which laws are passed or altered by signatory countries.  It is the ISDS that ensures an end to our national sovereignty, as if the TPP even without it, weren’t bad enough. Any member of Congress that votes yes for this trade agreement and the president that signs it into law is committing treason, in my opinion.

While the ISDS clause cannot forcibly change US laws, some US laws will need to be changed in order to comply with the TPP itself. Obama had the duty (signed into law with the passage of the “Fast-track” bill; aka the Trade Promotion Authority or TPA) of working with the heads of the various US agencies (Dept of Ag, Commerce Dept, Treasury Dept, OSHA, etc.) to create a list of which laws would need to be altered, and to present this list to Congress at the same time the TPP is formally presented to them for vote. Obama signed an executive order in July handing this duty over to Michael Froman (our trade representative). We will find out what laws have been changed if/when Congress votes yes on the TPP. Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the TPP and its attached list of regulatory changes; they are not allowed to amend, filibuster, debate, add to, delete from, or alter any text at all.

Which means that any politician (like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid) who suggests that the TPP can “be improved” by Congress before it is passed is lying through his teeth. Congress cannot change a word of the TPP. Any improvements that Congress might want to suggest before they would pass the damned thing would necessitate the renegotiation of the agreement with the other countries. (Congress cannot amend the text themselves, but they might, behind the scene so to speak, suggest changes that would ensure passage.) In other words, if Congress says they want x,y, or z clauses to be changed, the TPP has to be re-presented to all the countries with the alterations and the whole negotiation started over again, with the leaders of these countries having to sign a new agreement and presenting that new one to their parliaments for ratification. Obama wants this thing done before he leaves office, so it’s unlikely he would consider any recommendations from Congress that would cause the TPP to have to go into renegotiation. And when Clinton makes breezy promises to “improve” it when she is the president, she is eliding the fact that any improvements she might want will likewise send the agreement into renegotiation. (Remember, the countries only have 2 years to ratify the TPP through their parliaments, so there is little time to negotiate a new treaty.)

The “fast-track” bill that Congress wrote and passed and that Obama signed into law last year has its own stipulations that the media has chosen to completely ignore. This bill governs how Congress votes on any trade agreements for the next 6 years. It reads that Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on any of these agreements without debate, alterations, or amendments, as I mentioned above. I also mentioned that it made the president responsible for telling Congress of any changes to our existing laws that have to occur to comply to the agreements (a duty that Obama handed off to Froman).

In case you think I am inventing the idea that some of our laws will require alteration or amendment (or, in fact, to be overturned altogether) with passage of the TPP, it is quite obvious that this is the case, as the Fast-track bill includes these paragraphs:

“if changes in existing laws or new statutory authority are required to implement such trade agreement or agreements, only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement such trade agreement or agreements, either repealing or amending existing laws or providing new statutory authority.[…]”

and:

“within 60 days after entering into the agreement, the President submits to Congress a description of those changes to existing laws that the President considers would be required in order to bring the United States into compliance with the agreement.”

But there are further rules imposed by the fast-track law, and these are overarching requirements for any trade agreement for the next 6 years. Fast-track demands that no trade agreement can discourage or prejudice commercial activity between the US and Israel. It stipulates that trade agreements must discourage movements such as BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) against Israel. This “no-BDS” clause includes everyone; the definition is given thusly:

“Definition.–In this paragraph, the term ‘actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” means actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

This formal declaration against the BDS movement was included despite the fact that Israel is not a participating country in any of the troika of trade agreements potentially coming up for vote in the near future. [What I call the troika consists of the TTP, the TTIP, and TISA.]

Fast-track also puts an end to any notion that we will ever have the labeling of products like GMOs or nano-technology, as it includes the following, a provision that none of the trade agreements can include:

“unjustified trade restrictions or commercial requirements, such as labeling, that affect new technologies, including biotechnology; […]”

When Obama signed the fast-track bill into law, he also signed the updated TAA (aka the Trade Adjustment Assistance law). This bill acknowledges the fact that trade agreements cost the US millions of jobs and so Congress authorizes funds for the “re-training” of American workers who will need to find new jobs with which to support themselves. The TAA has existed for years, but was set to expire in 2015. Congress reauthorized the bill and increased the funding because they knew that the upcoming TPP would cost jobs. They had to pass the TAA in order to get the fast-track bill passed: Obama demanded both at the same time, as did members of Congress who otherwise opposed the fast-track legislation, specifically because they know the TPP, TTIP, etc. will lead to job losses. Some of them even said so out loud while debating the fast-track and TAA bills – that the TPP will cost the US several million jobs, which is a vast understatement, according to labor experts. In order to pass the TAA re-training bill, Congress scotch-taped it to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade bill supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, to attract more yes votes. In the updated bill, Congress supplied the necessary $950 mm funding (their estimate of the minimum needed for worker re-training if the TPP passes) by cutting Medicare further. They extended the Medicare sequestration reductions – Medicare benefits have been cut repeatedly since Obama took office – through 2024 and reduced reimbursements for Medicare patients who are on dialysis for acute renal failure. If you are one of the Americans qualified to get “re-training” money to help you “upgrade your skills” so you can find a new job at McDonald’s or WalMart after the TPP erases your current job, thank an elderly dialysis patient. Oh, wait, you won’t be able to – they’ll all be dead. And by the way, the amount of money you’ll get from the federal government toward a “re-training” program is $1500. Good luck.

No-one in the media noted that while Congress was talking about how the TPP was a swell idea, so “wonderful” that they wanted (and got) the fast-track bill in order to get the TPP passed as quickly as possible when it comes to a vote, they were admitting within the body of a bill passed at the same exact time as fast-track that the TPP was going to cost US jobs. Obama’s trade-policy advocates say the TPP will create jobs at the same time they say it will cost jobs. Which is it?  According to them (depending on the day of the week and which shill they have talking about it for them that day), it will do both.  Let’s call it the “Vietnam War Theory of Economics and Job Growth”. This new economic theory is that jobs must be lost in order for jobs to be created, and that a “good” trade deal is one that will lead to lost jobs and lower wages, which then must be partially offset by more federal spending for the displaced work force (funded with the tried and true method of simply taking monies from another sector of the public sphere); said pool of “displaced workers” having been created by the government passing the trade agreement in the first place.

And the TPP is what Clinton calls the “gold standard” of trade agreements, at least until she decided she had to lie about her position on it in order to garner votes.  For some reason, we allow our votes to be heavily invested in outright political lies.

The TTIP and TISA, the other two trade agreements currently under negotiation, have the same issues that the TPP does, and while I am not going into the specific details of those two here, if they are signed and brought before Congress, they will also be enacted within the mandates of the fast-track law. Some good information about both can be found on wikipedia, and websites such as publiccitizen.org are doing an outstanding job of reporting on them.

The TPP and the other trade agreements aren’t about trade. Tariffs are already near zero. They are about giving big, multi-national corporations complete control of and power over judicial and legislative decisions in every country, as well as providing unlimited opportunities for corporate cartels to strip money from wages and reduce governmental spending on the commons.

 

Sorry, Hillary. The Constitution doesn’t work that way.

This morning, I had an email in my in-box suggesting that I thank Hillary Clinton for her pledge to introduce, within the first 30 days of taking office, an amendment to the constitution which would overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 “Citizen’s United” decision.  This decision by the Court declared that money is the same as speech and allowed unlimited corporate spending in elections, releasing a veritable flood of political bribe money into election contests at every level.

The email piqued my interest, as Clinton is vowing here to help overturn a decision that has benefitted her enormously.  It seems obvious political pandering.  Why would she swear to turn off the spigot that has brought her loathsome self so close to winning the White House?

I decided to verify that she had actually made this statement; not because it is such a remarkably risible promise, which it is, but because I immediately realized that as president, Clinton could do no such thing.

She did, in fact, make these remarks to Netroots Nation audience via a video message.  From the transcript:

[…] Now, I know many of the people in this room supported Senator Sanders in the primary. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, learning from you and working with you.

You’ve helped put political and campaign finance reform at the top of the national agenda, and I intend to keep it there.

Today I’m announcing that in my first thirty days as President I will propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and give the American people — all of us — the chance to reclaim our democracy.

I will also appoint Supreme Court justices who understand that this decision was a disaster for our democracy, and I will fight for other progressive reforms including small dollar matching and disclosure requirements.

I hope some of the brilliant minds in this room will seek out cases to challenge Citizens United in the courts because I know I can’t do this alone. We need you to keep speaking out keep organizing and keep holding elected officials — including me — accountable.

We know what happens when progressive voices get drowned out by the other side, and we cannot let that happen, so I’m looking forward to fighting alongside you and with Senator Sanders in the weeks months and years to come because you know what we are stronger together. Thank you all very much.

After all the questionable tactics used by the DNC, the voting “irregularities” (ahem), the bizarre and entirely inappropriate, extrajudicial Comey decision [not to recommend indictment for her illegal email system] that shoe-horned Clinton into the position of being the presumptive Democratic nominee, it’s swell to hear that she would like to give the American people ,”all of us – the chance to reclaim our democracy”.  Sure, now that you are a breath away from the Oval Office, you’ll let us have some of that imagined democracy back.  Well, that remains to be seen.  We still have to contend with the Diebold machines, voter ID laws, and gerry-rigged districts in November.  But the thought has to count for something, doesn’t it?  I really like the “we know what happens when progressive voices get drowned out by the other side,” too; she takes a moment here to crow about what she and the DNC just did to Sanders and his progressive supporters. Yeah, Hillary, we know what happens when you drown the progressives.  We just watched you do it.

Most Americans, no matter their political leanings, deplore the Citizen’s United decision.  And so her promise to commit herself to proposing a constitutional amendment to reverse it is being greeted with unabashed enthusiasm.  The website where I found the above transcript is a typical example.  The author closes with this: 

“This is great news. Our thanks to Hillary Clinton for committing to explicitly offer a constitutional amendment to stop the flood of big money in elections unleashed by the most disastrous decision of the Roberts Court.

“However, we do need more than an amendment that merely reverses that decision. We need an amendment that states that corporations are not people and money is not speech. There are other Supreme Court decisions that also need to be overturned, so that our democracy can endure.”
https://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2016/07/hillary-clinton-commits-to-introducing-amendment-to-overturn-citizens-united.html

Poor thing actually seems to think that not only can the president offer an amendment, s/he can simply overturn Supreme Court decisions at will.  However, while all such sentiments may be heartfelt and sincere, I have to point out that Clinton cannot really do any such thing as “offer a constitutional amendment” and the progressive community is enabling her continued misinformation when they praise her for a promise she cannot legally fulfill.  She may even be aware of this herself.  Note this part of her remarks: “I hope some of the brilliant minds in this room will seek out cases to challenge Citizens United in the courts because I know I can’t do this alone.”

Damn straight you can’t do it alone.  She was either aware at the time she made “the vow” that she could not as president ever fulfill it, and therefore was simply making another empty political promise or she has no idea what the constitution allows on the matter of amendments.  In any case, one might note that “challenging it in the courts” is not at all the same thing as “proposing a constitutional amendment”, but I guess everyone was so thrilled with the idea that Clinton was going to amend the constitution once she was enthroned that they didn’t catch the nuance there.  Nor can she “appoint” Supreme Court justices, words she uses in her video message; she can only nominate them for Congressional approval.

The president (and the Supreme Court, as well, by the way) has no role in amending the constitution. None whatsoever.  The president cannot propose an amendment, author an amendment, introduce an amendment, ratify an amendment, veto an amendment, or “call for” an amendment, and furthermore, is not even called upon to sign one into law, should it get that far.  A couple of successful amendments have been signed by the sitting president, but that is for ceremonial purposes only.  At most, a president can only kind of politely suggest to members of Congress, behind the scenes, that they accept or decline a particular proposal.  The constitution is clear about the lack of any other role for the president in this instance.

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/article-v.html

To put this into very understandable language for the layman, I found this simple explanation of the way it happens:

Given the enormity of the role modern American presidents play in contemporary politics, it may come as a surprise that presidents are not directly involved in amending the U.S. Constitution. While they can use the bully pulpit to lobby for or against a proposed amendment, and while some presidents have played ceremonial roles in signing ratified amendments, they cannot introduce, ratify or veto an amendment. The Constitution leaves that role to the U.S. Congress and the states.[…]

A constitutional amendment may be proposed in two ways: either by a two-thirds-majority vote of both houses of Congress, or through a constitutional conventional called for by three-fourths of state legislatures. The latter has never been used. Congress proposes an amendment through what is called a joint resolution; unlike bills passed by Congress, these resolutions do not require the president’s signature.

The States’ Consideration
After a joint resolution passes Congress, it is sent to the Office of the Federal Register for official publication. Then, it is sent to each state’s governor, who in turn submits it to the legislature for consideration. In one case, the 21st Amendment, state conventions, rather than legislatures, were called upon to approve the amendment. Three-fourths of state legislatures must ratify the amendment for it to go into effect. […]

After three-fourths of the states ratify a constitutional amendment, it is sent to the National Archives for official certification. The certification signing has become a ceremonial event attended by dignitaries, including the president. Presidents may also sign the certifications as witnesses, as President Lyndon Johnson did with the 24th and 25th amendments, and President Richard Nixon did with the 26th Amendment.

http://classroom.synonym.com/can-president-introduce-ratify-veto-constitutional-amendment-21615.html
 

Whatever Clinton does or does not understand about the law, and I submit that her valiant attempts to obfuscate her willful breaking of the law show at least a working knowledge of the laws of the land, the public must inform themselves as well as they can.  Empty, meaningless rhetoric and indulgence of the wishful thinking of the voters should be met with information and skepticism, not praise.  Promises made by Clinton in particular should be treated for their worth: a bucket of warm spit.

The email issue alone should have proved to everyone Clinton’s immense distain for the law.  FBI director James Comey presented an air-tight case for conviction and then declined to recommend indictment, basically offering stupidity as her defense.  He went on at length about her intent, or lack thereof, to break the law, although “intent” is not mentioned in the laws in question and is normally not something considered in seeking indictment.  Her intent is obvious in any case.

She decided to use a private server and a personal email system to circumvent the required State Dept. system.  In fact, it came out in Comey’s hearing before Congress that she had used multiple such systems.  She hid this from officials for years, even after leaving the State Department, and lied to Congress about it.  When caught, she deleted tens of thousands of emails and had the server scrubbed.  She had access to highly classified information and allowed it to be removed from its secure custody (the State Dept. secured system) and sent it to people not authorized to have it.  She knowingly mingled State Dept. business with Clinton Foundation [Clinton Global Initiative] business.  She instructed her aides and employees to protect her emails from FOIA requests.  Clinton didn’t even have her system password-protected, and was warned several times by her IT staff that they thought it had been hacked.  Since then, she has lied repeatedly to the public about all aspects of this criminality.  How is any of this anything but proof of willful intent?

Don’t people realize that she destroyed pretty much the entire record of four years of the Secretary of State?  We will never know how much of what should have been public archive has thus been lost, as the thorough scrubbing of her system means it cannot ever be restored.

Comey tried to play Pontius Pilate and absolve himself of participation in this affair by admitting during the Congressional hearing that he had not personally been present when the FBI questioned her; instead, he had relied on the notes and recommendation of the FBI underlings who had been there to make his decision for him.  His disinterest in personally taking part in what was perhaps the most important and historic interview the FBI ever conducted is as inexplicable as the Bill Clinton/Loretta Lynch serendipitous and “accidental” meeting on the tarmac just days before the interview itself.

I recently read that when asked, Clinton said she would not suspend the activities of the Clinton Foundation while in office (‘should she win’, she did not think to add).  She did promise, however, that there will more “transparency” in its operation. Imagine the coin to be made while she is actually in office; it’s going to make what they’ve taken in bribes so far look like petty cash.  

Well, why not? None of these assholes care if everyone knows what they are doing any more. They know there’s nothing we can do about it.  Too bad it appears that the Clinton Foundation will not be getting the scrutiny it calls for.  That is where a real investigation should be launched and continued for as long as it takes to untangle the pay-to-play scheme that is involved.  In the meantime, she should be ineligible for any public office.  Her engineering the utter destruction of Libya makes her a war criminal and should be sufficient to bar her from the presidency, but we have long since completely ended any pretense of following international norms, much less our own laws.

Oh, and the Goldman Sachs speeches, another minor pimple on her ass – hell, I’m just waiting to hear how much she is going to charge the tax-payers for her State of the Union speeches.

All that is apparently forgotten by the media, and we will soon hear an eager Elizabeth Warren, champion de-jour of all things labeled “progressive”, cheering for this amendment-by-presidential-fiat thing.  

Elizabeth Warren as “progressive” is an entity entirely fabricated by the media, of course. The stances she took on various issues were clearly outlined by her on her website when she was first running for US Senate. Apparently no-one bothered reading the damn thing and instead relied on the media’s “interpretation” of her positions. At the time of her running for Senate, she offered, on every single issue, a policy statement that read as though it had come straight out of the PNAC [Project for a New American Century] playbook.

Her statements about Israel (fiercely Israel-first and anti-Palestinian), Iran (rabidly Iranphobic, even going so far as to say that Iran “must not have an escape hatch”), homeland security (all aspects of which she enthusiastically endorses as “necessary” in the “fight against terror”), etc. are completely in line with every repulsive neoliberal, hawkish, projecting our power abroad, AIPAC-inspired statement made by far-right politicians for years, and now parroted by supposed “democrats” and “liberals” such as Clinton and Obama.

The fact that she has now decided to become Clinton’s purse-pet, the yappy little doggie that rich girls carry around in their over-sized pocketbooks, is not surprising.  She may like to be portrayed as a political naif, but she sure picked up the politician’s unerring ability to kiss the ass of power very quickly.

And there is Sanders.  Despite once ardently stating that Clinton was “not qualified to be president”, Bernie has now officially endorsed her and dropped his campaign.  

Yes, I know he promised long ago to endorse “whomever the eventual Democrat nominee turns out to be”; which should have been a signal that he didn’t think it would be himself.  Bear in mind that Clinton may be the presumptive nominee, but she is not the actual nominee yet, and won’t be until the delegates vote on the convention floor.  He needn’t have endorsed her until the convention.

He promised to “take it to the convention”. His endorsement before the convention may have early fulfilled his promise to Clinton and the DNC (to endorse the nominee), but he reneged on the one he made to the voters.

Then, as some sort of really sucky consolation prize, he promised his supporters he would work to make the DNC platform more “progressive”.  But the Clinton camp voted down all of his planks and what we are left with is basically a Republican platform with some Democratic-sounding civil rights’ platitudes thrown in.  So Sanders got nothing in the way of concessions, but vowed he would fight for more progressive ideals to be added to the platform while he was attending the convention. This is where the platform becomes the Official Platform via delegate voting.  Except – pretend to be surprised – he is not going to do that either.

“Party rules empower Sanders, who endorsed Hillary Clinton Tuesday, to try to force votes at the Philadelphia convention on proposed planks that failed to muster the necessary votes at a Platform Committee meeting last weekend in Orlando.

“But Sanders has decided against using the so-called minority report process, the senator’s top policy aid informed allies Tuesday. […]”


http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/bernie-sanders-rules-out-convention-floor-fights-platform-n608256

Well, clarity is a good thing, isn’t it?  So now at least we know where we stand.  Hint: we got nothin’.  Diebold will handle the race from here on out.

And now Sanders has the “honor” of being “allowed” to speak at the Democratic Convention.  He is scheduled for the first night, no doubt so that everyone will forget what he had to say by the time the event comes to a conclusion.  The message is a clear, “Thanks for coming.  Now, don’t let the door hit your old ass on the way out, you hear?”   His staff remarked, however, that “nothing is set in stone”; what that means is anyone’s guess.   Maybe he won’t speak at all, or maybe he will end up being Clinton’s VP pick and speak on the second-to-last night, the traditional night for the vice presidential pick to give a speech.  That would be the final sellout to Bernie voters; their guy giving up his seat in the Senate to become a useless toadie in the Clinton White House.

On Thursday, the final night of the convention, we get the really big show.  That’s when the (by then official) nominee gets to speak.  This year, not only will Clinton be speaking on Thursday, but we will also be administered the extra-special torture of having to endure a speech from her daughter Chelsea as part of the denouement to the festivities.  I’m sure everyone involved is hoping the teleprompter will scroll slowly enough for her to keep up with it.  I’m hoping it will simply read, “I am the Odious Queen War-pig’s royal offspring, and I will see you in 4 to 8 years if we can keep this con going that long, and thank you for coming.”  And then she will exit the stage.

On the other side, we have Trump.  A cretin and TV reality star, who beat out a couple of football teams’ worth of notably horrible and repugnant candidates to become his party’s nominee.  His belonging to the wealthiest class in America doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of his “fans”, as he calls them; they are oblivious to the inherent mockery of his entire campaign.  He should have picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate.  That would have created some jobs; we’d need oracles to interpret the stream-of-consciousness ramblings emanating from the White House. I suspect he is running simply to assure the presidency for Clinton.

Clinton and Trump are rightfully the most reviled candidates ever to run for president.  Clinton is the first candidate in US history to be under active criminal investigation while running for president.  More and more people are coming to the decision to either vote for third-party candidates or to refuse to vote at all.  Two extraordinarily wealthy grifters, at least one of whom willfully broke the law while serving in high office, two idiots, one who wants to nuke ISIS (and thus the entire Middle East) and reinstate torture, and one who wants to expand the current (and illegal) war zones into Russia, Syria, and Iran.  That’s what we have to chose between.  Hope you weren’t planning on having time to spend whatever is left in that retirement account – we aren’t looking at very good odds on your being around to cash it out.  But no matter who wins the election or what happens as a result, they can’t blame the voters for it.  When given this sort of appalling choice and the open rigging of the primaries, the voters cannot be blamed for just walking away.

Hey, on a positive note, if Clinton wins, she’ll get the rap instead of Bernie for the economy continuing to rot, the environmental disasters looming ahead, the treasonous TPP trade agreement, and the next iteration of the Long Wars. Hope she enjoys the hell out of being in the WH again; couldn’t happen to a person who deserves the wrath of the people more.

Fake candidates making false statements, running in a faked election, with totally sham media coverage, in a country falsely claiming to be the face of democracy, while it perpetrates illegal, false wars on fake enemies it created, running its economy on fraudulent paper: nobody should be surprised when this tent folds.

This is not going to end well; no matter who “wins” the election, everyone across the globe loses. This time around, the oligarchs don’t care if the losers include us Americans; surely we all realize by this juncture that we are no longer the ‘exceptional ones’ to the people who run this country.

It’s time to think of your own survival. Time to plant your own garden, flee the system to the extent that you can, tend to yourself and your family.  Don’t add to anyone else’s difficulties.  Be a good human.  

Here is some inspiration for you.  It’s all I have to offer right now.  

[…] You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

[…] And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

[…] Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

And I have this: “Woodstock”.  Written by Joni Mitchell and included on one of her albums, but the most popular version, as below, was performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

lyrics:
Well, I came upon a child of God.
He was walking along the road.
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going?
This he told me:

Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes, and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

This video contains footage from the actual Woodstock event and also has a little added verse (from another Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song) at the end.

[Note: this post dedicated to my golden brah, who has fled the system and is showing me by his concrete example how to get back to the garden.]

 

 

This is for posterity.

Now, if this isn’t just the epitome of Current America.  Illegally turn the city over to an unelected “manager” in a replacement coup of their elected mayor.  Privatize the water system. Don’t monitor said water system.  Find out, belatedly, but after being warned several times, that the water is toxic.  Cover up the facts until people are turning up sick, brain-damaged or dead.  Blame it on A) the Democrats, B) the Republicans, C) anyone no longer in office, D) the janitor, E) God, or F) the impoverished poor people who didn’t (i.e., couldn’t) pay their exorbitant water bills from the price-gouging private company and who therefore deserved what they got.  This is just the invisible hand of the market at work, or some such eternal and bright capitalistic truth, right?  Here are a couple of hard and real truths for you: it is unlikely the people who inflicted this on the public in Flint will ever pay any legal price for it.  It is inconceivable that any of them actually care about the matter, although they may mumble some platitudes about how unacceptable it all is, as though they had no idea how this whole thing happened; if they cared about what sort of crap was flowing from the faucets of the city, they would never have made the decisions they did.  And here’s the saddest truth: the people who have been harmed by the water system are utterly dependent on the ones who let it happen in the first place to find a solution.

However, we can now use this as a teaching moment for these poor young ones so they will learn how to use their new free water filters, which they are going to need for the rest of their lives whether they are living in Michigan’s Dead Zone or some other pit of hell carved out specially for them elsewhere in the nation, because they aren’t ever going to get anything better than toxic waste to drink no matter where they are corralled by the assholes in charge, and it is damn near impossible to get out of one of these poverty pockets once you’ve accidentally landed in one.  They can’t even legally sell their homes and try their luck elsewhere, assuming there was an elsewhere to go to; Michigan law is such that a person can’t sell a home knowing that there is no drinkable water running from the taps.  But apparently, yeah, what all God’s children in Flint (and Detroit and elsewhere) need right now is just a little instruction on how to use those fucking water filters and a lesson about the water cycle.  What you never want to talk about – or for them to learn about – is how democracy is supposed to work and how it has been subverted all over the country by corporate interests and toady politicians, or how the EPA, the USDA, and other protective agencies used to be funded and run, or how this shit never had to happen to them in the first damn place.

Oh, and this is an opportunity to collect artifacts from this historic event.  Don’t want to be last in the game of collecting and collating details on how America killed its own.

I wonder how those babies, black and white, will one day feel about being living “artifacts” while they were growing up in the fetid swamp of this new experimental system of governance where privatization and austerity, controlled by corporate interests and imposed by fiat coming from the very officials who are charged with holding the common good in trust, took their futures away from them.   Maybe they should talk to the American Indians about how it feels to be viewed as part of the historical record of artifacts being gathered even as they are struggling to deal with the events, which are still occurring at ground zero.  Maybe the museum holding this event should ask the descendants of the Tuskegee men if their grandfathers might have felt better about the whole thing if only someone had just thought to accumulate and collate the medical artifacts for the public’s perusal while they were still being experimented on.  (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this country?)

Maybe the curators of this museum event can start some other collections to document life downwind and down-river from one of the 100 nuclear plants around the US – hey, the people living near Hanford and Indian Point have some stories to share.  The museum officials already missed their chance to compile information on what normal human health was prior to the global take-over of the agricultural systems by the companies that are testing their unproven hypotheses about the safety of genetic modification throughout the food chain and saturating everything with toxic chemicals along the way, as well as destroying any nutritional value that was previously available in these foods.  [Here I must give a shout-out to the Clintons and the Gates, the two families who have done more than anyone else, in joint effort with the GMO companies themselves, to inflict this particular form of mass health speculation on the human beings trying to live on this planet.  Well done.  You have now reached what some individuals consider the peak position in the hierarchy of hominids.  You have become, in essence, the world’s apex predators – of your fellow men.  Some people actually admire that.]   I’ll tell you what: neither the museum curators nor the insurance company sponsoring this event will teach the right lessons for posterity to learn in this exercise, and they aren’t collecting the right “artifacts”, because this situation has fuck-all to do with the water cycle and really very little to do with the purity of the water from the nearby lakes and rivers, either.  It has everything to do with poverty, corrupt grifters acting as government officials, the weakening of whatever remains of any useful regulations, and the imposition of the profit-seeking private corporatocracy on a captive population.  The US takes puffy pride in its claim of equality for all, but here’s the thing; no-one whines that he isn’t equal to the poor slob on the bottom rung.  Everyone wants to be equal to the guy above him.  Our current social, political and economic systems reflect that.  So not much will be done to address the root causes of the water problem in Flint.  The best they can hope for is that the free water filters continue to come in and that those filters aren’t made by the same contractor that made the formaldehyde-laden trailers offered to the hurricane Katrina victims. Nothing will be done to ameliorate, much less correct, the grinding and dismal conditions for the poor in this “most equal” of countries. 

And I’m sure it is only moments before some politician or media asshole starts talking about how the people of Flint are getting too much free stuff in the way of those water filters and bottles of potable water.  That just smacks of socialism and the welfare state, after all, doesn’t it?

Children in Flint, Michigan can now visit the Sloan Museum for “Water Works” classes that teach them how to filter their drinking water. The museum is also compiling notes from the community on the lead-contaminated water crisis for future reflection.

As part of the “Water’s Extreme Journey” traveling exhibit, kids experience the water cycle “from the perspective of a water drop trying not to become polluted,” according to the museum’s website.

“One of the takeaways for the public should be that the health of the Flint River is actually quite good,” Exhibit Manager Warren Lehmkuhle said in a museum statement. “It was the lack of corrosion treatment, treatment that even lake water goes through, that caused the problem with our water.”

Students will be given the opportunity to construct and test their own filtration systems, as well as learn the whole history of Flint’s water systems going back as far as 1873. At the end is a comment board where residents can share their stories of how the water crisis impacted them. 

“I think we have a responsibility to document as much as possible now for future generations because, as with any kind of museum collecting, it is much easier to accumulate artifacts pertaining to current events now, rather than waiting 50 years when they are considered historic,” Curator of Collections Jeremy Dimick said in the statement. “If we do a good job collecting items and information now, the community will be better able to look back on the event 50 and 150 years from now.”

The exhibit, sponsored by local health care plan provider HealthPlus, opened on January 23 and ends May 8.

The city’s water source was switched from the Detroit system to the Flint River in 2014 without the proper follow-up of adding anti-corrosive agents, resulting in lead from pipes seeping into the drinking water supply. Research done in September 2015 by the Hurley Medical Center found that the average number of Flint children under the age of 5 with blood-lead levels considered too high by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had doubled since the switch.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), shortening of attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment as examples of brain damage children can face when exposed to lead. Other harmful effects include anemia, hypertension, kidney failure, damage to the immune and reproductive systems.

“The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” according to the WHO.

https://www.rt.com/usa/332569-flint-museum-filter-water/

And when you residents of Flint leave your stories on the museum comment board about how the water crisis has affected you, please remember; this is for posterity. So, be honest. How do you feel?

 

 

The oligarchs are hosting an election.

The oligarchs and corporatocracy are hosting an election in the United States this year.  They have chosen the candidates, the issues to be discussed, the methods of voting, the perimeters of the voting districts, and dictated what the media will say about the event.  You, as a member of the “voting public”, are invited to attend the event or just watch from a distance.  It hardly matters, since it is unlikely the outcome depends upon your participation.

This week-end, the media is exclusively talking about, in exhausting and tedious interviews with “the experts”, the potential results of the Iowa caucuses; the first in our series of caucuses or primary elections (depending on the state) that will decide the nominees for the Democrat and Republican parties.  I wasn’t sure how a caucus worked as Maryland is a primary state, so I dug up some information on the subject.  Turns out it is a fairly useless procedure which actually goes on for months in caucus states, although the pundits only pay attention to the first round of the affair.  The fact that the way the public votes during this first of the series of caucuses may not be proportionally represented once the Dem. and Rep. delegates make it to the National Conventions to cast their vote for the nominee goes completely unremarked.  Everyone eligible to vote during the general election can go to the caucuses, which are held in school auditoriums, churches, or even private homes.  Well, assuming there is not a blizzard in Iowa that night, that you have a babysitter – these things take hours – that you aren’t sick and that you don’t have to work that evening. There are close to 1700 precincts in this first round of caucuses.  Usually only about 20% of the voters show up, and Iowa is not one of our more populous states in any case; these facts do not deter the “experts” from declaring that the Iowa caucuses are really, really, really important.

So how do caucuses work?  Here’s the quick and dirty.  To start with, at the initial caucus, a delegate is chosen to represent the voting outcome at the next level of caucuses/conventions.  After the precinct caucus, there are the county conventions, the district conventions, the state convention and then the DNC or RNC national convention.  Are you beginning to get how silly it is to consider the first in this series of caucuses to be the most important?  The national committees of each of the two major parties decide the caucus rules, so how they are run differs.  The Republicans have a simple process.  First they say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Because, duh, they’re Republicans, and wherever two or more Republicans are gathered, there will be a flag and everyone will pledge to it.  Close scrutiny is given as to whether all those present appear sincere during the Holy Recitation.  [Aside: I always wondered about the idea of pledging to a flag rather than just the country, but that’s just me.  It appears that we are the only country that routinely uses a pledge like this, and certainly the only country which has schoolchildren doing a pledge of any sort, with the exception of North Korea, where the kids start their day pledging allegiance to their Dear Leader.  Originally, when Americans recited the pledge, people were expected to raise their right hands toward the sky while speaking, but after Hitler rose to prominence in Germany, that started to look, rather obviously, like the Heil Hitler salute, so the gesture was changed.]  Anyway, after reciting the pledge, the caucus-goers are treated to some speeches from someone or another.  Then they have a secret ballot where everyone writes down his/her choice for the nominee.  Some places use ballots, some just scraps of paper.  The votes are tallied and reported to the RNC.  Everyone goes home, except for the chosen delegate of that precinct and some party leaders, who shoot the shit a while longer.

The Democrats have a much more complicated system.  The voters arrive and are separated into groups depending on whom they support.  Then the various factions scream campaign slogans at each other, trying to convince anyone who doesn’t support their candidate to switch sides.  They throw water balloons at each other until a gong sounds, at which point, everyone scrambles for the limited number of seats available in the middle of the room.  Well, okay, I made up the part about the water balloons and the musical chairs, but the rest is pretty much correct.  After a designated time, people have to sort themselves out according to how they have decided to vote and a count is taken.  If the guy your side supports has less than 15% of the votes, he’s out.

If your guy has been tagged out for the rest of the game, you will then be harangued to join someone else’s group.  Eventually, someone calls a welcome end to this part of the process and a final tally is taken.  There is no secret ballot here: all your neighbors can see which group you are standing with.  The number of delegates to represent each candidate are chosen in proportion to the number of voters who chose him, and the delegates go on to the next round of caucuses at the county level, etc.   The delegates can switch their votes around to some other candidate at the later levels of caucus, and some delegates to the Democratic national convention are simply assigned by the DNC, so it would appear that there is absolutely no meaning in any of this.  For all I know, bags of money are left on doorsteps to convince the delegates to switch their votes later.

At both the Dem and the Rep caucuses, ties are sometimes settled by tossing a coin.  Maybe they should just start with the coin toss from the get-go.  If you want to read more about this stuff, you can go here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucuses

For the rest of us, there are primary elections where people go into their polling place and cast a ballot.  A number of states don’t allow Independents to vote in the primaries, since they are used to vote for the Dem and Rep nominees.  Delegates to the Rep and Dem national conventions, where they will vote for the final candidate of each party, are supposed to be chosen in proportion with the voter’s choices, but here you run into the issue of the strange “electoral college” system we use.  No-one knows how it works.  It has appeared in past elections that the delegates can vote randomly or that their votes can be over-ridden by the national committees.  In any case, after all that hoopla, everyone goes on to the national elections to vote for a president.  At that point, you can vote for whomever you want, although there will be names on the ballot you don’t recognize because the media has never mentioned them.  You can hope the voting machines aren’t rigged at either the primary or the general election level, but chances are about equal that they are.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34607-will-the-2016-primaries-be-electronically-rigged

I mentioned that the caucuses use paper ballots or simply a head count, so you might think that those votes can’t be rigged; however, this year both parties have been given a free app from Microsoft so that party leaders can calculate the totals instantly and send them in to the press.  Thank you, Bill Fucking Gates!  You just never sleep, do ya?  Bernie Sanders, no dummy, is a mite suspicious about the motivation behind this free Gates swag offered to the process, and his team has built its own reporting system to verify the results.

The 2016 election, no matter who “wins”, will have the intended effect of shooting the hostages.  Those hostages would be us; the workers slaving away to the rules written by the oligarchs and corporate cartels and never able to catch up, the people unlucky enough to be living in  oil- and resource-rich countries (including the US – we just haven’t glommed onto the fact yet that our resources are vastly more important to the elites than we are; a truth that we will only dimly perceive and that, way too late), and those who try to protest the alarming rise of Monsanto, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, et al, and protest their enablers in the various houses of governments around the planet.  The protesters will be silenced by any means the cartels deem necessary.  These huge corporations and the bankers are in control of not only our human activities, but the natural world as well, and whomever wins the presidential election is unlikely to stand up for us.  At the congressional level, it is certain that a mere handful of “our elected representatives” gives a damn about the “voters”.  They will sell us down the river, as they have done for a long time now.  No matter which nominal candidate wins, the cartels and warmongers will be the actual winners.  This is the final Great Taking, and they will have it all – the money, the assets, the lands, the resources – and we are expendable.

The situation is far simpler than the media pundits and self-proclaimed experts would have you believe.  We are in the middle of a class war.  The rich versus all.  There is a secondary class war; that of the middle class versus the poor, which has been strategically engineered by the elites for decades.  The middle classes are narrowing and are, on the one hand, being taught to believe that the poor are the enemy and are to be despised as lazy and useless; and on the other hand, convinced that one day, they too will make it to financial success.  Liberals want to pretend the class war between the middle class and the poor doesn’t exist, or that it all about race.  Conservatives push the narrative that there is no class war at all, that we can all be rich if we just work hard enough.  We could have had a national discussion about our poverty crisis, but Obama was probably the last chance we had at seeing that happen.  And he doesn’t seem to notice, much less care about the issue.  The Democrats in Congress have agreed to all the austerity measures put to a vote, and finished off 2015 by nodding to the virtual end the food stamps for the elderly and the disabled and lowering these benefits drastically for the poor; the Republicans never wanted anyone to have food stamps or such in the first place.

The statistics on food poverty in the US are really staggering.  We currently have the highest level of food insecurity since the 1970s.  We had almost entirely eradicated hunger in our country back then.  Right now, one in six Americans is going hungry every day, while 30% of Americans are described as “food insecure” – meaning they can’t guarantee they have a way to put food on the table.

The low interest rates imposed by our economic policies (decided by a bunch of former big bank executives in cooperation with the private Fed) has resulted in zero interest income for Americans who try to save some money, and the same zero interest is realized on the skimpy retirement funds older people may have set aside.  Congress has basically done away with the annual cost of living increases given to those living on social security by using fake numbers for the rate of inflation.

Only two of the candidates, Sanders and strangely, Trump, talk about unemployment.  The real unemployment rate, if it were to be accounted for accurately, would be around 25%, not the 5% currently claimed by the Labor Department.  Wages have been stagnant for decades, and according to the last Oxfam report, “the 62 richest billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.”  Just wait until the TPP trade agreement and the wonders of automation, technology, and robotics strips what’s left of the jobs right out from under our feet.  As economist Michael Whitney said:

[…] Obama and the Republican-led Congress have done everything in their power to keep things just the way they are by slashing government spending to make sure the economy stays weak as possible, so inflation is suppressed, the Fed isn’t forced to raise rates, and the cheap money continues to flow to Wall Street. That’s the whole scam in a nutshell: Starve the workerbees while providing more welfare to the slobs at the big investment banks and brokerage houses.  It’s a system that policymakers have nearly perfected as a new Oxfam report shows. […]

Wealth like that, “ain’t no accident”, brother. It’s the policy.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44014.htm

Want to know how much the average person in the US earns?  The candidates won’t talk about it, but I will.

The Social Security Administration has released its data for 2014. Their chart shows actual W-2 earnings in the US as given by the IRS records based on tax returns for 2014.

The numbers are pretty abysmal. The median wage was under $29,000, meaning that half of American workers earned under that amount. The “average wage” is higher than that at $44,569, but is so skewed by the few on the highest income bracket that it is not a really meaningful number, in my opinion.  (The 134 people who earned over $50 mm last year can really alter that average; even taking that into account, 67% earned under the $44,569 “average wage” in 2014.)  In 2014:

-38 % of all American workers made less than $20,000
-51 % of all American workers made less than $30,000
-62 % of all American workers made less than $40,000
-71 % of all American workers made less than $50,000

Since the SSA and the IRS reports are based on each “wage-earner’s” tax-return total earnings rather than counting each and every W-2 turned in to the IRS as a discrete “wage”, this means that the data does not give any information on what the average job might pay and one should not make the mistake of coming to any conclusions about that. In other words, a “wage-earner” may have earned $30,000 in 2014, but might have had to work two or three jobs to earn that amount.  The SSA charts are easy to read, and there is a tool you can click on to look at charts from previous years.

https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2014

This time around, the oligarchy has trotted out some of the most repugnant, bizarre, and downright ignorant candidates to which we have ever been treated.  Their motto for 2016 is: “2016 – the year we won’t give you any lesser evils to choose from.”  But this is the end result of the capitalist system on display, and we are a capitalist country on its down trajectory; at this point, Americans will buy dog shit if it is packaged properly and advertised heavily.

None of the candidates will cut any of the Pentagon’s budget, nor will any of them consider the possibility that we ought to end the crusades against foreign nations, none of which actually threaten us and with none of whom we are legally at war.  Last year, we dropped an estimated total of over 23,000 bombs in six countries.  This breeds terrorism, for the obvious reasons.  ISIS was a creation of the US; of our policies and actions, if not a direct creation of the CIA and secret ops in conjunction with mercenaries.  Yet according to the people running for president, what we need is more bombs, more American forces killing people abroad, and more help in the fight from “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  There could be another way to fight terrorism, as one might note that in socially balanced societies, terrorism does not thrive, but we seem incapable of considering an alternative to bloodshed.  We are addicted to it now.

This has resulted in a flood of refugees and/or terrorists to the EU which did not exist prior to the destruction of law and order in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria – before the “strong men” who ruled and did not tolerate bombings and mayhem by religious zealots were murdered by the US.  Now we are bent on some ridiculous quest to further “contain the Middle East” and kill those who are determined to avenge their loved ones. As always, the innocent on both sides get fried, while the war machine enjoys the profits.

Even Sanders thinks the [illegal] drone-bombing should continue; I wonder if he will feel okay about carrying out the “Terror Tuesday” duties should he become president?  Will he be surprised to find that he is just as adept and casual at ordering the murders of strangers across the planet as Obama has been?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Sunday that if elected president he would not end the U.S.’s controversial drone program in the Middle East.

Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos ” that he would continue with the targeted killing campaign but suggested he would somehow reform the program so that drones don’t kill innocent people abroad.

“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” Sanders said. […]

http://www.hngn.com/articles/124393/20150830/bernie-sanders-will-end-drone-program-elected-president.htm

We are going back in to Libya, as if we hadn’t already destroyed that once thriving country and created a failed state.  See “Pentagon prepares another war in Libya”:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/01/29/pers-j29.html

We have never left Afghanistan and have re-entered Iraq.  We are the main drivers behind the destabilization and bloodshed in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine.  We are aiming for Russia, Iran, and China.  Oh, Jesus, forget it; I can’t even begin to list all the countries we are bombing, invading, attempting to destabilize, ruin economically, or instigate coups in now.

Why do Americans approve of drone-bombing, ignore the CIA-instigated terrorism around the globe, seemingly enjoy being at war against countries that don’t threaten us, see the warrior class as superior and deserving of accolades and perqs despite the fact that they are engaged in killing people while we are legally at war with no nation, and scream with approval when some political demagogue talks about “keeping us safe” and nuking the rest of the world into submission?  Why is the public satisfied with the selection offered us in presidential candidates in which even the nominally Democratic “front-runner” is a woman who wants to invade yet another country and do away with their elected leader and who constantly threatens a multitude of other countries?   Why do none of the “candidates” talk about reducing the Pentagon’s budget, getting rid of the Fed, overturning the Patriot Act, or – at the least, for God’s sake – dislodging the most egregiously unconstitutional clauses in the NDAA?  Why do our “Christian” ministers approve of the “war on terror”?  Why do the pundits and the politicians promote violence against everyone and why does the public apparently agree with this as though it were reasonable and of some necessity?

Because in this country we have been taught that greed and theft are virtues, that bullying is the sum total of diplomacy, that other cultures are inherently dangerous and to even examine and consider their viewpoints is subversive. We have been taught that every country on the planet is inferior to our own.  The corporate oligarchs and their courtiers in Congress love ignorance, racism, and herd mentality and have worked very hard to see that Americans are poorly educated and even more poorly informed.

But we sure got Iraq’s gold. And Libya’s. And Ukraine’s. Wanted their oil, too, but it is proving to be a little more difficult to wrest complete control over the oil fields, because we created ISIS (in the case of Iraq and Libya), who are interfering in the process (which may be on purpose to hurt the Dread Russians, under the rather abstruse economic theory that harming Russia’s economy is worth the cost of harming ours) and because we created Nuland’s Nazis Civil War (in the case of Ukraine), which has so far blocked completion of the Biden Bid for Oil Takeover of Eastern Ukraine.

Even so-called “liberal” writers add their voices to the propaganda in support of more war, although they do it a little more subtly than the conservative pundits.  This is from the “liberal media” at Salon, reprinted by the “liberal media” compiler at Alternet, in an article ostensibly about the one of the GOP debates:

 […] Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding than the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are. […]

http://www.alternet.org/comments/news-amp-politics/gop-debate-scorecard-big-winner-wasnt-anyone-stage-it-was-democrats#disqus_thread

Uh-huh. Those aren’t “factoids”; they’re bullshit.  While the rest of the article about the GOP debate that night is probably true and is certainly funny, this bit is typical blase media propaganda stupidity and why I quit reading Salon, which supposedly offers the liberal viewpoint of things.  Facts:  al-Assad is on one side.  ISIS, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the CIA, and the weapons’ manufacturers are on the other. Putin is not being a dick; Russia is the only country that is helping the legitimate government in Syria legally right now. Let’s say that again: Russia is there legally. The rest of the countries currently bombing Syria to hell and gone are not. Russia and al-Assad are trying to get the US-created and US-armed terrorists out of there.

Apparently, Sanders and O’Malley are the only two amongst the candidates who think that we should uphold the nuclear deal with Iran (which was not trying to develop nuclear weapons anyway), while even our former Sec. of State is of the opinion that we ought to show the Iranians just what dickhead liars we are and sanction them again; retroactively, mind you, since the ballistic missile test that has caused the uproar was carried out prior to our agreement with them.  The missiles tested by Iran were incapable of carrying a nuclear payload and so wouldn’t have broken the agreement no matter when it was signed at any rate.  Nonetheless, as soon as Clinton called for further sanctions, Obama signed an executive order to do just that.

US Treasury imposes new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran:

https://www.rt.com/usa/329240-us-sanctions-iran-ballistic/

Once again we have shown that we cannot keep our “agreements”, “treaties”, or “deals” for more than one second after the ink dries.  The only reason any country even “negotiates” with us any more is that they are aware that if they don’t, we will invade their country and bomb the fuck out of it.  As a nation, we have no morals, no rigorous intellect, and no diplomatic abilities.  As a nation, we are liars, thieves, and murderers, completely bereft of the normal human empathy, the ability to compromise, and the honest self-assessment required to interact in a mutually beneficial way with other societies.

How long before some other nation says, “basta!” and drops a Fat Man on our asses?

All the candidates swear undying support for Israel, none more vociferously than Clinton, as though this were some purity test they have to undergo, and sadly, many Americans see it just that way.  America is exceptional in this way: its politicians place allegiance to a foreign country above loyalty to their own, and the only promises they keep are the ones they make to that foreign country.  And sometimes that oath to serve the interests of the other country above their own nation is the tipping point to get them elected.

What this says about the political system, the politicians, and the electorate in the US is appalling and embarrassing.

So we are being offered for our viewing pleasure an assortment of motley con men and corporate stooges.  Sanders may be the exception to some extent and the fact that the media and the other candidates are busy red-baiting him and regularly try to dismiss his positions out of hand bolsters my belief in his sincerity in some measure.  As I said, however, he isn’t going to dismantle the war machine, and that is a large part of all the other problems this country has.

Then you have the narcissistic Trump, billionaire and game-show host, who has picked up on the unrest out in the flyover zones and plays to it with gusto.  It’s hard to tell what he would do if elected, since he can barely keep his proposals and ideas straight in his own head.  His speeches frequently contradict things he has said before, but it is hard for people to get through all his verbiage to pick up on that.  He’s so loquacious you’d think he was being paid by the word.  He was recently endorsed by our other great orator, Sarah Palin, who left off tending her miscreant brood to offer up this bit of gloss: “Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.”  You just know the two of them spent their time while waiting in the green room before the great endorsement speech fighting over who was hogging the mirror.  But Trump himself is one of the rich elite who has made his jack off the capitalist system; he isn’t going to gore that ox.  On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t start a hot war with Russia, so there’s that.

There is the skeevy and very creepy Ted Cruz, who was doubtless the Grand Inquisitor in Spain during his last incarnation on this earth.  He is in a fight with the establishment Republicans and neocons, or so we are told to believe, although his ideas about carpet-bombing the Middle East and “lifting the rules of engagement” in the fight with ISIS suggest he fits right in with the PNAC crowd.  He is talking here about illegal methods of warfare and getting rid of the Geneva Conventions, but that doesn’t bother too many of the people in charge, most of whom supported the same ideas when offered by George W. Bush.  Cruz is like some crazed fundamentalist faith-healer who wants to pray the gays away and damn it all, get his chance to nuke some shit for Jesus.  He responded to the Flint, Michigan water crisis by donating bottled water… teaming up with the anti-abortion group Flint Right to Life, with instructions that the water go exclusively to crisis pregnancy centers.  These centers are anti-abortion organizations that try to manipulate women into keeping their pregnancies.  Tough shit about those already-born children and adults who have been drinking toxins in Flint for the last few years.  He, like all the Republicans, wants to cut taxes for corporations, get rid of all bank regulations, privatize everything that could possibly turn a profit for the corporate world, doesn’t support any minimum-wage increases, and has a tax plan that completely decimates the poor and middle class while ass-kissing the wealthy.  He sort of forgot to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC, and his wife works there; we have yet to see if anyone cares.  Cruz appeals to a certain evangelical, but hawkish, subset of the American public.   Despite their professed “Christian” faith, if Cruz and his base were given the choice between Jesus and that other guy, they’d be screaming, “Free Barabbas!” at the top of their lungs.

Marco Rubio sometimes rattles off sound-bytes like he’s on amphetamines, but he is not saying anything we haven’t heard from the farthest right of the right-wing; he’s just saying it hysterically.  Lots of people think he is cute and endearing, but the dude is one rabid neocon.  He loves the spy programs, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and torture, and hates the needy, the LGBT community, and Muslims.  That’s his platform.

Chris Christie ruined his own home state and now wants to have a go at the rest of the country. He calls himself the “disaster governor” with pride (I put a different twist on the title than he does, I gather) while at the same time refusing to help the victims of the two disasters that have hit New Jersey since he’s been in office.  We just had a huge blizzard here on the East Coast, and parts of NJ were inundated with flood waters along with the snow.  He happily chirped that there was no “residual damage” because the flood had receded, although it’s quite obvious that buildings that have had 5 feet of water and icebergs wash through them are going to be left with damage, if not have to be outright condemned and torn down.  Not to mention the other stuff that got majorly fucked up in the flood.  We can guess what kind of relief he’s going to offer the affected cities.  He’s said some other things on the campaign trail.  I couldn’t say for sure what, though.

Carly Fiorina is just vicious as a wolverine with rabies, and Ben Carson thinks it would be okay to bomb children on general principles.  When asked if he would order airstrikes that might kill innocent children by the thousands, he mentioned operating on kids with brain tumors and how they hated it but later on loved him, and finished his comments by saying,”and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”   So in other words, Ben Carson thinks bombing civilians and children is somehow merciful because it finishes the job quickly.  The crowd applauded the twisted fuck for his bedside manner.

Jeb Bush is running and may end up being the Republican nominee if the oligarchy can finesse the situation properly.  This might not make him very happy, actually, as he seems most intent on making himself invisible.  He’s like the chubby kid who tried out for the soccer team because his daddy made him.

O’Malley has some fine ideas about the economy and doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about continuing the efforts to take over the world, so he will be quickly taken off the scene.  Poor guy barely made in on the scene, so eager are the Democrats to waylay one of their own.

I wrote an entire post about the war-pig Hillary Clinton, who is currently busy trying to paint Sanders as a Commie, so I’ll try not to repeat all the same stuff here.  She is so sure she will be the Democratic nominee, as are the pundits and mainstream media, that she hasn’t bothered to reciprocate to Sanders’ pledge to back the eventual nominee.  I think the media and the talking heads totally fail to understand the rancor and pure loathing felt for her at the street level.  If one reads the comment section on any article about the candidates, even articles supporting Mad Hillary, one sees the same thing over and over: people hate her.  People do not trust her.  People do not intend to vote for her even as “the lesser of two evils”; she is not seen as the lesser evil in any line-up.  To the public, she is defective and never should have made it through quality control.  Clinton is the least sincere candidate we have ever had running for office, and the people sense that.  She will sign the TPP into law given the chance, and you can be sure that she would reneg on all her promises, except the ones where she promises to bomb other countries, as quick as shit through a goose should she be elected.  She has a neocon’s view point toward the use of military power, which she and the media insist on referring to as “foreign affairs”, thus mistaking military policy with diplomacy and foreign policy, a viewpoint that made her such a bad and dangerous Sec. of State.  She felt her job in the State Dept. was to threaten other countries and to work arms deals instead of promoting civil discourse between nations.  She, in fact, gets “foreign policy guidance” from the same firm that advises Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  (Which may help explain why all the ideas Clinton and the Republicans have for dealing with terrorist issues are similar in that they are illegal by US law, in violation of international laws, and break numerous treaties and agreements.)  The media that promotes her jabbers on about the “commander-in-chief” part of the president’s job because even they recognize in some part of their reptilian brains that Bernie Sanders’ domestic policies appeal to the voters more than hers do.  They – and she – hope that by presenting her as a hard and tough predator, she will gain some popularity with the fearful.  The constant talk about terrorism and terrorists, from all the candidates, serves to keep most of us focused away from the neglected and dismal state of things in our own country.

She may be running into trouble now.  With any luck, and with the assumption that some agencies in the US are still willing to do their jobs, she may be facing criminal charges.  God knows, she should have been jerked up short by the DoJ long before now.  I was very interested to see that one of the major legal threats to her involves the use of her position at the State Dept. to garner donations to the Clinton Foundation, and that Haiti is specifically mentioned.  I brought these things up in my last post about her.

Hillary Clinton’s Coming Legal Crisis

by Charles Lipson
January 13, 2016

The latest release of Hillary Clinton emails entails real risks for her, churning just beneath the surface of her successful primary campaign. True, Democratic voters have shown little interest, and the mainstream media only a bit more. Their focus, when they do look, is on the number of documents now considered classified, their foreign-policy revelations, and the political damage they might cause. These are vital issues, but Clinton faces a far bigger problem. She and her closest aides could be indicted criminally.

Secretary Clinton is exposed twice over. First, she used an unsecured, home-brew server to send and store reams of classified materials. Second, in her official capacity, she worked closely with major donors to the Clinton Foundation. Each poses legal risks, with potential ramifications for the Democratic frontrunner, her party, and the Obama administration.

To understand the gravity of these issues, it is important to recognize that this is not just an “email scandal.” It is an “email + server + foundation” scandal.” Secretary Clinton didn’t just send sensitive (and now-classified) emails over open lines, she stored them on private servers that didn’t meet the government’s cyber-security standards for sensitive documents. On its face, retaining classified materials in such vulnerable settings is a criminal violation. Senior intelligence officials have been charged for less – far less. Storing some 1,300 classified documents on a personal server, and doing it for years, poses a special problem because it shows the mishandling was not inadvertent. It was Clinton’s standard operating procedure.

The State Department has done everything it can to protect its former boss. When it finally received her documents, it flatly refused to comply with long-standing Freedom of Information Act requests by releasing them. It took several court orders for the agency to begin trickling out small batches with large sections blacked out. The redactions only underscore why the documents should never have been held on private, unsecured servers in the first place.

The latest document dump shows why the State Department is so skittish. One reveals the secretary of state telling a senior department official, Jake Sullivan, to strip all the security markings off one document and send it to her on an insecure connection. We don’t yet know if Sullivan actually complied, but, if he did, both he and Clinton face serious legal jeopardy.

Beside these national-security matters, the emails reveal obvious conflict-of-interest issues pertaining to the significant overlap between Clinton’s official duties and her family foundation’s operations.

Major donors to the foundation often had business before the State Department, and they sometimes received help. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance, Bill Clinton was named co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the State Department began directing parties interested in competing for Haiti contracts to the Clinton Foundation.”

Not surprisingly, many contractors became foundation donors, or were already. The FBI now has to decide if any of this was a “pay to play” arrangement. Proving a quid pro quo is notoriously difficult, but Fox News reported Monday that public corruption is now a second track in the FBI investigation.

So far, Hillary has suffered only modest political damage from these scandals. Democratic primary voters are mostly indifferent; her main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says he’s tired of hearing about it; and, other than Fox News, no major media outlet has done serious investigations.

But that doesn’t mean these messy issues are dead — depending on what happens inside the Justice Department. Clinton is about to face the most serious crisis of her candidacy — a set of legal decisions by the FBI and then the Department of Justice. Those will either kill the issue or kill her chances.

The FBI reportedly has assigned some 100 agents full time to the investigation and another 50 temporarily. The bureau would not commit such massive resources unless the initial investigation raised troubling questions of potential criminality. FBI Director James Comey is monitoring the case closely and coordinating with the intelligence agencies, which have to review the documents. Comey has a reputation for integrity, and it is his call whether to refer charges to the DOJ. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would then decide whether to indict.

Whatever Lynch decides, there will be a maelstrom if FBI agents found substantial evidence of criminal wrongdoing.[…]

Regardless of the attorney general’s decision, if the FBI does recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton or any of her associates, she will face two very pointed questions from the media, the electorate, and her Republican challenger.

“Secretary Clinton, if you are elected president, do you unequivocally promise to appoint an independent counsel to investigate these charges and, if warranted, prosecute them?”
“Do you promise you will not pardon anyone before these cases are fully adjudicated?”

She won’t be able to wave these questions off and say, “The attorney general decided all that.” It will look too much like a coverup by a Democratic administration for a Democratic Party leader.

To reach the White House, Hillary Clinton has to get past the coming legal crisis, and she will have to answer those hard questions.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/01/13/hillary_clintons_coming_legal_crisis_129293.html

You should really read the whole article; I left some paragraphs speculating about the potential effects this could have on the elections out of the blockquote due to space.  Another interesting article is a brief one written by Glen Ford at blackagendareport regarding the Clintons’ interference into Haiti’s elections, and gives a bit of a rundown on their unwelcome and colonial-style relationship with Haiti.  See, “The Clintons: We Came, We Stole, Haitians Died”:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44069.htm

I fail to understand how anyone can think we still have a democracy in this country.  When you look at these candidates and take honest stock of what they are offering, how can you find any escape in some sad and outdated notion that this is a government of, by, and for the people?  Hell, the Obama trade agreements, the first of which (the TPP) is quietly coming up for a vote soon if Congress bothers to follow its own legislation, suffice to render our national sovereignty and any pretense of a government “for the people” null and void if they are passed.  I will allow some exception for Sanders in my condemnations, as I think he may actually mean at least some of what he says and is the only one who even affects to worry about how life is going for the average American.  He ought to talk more about the TPP, since it has come out that this dangerous piece of crap posing as a “trade agreement” will probably do away with the UK’s health system and could prevent universal healthcare forever in the US.  As to the rest, when any of those bought-and-paid-for bastards steps up to the podium and lies to the audience about how much he/she really, really cares about the working stiff and has our best interests at heart, I feel nothing but contempt and revulsion.  The corruption at the top of this country is so widespread and so legalized that we cannot avoid another financial catastrophe and perhaps even another world war.  These are the goals of the oligarchy so they can strip the US and the rest of the world of its remaining assets, and the dolts, criminals, grifters, and bullshit artists up there on the stage posing as “presidential material” are willing to lead us right into the pit.

No-one with enough neurons firing to keep breathing can take this election seriously.  I doubt I will bother to take a chance on the voting machines myself.  Seems pointless, unless by some weird happenstance Sanders is on the ballot.  If it comes to a race between Clinton and Trump, that might also motivate me enough to haul my ass out of the chair to go vote for Trump, just to help save us from her.

What a wretched selection we have in front of us.  Who shall we have?  Caligula or Nero?  Choices, choices.

I don’t blame those who think that perhaps it is time to join the dolphins and get the hell out of Dodge.  If only there were a way to escape to some other planet entirely.  A different country on this one may not be far enough – the Powers That Be have their clutches on all of them.