Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How fracking interests are buying 'experts'

I'm down in southern New York visiting relatives. This area is Ground Zero for the debate in New York over the controversial and polluting natural gas drilling procedure known as hydrofracking. Around here, it's clear the fracking industry is waging a very aggressive and high-profile campaign touting its alleged virtues;  most expect New York's business-owned governor to allow towns who want the procedure to have it (such decisions will be made locally but will the dollars for the pollution clean up be strictly local too? I doubt it). The campaign is actually very clever, appealing not only on economic grounds but claiming that 'responsible drilling' will reduce the number of wars we fight (not bloody likely).

The public journalism site Pro Publica has done a significant amount of excellent journalism on the perils of hydrofracking and the dishonesty of the industry.

Another good source, Mother Jones, ran a piece recently exposing the degree to which fracking interest are buying 'experts' from academia to purchase credibility for their efforts.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney grants rights to foreigners that he denies to Americans

The juxtaposition of two stories on the front page of today's Oneonta Daily Star caught my eye: "Romney declares Jerusalem capital of Jewish state" and "Area gun enthusiasts take aim at critics."

The latter was the usual mainstream media story run in the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy in which interviewees claimed that we didn't need more gun restrictions. It's shocking that the group interviewed, participants at a southern New York gun show, would come to that conclusion. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has agreed with this position.

The former was a story about Romney's visit to Israel. There, Romney said he would back an Israeli military aggression to knock out Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, which played well with the militaristic government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Republican said that Israel had the 'right' to live next to a non-nuclear Iran.

At home, conservatives claim that everybody being armed makes things *more* safe.

Abroad, they claim that everybody being armed makes things *less* safe.

They need to pick a propaganda line and stick with it.

Additionally, Romney is claiming that Israelis have the 'rights' to live next to an unarmed neighbor and to aggressively disarm their neighbor to achieve that 'right.'

But he denies that Americans don't have any such rights.

Why does Romney claim a right for foreigners that he denies to Americans?

What country is Romney running to lead?

Update: One gun enthusiast interviewed in The Daily Star piece noted "In a free society, you are going to have crazies and there is no way to stop them." Can you imagine a conservative agreeing with that statement if the word 'crazies' was preceded by the word 'Islamist'?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We've met the enemy and it is us

For all the money this country has spent supposedly to fight Islamist terrorism, the real enemy is ourselves. A story in The Atlantic  notes that since 9/11/2001, over 334,000 Americans have been killed by guns used by other Americans. So in that time period, 100 Americans have been killed by a fellow American for every 1 America killed by an Islamist terrorist. So maybe we should drop the canned talking points about how we need more gun control or how every child should be given a gun upon entering elementary school. And maybe we should talk more about how we can become a more civilized, less barbaric nation. Every nation has murderers, psychopaths and crazy people, but proportionally, our culture seems to produce a lot more of them proportionally. Let's look in the mirror.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Occupy can learn from Dr. King and the civil rights movement

I'm reading this really excellent book called Nixonland: The Rise of the President and the Fracturing of America (more details here). It's a fantastic analysis of the political career of Richard Nixon, who may well be the most brilliantly cynical and manipulative president in American history. The book gives great insight if you want to understand what's behind the 'Tea Party' movement and the right-wing's martyr complex politics in general.

Nixonland points out something interesting and still relevant. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be a sanitized figure in death but, as I've written about in the past, he was hardly a consensus figure in life.

The strategy of his wing of the civil rights movement was to disturb the (illusion of) peace and draw out the hatred that was really there, but lurking just beneath the surface.

The book also points out that the civil rights movement was adamant in NOT being linked to a particular political party, but rather to an agenda. When some Democrats refused to push, or even obstructed, parts of their agenda, the civil rights movement did not hesitate in encouraging people to not vote for Democrats.

They recognized that threatening to withhold their vote - and being willing to actually do it - was the only real leverage they had on legislators. They refused to reward people who crapped on them. They were about their agenda, not about a particular party.

I wonder if Occupy sympathizers will heed this lesson.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Southern NY's environment

I just discovered an interesting new blog entitled: Thoughts From Mount Moses. It's a blog written apparently by someone from New York's Southern Tier and devoted to environmental issues. Not surprisingly, the controversial issue of hydrofracking is one that it tackles. Check it out here.

Update: on a visit to the Southern Tier, I saw that the fracking industry's propaganda was in full force, and quite clever.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shocking newsflash: media covers smaller party candidate!

This weekend, the Green Party nominated Dr. Jill Stein for president. This will be the second time Dr. Stein runs against Mitt Romney; the two faced off in the 2002 Massachusetts' race for governor.

Surprisingly, this was actually reported on by the mainstream media. (I'm sure this won't be the only time *wink*)

The New York Times ran a profile of Stein, though it was marred by a few serious flaws. First, it implied that Ralph Nader has been the Green presidential nominee for the last several cycles; he hasn't been so since 2000. And it notes that those who want to participate in the presidential debates have to be at 15 percent in the polls. It doesn't mean that the organism that controls the debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates, is controlled by the two corporate parties: its co-chairs are a former head of the Republican National Committee and a former press secretary for Bill Clinton's White House. The CPD has been sponsored by many of the same corporations whose campaign 'donations' run the political system, including Philip Morris, AT&T and JP Morgan and was created precisely to freeze out smaller party candidates. This, from the so-called 'newspaper of record.'

NPR ran a couple of (more accurate) pieces, including this one which highlights Stein's criticism of the Democrats.

As well she should.

Democrats have worked tirelessly on behalf of corporate interests, much the same as the Republicans. This is not new. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the corrupt morass our country finds itself in. If you vote for them, you are voting for a continuation of this mess.

If you support the Occupy movement, then rationally you must vote for a candidate who embodies and will work to advance Occupy's goals. Dr. Stein is the best of those candidates.

Liberals always pat themselves on the back for being far more rational than those emotional, fear-mongering conservatives. This is their chance to prove it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How the media priorities can prevent an informed citizenry

Why do fewer and fewer people think the local newspaper is relevant enough to fork out a dollar of their hard-earned money? 

Here’s a clue. 

The front page of Thursday’s Post-Star contained a wire service article about the sports program at Penn St. (a college hundreds of miles away) and a millionth generic wire service ‘analysis’ of the presidential race (as usual ignoring 2/3 of the candidates).

The front page did not a word about a significant boil water notice affecting 14,000 people in the paper’s hometown. That was deemed too minor to make the front page and was relegated to the local section. 

This is a pretty accurate reflection of the editorial judgment of the paper’s decision makers.

The national media is little better. The Progressive reported on a study by Media Matters. The study noted that in the last 18 months, the Kardashians have received 40 times more coverage in newspapers and television than ocean acidification, one of the major consequences of climate change.

Only in America would more people believe in the Kardashians than in climate change. Though for people who rely on the corporate media to be informed, it's easy to understand why.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Legislators vs people in the real world

The Post-Star has editorialized against New York legislators seeking a pay raise. (I won't link to it due to their pay wall).

NYS lawmakers are paid a bare minimum of $79,500 for their part-time jobs; committee chairmen and those in leadership positions earn quite a bit more. Incidentally, 'part-time' is the description they themselves use so as to weasel out of transparency laws that might reveal their corruption and conflicts of interest.

In addition, they are given a $171 per diem for every day the legislature’s in session. 

The legislature opposes a raise in the minimum wage. Gov. Cuomo pretends to be in favor of the minimum wage but won't push for it, for fearer of alienating his corporate backers.

A minimum wage earner would have to work SIXTY hours a week every week for THREE AND A HALF YEARS to earn what the poorest of these bozos in Albany get for five months of *part-time* 'work.'

This calculation does not count their per diem. In order to earn $171, a minimum wage worker would have to clock in 23.5 hours.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pay no attention to the main behind the curtain

New York public radio reports that hours after speaking out in favor of campaign finance reform, NY Gov. Cuomo attended a $20,000 a plate fundraiser. It's well-known that he is joined at the hip with the big business lobbying group The Committee to Save New York. This might why Cuomo is doing a lot of talking on campaign finance reform, but zero acting... sorta like his fellow Wizard of Oz Pres. Obama and Citizens United. The pair is counting on liberals paying more attention to their words than their actions, which is usually a good bet.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Far right think tanks pushed individual mandate

I read an interesting column today about the Affordable Care Act (referred to by critics as Obamacare). It pointed out that the individual mandate, the heart of Obamacare, was once endorsed by the right-wing think tanks [sic] The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation as a way of pre-empting Medicare for All (single payer).

This inconvenient fact illustrates several truths:

1) If far right think tanks endorsed it, then it's a pretty safe bet that the individual mandate is NOT a bridge toward single payer, as Obamacare apologists claim;

2) Democrats are now as far to the right as conservatives used to be;

3) Republicans are now further to the right than Attila the Hun;

4) Serious progressives should have nothing to do with either of them.

But given that ACA apologists seem intent upon 'forgetting' that Obamacare is virtually identical to the plan implemented by his Republican rival, I suspect rationalization and self-deceit will prevent them from realizing #4.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The cost of a 'part-time' legislature

New York legislators have to be among the most well-paid 'part-time' workers in the world. 

(They insist they are 'part-time' as an excuse to avoid conflict-of-interest disclosure laws that might reveal their leve of corruption). 

Legislators receive a base salary of $79,500 for 62 scheduled work days in Albany, plus more if they chair committees or serve in leadership posts. 

Yes, I know they do some work in their districts but this base salary works out to nearly $1300 a day of the legislative session. Plus, they get a $165 per diem for every day of the legislative session they are in Albany (or, apparently, even if they’re not).

If the state is only run by three people -- the Assembly speaker, the Senate majority leader and governor -- as many rank-and-file legislators complain, then why do we need the other 210 legislators at $1465 a day per member?

But apparently $1465 a day isn't enough. These part-timers want a pay raise.