Friday, February 27, 2015

What's Hidden in All Those "Riders"

Government is supposed to be accountable to the people (play the laugh track here) and that includes the scoundrels we elect to Congress (guffaws) who devised their committee system so that accountability is impossible.

When committees do “mark ups” of pending legislation corruption is in  full flower.  The foxes are loose in the hen house.  Let the good times roll! Fill the pork barrels! Crank up the policy riders!  Anything goes! These guys work behind closed doors and hide their dirty work deep in the innards of the legislation they mangle.

The federal budget is a favorite playground.  Because the thieves and scoundrels know we have to have a budget, they hide all kinds of mischief in it.  In order to provide money for the necessary functions of government, the frivolous, the pork and the mischievous riders have to be passed, too.  

The right-wingers couldn’t pass a stand-alone bill banning abortions, but they can insert riders into the budget bill that deny funding for abortion services and otherwise restrict women’s access to this vital element of their health care.

Republicans hate having health care be affordable for low income Americans, but have failed repeatedly to get Obamacare repealed in the House.  But they can put a rider into the budget bill that cripples it by denying new money for it.  

They hate the fact that the Clean Water Act, which protects the health of the public, is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, so they sneak in a rider that cuts the funding of the EPA.  They’ve slashed EPA funding by nearly a quarter since 2010.

What they can’t do in the public eye, they do in the darkness of the committee rooms with riders, mirrors and voodoo.  The result, in the words of that infamous Straight Arrow  Sen. John McCain, is legislation “jammed full of shit.”

Shit like giving away our land, yours and mine, to rich and powerful private interests.  Even foreign private interests.  The richer the better.

Our enormous military and national defense organism is a huge giant squid, sucking up money like plankton.  Thus you simply gotta  pass the National Defense Authorization Act, right?  Right.

For ten years and counting, the biggest copper mining outfits in the world have coveted a hunk of our  land — we own it, you and I — in the Tonto National Forest fin Arizona.   They could dig more than $130 billion worth of ore out of it, by a process that’s only slightly more destructive than fracking for gas.  The mining giants are Australian and British-owned Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and their wholly-owned subsidiary Resolution Copper. Each time their land grab came up as stand-alone legislation, it failed to pass. Even in Congress, some noses can still smell a rat.

To the rescue now comes Straight Shooter McCain, charging into the Senate Armed Services Committee room with a rider that would approve the copper mining land grab.  His piece of shit, er, rider, was written into page 1,105 of the National Defense Authorization Act — gift of 2,400 acres, four square miles, of our  national forest land to a foreign corporation.

Since long before there even was a National Forest Service, that particular bit of land has been used by the San Carlos Apache tribe for religious rites and for the harvest of medicinal plants.It is part of their ancestral homeland, supposedly protected forever from logging and mining.  

Ah, but white eyes has a mythology, too.  The mining masters say their raping of the landscape will generate $61 billion in economic activity and 3,700 direct and indirect jobs over 40 years.  These ethereal jobs presumably will come from the same Happy Hunting Grounds that magically would have produced 44,000 jobs as a result of building that great health and environmental disaster called the Keystone XL pipeline.  The jobs materialize when corrupt office-holders, snatching polluters’ bribes in their left hands, snap the fingers of their right hands and— Shazam! — armies of happy workers  emerge from the blue smoke.

Buy into that fantasy and next year they’ll sell you their grand plan for storing nuclear waste in the Grand Canyon.  Or something. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Oklahoma History for Its GOP

An expatriate friend just received  the news that Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature have voted to toss out the Advanced Placement examinations in American history because they are too negative; they don’t teach enough American exceptionalism and good ol’ patriotic bovine excrement.

I sought to mitigate his outrage by reminding him that the textbook commission in Texas had demanded similar changes in the history teachings there.  Among them was a requirement that history texts publish lists of “outstanding Americans.”  Phyllis Schlafley was on the required list; Martin Luther King was excluded. 

Oklahoma’s legislation mandates certain required reading matter, including, for example, three Ronald Reagan speeches.


Reminds me of a Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest.  Or that restaurant in Amarillo that offers a 76-ounce steak with “all the trimmings” that you can have for free — IF you can consume everything, including the “trimmings,” within an hour.

Oklahoma, according to the report my friend read abroad, ranks 47th among the states in educational attainment.  Also ranks high in obesity.

The reason for both rankings, I suggested, is that the brains Oklahomans are born with are replaced, over time, by pure lipids. They’re not born morons, like many Republicans, but they become fatheads.

In fact, through my own research, I have determined that the smartest person in Oklahoma is a hostess at a Mexican restaurant just outside Clinton, OK.

Driving west on Interstate 40 a while back, we overnighted in a motel in Clinton.  We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good place to eat dinner.  He gave us directions to the Mexican eatery and warned us we might have to wait for a table because it was extremely popular, but the wait would be more than justified by the quality of the meal.

We followed the directions, found the restaurant and saw a waiting line that stretched through the lobby and out into the parking lot.  Everyone in the queue seemed to be in good spirits, and we had nothing else to do, so we joined them.

As we waited, the world’s most opulent RV pulled up.  The parking lot was full so its driver parked illegally beside the curb.  This thing was about the length of the Queen Mary, bedecked with enough running lights to illuminate two blocks of Broadway, with Brahama bull’s horns mounted over the cab.

Out strode its operator, wearing a Stetson the size of Rhode Island, a western-cut suit obviously tailor made to try to flatter his rotund Me-ness, diamond rings on both hands, a Rolex and cowboy boots that must have cost at least three alligators their lives.

He stomped past the waiting peons outside, admitted himself to the lobby and addressed the hostess monitoring the wait line.  From a pocket he fetched a money clip inlaid with turquoise and pearls.  He withdrew a $50 bill which he flashed before her wide eyes and pressed into her hand. “Honey,” he said, “y’all set up a table for me and my seven friends, OK?  Skeedaddle now!”

Without a word, she stared him down, wadded up his $50 bill, tossed it onto the floor, and ushered the couple at the head of the line to a table that had just been vacated.

The people in line applauded.

The cowboy admiral walked back to his landship muttering curses.

Somebody needs to find that lady and elect her to the Oklahoma legislature.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nuclear Brinkmanship

Barack Obama hadn’t even been born when Herman Kahn’s classic “On Thermonuclear War”  was published in 1960. But there’s still time for him to read it before he goes further down his suicidal road in Ukraine.

John Kerry was 18 and bound for military duty in Vietnam when the somber, scholarly warning against  mutual nuclear destruction first appeared in print.  Whether Kerry has read it is immaterial.  He is, after all, the “veterans against the war” actor who burned someone else’s medals in his demonstration on the Capitol steps.  Kerry’s public life has been and continues to be that of an opportunist and congenital liar, born with a natural ability to shed logic as ducks shed water.

Meanwhile, nothing has changed since Kahn wrote his book except the weaponry: it’s vastly more powerful now.

Yet Obama, Kerry and the rest of the Washington’s Ship of Fools continue to lead this country and its allies in Europe, Canada and the U.K. toward an inevitable nuclear confrontation with Russia.  To risk repeating history by ignoring it, one must first know history.  These idiots appear not to have bothered learning history.  It would be worthwhile for some journalist to ask Obama at his next news conference if he’s read Kahn’s book. Better use of time than most of the foreign policy softballs the hacks toss to him.

The fools weren’t content planning and financing a coup d’etat that drove the democratically elected head of the Ukrainian state into exile.  The fools aren’t content with installing their own stooge as head of the new ersatz government, which promptly turned over two of its ministries to neo-Nazi leadership. The fools aren’t content with a western network of countries illegally smuggling armaments into Kiev.  Now the fools want to take the penultimate step to war itself: openly and officially providing a hostile government in Kiev with the means to attack Russia itself. 

Retired diplomats and intelligence experts in Europe, England and the U.S. have warned repeatedly that this would be disastrous. Then, as the respected German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung put it, “Russia would have to intervene, and then, bluntly speaking, to take Kiev. Then NATO would be in a difficult situation. Then you would have to start World War III, which no one wants.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.  The fools want war.  They want war because the indescribably wealthy oligarchs, who owe much of their power-through-riches to the very policy of endless war, want still more war.  And since they own the very minds and souls of the people we elected ostensibly to run this sorry-assed country,  America’s continuing pursuit of war is a certainty. If that pursuit leads to war with Russia over Ukraine, does anyone really think it will be fought with conventional weapons for very long?

While the truthless Kerry would have us believe — and the media sheep so report — that U.S. economic pressure brought Russia to the table in Moscow last week, the fact is that the leadership of both Germany and France — who are opposed to arming Ukraine — seek desperately now to hammer out a diplomatic solution that would head off the Ship of Fools. 

If the new negotiations in Minsk do in fact lead to a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, there would be no immediate “necessity” for Washington to start arming Kiev to the teeth.

Maybe that would give Obama time to read Herman Kahn’s book.  Or to listen soberly to someone who has read it.