Thursday, March 31, 2011

japan battles to save reactors -- not people

perhaps something was lost in the translation, but the lede paragraph of this story in the guardian presents the situation at fukushima in a foul light:
"Japanese officials have conceded that the battle to salvage four crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been lost."
oh, big daddy, we've lost our nuclear plant!

how many government schmucks does it take to write a press release? and what if they lack any sense of proportion -- or humanity?

when the engineers poured salt water into the reactors in an desperate effort cool them and prevent a worst-case scenario, the game was already up for the reactors themselves. pouring all that corrosive stuff into the guts of the reactors is not a decision taken lightly. at that point you've already decided to write the facility off as a complete loss...

dunno what's the agenda here. perhaps to minimize the apparent seriousness of the situation -- as if to say, aww, it wasn't that bad. i don't get it.

what's really galling is the complete dismissal of any concerns about the continued viability of the nuclear solution to our energy woes. frantic efforts to save the reactors makes a mockery of the enormous human toll that this event promises to exact. just because scores of people haven't yet died, and a 40km exclusion zone hasn't been declared in effect for the next couple of centuries, doesn't mean we've seen the light at the end of the tunnel here yet.

while the japanese government may want to play footsie with industry and the powerful constituency behind nuclear power, they're forgetting something:
Tens of thousands of people living near the plants have been evacuated or ordered to stay indoors, while radioactive materials have leaked in to the sea, soil and air.
On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggested widening the 30-km exclusion zone around the plant after finding that radiation levels at a village 40km from the plant exceeded the criteria for evacuation.
until there's a proper reckoning of the real costs and consequences of this catastrophe in human terms, we may as well say the world's governments aren't really taking human lives seriously.

The Future Of corporate domination In The U.S.

the article from our good friends at NPR is headlined "the future of nuclear energy in the US":
"Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power was being rebranded as a green form of energy. But in the wake of the devastating nuclear accident that is still unfolding in Japan, many Americans are now re-evaluating the potential costs and benefits of nuclear power."
which americans would that be? i wonder. we can have this conversation today, because the world's attention is mostly diverted by things like war in libya or the NCAA tournament this weekend. there are plenty of other things to place in the vacancy between one's ears.

over the longer haul, however, this discussion is at an end. oh, there may be some further mastication of verbiage both pro and con over the merits versus liabilities of nuclear power generation. that would excite passions and lead to irrational conclusions. what is really needed is the cool, level-headed, dispassionate calculations of the green-eyeshade people.

we won't be given the opportunity to muck up the potential for immediate ROI based on the objections of nervous nellies and other NIMBY types. the only cost-benefit analysis that really counts is the one that's done in the backrooms of congress after the lobbyists have disbursed their large wads of cash to the craven political class that lives and breathes corporate handouts.

so in fact, the headline of this piece ought to be "the future of corporate domination in the US," since that's what really needs to be hashed out. unfortunately, that's not liable to happen for a good while yet. so there's not much point in getting your t-shirt all wet about it.

how do you say 'holy shit!' in japanese?

they say "no news is good news," but that's obviously a defective dictum when you're in the midst of a nuclear catastrophe. then you have the equally unsatisfactory premise that reassuring nostrums are better than the unpleasant facts. the japanese government has become adept at both diffidence and evasion in its PR surrounding the events at fukushima nuclear theme park. from our friends at the australian newspaper comes word:
"JAPAN was resisting pressure last night to expand the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The resistance came despite the UN's nuclear watchdog finding high radiation readings at a village well outside the 20km perimeter."
for the past two weeks, it has been perfectly obvious that spin has supplanted candor in the reporting of this most terrifying accident. in spite of the continual words of comfort and reassurance coming from the vested interests -- who stand to lose their shirts if this were sorted out honestly -- there's no getting around the fact that instead of assuming responsibility and behaving responsibly, we're getting "the same old rub-de-rub"...

it's mighty crazy, when you keep on rubbin' on that same old thang -- lightnin' hopkins

the plant is past saving -- but the government has only just admitted as much. the exclusion zone needs to be doubled, at least, from what's currently mandated, but they're still trying to reconcile themselves with this unpleasantness.

the disaster turns ever more morbid, like the 1,000 mouldering, unburied corpses that lie within the exclusion zone.

as if we need another world-wide asshole on the scene, france's president has made a pilgrimage to japan to add his two-shits worth of wisdom:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Tokyo on Thursday in a show of solidarity with the disaster-hit nation, and urged nuclear authorities in the Group of 20 to establish an international safety standard.
"We call on the independent authorities of G20 members to meet, if possible in Paris, to define an international nuclear safety standard" for power plants, he said in a speech earlier in the day at the French Embassy in Tokyo.
leave it to a money-grubbing celebrity politician to respond to the crisis with bureaucratic inertia and more preordained conclusions about the future of nuclear power -- and they haven't even figured out how deeply fucked we are at this plant.

they're going to kill us all before it's over with. this is why the inadvertent misspelling of the nuclear plant in question is so apropos:


State of the Union: Heart Warming Massacres

i really admire linh dinh's writing, and especially recommend that everyone check out an essay that has appeared on his "state of the union" blog that discusses the motivation behind the western powers' invasion of libya:

State of the Union: Heart Warming Massacres

i suppose it takes a poet to see things so clearly. the corporate media in the US is completely inept and co-opted by the interests of their owners, so even the most elementary connections are smeared or obliterated in coverage of stories such as this.

gadhafi's pronouncements about nationalization of oil fields in the developing nations that possess the west's most coveted resources no doubt strikes terror into the black hearts of our terminally greedy overlords. they assume they control these resources by divine right, and promise a grim fate to those who challenge their dominance.

when we are treated to the irrepressible beat of free marketeers, extolling the virtues and redemptive qualities of free markets and free trade and free BJs... whatever, that freedom begins and ends with themselves. they are free to exploit the resources of the earth for their benefit. markets must be free to enable their capital to chase the cheapest labor, to put their chintzy, overpriced glitter-bots into every ethereal shopping cart. the magic of the marketplace ensures that dumb and dumber alike can be valued wage slaves and debt peons.

we can't break the cycle if the messager has a giant cork up its bunghole. facts and figures and analysis after the fact seem like so much cognitive wallpaper. salvage what you can -- some societies live almost exclusively on the refuse of another's.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

US wants to rip assad a new one, but...

the obamatrons seem to be flailing to make themselves relevant in a world where washington chicanery and double-dealing is viewed with the disdain it deserves.
"WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for failing Wednesday to address any of the reforms demanded by anti-government protesters, saying his widely anticipated address to the Syrian parliament lacked substance and would not satisfy calls for change or ease unrest."
put aside for a moment the shameless US bombing oil-rich libya while unleashing just a tongue-lashing on the resource-poor syrians.

the real problem is that obamatron struggles to reach critical mass, and instead comes off as a hypocritical ass.

those who voted for him in 2008 looked for reforms and real, substantial change. no one could come closer to totally repudiating very values he stood for in the election than has our boy in the white house.

i've tried any number of times to fathom the mind of obamatron. some claim to have seen the incipient centrist during the campaign, and that may be true, but there's no question that the candidate of "change we can believe in" and "the audacity of hope" turned into a compliant corporate shill almost as soon as the ballots were counted -- as he stood firm for TARP and the wall street bailouts.

bashar assad is a product of his environment. he rules the way he does because this is the system that dropped into his lap -- holding onto the reins of power in syria probably demands just what we see as protesters challenge assad's 11-year rule.

obamatron, on the other hand, won a mandate and with it the expectation that he would repudiate the worst excesses of the bush years -- whether it be fake national-security abominations like the PATRIOT act or the collusion of the FED and the banks to blow a gigantic asset bubble in real estate.

either way, the obamatron not only rolled back dubya's excesses, he gave them a bipartisan legitimacy that was theretofore lacking. he didn't close gitmo, he didn't try to restore habeas corpus, he didn't fully investigate the crimes of the bush administration or put an end to the illegal and irrational wars of aggression in iraq and afghanistan -- and now libya. he's not even "bush-lite" -- on "national security" he's the real thing, bush II.

nor is he an improvement on the class war front. bush called the oligarchs "my base," while obamatron populates the economic posts in his administration with wall street hacks -- guys who'll pass through the revolving door, "regulating" the industries where they previously worked and then sashaying back to fat paychecks at goldman sachs and JP morgan.

instead of standing by the teachers and firefighters in wisconsin's public-sector unions, obamatron placed jeffrey immelt, chairman of GE, in a powerful position as an economic advisor, and cozied up to outfits like BP, which put profits above people in the deepwater horizon debacle. not content to wallow with pigs in the gulf, the commander-in-chief is pushing with renewed zest for the construction of additional nuclear power plants, even as fukushima smolders menacingly, and the japanese government frantically searches for a magical redemption.

obamatron may have come into office fired up and ready to get to work on behalf of the people who elected him, and was immediately told to have a seat, while the rules were explained to him. if so, his decisions to escalate rather than withdraw from afghanistan make more sense.

it makes more sense, however, to look at who funded his campaign -- which was mostly large wall street firms -- to see which way the wind blows. while it may wipe the stardust from the eyes of you bright-eyed idealists, this is the same reality that our buddy bashar assad deals with in syria.

you're at the pinnacle of power. what do you do?

the state department can lecture the syrians all it wants, because the lesson out of DC is that calls for change and reform can be ignored -- money and power are the only two things that really count out there. if you don't like it -- as we don't like how we were betrayed by obamatron -- it's tough biscuits, kid. nobody said elections are fair.

budget baloney and government shutdown

today in politics, more of the same inane bullshit, with the GOPpers and dumbocrats doing their weird kabuki thing over some piddly-assed budget cuts insisted upon by the tea party majorettes.

what's it gonna be? the republican whack-offer is $66 billion, their objective to return federal agency budgets to where they were when obamotron took office. the GOPpers seem to see some sedition at work beginning when a dumbocrat took office -- and take no heed of the doubling of the national debt during the last repudlicking assministration.

what gives, guys? you don't like the black man?

it's an easy sell -- that is, the racism. the cuts, well, they don't amount to diddly, so what's the fuss about? it's all posturing, pubic relations with the scabies and the crabs on eric cantor's asshole. that's what you get for fornicating with rodents. brother rat, sister newt.

shut down this stinking, dysfunctional government. please, i dare you. let's get it over with. the sooner we put this charade out of its misery, the more quickly we can reap the consequences. there are many things both good and bad that come from the government, but if the ax is allowed to fall evenly on all of it, then let's see who screams first, and loudest.

let's get rid of all the regulatory agencies that are "strangling our free markets," but at the same time we need to eliminate subsidies for business activities of all kinds. let the market straighten it out. while we're at it, eliminate all tax loopholes and other considerations for business. set a flat tax rate for individuals and business, and allow no deductions, tax shelters or other means that the affluent use to dodge paying their share.

while we wouldn't want to strangle our "free" markets with regulations, one thing we need to do post-haste is to elevate the notion of personal responsibility to the corporate level. that is, no more externalizing costs incurred while doing business. if i create bad smells and bad juju in the process of getting mine, why should brother rat and sister newt be forced to live with the mess, or pay to clean it up? and if your nuclear plant goes critical, you should have to pay every cent --even to your last dime -- to clean up the mess. no more ducking it, acting like you don't know what i'm talking about. you're on your own.

and if the nation is really and truly broke, then let's disestablish the pentagon and revoke the national security act that has ruined the nation financially and morally. the US military props up the global imperial power that enables corporations to steamroller the third world in its single-minded pursuit of profits. it's so big and overstretched as it is, the domestic security functions that most military establishments exist for had to be turned over yet another entity -- homeland security. and this new fictional bureaucracy exists not to secure the homeland but to eliminate dissent. it's the militarization of the police under a new guise, and we're footing the bill for something that we really shouldn't need -- if we were using the resources we're already paying for as they were intended.

if we need to defund education and healthcare or environmental protection, who can honestly say that the government has any more business establishing departments whose sole function is perpetuating the status quo, and finding the most effective means of silencing critics of the system? that's homeland insecurity, my friends. since the market runs the government, it only seems right to leave it to market forces to decide who the winners and losers are in the political arena -- so please, defund the thought police, and let's try some rough-and-tumble reality TV for deciding the great "issues" of the day -- the mind-rot on television that mesmerizes your neighbors and makes them unable to render a coherent opinion about which side will give us the bigger screwing in libya.

i know my proposition is not an original one, but i have the advantage of being a constituent of eric cantor, the #2 repudlicker in the US house party. if there were ever a less-worthy aspirant to high office, it is this hack, this clown, who ascended to the house as personal delegate for philip morris and moneyed interests unbound here in the nook of the neo-confederacy.

this career politician, who never faces any but token opposition, sits in judgement of the rotteness of politicos who preceded him, profligate whores whose shoes have been filled with catshit and hence made unwearable -- not to mention un-fillable. a creature, a reptilian grotesquery, a pompous, pus-filled nincompoop who revels in his rank hypocrisy -- it is the sainted eric who lumbers in like an enormous zeppelin of pus to make grunts and squeaks about jobs and competitiveness and an overabundance of weasel screeds of wrack and ruin.

i'm so tired of this blustery little ding-a-ling that i wish him godspeed in his crusade to eviscerate the middle- and working-class people of this pathetic nation -- a kind of last stand to finally crush the perpetual losers who'll never, ever crawl out from under the "gift" ronnie reagan first gave in 1980, the one that keeps on giving all the way until now. we've seen the tsunami sweep away the entire premise of government as an entity that protects the mainstream of people against the predations of the elites. there are still a few matchsticks and band-aids to be removed, until the cantoresque dystopia is fully unleashed upon self-deluded and mite-minded sloths who are ranting about mexicans and colored while their very country is dismantled around them.

so go ahead, shut it down. shut it down permanently, if you guys are really serious. if it's defective here and there, then it's infested through and through. let's destroy the government in order to save it -- that sounds magical enough for your myth-entraced minions to grasp without thought.

and may the most cynical, two-faced whore be the first to be burned at the stake!

noxious fuming from a politician's lips

the presidential obama robot was making more noises today, this time about the speed at which the US will be going over a cliff:
"President Obama called on Wednesday for a one-third reduction in oil imports over the next decade, and said the effort had to begin immediately. In a speech at Georgetown University , the president said that the United States cannot go on consuming one- quarter of the world’s oil production while posessing only two percent of global reserves. He said that the country had to begin a long-term plan to reduce its reliance on imported oil, and that the decades-long political bickering that has stalled progress toward that goal had to end."
no telling why his political masters rolled him out to give this particular message on this particular day. could it have something to do with our newest war for oil in libya? very possible. and then there's the ongoing, evanescent story of japan's mortal wound, how the nuclear genie really, really has it in for the nipponese.

did you hear how today, the government in japan finally decided to accept foreign assistance in the face of their eventual decimation by the runaway nuclear plant disaster? i hate to say, i told you so. still, ever since the first couple of days after the earthquake and tsunami, it was apparent that the government wasn't dealing with the issue. they and their corporate buddies were fumbling around and not really letting on to the fact that they didn't have a clue as to what they're doing.

which brings me back to the obama machine: there is no such thing as "leadership" coming out of washington, or out of any politicians for that matter. the entire political system has been bought off, so what you hear is what the owners want you to hear, the way they want you to hear it, when they want you to hear it.

when it doesn't suit their plan, they keep mouths shut; when they have some kind of objective in mind, then they roll out the messengers to fill your ears with synthetic garbage information fit only to feed virtual livestock.

the elites want people, at this particular juncture, to forget about rising energy prices -- and rising prices in general. they've fudged the consumer price index for years now, to bury the inflation statistics, until now no  one can help but notice that packages are smaller and prices are still higher. that $4-a-gallon gas will easily hit $4.50 by summertime, and then the economy will start to dip once again -- a double-dip, anyone? naturally, no politician wants to be left hanging without a plausible story for why the bottom has dropped on its watch, so today we get feigned proactivity and -- down the road -- real radioactivity!

yeah, i think that's the real game being played on us suckers by the US banking-corporate-military elite: need to realign our energy options, create a new amusement park of self-destruction, staff it with worker ants who live in cardboard boxes and drive electric cars on crumbling highways to an irradiated future where the sky is lit with neon crucifixes.

the media characterizes obama's proposals as "exchanging ambitious for the politically possible" (christian science monitor), but it's a foregone conclusion that the option of change and reform is already obsoleted by the time words exit obamatron's lips. he simply wants your support as the winds of change change direction and you suddenly realize you're urinating on your shoes.

there's more than a hint of irony that the very people who put that man up to utter these inanities -- that no one even expects him to try to advance anyway -- will be the ones screaming bloody murder and claiming that this socialist pretend-american is trying to destroy our very way of life to avenge the death of his father on another planet on a different channel.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

reporting from a compromising position

the US press seems to be determined to commit ritual hari-kari, an institution without pride or principle, debasing itself before the elites it covers in a frenzied pursuit of "access".

and now we have "closetgate," where an orlando sentinel political reporter was obliged to wait in a storage room (a closet) during a private fundraiser featuring vice president joe biden. as part of the ritual of obtaining access to the remarks given by biden and sen. bill nelson, the reporter -- scott powers -- was required to agree to sequestration during the face-time, hobnobbing that big donors to political campaigns expect when shelling out big money to meet their elected mucky-mucks.

in effect, this is what powers agreed to going in -- stipulations he was under no obligation to accept, except that this is how the access game is played. he (being the designated pool reporter for the press during the event) was acting as an avatar for the press, a stand-in for the institution that derives its legitimacy in the corporate pecking order by its proximity to the centers of power.

this moment will forever define powers' career as a journalist under the american system of pay-to-play politics. in glaring contrast with lincoln's remark at gettysburg that few would remember the remarks made that day, in this instance no one paid the least bit of attention to biden or his remarks -- which were of so little consequence that they hardly qualified as news under any definition -- but the treatment of a butt-boy reporter, who makes a living prostrating himself before the powerful, is transformed into an event of significance, as though it somehow typifies or elucidates something or another.

the real story here is that a non-story is made ersatz news, the spew of cranks and busybodies whose only purpose seems to be to spread inconsequential and irrelevant puffery to terminally cynical and disengaged consumers of substance-free infotainment.

measure this consensual relationship of press to power against the "free-speech zones" instituted during the bush regime to appreciate how far off-kilter we are. our apologies to the esteemed reporter, who became miffed at the less-than-prestigious accommodation he received. he's a responsible, reliable knave, after all, and should be treated as such.

they should have brought him out of the closet, and instead required him to cover the event on his knees -- which in a figurative sense, at least, is where our press' coverage is coming from.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

it was with great sadness that i read the e-mail from joe bageant's publicist announcing the author's death from cancer on saturday.

bageant was a winchester, va. native with a fascinating biography -- which you can read here.

his newest book, american pie, is, or should be available, now... already a best seller in australia, bageant was doing a publicity tour for his book when he was stricken -- just four short months ago.

i first ran across his essays on i couldn't believe the guy's literary style, his working-class point of view, and mostly that his essays were often set in his hometown of winchester -- with a motley crew of characters that were all too authentic to another virginian with working-class roots.

i went to winchester twice in the past several years, looking for the bar bageant often described in his writing. my most recent visit, back in december, a friend who's a local and i wandered the town one rainy afternoon, looking for traces of the author -- but came up empty handed. that's what you get when you try to pirate wifi off the neighbors' connections!

what a bummer. we'll all be the poorer for losing the keen insights of joe bageant into the redneck psyche -- written from the perspective of one who saw past the banality and cluelessness of working-class existence, and empathize with the courage and resilience of these hardy people -- from which he came.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

chernobyl vs fukushima

a piece on bloomberg wire has assayed to compare the information environment as it existed in the soviet union versus that in contemporary japan as regards to nuclear catastrophes in these places. in a nutshell, the piece asserts:
“Social media pushes the government to act more quickly,” said Laura Roeder, a social media marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. “Governments can’t hide information anymore. It can spread too quickly to too many people.”
it's an interesting premise, and the stonewalling and prevarications of the soviet state media are textbook examples of the media environment in closed societies.

in our contemporary media landscape, however, are we that much better served by the plethora of social media to augment state and corporate sources?

this is a shaky proposition, at best.

the soviet union controlled the media during its time, and these were the days before the internet. remember, also, that chernobyl ran amok in isolation -- not in tandem with natural disasters. today's japan, on the other hand, is an open society that is linked both internally and with the rest of the world by the internet. that makes it almost impossible to completely bury any story.

still, if there's one thing the corporate state has mastered, it's the control of how information is presented. in a word, today's media outlets and their corporate overseers are wizards of spin.

they control the flow of not only information, but misinformation -- narrative and counter-narrative. tuned into this corporate media cocoon, you have no idea what the real story is -- which gives the corporate state the breathing room to concoct a comforting storyline of authorities operating with grace under fire.

in one sense, this is somewhat justifiable -- if only to avert mass panic. on the other hand, if the authorities go on for three weeks, as they have in fukushima, without revealing the true magnitude of the problems there, this creates a false sense of security, which will lead to even chaos once the facts come out.

i'm afraid that, contrary to the premise of this story, the iphone is not going to save us. it's going to take society working together, and not social networks, to bring sanity to an unhinged world.

US role in libya: destroy offensive capability

the US administration is pulling out all the stops to hype its justifications for military intervention in libya:
"WASHINGTON – The United States military intervention in Libya has saved perhaps tens of thousands of lives, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, as she and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates defended a mission they acknowledged is drawing increasing skepticism from both liberals and conservatives." (source: new york times).
this bullshit offensive is only slightly less offensive than the actual invasion of libya itself, about which:
Mr. Gates acknowledged on the same show that what was unfolding in Libya was not a threat to the United States and was “not a vital national interest to the United States,” but that the intervention was justified because of “the engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake.”
when the US starts an invasion on humanitarian grounds, LOOK OUT! the US government never has, and never will consider what is in the interests of common people. its one and only objective is to protect its strategic and business interests.

when it comes to creating rationales for invasions, or covering up the "collateral damage" (read loss of civilian lives), the US government will resort to the most cynical defensiveness, concocting outrageous lies without any scruples whatsoever. instead of acknowledging the random slaughter caused by US munitions,
"Instead, he said, Defense Department authorities were told that Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters placed dead bodies at some of the sites targeted in an effort to create a false impression..."
the irony over which side works hardest to create false impressions should be on obvious one...

when you look at what the US is destroying in its defense of the civilians of libya, its quite plain that all their offensive military equipment -- jets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, the works -- is systematically being demolished. this will prevent a new regime, if it decides not to play footsie with the western powers, to remain defenseless far into the future.

this conveniently puts libya's energy resources where the west can get to them without restriction or hindrance -- which, if one wishes to loot the resources, is a very good place to be.

if, on the other hand, a follow-on regime is "someone we can do business with," then our weapons syndicates will be glad to sell the government replacements for the gear we destroy -- which makes it a win-win situation for the western powers: a new, compliant government, plus a bonanza for the weapons industry.

before we go, we should listen to the flimsy excuses for US intervention in libya, but not syria or yemen:

Pressed to explain why the United States is involved in a military strike in Libya, but not in Yemen or in Syria, where civilians and protesters have also been killed, Mrs. Clinton said in Libya, the government is using its military forces in an organized strike against its own people.
“That crossed a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate,” she said on ABC.
get that: they "crossed a line" in libya, using military forces to kill civilians and protesters.

so what about our wonderful friends in tel aviv, who routinely slaughter the civilians and protesters in the west bank and gaza? and what about those who arm the israeli military, enabling it to slaughter the palestinians? these same strictures against use of force by the libyans seem to be flagrantly abused by the US and its allies, and the UN is silent in response.

how can these amoral degenerates expect to have any credibility whatsoever? leave it to clinton to suggest that it's because the US doesn't play the propaganda game expertly enough.

Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Va.

i don't have any explanation as to why cemeteries appeal to me. i guess that's how these things work. richmond, where i live, has a few noteworthy ones: hollywood, shockoe, hebrew, st. john's church., but they're all white-people places. and the black community has been a strong presence in this town from the beginning...

last weekend i set off looking for evergreen cemetery, the historic black burial ground in the county of henrico (just outside richmond). instead of the place i was looking for, i ended up on magnolia road -- where there was absolutely nothing, even though google maps pointed me there. i was thinking this must be a joke -- or a conspiracy!

turns out to be neither. it was a mistake. there's no hiding the real evergreen -- it's been there for over 100 years, after all!

now, there's a guy named mike lynaugh who published some photos and text about evergreen in 2008, that made the place sound like a scene out of a horror movie: "you can see the remains of a body pushed over to the corner.....the skull clearly visible to anyone looking through the hole. There is even an ulna bone laying in the grass outside the burial chamber." then, he used a monopod to get his camera into a hole in a mausoleum wall, where he photographed the wreckage -- which otherwise couldn't be seen without considerable effort.

this inspired me to take my own trip there. i can honestly say, it's a sobering experience to visit evergreen -- which is actually, according to the sign at the entrance to the property, "the four cemeteries at evergreen". part is in use today, while other sections are overgrown or almost completely returned to forest.

when founded in 1891, its founders envisioned it as the colored counterpart to hollywood, and situated it on a scenic bluff looking west toward the richmond skyline (not much of a skyline then, however). having made no provision for its perpetual care, the original site is now the scene of a heroic struggle of volunteers against nature -- and i wouldn't bet against nature, frankly. nevertheless, the volunteers are doing a commendable thing, as they fight to preserve this important part of richmond's heritage.

it would be a much more meaningful fight -- and have better prospects of success -- if the descendants of those buried there embraced the effort in a way i'm not seeing.

now, some photos:

After being reclaimed, what lay under a tangle of vines and fallen branches...
What the volunteers are up against, as they expose small sections close to the roads.
Braxton mausoleum, site of vandalism and exposed human remains -- but you have to stick your head in that hole...
No trip to Evergreen would be complete without a visit to Maggie Walker's grave...
but instead of the grand monument to Walker, here's one of hundreds of graves lost to time.
This is the view that sold the plots to prospective buyers at Evergreen -- but now you have to fight to get there.
Another of the countless family plots one must struggle to get to now...
This stone stands at the dividing line between old and new sections of the cemetery. In the distance, an overgrown field packed with unseen burial sites.

Friday, March 25, 2011

japan woes raise US nuke dreams' price

according to the business-friendly root-tooters at reuters, the japan nukie fiasco could hit US dreams for a new landscape full of reactors in the booty:
"(Reuters) - The crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant could hit the U.S. nuclear-power industry in its weakest spot -- by raising costs.
Plant developers have spent years seeking approvals to build the nation's first new nuclear reactors in three decades, arguing that nuclear power offered the United States an opportunity to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and become less dependent on imported oil.
They have been less vocal about the cost of building a nuclear plant -- two to four times as much as for a coal or natural gas-burning power station. And with regulators seen mandating new safety measures in the wake of Japan's crisis, the gap will only widen."
the only question is, who the fuck cares?

if it was a cost-effective and safe technology, it wouldn't be laid on the shoulders of the US taxpayers to subsidize and insure these irradiated heaps of shit. since they're a ticking bomb, no insurance company will touch one, so the industry just does what they all do: get the feds to underwrite the project -- and heap all the responsibility for disaster onto the taxpayer.

why in the blazing fuck would any sane person saddle himself with such a stinking, seething, slimy wad of filth? do we really need the energy so badly that any risk is worth it? because what you've got here is a sure thing: at some point, for some reason -- be it natural disaster or human mis- or malfeasance -- one of these motherfuckers will go critical.

and baby, you've bought it!

after all, look at the japs. they built their cyclonic nuclear fuck machines on an active earthquake fault, and then decided that if a quake came, it wouldn't -- couldn't -- be that serious. they also built it close to the ocean -- again, right on the "ring of fire". that's a two-fer right there of catastrophe just waiting to lay its fat ass directly in your face. you couldn't make this shit up, but then they build a certified death bonanza simply to flaunt their audaciousness.

and we're not even going to talk about the falsified inspection records that TEPCO got caught submitting to the regulators. is there any doubt that, if they were in the US, they'd have behaved any differently? after all, the deepwater horizon disaster in the gulf of mexico was surely the product of non-existent regulatory enforcement -- which gives us NO confidence in the nuclear industry.

what kind of obscene joke is this, anyway? i say to reuters, tell us all the reasons that the disaster in japan at least has a silver lining in the US -- if, that is, the industry doesn't just totally disregard opposition to more nukies, and gets the appeaser obama to green-light them anyway. hey, that would be nothing new!

FOX news: poor christians, nasty muslims

this just in from the cranks at FOX news:
"Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes in Western Ethiopia after Muslim extremists set fire to roughly 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes.
At least one Christian has been killed, many more have been injured and anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 have been displaced in the attacks that began March 2 after a Christian in the community of Asendabo was accused of desecrating the Koran."
as the mouthpiece for the right-wing, fundamentalist movement in the US, it's par for the course to focus attention not on the million or more muslims that were either killed or became refugees in iraq after the US invasion and occupation went terribly awry.

instead, the fires of sectarian hatred have to be sparked up here in the US in response to the sufferings of africans -- who on any other occasion would be totally neglected by the national white peoples' party that is today's GOP.

on a scale of 10, this rates less than zero except in the very pinched reality that exists in the minds of FOX viewers -- mosques at "ground zero" are more newsworthy than the routinely barbaric, reactionary policies of the US imperial regime.

japan nukes: no news was NOT good news

after pussy-footing around for two weeks, the japanese authorities are just beginning to come clean about the true catastrophic proportions of the unfolding nuclear tragedy.

"TOKYO (AP) — A suspected breach in the core of a reactor at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could mean more serious radioactive contamination, Japanese officials revealed Friday, as the prime minister called the country's ongoing fight to stabalize the plant 'very grave and serious.'"

elizabeth taylor's death was not a tragedy, but the destruction of a large swath of inhabitable land in japan certainly ranks as one. yet which one has garnered more attention -- especially here in the US?

the shoot-em-up in libya makes for some dramatic storytelling, and gives our leaders a chance to strut on the world stage. they may be pompous fools, but from the nature of the media coverage, you'd be excused for thinking they were actually engaged in some useful activity. they aren't.

the real action in the world right now is in japan. and the nucleus of that action is in the breached reactor core -- and the other, as yet untold, clusterfuck of problems at the fuckushima nuclear funny farm.

as bad as it is, watch the story gradually fade out of view in the corporate media, overwhelmed by many other hotter topics -- steroid-pumping sports stars, anyone? we must never be allowed to seriously confront the limitations of our technology to control the nuclear genie.

obama as the frontman for the mega-industrial, financial and security consortium that runs the government, continues to preach about the safety and inevitability of vast expansion of our nuclear power industry -- as it's the only semi-viable alternative to carbon-based fuels for powering our 24/7 lifestyle. the grand casino will go dark without those perky little atoms doing their thing on our behalf.

this is the true story -- and also why you aren't really seeing it being told as bluntly as the facts warrant. the panic of fleeing people is nothing compared with the panic of the investor class at the prospect of reduced quarterly profits.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

libya: beating the drums for war

our friends at asphyxiated press bring us the latest dispatch from the french foreign minister -- who says the campaign will last weeks, not months:

"PARIS (AP) — The international military operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces may last days or weeks — but not months, France's foreign minister said Thursday, as allied countries tried to work out who will run the campaign."

that's one of the problems with today's war-making regimes and their mush-minded populations: war used to be a protracted, bloody affair, but in our current media-drenched environment, it takes place far away, at no apparent cost, and is over in a very short time.

well, as dubya and uncle dick in iraq found out, these conflicts may be distant and immaterial to the comfy, technologically advanced societies that need the developing world's resources, but there's no promise that after the initial glory of shock and awe, that the opposing side will roll over and play dead.

after all, look at what's happened in 10 years of fighting in afghanistan: we can't "win" and we can't leave -- otherwise we'd "lose". so the great late NATO is being ground down by a ragtag army of passionate defenders of their land and way of life. and the west is stuck and fuc't.

we'll probably not see anything quite as slow-mo disastrous coming out of gadhafi's regime, but on the other hand, the libyans didn't roll over for the italians in WWII -- and the wops threw everything they had at 'em.

the libyans know -- they're no fools -- that the west have no use for them. it's just the oil we want. so i'm sure if anybody asked, they'd honestly say to the US, france and britian, no thanks!

it's just that no one asked them. all the declarations being made by the politicians are aimed at their homeland audience -- who are simply antsy about blowback and know that if there's any price to be paid, the war makers won't be the ones paying!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

do the palestinians still matter:

from the BBC: Jerusalem: Middle East's oldest unresolved conflict: "If there was a moment when the world did not want to be reminded of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in such violent terms, then it is now."

if this is how the world feels, then FUCK the world.

are we too overwhelmed with our more immediate, selfish concerns -- like how much gasoline will cost at the pump, or how expensive dog food will become -- to tune in to the quotidian struggles of palestinians under brutal israeli occupation? too bad.

all the rotten, self-referential, jack-off preoccupations with which the world busies itself are really just the crust on a dog's butt compared with the wreckage modern industrial societies leave in their wake. when it's industrial waste, we refer to it as externalizing costs. when it comes to empire, it's the same idea, but we decline to face up to the twisted mess that's been made to far-off people and places -- those people and countries that had resources we covet, yet refuse to pay for at market prices.

instead we march in with our high-minded ideologies, bringing civilization with all its rapacity and wantonness to overwhelmed and defenseless people. we exploit before we destroy -- and expect the survivors to pick up the pieces.

the brits with the mandates in palestine are a fine bunch. they strutted around with their fat-ass empire until it collapsed, and in their hasty retreat left behind a history of injustice to be sorted out by those unfortunates who happened to be caught up in the great game. the palestinians, for one, found themselves a people without a homeland.

while the world may not wish to be reminded of the great injustice done to the palestinians -- since the libya conflict and the japan catastrophe, to say nothing of the death of elizabeth taylor are current topics of "concern" -- it's a fact of life that until the palestinians are dealt with justly, there will be no respite.

ugly reminders like today's jerusalem bombing will continue to occur, as well the israeli military incursions into gaza and the destruction and misery that entails, in unrelenting fashion until justice can no longer be denied.

greedy people and the housing collapse

this is as good a place as any to start -- a marketwatch story on the latest US home-sales data:
"WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Financial markets overreacted to the news Wednesday that U.S. sales of new homes fell about 17% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000, a record low and quite a bit worse than the 290,000 rate expected by the MarketWatch survey of top forecasters."
this is a case of 'you had to be there' to appreciate the clusterfuck that eventually became the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007. the unmitigated greed that characterized the times was stunning in its brazenness and heedless exuberance. buy this and flip that was the national obsession, because prices were heading up like a rocket, and the sky was the limit.

no one, no where, saw the end coming -- or dared even try to talk down the exuberance that was stampeding all the lemmings of the nearest cliff.

i recall watching a UCLA economist on UCTV back in 2006, the university network shown on satellite TV, talking about housing prices in california. he assured the audience at his presentation that the market wasn't in a bubble situation, that the fundamentals were sound, and that any overheating could be dealt with in a calm and rational fashion -- without a wholesale meltdown of the market.

he seemed like a reasonable voice, gave a nice, credible presentation which probably convinced most of his audience. but it was all bullshit -- totally wrong, totally missing the most obvious evidence that required no academic credentials or inside industry knowledge:

housing prices were rising beyond any corresponding increase in the value of the assets themselves. that is, these houses, while doubling in price, were still the same houses on the same streets -- having undergone no improvement that would explain or justify the rising valuation. how could this not only be sustained -- how could it be explained?

indeed, there was no good explanation. it was merely a bubble, a mindless run-up in prices which at some point was bound to collapse -- leaving the majority of people taking huge losses, while the insiders who ran the scam came about with gigantic paydays.

while the government came in to rescue the big bankers by socializing the toxic mortgages -- and adding them to the national debt -- there was no rescue of the people who got caught out in the middle with underwater mortgages. they either had to pay or lose the properties they'd bought.

some of them thought they were wheeler-dealers, playing the market and making a killing, while others were just trying to be a part of dubya bush's "ownership society", but either way, their fates were similar -- no bailouts for the average person, while the banksters and the shareholders still hold tons of bad debt, though they refuse to take a "haircut".

when all the houses are valued at what they're worth, we'll be making progress. and once all the bad debts the banks hold are marked to market, and the chips are allowed to fall where they may, then maybe we'll finally have cloture. not before -- and maybe not ever!

Jerusalem blast -- terrible, just terrible!

the latest outrage in a news panorama jam-packed with outrageousness is the jerusalem bus-stop blast. the media is all over it:
"Jerusalem (CNN) -- A woman was killed and more than 50 people were wounded when a loud explosion shook a busy street in Jerusalem as the evening rush hour began on Wednesday, authorities said.
Several of the wounded were critically injured in the first serious bombing in Jerusalem in four years, authorities said.
Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the 'cowardly terrorist attack' in which 'innocent people were hurt.'" (story here)
we're with the mayor on this -- innocent people were hurt. that's about par for the course, as the saying goes.

but let's be honest here: the "outrageousness" generally is proportional to the amount of media coverage, and the tone of that coverage, when perceptions are created and manipulated.

damage, injuries and loss of life in events such as this are almost an everyday occurrence in many parts of the world. they are more frequent in areas under israeli military control, or US occupation, than in israel or the US, but they only rise to the level of outrageous when the great, powerful white nations are on the receiving -- rather than the giving -- end.

we characterize our own massacres against people as unfortunate collateral damage, and give hush money to victims' families -- when there is media interest shown. when our atrocities cannot be corroborated, they might as well have never happened -- we never own up to them if they can be covered up.

it is precisely because we don't consider there to be any equivalence between their dead and our dead, their suffering and our suffering, that we can be nonchalant about the victims of our crusades, while being outraged when the tables are turned and the victims lash out in desperate fury.

violence is detestable, deplorable, and it's something that we shouldn't resort to in order to solve our differences. when there is no justice, however, why are we so surprised when oppressed people resort to the same corrosive and destructive mindset as their oppressors?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

US military: the insane killing machine

from comes this breathless news flash:
"The German news outlet Der Spiegel has published photographs of what appear to be two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing over the bodies of dead Afghans -- images which threaten to further complicate the American military effort there."
the accompanying photo shows some camo-clad goon with a sadistic grin kneeling over the mostly hidden body of an afghan "saved" by the US military.

we get the obligatory apologies from the military, sprinkled liberally with cries of "a few bad apples" -- the all-purpose excuse for unleashing the brutality of savage US imperialism on tribal people:
"We apologize for the distress these photos cause," the statement said.
Army officials asserted in the statement that ongoing court-martial proceedings related to the alleged atrocities "speak for themselves. The photos appear in stark contrast to the discipline, professionalism and respect that have characterized our soldiers' performance during nearly 10 years of sustained operations."
They also stressed that the "United States Army is committed to adherence to the Law of War and the humane and respectful treatment of combatants, noncombatants, and the dead. ... Soldiers who commit offenses will be held accountable as appropriate."
when it comes to the US military, discipline and professionalism are measured in cities destroyed and native populations decimated -- think falluja in iraq, where every man of "fighting age" was given a death sentence when the military unleashed its barrage of firebombs and DU munitions on the city that rose up in anger in response to imperial hubris.

we will see this same scenario played out in libya, if troops are deployed -- as they probably will. US ideals are at some removes from our actions, as events have proved again and again over the past 60 years. afghanistan was not the first, nor will be the last, and atrocities are part and parcel of the american style of freedom and democracy from the barrel of a gun.

no wonder they hate us. if you wish to say it's for our freedom, as a former president explained it, then its our freedom to ride roughshod over others in pursuit of our own interests, while disregarding the interests of others in wishing to achieve a peaceful existence without the US barging in and telling the locals how to run things.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Egyptian vote: a win for 'stability'

after all the drama in egypt back in february, leading to the resignation of mubarak and the toppling of the old regime, the results of the constitutional referendum are in:

the status quo is poised for a return!

not that mubarak is coming back. or even sulieman, the former security chief and israeli favorite who was mubarak's hand-picked successor.

nope, in voting yes, the big winner is not some much even the islamists, as the western press exclaims. instead, it's the dreaded institutional stability that is the catchphrase for everything being controlled out of washington and tel aviv.

from an AFP story summarizing the results:
The Muslim Brotherhood threw its huge influence and organisation behind a "yes" vote, although youth groups that spearheaded the protests which forced Hosni Mubarak to resign as president last month had called for a "no" vote.
They argued that the timetable set by the military was too tight for them to organise at grassroots level, that the Muslim Brotherhood would benefit and that the changes to the Mubarak-era constitution were too limited.
yep, it was kind of obvious, with the accelerated timetable that the military put the nation on for its return to "democracy", that the desired result was being ram-rodded through the electorate.

the military, which assumed power in the vacuum of the departed previous leadership, is tied inextricably to its US military-industrial complex patrons to go against the flow. the popular will forced mubarak out, but besides his departure the shape of things to come does not appear to be tied to the will of the people.

check out the stats on the latest vote:
More than 14 million Egyptians approved the constitutional amendments and four million said "no," organising commission chairman Mohammed Attiya said.
A total of 41 percent of the estimated 45 million eligible voters turned out on Saturday to seize their first taste of democracy, after 18 days of demonstrations ended Mubarak's 30 years of authoritarian rule, he added.
far from starting with a popular mandate, the electorate of egypt is either too uninspired by their choices, or too unmotivated to keep pressing for more change -- or to complete the process the revolution put in motion. i'm not sure which, but it's all to obvious that if a people doesn't stand up and emphatically make its wishes known, someone else will be glad to step up and make the choice for them.

the US would be glad to supervise. washington has long preferred reliable dictators to populist democrats -- especially those who might nationalize industries coveted by foreign investors. in the absence of compliant autocrats, the US will countenance a strong, right-wing fundamentalist regime, so long as its leaders are available for purchase by US corporations.

what the US' primary interest is the kind of stability that protects business interests, the kind of stability that allows the IMF to stage a hostile takeover of the state's assets, and shield investors from the consequences of forced austerity on restless populations.

what the people of egypt -- and many others in similar situations -- will find is that the new boss will, indeed, be like the old boss. a new face on the package, but inside the same old bullshit. only by the time the people have their predictable WTF reaction, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

should've stepped up when you had the chance, sucka!

NRC, japan get their story straight

from out friends at businessweek comes the story everyone's been waiting to hear:
"Radiation containment units at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactors are intact and the situation at the plant “is on the verge of stabilizing,” a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said."
now you know all you need to know, you lilly-livered, panicky, quivering bowl of jello out there in TV Land.

the investor class wants you to stay calm. go to the mall and make some major purchases on your new credit card. all is well:
"Containment at units 1, 2 and 3 appear to be functional,” Borchardt said. “The fact that offsite power is close to being available for use at plant equipment is perhaps the first optimistic sign that things could be turning around.”
OMG! did he say "the first optimistic sign"? what about all the previous reassurances that everything has been all right? we've been hearing for days that everything is all right -- and now here's the wrench into all their promises.

while we're talking about turning the corner in japan, and finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, bringing matters closer to home, we have even more reassurances:
“We have an obligation to the American people to undertake a systematic and methodical review of the safety of our own domestic nuclear facilities in light of the natural disaster and the resulting nuclear situation in Japan,” NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said today.
Obama administration officials have said radiation from the Japanese plant won’t reach the U.S. They’ve also downplayed the risk of a similar crisis at U.S. nuclear plants.
it's nice to know that the US government, while being so candid and reassuring about the situation in japan, is also stepping up and giving all y'all the peace of mind you need to go about your business as usual. do not worry about the nuke plant over in the next county.

we have one of those monsters on either side of my pretty metropolis -- we're kind of a meatball sandwich with our own toaster oven on either side. the rest of the 104 nuke plants will be inspected in the next 90 days -- otherwise, it would seem like just a foregone conclusion, and that the government made no effort to investigate at all.

but just to minimize any uneasiness before the official findings are released, the NRC really DOES make the report's findings a foregone conclusion:
U.S. nuclear plants are built to withstand the “maximum credible” natural disasters for their location, including earthquakes and tsunamis, according to the NRC.
no suspense there, eh? who's willing to bet that the NRC finds NO deficiencies whatsoever at ANY of the US' nuclear facilities? there's never any problems -- until there's a problem. and even then, it's just a matter of looking on the bright side, to find the silver lining in this cloud.

even if the rain is radioactive...

'Progress' in japan -- hold that thought

if you were worried about the fukashima nuclear catastrophe, think happy thoughts and it all goes away:
"Stocks in industries affected by Japan’s worst earthquake on record climbed today amid signs the country is making progress bringing the crisis at a stricken nuclear plant under control. Japan’s markets were closed for a public holiday today." Bloomberg
it's been a bit of a roller coaster in the coverage, with reports of smoke rising from the stricken reactors and TEPCO withdrawing workers, counterposed against the more upbeat assurances from mogul media that it's all blue sky and sunshine.

what else do you expect from business interests which stand to profit from reconstruction, and the usual market frenzy that accompanies disaster capitalism? the food and water supply may be contaminated, and there's a very real possibility that much of northern japan may become uninhabitable, but that's no reason to be a sourpuss!

wake up and smell the roses!

frankly, i see a story that's being seriously buried in the press. the libyan adventure may be a diversion and distraction more than a true international crisis -- a classic case of misdirection.

the global energy cartel is more concerned about its nuclear ambitions being thwarted than they are about 1 percent of the global oil supply being temporarily taken offline. there were billions of taxpayer dollars in the pipeline from obama to jumpstart reactor construction in the US before this "temporary setback" scenario arose. when you talk nuclear, you're talking large to these guys.

take a look at the main "coalition partners" in this dust-up. france, UK, US, italy, all economically sick men of western colonial hegemony who cannot afford expensive, protracted military adventures. this is a risky gambit, but one they seem willing to take with an eye to shoring up their long-term prospects.

if they lose momentum on the road to nuclearization of their energy supply, they'll be hard pressed to make up for it down the road. to them the real nuclear disaster is not building more nuclear plants!

Crush, kill, destroy...

among the disparate pro-corporate, pro-invasion media voices comes the same song:
"The U.S. has been carrying out the attacks with Britain, France and other allies to enforce a U.N.-authorized no-fly zone. The no-fly zone is aimed at protecting Libyan civilians from attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces trying to crush a month-long uprising against his 42-year rule." (VOA).
the forces to goodness and moral rectitude will halt their erstwhile friend gadhafi's efforts to "crush" the rebellion against his rule.

as they did with saddam, the US and it's "coalition partners" will go about methodically destroying the hi-tech military hardware they previously sold their foe. it makes for a brisk trade in armaments, with current stocks needing replenishment after the current imbroglio.

doubtless gadhafi is a monster, a lunatic, a very bad man -- but you can also judge a guy by the company he keeps: regular, peace-loving, right-wing demagogues like silvio berlusconi and tony blair -- not to mention the terror from texas, dubya the bushbaby.

in order to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs, and in order to project global power,  you have to crack a bunch of heads, and destroy the village in order to save it, and make the world safe for democracy at the barrel of a gun.

it would be great to be rid of dictators like gadhafi, but if we really want peace and harmony in the world, we also need to make a major push to be rid of the corporatist security state apparatus that protects the world's large financial interests against the yearning to be free among the working classes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

'gender gap' or same old crap?

national media in the US are making much of the apparent schism between the boys and the girls in america's foreign policy establishment. it seems like guys like robert gates at defense were against US involvement, while ms. clinton over at state were for taking the more ballsy approach. as hillary's henchwoman put it:
"“Now we have a chance to support a real new beginning in the Muslim world – a new beginning of accountable governments that can provide services and opportunities for their citizens in ways that could dramatically decrease support for terrorist groups and violent extremism,” she wrote. “It’s hard to imagine something more in our strategic interest.”
“Any use of force must be carefully and fully debated, but that debate has now been had,” wrote Dr. Slaughter, now a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. “It’s been raging for a week, during which almost every Arab country has come on board calling for a no-flight zone and Colonel Qaddafi continues to gain ground. It is time to act.”"
one has to wonder about these two-faced knuckleheads. the foreign policy establishment, as it serves as the diplomatic wing on the corporate-security state, is always looking for ways to advance business interests, over and above any concern for the liberty and rights of oppressed people under america's favored autocrats and dictators.

far from championing freedom and democracy, in the much-ridiculed formulation of bushy cheneyism, the CIA is always on the match to sow internal discord, and manipulate domestic politics in places around the world, to ensure that those who end up atop the pyramid will bring stability to their nations.

this has meant either right-wing military dictatorships on the one hand, or religious fundamentalists like the taliban on the other. being a left-leaning, populist leader has far too often been a one-way trip to the grave.

in spite of hillary's apparent acquisition of a set of brass nuts, we can be sure that the prattling on about supporting accountable governments that provide services and opportunities for their citizens is not to be taken at face value. if anything, it simply represents a struggle between two factions within the establishment, whose methods and goals cannot be divined from the surface appearance of things.

high-action distraction: more war for oil

the western powers have once again decided to go to war to protect their oil -- this time in libya, where the uncertainty that always rattles the markets was having a negative effect on the investing class.
"BENGHAZI, Libya — A coalition of American and European forces launched a military campaign Saturday to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power, bombing Libyan targets by air and sea in the first phase of the largest international military effort since the Iraq war."
it doesn't matter how many civilians are massacred in yemen or bahrain, we'll choose our wars wisely, say the sainted powers of the west -- the ones whose commercial ties with libya would suffer the most if gadhafi were to repay his erstwhile patrons for their treachery by cancelling oil concessions.

even the language of "shock and awe" remains current in the vocabulary of this latest example of imperialism on the march.

it's been pointed out -- correctly, i must say -- that a well-targeted missile from one of the US' drones could've taken out gadhafi in one fell swoop, and saved us the drama of a full-blown military intervention.

perhaps the military doesn't have enough confidence in their drones -- which seem not terribly accurate except to massacre civilians in pakistan.

think again: this has some many ulterior motives, it's hard to keep track of them all. from the splintering of the old order across the mideast, and the violent reprisals to come when the saudi regime comes under threat, to the wobbly economic situation tied to the nuclear catastrophe in japan, there's too much going on in other places that  are hogging the spotlight.

the spectacle of a war is just the kind of high-action distraction required to thrill fans of the home team, and to let everybody know that prices on out oil are on the way back down.

Friday, March 18, 2011

photographs of japanese ruins

please take a few moments to check out this brutally graphic record of the wreckage of Iwate Kamaishi, in the aftermath of last week's quake and tsunami. photos by rene' villela. not for the faint of heart...

who gives a hoot about newt?

newt gingrich has passed gas in response to the commander-in-chief's presentation of his NCAA final four picks on ESPN. ought to be focusing on more weighty matters, intones the flatulent one:
"'You know, the president has this fixation with the Final Four. Spent time on ESPN giving us his version of what really mattered to him, which is the Final Four,' Newt Gingrich said on Fox News Channel Thursday night. 'What's strange is, with all of these crises, how can you focus that kind of time and attention as president of the United States -- not as a private citizen, not as a spectator, not as a hobby?'"
funny how obama can't ever seem to quite get it right with these guys. they've been hollering about how he's a socialist invader from another galaxy, or channeling his late father's anti-imperialist, drunken rants. newty particularly liked that last bit, calling it one of the most insightful analyses he's read on the president.

so get it straight, guys... is obama a red-blooded american, or what?

either he's a big fan of NCAA basketball or he's a pinko agent -- can't have it both ways.

i've got no great love for obama, but then the newtered one makes the following observation, which makes me grateful for the idiot we have, rather than the one who's speaking:
"The president announced on March 3, 'Kadafi has to go.' … [Eisenhower and Reagan] would have made sure that he was gone. There are a lot of ways to get rid of a dictator if you want to. This idea that we posture, we talk, we have diplomatic meetings. … This is very weak," he said.

i suppose newtie would have gone straight in to tripoli and announced that we were taking over. he probably hasn't noticed that we're already occupying two muslim countries as it is, and because his political party believes that deficits don't matter (dick cheney), there's no limit to the number of invasions and occupations we can simultaneously maintain. somebody ought to give newt a calculator, which he might find handy in situations where the absence of a brain could be a disadvantage.

free bradley manning -- rally for his release this sunday!

dismissal of all charges for…
Bradley Manning

Rally & March to Quantico
Stand Up for Freedom to Information and an
Engaged Democracy – As this young soldier did!

Sunday, March 20th
2:00 p.m.
Main Street and Rt. 1 (Jeff Davis Hwy.)
Triangle, VA

Look for us on Facebook – “Rally and March for Bradley Manning’s Freedom”
Organized by the Washington Metro Chapter of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Endorsed by Veterans for
Peace, Code Pink: Women for Peace, the Washington Peace Center, Courage to Resist, and others

conning the internet blowhard community

a couple of weeks ago it was reported that the US air force solicited bids for a software package that could create an army of avatars, which could flood online forums with government propaganda.

yesterday, it was reported that the pro-transparency hacker collective anonymous was publicizing information it had gleaned from its attack on HBGary relating to precisely this same sort of activity -- only now it's already fully operational. from their dispatch:
"'We believe Metal Gear involves an army of fake cyber personalities immersed in social networking websites for the purposes of manipulating the mass population via influence, crawling information from major online communities (such as Facebook), and identifying anonymous personalities via correlating stored information from multiple sources to establish connections between separate online accounts, using this information to arrest dissidents and activists who work anonymously.'" TG Daily
faced with incontrovertible evidence that these activities were in full swing, the military could no longer deny its existence. also from TG:
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has confirmed it is coding advanced software designed to infiltrate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The existence of Metal Gear was first revealed by the cyber activist group known as Anonymous, which managed to obtain critical data about the project from leaked HBGary documents.
the military, predictably, insists their efforts are aimed exclusively at foreigners -- to disrupt, they swear with their usual swagger, terrorist networks. everyone who takes comfort in that will also get a warm glow from the japanese reactors. it's ludicrous to take any of their assertions at face value.

just as it was revealed that the state department instructed its "diplomats" to engage in very un-diplomatic spying on their counterparts at posts around the world, as well as the UN, we can be sure that the military is riding roughshod over its legal limitations to engage in wholesale cyber-warfare against "enemies" both on the home front and abroad. in brief, if you're not down with the program, you're the enemy; dubya put it succinctly: you're either with us or against us.

if you were late coming to the party, it can be assumed that on many other levels, the government -- at the behest of its corporate overlords -- are engaged in all kinds of rough-and-tumble play in the vast arena of gamesmanship called "contingency operations."

next time you scroll down to the comments section of an online news story, take note of the consistency of responses defending the government's point of view, and how it interlocks with the K-street dick drizzle that rains down on us all through the TV and radio. total misinformation immersion is the agenda of new age hipsters on the totalitarian tip.

arriving late to the party -- gaming voting machines

MIT is the stomping ground of a lot of very, very smart people, and you would expect them to be on top of the latest trends in technology -- i mean, isn't that what they're all about?

so when reading this item in the institution's technology review periodical, i had to pause in amazement. their flash news bulletin:

"When the stakes are high enough, hackers have figured out how to defeat all manner of computers not even connected to the internet: ATM machines, credit card readers on gas pumps; you name it. How long then, in a society in which elections are already bought and sold through political action committees and K-Street lobbying, before the monetary incentive to steal votes from the latest generation of voting machines exceeds the difficulty of pulling it off?" How Long Before Hackers Steal Votes? - Technology Review

not wanting to be the bad news bear again, but a lot of people for a long time have questioned the integrity of these systems, and pointed out various conflicts of interest between manufacturers like dibold and the republican party -- particularly in the state of ohio, and especially during the 2004 presidential election.

instead of shock, this rates as a DUH! moment. as the graf above notes, hackers are into all kinds of exploits to take over systems that have a much lower impact on our national elections and system of government -- indeed, hackers are present everywhere.

what's really scary, but not really unexpected, is that the government and the quasi-government-slash-corporate interests that run the US government are way out front on this issue. not as our guardians and protectors, either.

elections are too messy and unpredictable to vest any serious power in the voters -- as easily manipulated as they are. instead, they use their media mouthpieces to magnify astroturd movements like the tea party far out of proportion to their actual numbers. with the appearance of mass appeal, it's much easier to rig critical, pre-selected races to bring about the desired outcome.

again, this is far too important for the people who own the country to leave to chance. they doubtless have their best people working on the project, while at the same time making reports like this one in technology review seem controversial and off the wall.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

the bad news bears

reuters news service has, in the days since the japan nuclear clusterfuck began, continuously brought its readers a bewildering array of good-news reports, an upbeat counterpoint to other news services whose dispatches -- while hopeful -- contained sobering details of a situation going completely off the meter.

the way my main news aggregation site, google, presents the headlines, there would be two unsettling reports, and then the reuters alternative -- which always seemed to suggest things weren't that bad.

well, they are that bad, and even reuters can't gloss over the tragedy unfolding in our pacific neighbor's lands:
Japan's nuclear crisis may have taken its most dangerous turn yet after a U.S. official said one of the pools containing highly radioactive spent fuel rods at the stricken plant had run dry.

One nuclear expert said that there was now even a possibility that the disaster may approach the extent of the Chernobyl accident, the worst ever in the industry's history. When the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine exploded in 1986 it spewed a radiation cloud over a large area of Europe.
i see no point in engaging in any "i told you so" bravado, but look at it for what it is: this nuclear facility was ill-conceived, and every system deployed to mitigate the effects of another failure itself failed, until all of them were hosed beyond hope.

even as of last weekend, it was clear that the situation was far beyond bad or dicey or getting out of hand. we were already somewhere between desperation and resignation. when things were looking bad to the authorities, privately they already knew the outlook was dismal. there can be no two ways about it.

the next step is to accept the fact that an ecological catastrophe has occurred, and after that, to put those greedy bastards who caused this permanently out of business.

calling godzilla

FOX news, that corporate-loving spawn of satan, is doing its usual bang-up job reporting on the nuclear catastrophe in japan:

"Japanese officials are at odds over whether water dumps on the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Thursday has worked."

it's plainly a case where the japanese officials are at their wits' end. they have no freakin' idea what to do now, and this helicopter is just the latest in a long line of desperate measures that have had no appreciable effect.

remember the boric acid trick? i used to use that stuff to kill roaches in my apartment, once upon a time...

for all the good they've done, next thing you know they'll be summoning godzilla to come and urinate on the plant... sorry to make light of such a terrible situation, but this is pathetic.

for the sake of money, the lives of millions are in jeopardy. what kind of diabolical trade-off was that? and when the FOX new corporate automatons go on the march, selling their US audience the idea that current nuclear technology is perfectly safe, let's hope the images of fukashima burn bright in everyone's memory for a long, long time.

bankers explore new customer-fleecing fees

you keep your money in their institution, and what do you get in return from your bank?

you get jacked with new fees out the wazoo for doing the simple things banks are supposed to do.

take for example your ATM card. most of us try not to carry large sums of cash. unless you're a streetcorner hustler, why would you?

because of the crushing debt load many people are now carrying by overuse of credit cards, on the other hand, the plastic doesn't come out nearly as fast as it used to (although the statistic seems to bounce around a lot).

in the middle is the good ol' ATM cash withdrawal. i've been using one since my university first installed a machine back in 1977. open at all hours, it symbolized the modern world of ultimate convenience in the 9-5 world of bankers' hours.

now, in response to the continual need for banks to show increasing profits every single quarter, they're looking to exploit every available contact with their customers. now, meet the $5 ATM fee.

check out this tidbit from ABC news:
The new fees could be especially costly for people who withdraw cash from another bank's ATM. Chase is now charging Illinois residents $5 every time a non-customer withdraws money from a Chase ATM. That's in addition to any fees charged by the customer's bank.
you can sure as hell curb your use of other banks' ATMs, but that will only cover you for a short while, because the banks are desperate for your funds.

the lie at one time was that ATMs were great cost-saving machines for the banks, because their customers no longer had to interact with a real, live teller. now, ostensibly because of new regulations, they need to jack fees to cover those costs.

the irony here, for people who enjoy that sort of thing jabbing them in the pork chops, is that the regs are designed to keep banks from raping consumers. isn't that how it always goes? to eliminate all doubt, however, consider:
The fee increases have more to do with politics than finances, consumer advocates say. The Durbin amendment's limit on debit card fees is scheduled to take effect April 21. Banks and credit unions, worried that the amendment will cost them billions of dollars a year, are engaged in an expensive lobbying battle now to pressure Congress to postponing the deadline.
enjoy your money while you still can. what the banks don't take in fees, the FED will make worthless by printing ever more dollars -- to bail out the big banks, of course.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

tell us anything -- we're stupid

was just reading some business news, to get a feel for how the japan crisis is going down on world markets. got to one item from the toronto globe and mail carrying the headline "nervous markets rattled by EU comments on japan.

curious to find out what the EU said, i had to wade through several paragraphs to find out what the "ill-chosen" words that sparked a panic were. check it out:
However, the relative calm gave way in mid-morning trading after investors learned that the European Union’s commissioner for energy told a European Parliament committee that one of Japan’s nuclear plants is “effectively out of control,” provoking what could be a “major disaster.”
the power company and japanese government have tried to reassure the public that things were under control, and that they had a plan for addressing the multiplying problems at the reactors. unfortunately, as one crisis yielded to another more serious event, the efforts of the authorities both to contain the unfolding disaster, as well as manage public perceptions, began to unravel.

in short, if you had eyes to read or watch TV, you could see for yourself that the situation in japan is deteriorating rapidly, and has reached the point of no return.

what is not fully understood, or at least not fully appreciated by the general public, is how awful the situation is. in spite of all the previous reassurances by the government and "experts" in the nuclear power industry about the safety of the technology, as well as the reliability and dependability of the failsafe equipment in event of an accident, the shit is totally out of control and beyond the authorities' ability to fix it.

we've gone from being told that there's no way this could be as bad as chernobyl to finding out that the spent fuel rods, if they catch fire, will create a devastating release of radioactivity that will exceed the previous-worst event in ukraine.

sounds to me as if the EU commissioner is simply being honest -- and not needlessly creating panic. when a wide swath of japan could eventually be rendered uninhabitable for the next 30,000 years, i think we really DO have a problem.

incidentally: president barack obama, who is nothing if not a tool of corporate interests, has announced that his intention to build new nuke plants in the US is proceeding full speed ahead, and nevermind the japanese disaster -- which hasn't even remotely been brought under control. according to this story in the telegraph, the US is going to learn from the japanese experience, and apply it to current and future reactors.

apparently, no matter what we learn from japan's meltdown and release of radioactivity into the atmosphere, this deadly, out-of-control technology will be foisted upon our civilization by greedy capitalists and their enablers in government.

fathead gets a clue

it's nice to see a GOP insider get his head out of his ass long enough to see the reality-based world.

but when it comes to old hogjowls, haley barbour, you have to recognize that it's all just self-serving twaddle, and there's a sleazy rationale behind his every slithering move.

his latest verbal emission is that "we need to take a look at that" -- that being a reduction of troop levels in afghanistan.

what took you so long, pal? ten years, a trillion dollars and a bunch of wasted lives is racked up on one side of the scorecard, versus... well, what?

"what is our mission?" is about all ol' haley can conjure up out of his fat face. you have to wonder what it looks like, way up there in his intestines.

he's following the trail of slobbering retro-dork mike huckabee, who last month was quoted as asking "what does the end game look like?" in the hindu kush. it's apparent that he doesn't read much history.

for all these johnny come lately GOP presidential wannabes, all i can say is, look at where you guy have brought us. you know, all that standing tall baloney that the big dubya liked to spout before heading off on vacation. remember when?

none of these pudwumpers had a word to say -- they just stood by, waving their tiny american flags like the pathetic fake-ass patriotic war profiteers they are.

now that push comes to shove, and they really have to come face to face with the fiscal catastrophe that their cowboy theatrics have brought us to, maybe --just maybe -- we ought to, you know, ought to just, ahhhhh, maybe think... maybe we don't know what the fuck we're doing over there.

what was the question, again?