Monday, December 29, 2014

Does the World Get You Down?

This is my last blog.  The world is so fuXXed up that it is not possible to comment on all its absurdities.  Besides it is too depressing.  The only way to preserve sanity is to look at it with rose colored glasses, so I shall devote myself to things of beauty such as poetry and literature. 
     If you have not seen my historical novel, “The Quest for Land and Fortune,” may I urge you to go to Amazon and get a copy while they last.  It is narrative non-fiction, the people are all real, but what they said to each other and what sort of blogs they might have written, is fiction, I was not there. 
      The New York Times of December 28, 2014, had a section entitled the “Year in Pictures.  I list the cut-lines to illustrate my point.
01/09/2014  Displaced people on ferry led fighting between government forces and rebel in South Sudan.
02/24  Women took shelter from sniper fire in The Ukraine.
02/19  Anti-government protestors burned barricades in The Ukraine.
04/17  A protestor hurled a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police, Caracas, Venezuela.
04/30  A lockdown drill to address the threat of school shootings in a eighth-grade class, Belle Plaine, MN
03/12  A girl was wounded between riot police and anti-government protestors, Istanbul.
05/05  Mourners attended funeral of Julia Izotova, 21, killed during clashes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.
05/11  Civil War set of a vast food crisis, among the malnourished were a mother and her 5-month old. Malakal, South Sudan.
07/09  Mexican authorities deported miners on a flight back to El Salvador.
07/24  Relatives look into a hospital operating room at those injured in an Israeli air strike. Gaza Strip.
08/15  Palestinians prayed in the rubble of a mosque. Gaza City.
07/01  A Jewish woman prayed during the funeral for three Israeli teenagers who were killed in the West Bank.
07/02  Migrants traveling toward the US on a train known as “The Beast” because of violent crime.Tenosique, Mexico
09/23  A marina owner on the boat dock in the dried-up Huntington Lake CAL.
08/25  Michael Brown Sr. mourns as his son’s coffin is lowered, St. Peters Cemetery, Normandy.
08/27  Yameen Ritaj, 16, left her abusive husband during her pregnancy. Refugee camp, Jordan.
09/05  Medical workers took James Dorbor, 8, into a Ebola treatment center. Liberia.
011/25  Police clash with pro-democracy demonstrators, Hong Cong.
11/28  Senator Mitch McConnell re-elected from Kentucky. (He has declared global warming a hoax spread by those who dislike his state’s coal.)
10/18  Displaced persons camp where 140,000 have been uprooted. Myanmar.
09/27  A cradle left behind by Kurdish refugees along the Turkish-Syrian border.
11/28  Protest because Grand jury decided not to indict Daren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, Delwood MO.
12/08 Protestors against police brutality in the wake of Michael Brown, Berkeley.
12’16  Women mourn Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, one of 130 students killed during a Taliban attack on a school, Peshawar, Pakistan.
11/18  Ultra-Orthodox Jews listened to a eulogy for a Rabbi Killed in a synagogue by Palestinian gunmen. Jerusalem.
12/06  A four-year-old known as Sweetie, one of thousands, monitored for symptoms of Ebola. Sierra Leone
         I add one event that does not photograph--the new Republican Congress has vowed to cancel Obama's Affordable Care Act.  I suspect that much of the opposition is a continuing racist reaction to the Black President.

See what I mean.  During the Vietnam War, depressed by the daily body count, I stopped listening to network news.  I never began again.  Today, I canceled my subscription to the New York Times.
      Thanks for following my blog.  If you want more, I recommend following Bill Moyers and Robert Reich.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Oil Spoils North Dakota

Big oil companies in North Dakota said their impact on the environment would be minimal. They lied.  The citizens of Tioga witnessed the largest land oil spill in recent American history in September, 2013.  Also in 2013, the locomotive of an oil train derailed and exploded in a collision near Casselton.  This year North Dakotans discovered illegally dumped oil filter socks, a source of hazardous radiation. A landfill with waste from oil fields is near the banks of the Missouri River.  Some families experienced dirty drinking water.  “One company, in fact, sued three activist landowners in 2011, seeking damages for trespassing after the men tried to document what they believed was the cover-up of a saltwater spill.”  Federal wildlife agents asked the oil companies to cover their waste pits as migratory birds sometimes dived in.  They were refused.  Thirty percent of the natural gas produced in the state was being treated as a byproduct and burned off, spoiling the air for neighbors.

      The oil drillers are lightly regulated by the three-member North Dakota Industrial Commission composed of the Governor, Attorney General, and the Agricultural Commissioner.  In their eagerness to gain great wealth, the state largely let the oil companies police themselves.  The oil companies made contributions to the governor’s campaign in 2012, a total of $550,000 from oil-related executives.

         A family signed a lease and saw their first well drilled in 2008.  Then June, 2011, they were informed that Burlington Resources intended to create a 30,883 acre oil production unit that would override their lease agreement.  Instead of receiving royalties for their land, the revenues would be split by all owners in the mega-unit. The mega-unit would include part of the Little Missouri State Park (three storage tank batteries inside park boundaries). The family learned that their consent was not required.  Only 60 percent of the unit’s owners were needed, and Burlington together with the Federal government land already amounted to 60%.  This freed Conoco Phillips, successor to Burlington, from boundary lines that required 200-foot set-backs from the borders of each production unit.  The companies would not have to negotiate easements or rights of way for pads, roads, and pipelines.  Dec 20, 2013, the commission approved the mega-unit.  This amounts to private eminent domain—taking of land by private companies for their own benefit.
             Source: New York Times, Nov. 23, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014


There are still some things to be thankful for--like not living in Buffalo NY.  Apologies to buffaloes.

Monday, November 24, 2014


" In a world where 2 billion more people have entered the workforce since 1989, the insecurity of those suddenly forced to compete that much harder was always bound to grow. If you’re one of the beneficiaries of this massive upheaval, you’re fine. But for the millions who fear they are losing out, and who see their town or country changing around them, including through immigration, it’s natural to hold on tight to, and fiercely defend, an identity that feels safe and familiar." Jonathan Freedland writing in the Guardian UK. 21 Nov 2014
    Cultural arguments are taking the place of what used to be bread and butter issues.  The Republican party has exploited this very cleverly, while they turn the bread and butter toward the very rich. When will the 90 % figure it out? And, when will the Democrats figure out that identity politics is where it's at.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Neo-liberals and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

Cass Sunstein was appointed head of OIRA from 2009-2012 and led it to delay and eviscerate a host of environmental regulations.  Pres. Reagan created the office ostensibly to improve decision making by insisting on benefit-cost analysis of all rules, but industry used it to escape and delay regulation.  An example of its over-reaching and bizarre twists is to count lost pleasure from smoking as an off-set to health benefits of reduced smoking.  Besides, early death saves health care costs over the smokers' lifetime they claim! All of this is justified by the neo-liberal championing of what they call liberty-enhancement. If some want to kill themselves, they should be free to do so.  This is a neat trick that diverts blame from systemic corporate malfeasance to individuals. 
   This is documented in Robert Kuttner, "Obama's Obama" Harpers, December 2014." A must read by those interested in good government and avoidance of the siren song and paternalism of the neo-liberals. Obama does not come off well. Sunstein and Obama prove once again that smart and wise are not the same thing.

Virunga, Congo

Oil companies are circling Virunga National Park in the Congo, home to several endangered wildlife species such as mountain gorillas.  The oil company thugs stoop to bribery and murder.  The Government is silent saying they must support anything that will lift their people out of poverty.  One could be more impressed if they were putting a large part of their royalties into a trust fund for all its citizens, such as Alaska did.  
 The Congo has been home to natural resource exploitation by the Belgians for generations and where are the jobs it was supposed to create?  Any natural resource eventually runs out and the people who get rich are government officials and foreign companies.
Source: NYT 16 Nov 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Japan's Folly

Japan's economy has been in the doldrums for years.  So what are they doing? Their central bank is buying government debt just like the US Fed was doing.  Supposedly, these purchases keep interest rates low and stimulate borrowing and growth.  But the evidence is to the contrary in  a country with zero interest rates and still little investment. If this policy worked it would have worked before now, but evidence be damned! We live in a world driven by ideology and bankers.