Webster Quote

Webster Quote

Friday, September 22, 2017

Breaking Today:

Sen. John McCain Signals Death Knell for Obamacare Repeal


This is good news indeed, assuming the other Senators which have expressed doubts about the Graham-Cassidy bill hold fast.

I'm not sure this will be the end of Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act which has so benefited Americans.  But this latest effort is clearly in deep trouble.


Quick Link --

McCain Signals Death to Health Care Law Repeal

OF INTEREST

 For your pleasure, the first Telstar broadcast from America to Europe -- 1962

This exciting, moving broadcast was sent from New York to Europe in July 1962.  Some of us were too young to have seen it, or not even born yet.  This particular version includes a lengthy introduction by a former broadcaster in South Dakota.  If you would like to skip through, the 1962 broadcast begins some 15-20 minutes into the vlog. 



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New York Times Writer Urges Open Carry Ban

Photo Reuters via New York Times
The writer of the article at the below link writes clearly about the history of banning the open carrying of weapons here and abroad.  It shows why the Second Amendment does not apply to armed gangs at rallies, such as was seen in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.  It is one of the finest pieces of writing on the subject of open carry I have ever seen.

Highly recommended, indeed.


Ban Open Carry, Says New York Times Writer

Monday, September 18, 2017

Strengthening Constitutional Democracy

More Evidence the Profit System Is On the Way Out

An interesting and important article by a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School in yesterday's New York Times, shows how today's rising inequality was not foreseen by our Constitution.  Although at least one founding father did foresee a time when disparity between economic classes would grow, the Convention rejected plans to center the government around a class-based Congress, a la Europe.

The author, Ganesh Sitaraman, calls on wise patriots of today to help guide our country to a more equitable nation.  

 "...in order to form a more perfect union..."  

A must-read:  

Our Constitution Wasn't Build for This

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Houston Flooding Tells Us: Time for the Profit System to Go

Below is a major excerpt from an interview with Fred Magdoff, co-author of Creating an Ecological Society:  Toward a Revolutionary Transformation, with Chris Williams;   and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism, with John Bellamy Foster.  

The flooded landscape of 21st century capitalism

Fred Magdoff is co-author of Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation, with Chris Williams, and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, with John Bellamy Foster. He talked to Michael Ware about the causes of the catastrophe that has struck Houston and the Gulf Coast--and what it will take to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Downtown Houston is inundated after Hurricane Harvey
IS THERE reason to believe that global warming made Hurricane Harvey more intense than it would have been?
YES, ABSOLUTELY. The oceans are warmer, and the Gulf of Mexico in particular has warmed significantly--this year is the warmest of all.

The warmer the water, the more easily water can evaporate, and a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, so you have that aspect as well. Storms in general have been getting more intense--not just this particularly intense storm.

There's another factor as well: The poles are warming faster than the middle of the earth, causing less of a gradient between the temperatures in both places. This affects the atmospheric transfer--that is, the jet streams. One of the predicted effects of this is that weather patterns will slow down--things won't move as fast as they normally would.

This is one of the factors that made Harvey so devastating: it stuck around. It moved a little bit, but in a circle, and it made landfall again and again. I wouldn't be surprised if this is part of the reason why it stayed so long before it started moving out toward the Northeast. That's also an effect of human activity and global warming.

But the major factor is that there's more evaporation from the large bodies of water, the atmosphere holds more water, and we have more intense storms in general.

HOW DID capitalist development in Houston make the effects of the storm even worse? Also, there are more than 1,000 people dead in in South Asia--why are the floods like those in Bangladesh, India and Nepal also more deadly?
I CAN'T speak as much to the impact in Asia or the specifics of the geography as I can about Houston. But this was also the result of a monsoon, with a similar phenomenon of intense rainfall. Bangladesh is also affected by rising sea levels, but the disaster is also affecting northern Bangladesh, away from the coast.

As for Houston--and it's not just Houston, but the surrounding area in Texas, all the way up the coast toward Louisiana--there has been incredible development, with the construction of roads and shopping malls and industries and houses.

This building is taking place on what, in the past, was substantial open land, some of it grassland and prairie, which is incredibly absorbent of water. What's happened is a significant portion of this open land has been paved over or covered over or otherwise made impermeable.

In Houston itself, there is essentially no zoning whatsoever, so people can do what they want, wherever they want. It's designed to cause a disaster. If you wanted to make the effects of a natural disaster worse, this is how you would go about doing it.

This is one of the underlying issues with regard to capitalism: the real estate interests are so powerful. And that isn't just a Houston issue either--it happens in other places. In the book Creating an Ecological Society that I wrote with Chris Williams, we have a section on unnatural natural disasters, where we talk about something very similar that had happened last year in Louisiana. We quote a professor at length saying that this area never should have been developed.

Anyone who was looking at the question dispassionately would have known this, but the real estate interests convinced governments to allow it to happen anyway. The real estate interests are quite powerful all over the country, and they exert a lot of power at the local, state and regional levels.
So you have an area that's prone to flooding, and one of the means that this was dealt with in the past--the percolation of water into soil and the slow release from the groundwater to the bayous--has been eliminated.

Once you eliminate 30 to 40 percent of the land that once served that function, every storm immediately becomes worse. There was major flooding in Houston last year--they called it the Tax Day flood because it came on April 18, when taxes were due. The year before, it happened on Memorial Day.

So flooding in Houston is not an unusual issue. This, of course, was an unusual storm. It's referred to as a 1,000-year storm, meaning it's a storm that will happen, on average, only once every 1,000 years--or it's actually more accurate to say that in any given year, there's a a 0.1 percent chance of a storm this severe taking place. And in 2016 and 2015, there were 500-year storms.
That's my take. You have capitalism affecting the climate through global warming and affecting the built environment through real estate development, both of which make a whole region more vulnerable to flooding.

AND NOT only did this development turn Houston into a kind of bathtub without a large enough drain, but there wasn't really a plan in place to deal with the flooding--even after the previous flooding in Houston or the disasters following Sandy and Katrina. So what do we have to do differently in the future to both protect people and provide relief immediately when these disasters happen?
THERE'S A lot more that can be done than is being done. But some of it is being done, carried out by regular folks. Disasters like this generally bring out the best in people. There are a lot of volunteers helping to rescue people or feed people in the various shelters that they have set up. Charities and Texas state and Houston employees are helping. And the federal government will help some through FEMA.

But they're saying that 100,000 homes in Houston that have been flooded. I have no idea whether that's accurate. And that's just Houston--there are many other locations around Houston and all the way up the coast to the northeast that have been flooded as well, and very few residents have flood insurance.

If you live in what is classified as a 100-year flood zone, you are required to have flood insurance in order to get a mortgage, that is. But the problem is that the flooded areas aren't only in the 100-year flood zones, but the 500- or 1,000-year flood zones as well.

So probably 80 percent or more of the homes that have been severely affected don't have any flood insurance. Those homeowners will only get modest help through FEMA--nowhere near what they need to rebuild or to renovate. And I expect that many of the homes that the news footage showed to be deeply flooded will be beyond renovation.

This is a human tragedy--not just for the homeowners, but for renters as well. Where do they go? Who provides them with reasonable housing? That could be accomplished by a government which has, as one of its main purposes, serving the people. You see empathy and caring and help at the personal level, but you don't see it at the governmental level to anywhere near the extent needed.

DID GOVERNMENT administrators in Houston know this disaster could happen, but didn't do anything about it because of the cost or pressure from real estate interests?
THE IMPORTANT thing to remember is that this disaster didn't start last week--it happened over decades. That's the real problem.

Last December, there was an article about Houston published by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune called "Boomtown, Floodtown." They document, going back to the 1930s, how flooding has taken place in Houston as a byproduct of development.

So obviously, they knew last year that disasters of this large magnitude could happen, but it's hard to say what could have been done at that point to stop it, because the solution would have to be long-term planning going back decades--not having such a large city, with the areas surrounding it built up to such an extent that so capacity for absorbing so much rainfall was lost.

You can say that the city could have come up with an evacuation plan and put that in place. But we're talking about millions of people to evacuate, so it's not easy to do. But beyond that, what could have been done is decades in the past. Flooding took place this year, last year and the year before. Who's to say it isn't going to happen again this year or next year?

AND THE problem with that is that there 840 petrochemical refining and power plants in the Texas-Louisiana border region. Why are these facilities so concentrated there? Why are so many nuclear power plants--like Fukushima in Japan, which was hit by the tsunami--located near rivers or seacoasts? How does this impact drinking water or marine life?
FIRST OF all, nuclear power plants need to be near water because they need a mechanism for cooling the reactor. In the case of Fukushima, the water came out of the sea and went back to it after cooling the plant. Every nuclear power plant needs this, as do plants that run on coal, because they depend on water being turned to steam.

So water is a part of the system--one that can become very difficult to manage. Nuclear power plants in particular need to be built near large sources of water if they are to be at all economical--which, of course, they aren't, but that's a whole other story.

Fukushima was a disaster waiting to happen. There are old stone carvings, dating back hundreds of years, above the zone that the tsunami reached which say: "Don't build below this zone because tsunamis can happen here."

So it's not like the owners of these businesses didn't know a disaster like that could happen. But they figured: "What are the odds?" I'm sure the executives who planned Fukushima didn't expect this to happen. But the fact is they were building in a zone where tsunamis had swamped the whole area previously.

Why the concentration of petrochemical plants in the Mississippi River area, along the Louisiana and Texas coast? That has to do with where oil has come from historically and how shipping takes place. These plants are located near the source of oil, at least originally, and with access to the means to transport petroleum products, both within the U.S. or overseas.

From a narrow economic point of view, that makes sense. And I'm sure these companies have insurance for flood damage, even though many of the residents in the surrounding areas didn't.
I'm also sure the petrochemical companies have taken some mitigating measures to limit damage. For example, drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have been raised--they used to be 40 feet above sea level, and now they're closer to 70 or 90 feet above sea level. So the industry knows there's a problem, and it's trying to limit the damage.

But when these chemical plants get inundated, who knows what goes into the water? We know a tremendous amount of toxic material has polluted the water--and also the air, as a result of fires at places like the Arkema plant near Houston, when the power went out to refrigeration systems that were there to cool reactive chemicals.

There were backup generators, but the backup generators flooded, so some of the storage tanks exploded. These aren't major explosions, but the fires and the gases fueling them are quite noxious.
These things are going to happen when you build a plant like that in a zone where floods are possible. But it wasn't planned for. They had backup generators in the event of a power failure, but they didn't have another mechanism if those failed.

***************

Read more at:
(The SocialistWorker.org)

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Coming up on my schedule is a second viewing of the Greg Palast film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

As regular readers here know, the subject of voter suppression has been a concentration of mine ever since the election last fall, an election in which the announced winner was not the person who received the most votes.

What does this say about are supposed democracy?   

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Historian Tells The Truth About Our Military Leader

Quick Link --

Tonight I am reading the referenced article (see below) from May of this year.  Although events have seemingly weakened Our Military Leader (OML) since then, the fascist tendencies shown then and now make the possibility of a coup against democracy seem real.  The historian here also deals with why it is so hard for Americans to recognize the possibility of fascism in America.

Events in Charlottesville and elsewhere have made it clearer to Americans that such a movement is very real now.  As people get clearer the chance of meaningfully opposing OML grows.

Fascinating and Useful:
From May 2017: How Trump Could Stage a Coup

Friday, September 01, 2017

Harvey Alters Political Landscape

It seems rather seedy to rejoice over the fact that a dangerous tropical storm could shift political winds in Washington.  But this is indeed what has happened, according to The New York Times today.

And perhaps rather than being seedy, one can mourn the losses in Texas and still see a silver lining in the clouds hanging over the land.

No matter the context, Republicans in Washington are suddenly sailing under a different banner, one of compassion and open-pocketbooks for Texans.  This has already affected projected spending for the border wall, as well as plans for a threatened government shut-down.

Be safe Texas.  We will stand with you no matter what. 

Political Winds Shift With Harvey



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cascading Events

Resuming  (See below)


Newsworthy items I am watching now


  • Hurricane Harvey
  • The Arpaio pardon
  • China seeks political foothold in Greece

Please come back for more on stories like these soon.

As someone once said,  "Keep the faith, baby!"




Resuming:  I have been out of state this past week tending to personal business and am now resuming by duties here.  Thank you for your patience

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Kochan Empire

Things go worse with Koch


Book Review


D ear Friend,

Things are going swimmingly with Dark Money and me.  To say this book is a block-buster hardly does it justice.  It is dynamic, well-researched, with critically important information.

The author is Jane Mayer.


Highly recommended.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dark Money -- The Secret to Understanding American Politics


Jane Mayer, author

Rush Post --

I have just become aware of a 2016 book treating the rise of huge amounts of "dark money," hitting the political wheels.  Please help me review the review!


A most promising premise:
Book Discussion with Author: Dark Money

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Former Pres. Clinton Advisor Calls Current Occupant Mentally Ill

Quickly --

A former advisor to Bill Clinton who had a one-hour meeting with him has named Our Military Leader "mentally ill."


Bill Curry further states the media is guilty of gross malpractice.  More below:



Media Called Out for Inattention. Incompetence

Friday, August 11, 2017

Lying Can Be Attractive...

...for both speaker and audience




The American citizenry continues to endure a seemingly unremitting barrage of untruths, partial truths, and outright lies from the White House and the current executive of the Oval Office -- Our Military Leader (OML).

The article referenced below gives a certain explanation of the cause of the lying and its attraction for listeners in America.  It is a sad thing to think that Americans have become so used to dissembling from its politicians, that one who seems to do it with particular boldness, regularity and panache, is actually appreciated for his non-honest "candor."


Lying Can Be Attractive

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.

–Abraham Lincoln
We are told that Our Military Leader does not read books.  There are ever so many quotes about books that would apply here.  But the one above is better than most.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Keeping in Touch on a Summer Afternoon

In parts of Latin America and Africa, winter grinds on.  But here in the upper regions of the globe summer continues full throttle, casting its glowing sunshine into and through the trees, round and about the watery regions, and down into crevices and basements everywhere.  At such a time, it is tempting to cast aside all cares, including concerns about country and world.  And yet events of a certain kind continue and there is need for continued watchfulness in Washington and elsewhere.

People I talk with -- average citizens -- are learning to tune-out things relating to that important capitol.  This is not to say I completely approve of this practice.  Yet, it is a justifiably self-preserving reaction to something approaching insanity, and certainly chaos, in the White House.

However, as I have indicated there is a place for continual concern.  Fortunately, certain people in D.C. are responsible enough and experienced enough to keep the machinery of government running with or without a certain kind of direct approval from high places.  Thus, it seems the government is yet safe, even if only on a day-to-day and almost ad hoc basis.  To this extent, we can be grateful.   

Friday, August 04, 2017

Book Review: Rule and Ruin

(A work in progress)

I can hardly recommend the book Rule and Ruin by Kabaservice highly enough.  Now half-way through the book, I am learning about the second year of the Nixon Presidency, including his pivot toward catering more to the Southern conservatives.  The book reads almost like a good detective story.

Obviously Mr. Kabaservice has indeed investigated thoroughly his subject -- the rise of the radical right within the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the tea party movement.  It is a story of intrigue and convenience, of ambition blind and otherwise, and a tale -- we are promised -- of ruin.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

"Game of Thrones" + "House of Cards" = "Game of Cards"

Watching the melodrama which is today's White House may be fun for some members of the media -- and this has even been admitted by a couple -- but as far as Americans are concerned this is no game.

Robert Reich reports here:

Republicans Abandoning Trump in Favor of Pence: Report

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Worst Is Yet to Come

-- Eugene Robinson




There is a difference, dear reader, between cynicism and prudent realism.  And the thing for the prudent realist now is to prepare for what is yet to be in the on-going saga of Our Military Leader (OML).*   

Today's Eugene Robinson column in The Washington Post gives numerous examples of an escalating crisis surrounding OML's White House.  The leader who was installed in that vaunted mansion by wealthy ideologues and libertarian sychopants (I shall not hold back today), descends ever deeper into his own reality, one based essentially on his own welfare.

It is understandable and permissible to want to defend oneself.  But just as there is a difference between cynicism and realism, there is a difference between self-preservation, and making war on a large part of the rest of the world.

Perhaps it is time for the rest of us to build the intellectual equivalent of a nuclear bomb shelter. 


Eugene Robinson on What Is Yet to Be



*a.k.a. Trump  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GOP Voter Suppression Effort Now on Steroids

The video below contains new information, not available before, tying voter suppression efforts to a new Presidential so-called commission on voter fraud.  And -- names have been shared with this commission, maybe yours.

A must-see



Friday, July 21, 2017

Super Password Theme Lights Up the Summer Night

From the NBC TV Show --  

Super Password - Opening - On-Air Edit Theme Song - TelevisionTunes.com

Back to Our Musical Roots

A summertime light treat for the ears and mind --

Super Password - Opening - On-Air Edit Theme Song - TelevisionTunes.com

Keith Olbermann Delineates Media Obligation

Commentator Keith Olbermann makes clear in a recent video exactly what the media must and must not do now that Our Military Leader has essentially declared war on the press. 

I believe that the current Oval Office Occupant will ultimately fail in his attempt to belittle, sideline, and vitiate the media.  What Mr. Oblermann perhaps does not see clearly enough is the fact that media persons in this country are often employed by mega-corporations not altogeter displeased with the Trumpian approach to making big money in America.

Still, we can all support Mr. Olbermann's keen observations. 


What Media Should Do Now

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Actor Robert Clary: Lest We Forget

Video Special

Well-known actor Robert Clary gives a human face to the victimization of the Jews under Hitler.


Featured Post

Bill Clinton Warns on Rising Nationalism

Rush Link -- Bill Clinton on Rise of Nationalism