Kellia’s World – Recommended Reading

Challenging the assumptions we live by — Because I want to.

Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Ill From Food? Investigations Vary by State

Posted by kelliasworld on April 20, 2009

New York Times Original Content
April 20, 2009

By GARDINER HARRIS

In just about every major contaminated food scare, Minnesotans become sick by the dozens while few people in Kentucky and other states are counted among the ill.

Contaminated peanuts? Forty-two Minnesotans were reported sick compared with three Kentuckians. Jalapeño peppers last year? Thirty-one in Minnesota and two in Kentucky became ill. The different numbers arise because health officials in Kentucky and many other states fail to investigate many complaints of food-related sickness while those in Minnesota do so diligently, safeguarding not only Minnesotans but much of the rest of the country, as well.

Congress and the Obama administration have said that more inspections and new food production rules are needed to prevent food-related diseases, but far less attention has been paid to fixing the fractured system by which officials detect and stop ongoing outbreaks. Right now, uncovering which foods have been contaminated is left to a patchwork of more than 3,000 federal, state and local health departments that are, for the most part, poorly financed, poorly trained and disconnected, officials said.

The importance of a few epidemiologists in Minnesota demonstrates the problem. If not for the Minnesota Department of Health, the Peanut Corporation of America might still be selling salmonella-laced peanuts, Dole might still be selling contaminated lettuce, and ConAgra might still be selling dangerous Banquet brand pot pies — sickening hundreds or thousands more people.

In these and other cases, epidemiologists from Minnesota pinpointed the causes of food scares while officials in other states were barely aware that their residents were getting sick. From 1990 to 2006, Minnesota health officials uncovered 548 food-related illness outbreaks, while those in Kentucky found 18, according to an analysis of health records.

The surveillance system is vital because even with reforms intended to prevent outbreaks, food-related disease will remain among the most common sources of illness. One-quarter of the nation’s population is sickened every year by contaminated food, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die, and decades of steady improvements in the safety of the nation’s food supply have ended in recent years.

“The longer it takes you to nail an outbreak, the more people are going to get sick,” said Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. “And if it’s a pathogen that causes death, the more people are going to die.”

With states cutting back in the face of budget crises, disease surveillance is worsening, several officials said.

“Just $50 million spread over the entire country would make a huge difference,” said Dr. Timothy Jones, the state epidemiologist in Tennessee.

Take the case of Lauren Threlkeld, who went to a Kroger grocery store in Lexington, Ky., in August 2007 and bought a bag of Dole baby spinach contaminated with E. coli O157. She became violently ill with bloody diarrhea and was hospitalized for nearly a week.

When Ms. Threlkeld finally went home to recuperate in Madisonville, Ky., a county health worker called only to verify that she had fallen ill in another county. No one asked about the foods she had eaten or what might have made her so ill, she said. Later efforts by her lawyer pinpointed the source of her illness — far too late to help others avoid similar fates.

Dr. William D. Hacker, the public health commissioner in Kentucky, blamed tight budgets. “We have had a historically poor record of reporting” food-borne illnesses, Dr. Hacker said. “We are working hard to change our culture even with limited resources.”

In Minnesota and a few other states, victims of food-related illnesses tell very different stories. Sarah Kirchner of Belle Plaine, Minn., said health workers called her three separate times and spent hours discussing her children’s diet almost immediately after a laboratory test verified that one had fallen ill with salmonella. Officials in Minnesota traced the outbreak to peanut butter in part because of Ms. Kirchner’s responses.

“There is no question that some states take this far more seriously than others,” Dr. Acheson said.

Even when county and state health departments investigate, their methods often differ so greatly that federal officials have difficulty uncovering patterns. This leads to terrible delays.

“Everybody does things differently, even within many states,” Dr. Acheson said. “It’s a huge challenge.”

Some delay is inevitable. Most people sickened by food do not bother to see a doctor. Many of those who do are not asked to provide a stool sample, and when asked, some refuse.

When patients are willing, laboratories may not be. In Utah, for instance, only 18 of the state’s 1,388 medical laboratories process stool tests, said Dr. Pat Luedtke, director of the Utah public health laboratory. Well-meaning doctors who wish to send stool samples sometimes must pay the postage because insurers often refuse to pay for a test that largely serves a public health function; many doctors do not bother.

By the time public health officials notice that a growing number of such samples carry the same genetic fingerprint — a clear sign that a popular food is contaminated — weeks have passed. By then, victims’ memories of what they ate have faded. So rapid and thorough responses by health officials, a rarity in many states, are crucial.

“I’ve learned in the last few months that the real secret to our success is that we have urgency,” said Dr. Kirk Smith, supervisor of the food-borne diseases unit for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Acheson of the F.D.A. said federal authorities had been meeting with state health officials to seek ways to improve the surveillance system, including standardizing menu questionnaires and improving response times. But he said more federal financing was crucial.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of food-borne diseases, said the agency planned immediate investments “to increase the capacity of several health departments.”

Ruth Ann Merrick of Somerset, Ky., said she was still bitter about how her case was handled. She went with friends to a local Chinese restaurant on June 26, 2004. Within 45 minutes, she was vomiting so violently that she passed out and her heart stopped. After her husband performed C.P.R., she was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where she remained in intensive care for four days.

Although four of the eight people in her party were sickened, the state never investigated, she said.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ms. Merrick said.
_____________
Food safety is one of those situations where the Federal government needs to set standards that represent the floor of protection, so that everyone, regardless of where they live, gets a certain level of investigation, transparency and protection. But then the states should be able to provide an even higher standard if they wish. Think that is too much of a problem for the multi-state food distributor? Not if the distributor fulfills the highest standard instead of the lowest. — K.R.

Posted in America, Economics, Food | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Feigned Indignation: Of marauding exploiters, their “ethical qualms,” and a new proposal

Posted by kelliasworld on April 13, 2009

By Jason Miller

3/15/09

Since there was little appetite for my recent polemic in which I advocated including necro-cannibalism as an integral part of our strategy to combat ecocide and world hunger, because very few appeared to take note of the fact that it was not my intention to carefully craft an update of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (I was actually hurling a hunk of concrete into the placid waters of the indoctrinated readers’ minds in order to observe the resultant splash and subsequent ripples), and since despite the depth of Homo rapien moral depravity and their sheer indifference to the suffering, murder, mayhem, and destruction that the human collective causes in order to satiate our desires and perpetuate the disease we call civilization, reader response indicated that the thought of eating our “fellow man” was taking things a bit too far, I’m advancing yet another potential solution to the myriad and complex maladies we’ve inflicted upon nonhuman animals, the Earth and ourselves.

Homo rapiens, who, judging by the state of the world, outnumber Homo sapiens by a wide margin, are a self-centered, mean-spirited bunch. Maybe their swarming hordes can get behind an idea that saves their asses, eases what little conscience they have, requires little or no risk or effort on their part, and doesn’t involve the possibility of their cherished grandmas winding up as hotdogs rather than worm fodder or cinders.

As an aside, had I written my apologia for necro-cannibalism as a serious assertion, what pray tell would have been so ghastly, macabre, reprehensible, or unthinkable about it? It’s not like we would be committing homicide. The people we would be eating would have died prior to being slated to appear on the menu at McDonald’s. Some amongst us directly perpetrate (and many of the rest of the rest of us openly or tacitly support) the murder of billions of sentient beings (including “universally sacred” human animals) each year in factory “farms,” laboratories, and in faraway lands inhabited by the uninitiated whom we must bomb into the stone age that they might become enlightened enough to embrace the American Way of Life.

What an arbitrary, skewed, hypocritical and bizarre set of ethics and priorities we have. The Earth is teeming with 6.5 billion people who are stripping it bare like a plague of locusts, food shortages are reaching crisis levels, and the Homo rapiens are going to balk at the source of the flesh they so love to devour? Though they may represent the next stage in hominid evolution (on the other hand, one could advance a strong argument that they represent a de-evolution), they need to get over themselves. Or they won’t have any selves left to get over.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist tossing another chunk of cement and muddying those placid waters once more. As a critical thinker who has stopped drowning out my inner voice with Western civilization’s ubiquitous and numerous forms of anesthetizing, conscience-killing soma, I have my eyes wide open to the constant barrage of inanities, perversities, hypocrisies, deceptions, distortions, and insanities with which our barbaric “civilized” culture perpetually pelts us. As my beloved Sylvia often says about the Homo rapiens she encounters each day, “If they come at me crazy, I’m getting crazy right back.” So let’s talk cannibalism a bit more.

Moral and ethical objections to necro-cannibalism are hollow and pathetically feeble when voiced by the savage mob of our collective “advanced, industrialized civilization” that preys economically upon “developing nations;” subjugates hundreds of millions of people through the use of puppet plutocracies, neo-liberal economic policies, military bases installed for “protection,” or outright imperial invasion; gluttonously gobbles up far more than its share of the world’s “natural resources”—eating them and shitting them out or running them through atmosphere-toxifying factories that create more “things” that will quickly become a part of the breathtakingly enormous mountain of garbage through which we will eventually be wading; drops smart bombs (now there’s an oxymoron for you) that only kill the “bad guys”–plus a few hundred “victims of collateral damage;” tortures and murders millions of nonhuman animals every day to yield a plethora of unnecessary products; ends millions of lives before they get started through abortions; locks up nonviolent substance abusers because of their skin color and economic class whilst letting mass murderers like Bush and Cheney run free; leaves billions to live in miserable squalor to enable the American Dream for a relative few; and more. Yet in the midst of an ecocrisis in which industrial agriculture plays a large role, we’re going to keep downing “pork,” “beef,” and “poultry” by the shovel full and get squeamish about stabbing our fork into a morsel of nourishing human flesh that would otherwise go to waste? How about a steaming plate of self-centeredness and an ice cold glass of hypocrisy to wash that down?

My apologies; again I digress. Forget cannibalism. As my “friends” who grease the gears of capitalism would say, “There’s no market for it!” Unlike our imperialistic, war-mongering government (which is merely a reflection of our Homo rapien society), those who are fighting for the Earth obviously don’t have the luxury of keeping “all options on the table.”

I’ll skip moralizing about the abject cruelty of exploiting nonhuman animals to consume their flesh because I recognize that Homo rapiens are too selfish to give up their beloved “meat,” despite the fact that many give lip service to ending the horrors of factory “farming” in favor of “happy meat.” So as my dear “compatriots,” the capitalists, love to say, “I’ll give you the bottom line here.” The bottom line is that the extant system of factory “farming” is an environmental disaster and a tremendous waste of resources.

You can Google the statistics if you prefer more specificity, but for those flesh addicts who are comfortable with the savagery of nonhuman animal consumption, there are two compelling pragmatic reasons to find an alternative “meat” source: pollution and “resource” depletion.

The billions of nonhuman animals destined to wind up on plates or between slices of bread produce seas of urine and excrement. For now Tyson, Smithfield Farms and their ilk pump this waste into storage lagoons, which are filled with this putrid slurry of piss and shit mixed with a host of other waste products, including antibiotics, pesticides, the rotting corpses of nonhuman animals crushed or trampled to death, afterbirth, and stillborns.

What the hell are we going to do with all of that infectious, repugnant sludge as time progresses? Perhaps we could simply do what the billions of sentient beings we’ve oppressed and exploited to sustain our American Way of Life (the soul-sucking, murderous machine we call Western civilization) would love to see us do and “eat shit and die.” No, that’s too drastic. We, as a collective, have done some pretty rotten things and our system’s got to go, but there’s plenty of room for personal redemption on a case by case basis—for most of us any way. So, the question remains, what are we going to do with vast seas of poisonous sewage that threaten to contaminate groundwater, streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes?

Pollution aside, we have another problem that is perhaps even bigger. It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2500 gallons of water to make one pound of “beef.” The global demand for “meat” is skyrocketing as populous nations like China and India aspire to the “heights” of American capitalism and clamor for body parts on their menus. One third of the global population is starving, mostly in “developing” nations, so that the “deserving” citizens of wealthier nations can gorge themselves on flesh. I realize that I’ve wasted a sentence on another of those idiotic moral concerns which Homo rapiens have rationalized away or are just too fucking mean to care about, so let me instead point out that world-wide demand for “meat” is projected to double by 2050 and that our industrial agricultural system is already incapable of providing food for a rapidly growing population of 6.5 billion humans. Therefore, there’s a strong chance that you and your children, dear reader, could be affected—very adversely I might add. (That’s how you get the attention of a Homo rapien—you inform them of something that’s going to directly impact THEM and “theirs.”)

Our current form of “meat” production is rife with irresolvable problems, vegans/vegetarians are still about as rare as recent stock market success stories, and the number of people demanding to feast upon rotting flesh is rising meteorically. A head-scratching, hair pulling dilemma if ever I encountered one.

Eliminating “meat” from our collective diet is a non-starter. Necro-cannibalism went over like reruns of the Lawrence Welk show on MTV. Lowering demand by voluntarily decreasing consumption would be impossible given our “all about me,” “individual freedom with no responsibility to the group” ethos. Appeals to conscience, you say? No, I tried that and most people just laughed and stuffed their mouths with another hunk of rotting animal flesh.

Therefore, we can once again look to the holy trinity of science, technology, and capitalism for our salvation. Interspecies chimeras, laboratory-created genetic crosses between two unique animal species, can rain “meat” down upon us like manna from heaven. Since 2003, researchers have successfully formed chimeric embryos by fusing human animals with three different nonhuman animals: rabbits, sheep, and cows.

We’ve struck gold. Now all we need to do is to start mining. With our scientific knowledge, technological infrastructure, and immense wealth, we could create and distribute chimeras for mass consumption within a couple of years. After all, “product” design and commodification are our specialties in this capitalist society. Replacing “farm animals” with chimeras as our source of “meat” would not be that difficult.

Big Meat could finish butchering the remaining stock of domestic nonhuman animals and make preparations to start slaughtering chimeras and distributing their flesh and body parts for consumption. Marketing this new product could be a problem initially, but the Bernays protégés on Madison Avenue could sell ‘morning after’ pills to members of the Army of God, so no worries there.

Rabbit, lamb, and cow are tastes with which many “meat” eaters are already familiar. Geneticists could most certainly bring pigs into the fold as well. Perhaps they could even engineer an egg-laying chimeric chicken.

Imagine the myriad advantages of fusing human DNA into our chimeras. Once we got the Medical Industrial Complex coordinating with Big Meat and Big Food, we could develop massive breeding and housing facilities for these artificial beings and start cranking them out like autos rolling off an assembly line.

Once weaned from their mothers, the exceptional female stock could be retained, nurtured and reared to serve as birthing machines. Genetically limiting their intellect so that they could perform simple tasks and engage in manual labor (without the capacity to think critically), would enable us to employ a skeleton crew of people to oversee immense chimeric laboratory farms, as these production facilities could be staffed primarily by chimeras.

Chimeras would be the perfect “meat” source. With their opposable thumbs and limited ability to cogitate, the sanitation problems related to factory “farming” would be largely eliminated as the chimeras could use toilets and clean up after themselves. Chimeras would virtually eliminate a corporation’s biggest expense: employees. They could tend to themselves and the facilities that manufacture them with limited human oversight. Once they were transported to the slaughter-houses currently processing cows, pigs and the like, they could be processed in a similar fashion. With IQ’s hovering around 80, passivity would be a virtual given as they queued up to have their skulls bashed in with sledgehammers, and for the unlucky ones who survived the bludgeoning, to be gutted alive with razor sharp knives.

Aside from the breeding stock, laboratory farm staff, and those we ground into chimera burgers, we could exploit the remaining “things with a pulse” in any way we saw fit. Corporations operating laboratory farms could garner immense income streams from both “meat” production and from the sale of chimeras as slaves. Since these Petri-dish concocted beings couldn’t possibly have a soul and would be synthetic creatures, our chimeras would not be endowed with human rights nor protected by animal welfare laws. Homo rapien capitalists would be living larger than a pedophile on a deserted isle full of 12 year old virgins! No extant ethics, morals, laws, or social taboos would impede commerce, progress, profit, advantage, pleasure, or fulfillment derived from said beings.

Chimeras would eliminate the need for nonhuman animal vivisection. With human DNA woven into their genetic structure, their value and reliability as test subjects would be far superior to that of nonhuman animals. We could even conduct the tests in the same laboratories that produce them.

Imagine owning a chimera. It would be like having a cow that could mow your lawn, do your laundry, wash your dishes, and even, if you could get past their odd physical appearance, satisfy you sexually. When you came home from a rough day at the office, instead of kicking the cat or yelling at the kids, you could beat the chimera. And when your stock of “meat” in the freezer started running low, you could simply run your chimera down to the nearest butcher, have it stunned, bled, gutted, cleaved, hacked, and sliced, and scurry home with a car-load of neat little packages of mouth-watering rotting flesh.

Obviously, chimeras would be a “must have.” Clean, “green,” essentially self-perpetuating, and highly coveted by all, chimeras would be capitalism’s crowning achievement. Our environmental nightmare would be mitigated, world hunger would disappear, and everyone could own at least one chimera to afford them more leisure time and ensure they’d be able to gorge themselves on “meat.”

Now don’t tell me that faux ethical concerns are going to hold us back on this one. Remember, we’re the group that’s collectively gang raping Mother Earth and sodomizing her to death. Don’t proclaim to me, dear Homo rapiens, that you don’t want to have your “meat” and eat it too; to strengthen the illusion of “safe food, medicine, and consumer products” provided by vivisection; and to possess your very own personal slave. And don’t try to convince me that a society of marauding exploiters has “ethical qualms” about artificially creating beings that would satisfy these “needs” while at the same time helping to slow or end the impending ecological collapse we’re causing.

Don’t talk crazy to me, and as Sylvia would also say, “Don’t front!”

Jason Miller is a relentless anti-capitalist, vegan straight edge, and animal liberationist. He is also the senior editor and founder of Thomas Paine’s Corner and the blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute.

Thomas Paine’s Corner wants to periodically email you links to the most recent material and timeless classics available on our diverse and comprehensive site. If you would like to receive them, type “TPC subscription” in the subject line and send your email to willpowerful@hotmail.com

To further your sociopolitical education, strengthen your connection with the radical community, and deepen your participation in forming an egalitarian, just, ecological, non-speciesist and democratic society, visit the Transformative Studies Institute at http://transformativestudies.org/ and the Institute for Critical Animal Studies at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/.
______________
I’m a dedicated carnivore. In fact, I have some chicken legs boiling in a pot as I write this. I have been diagnosed as diabetic and have found out from several sources that a protein breakfast helps keep the blood sugar under control all day. (I do not take insulin). Besides, I like chicken.

Nevertheless, I deplore the way our farm animals are treated. I buy free-range chicken, cage-free eggs, yogurt made from milk from cows that haven’t been shot up with growth hormones, etc. Fortunately, I have easy access to such products, albeit at a premium. My food budget has sky-rocketed since I made the switch. Sorry to say my income has not increased proportionally.

That the poor have to suffer with garbage as food while our food animals are mistreated are both results of the capitalist factory farm system that cares only about profits and not product quality for the humans and humane treatment for the animals. We see this all in non-meat food production, To wit: the recent salmonella outbreaks in peanuts and pistachios. –K.R.

Posted in Animal Welfare, Economics, Environment, Food | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Jindal’s response shows GOP still doesn’t get it

Posted by kelliasworld on February 26, 2009

OpEdNews

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Bobby–we-barely-knew-ye-by-Ed-Tubbs-090225-741.html

February 26, 2009

Bobby – we barely knew ye.

By Ed Tubbs

Bobby — we barely knew ye.

In a spirit of genuine nonpartisan comity, I did listen intently, and with an open mind, to what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal offered as the Republican response to President Obama’s February 24 speech to a joint meeting of Congress and to the American public.

First off, after the previous eight years, it was refreshing to know that a Republican leader can deliver complete sentences without making up words. However, almost as immediately as that epiphany raised my spirits, it became manifest that that was the highlight of his near 15-minute oratory. Rather, it seemed a spiraling surrealistic déjà vu theme park roller coaster ride through Alice’s looking glass.

Governor Jindal told the nation that a handful of Louisiana fishermen, in their 15-foot outboards, were — and would be — more effective than the “heckova job” Bush/Republican federal government led agencies, when it came to apocalyptic natural disasters. Over and over the governor told us that was because “Americans can do anything.” I could barely restrain myself from adding “better than Republicans.”

He then went directly to the current economic crisis, condemning the Democratic president and congress for rejecting the present GOP plans that were, by the way, the very same schemes that got us and the world into the mess.

As evidence of the terrible waste within the $797 billion rescue package, Jindal cited the proposal to purchase $300 million worth of new cars for the federal government. I haven’t done the math: $300 million divided by $797 BILLION, but I’ve no doubt that Jindal is probably correct, that the percentage is stunning.

The governor’s cited evidence did prompt me to ponder a few possibly relevant questions. Like, were the vehicles to be purchased replacing older, less fuel efficient, less polluting than those they’d replace? Were those they were replacing going to be replaced in the near future anyway? And, were these new vehicles going to be manufactured and assembled in American plants, by Americans, and wasn’t that the point of the whole thing — putting Americans to work?

Also included in the presentation of evidence was the cited planned appropriation of $8 billion on high-speed rail projects. A few points: First, the way he jammed it together, in a single sentence, “. . . including” — which I kinda think no one was supposed to actually hear, sort of akin to super fine print warnings — “a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas” (OHHHH, the SIN!!!) to Disneyland” (OHHHH, it’s all such a “small” [silly] “world after all.”).

It’s here that I feel impelled to bring some perhaps perspective-changing facts to the discussion. It seems that Governor Jindal wanted his audience to slide right past them, the way state troopers hidden in the median brush want speeding motorists to do.

1.) The United States lags sorely behind the majority of industrialized countries when it comes to non- or low-polluting, energy efficient, high-speed transportation. As every motorist must by now be frustratingly aware, we spend endless hours every day, sitting in parking lots that are misnamed freeways, watching untold dollars spew in fumes out our tailpipes. Cough, cough, cough.

2.) The route noted is among the most heavily traveled. Regardless how the governor sought to insert notions of bawdry sin and frivolousness with “Las Vegas” and “Disneyland,” the route between LA and Las Vegas will not be made less congested thereby.

3.) Whether it’s via I-210 to I-15, or I-10 to I-15, motorists still have to pass through one of the deadliest in the country west and north of San Bernardino. That it is one of the deadliest is not attributable to either the design of the road nor necessarily the carelessness of motorists. The problem owes to the need to get from the LA basin to the high desert. That transition, from one climate zone to another, makes the route perhaps the most dramatically scenic of all metropolitan cores in the United States. You climb, and climb, and climb, and climb around broad sweeping curves that are subject to wind gusts that can exceed 50 miles per hour and sudden blinding fog and sudden blinding dust.

4.) The project has been “shovel ready” for years.

5.) The project, as with all others contained in the package, will put AMERICANS to work, which most agree, is the point.

Without the parenthesis, a parenthetical observation is in order. I’ve traveled I-10, from Florida to California a number of times. I swear, or affirm, to all that the very most miserable section of that 3,000 mile Interstate is in Governor Jindal’s state of Louisiana. It’s horrible, mind wrenching, fatiguing mile after mile after mile after god-forsaken, unending miles of bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump as the car passes over the elevated sections of concrete that cross through the bayous. Then, heaping additional misery to the trek, motoring the route from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm over the two very narrow lanes each direction. . . Road-kill moves more rapidly. Governor, I have an idea: How about an elevated, magnetic levitation line between the Big Easy and Baton Rouge and Lafayette?

Included in Governor Jindal’s presentation of evidence, supporting his assertion the package was loaded with unnecessary, useless pork, was the $140 million allocated to monitor volcanoes. (Actually, it’s for volcanoes and other seismic phenomena.) Why did Mt. St. Helens spring to mind, when you raised the issue? And what about Hawaii? I mean, if I were a resident of those areas, or a visitor, I’d be interested in forecasts that might forewarn me of the possible risk of being killed by volcanic eruptions. Really, I would.

But, and this is a real kicker, how many can name what is potentially the very most lethal natural disaster confronting the US?

As one of only eight, Yellowstone National Park is the largest super-volcano on the planet. Six hundred thousand years ago, the park erupted, burying the geography easterly all the way to Des Moines in deadly ash. The geologic record notes that it blows its deadly top on the average of once every 600,000 years. (Pop Quiz for the governor: How many years has it been since Yellowstone erupted?) Additionally, and I really don’t like piling on, the average number of detectable earthquakes striking Yellowstone are 1,000 to 2,000. In 1985 there were 3,000. Furthermore, the upward push cause by magma buildup raised the floor eight inches between the summer of 2004 to 2008. By his comments, I know Governor Jindal doesn’t care about those sorts of calamities, and that he doesn’t think the government should either.

I was standing in the middle of a parade field at Fort Lewis when the 1964 quake devastated Alaska. That far away, I saw barracks sway like Hula dancers’ skirts, and I felt the tremors. In 1989, I was living in San José, getting ready to have dinner and watch a World Series game. Maybe the governor wasn’t watching television that evening, but I saw what that quake did to the Bay area . . . after the heaving earth quieted and I’d returned inside. So, while some folks don’t think monitoring seismic activity, keeping track of topography-altering volcanoes, is a worthy use of federal dollars, I bet that many others do. (And once again, what’s the percentage, $140 million divided by $797 BILLION?)

Jindal also scolded the Democrats and President Obama for a package that would add to the national debt. He said that borrowing from future generations was “wrong.” That was when he took us out of Alice in Wonderland, and rocketed all the way into The Twilight Zone, well beyond anything Stephen Spielberg and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) could have managed. Ronald Reagan TRIPLED the national debt. While composing a budget in 1993 that secured not a single Republican vote, Bill Clinton added 22 million jobs and set the country on a course that would have paid off the debt entirely! And then we got George Bush and a Republican Senate and House, and the GOP DOUBLED again what Reagan had tripled, all the while adding not a single net job through the entire eight years. By the way . . . I seem to recall it was Dick Cheney who gleefully claimed how “Reagan proved — Deficits don’t matter!” Tell me once more, was Richard B. Cheney a Republican, or was he one of those godless, free-spending Democrats?

Jindal’s last point was to education, and touted Louisiana’s. Just a show of hands, please. However poorly you may judge the system where you live, how many would voluntarily swap it, would rather have your kids going to school in Louisiana?

Yeah, thought so: a handful in Alabama, and a few in West Virginia.

Oh Bobby — we barely knew ye. But we do now. Thanks for the introduction. And for reminding the country, as if any reminding was at all necessary, why the GOP was kicked out of the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office. But tell you what, I think we’re pretty well satisfied, and won’t be needing anything more from you, at least in the foreseeable future.

— Ed Tubbs

Author’s Bio: An “Old Army Vet” and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: “He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity.”

Posted in America, Congress, Economics, Obama, Republicans | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama: Change you can believe in…NOT! Part 1

Posted by kelliasworld on November 3, 2008

[Originally published on the web site Speaking Truth to Power. Please pardon any formatting problems. — KR]

Part 1. The Economy

by Kéllia Ramares

It is often said that you are known by the company you keep. If that is true, then progressive voters should familiarize themselves with at least some of Sen. Barack Obama’s advisers and fundraisers, and by this I don’t mean Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I mean the real movers and shakers who are the answer to the question: “How does a young, black, first term Senator rise so quickly in politics so as to be standing at the threshold of the White House?” You will see that those who made it possible are

not Weather Underground, or vociferous ministers, but are the people who will insure that Barack Obama will not make any fundamental changes to the way the United States does its business – here or abroad.

The Religion of the Free Market

The Democratic presidential candidate’s chief economic advisor is Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, an economist described by author Naomi Klein as “on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right.”1 Goolsbee is very much a home town pick, and not merely because he and Obama both live in Chicago. Obama taught at the law school of the University of Chicago for a decade, and, as Klein says, “is thoroughly embedded in the mind set known as the Chicago School.”2 The Chicago School’s long time “Headmaster” was the late Nobel Prize-winning monetarist Milton Friedman, who made a secular religion of “the free market.” According to Klein, Goolsbee qualifies as a leftist in this group because he acknowledges inequality as a problem. But his answer to it is more education.3 Sound familiar? During his years in the White House, Bill Clinton emphasized retraining for the people who were losing their manufacturing jobs to “downsizing.” But, besides the difficulties inherent in retraining someone who had spent a decade or more on an assembly line to be a computer programmer, (and helping him or her maintain a home and family during the process), there was the not-so-little matter of technical jobs also being outsourced to the other side of the world, a problem that has been growing since the Clinton Administration, as the United States loses the ability to make anything except bombs, debts, and rich executives.

Goolsbee got into a bit of PR trouble earlier this year for comments to officials at the Canadian consulate in Chicago that a President Obama would not be as anxious to renegotiate NAFTA as Candidate Obama appeared to be.4 Naturally, the press was alleged to have gotten it wrong, just as it has gotten the exit polls wrong in the last two elections.

But the Associated Press obtained a memorandum of the meeting written by Joseph De Mora, a political and economic affairs consular officer. Part of it said:

Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. [H]e cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political – positioning than a clear articulation of policy p1ans. He also suggested that of the Democratic candidates, Obama has been the least protectionist (unintelligible).5

On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favor of strenghtening/clarifying language on labor mobility and environment, and trying to establish these as more “core” principles of the agreement.6

But the people of Ohio, before whom Obama harshly criticized NAFTA during the primaries7, are not interested in labor mobility. They want good jobs in Ohio. What they are getting is more of the same insensitive and nonsensical message that both Democrats and Republicans gave them in 2004: Outsourcing your job is good for the American economy.

Dr. Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, received his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago, where Obama taught at the law school and Goolsbee is a member of the economics department. Boyle rails against that institution regularly. He managed to stick to his liberal principles there and at Harvard University, where he received a law degree and a PhD. in political science. Boyle had this to say about the University of Chicago’s political science and economics departments, and law school in a December, 2005 article:

The University of Chicago routinely trained me and innumerable other students to become ruthless and unprincipled Machiavellians. That is precisely why so many neophyte Neo-Con students gravitated toward the University of Chicago or towards Chicago Alumni at other universities. … Integrally related to and overlapping with the Feddies [lawyers who are members of the ultraconservative Federalist Society] are members of the University of Chicago “School” of Law-and-Kick-Them-in-the-Groin Economics, which in turn was founded on the Market Fundamentalism of Milton Friedman….This Chicago gang of academic con-artists and charlatans are proponents of the Nazi Doctrine of “useless eaters.” Pursuant to Friedman’s philosophy of Market Fundamentalism, the privatization of Iraq and its oil industry [is] already underway for the primary benefit of the U.S. energy companies….”8

Naomi Klein’s description of Obama’s economic philosophy bears repeating: he “is thoroughly embedded in the mind set known as the Chicago School.”9

Obama: Property of the Billionaires

Anyone still harboring any fantasies at this late date of “Change you can believe in” from an Obama Adminstration needs to understand just how badly compromised he is. And that understanding begins with learning about his national campaign chair, Penny Pritzker. She’s the one behind his raising a record $500 million—that’s half a billion—dollars. (My thoughts on what we could do with that kind of money besides spending it on political campaigns will have to wait for another day).

Penny Pritzker runs Classic Residence by Hyatt, a chain of retirement homes, and The Parking Spot, an airport shuttle service. She’s president of Pritzker Realty Group and chairwoman of TransUnion LLC, a credit checking company. She’s a director of Global Hyatt Corp., which owns or operates more than 365 hotels in 44 countries.10

All told, the Pritzker empire is worth as much as $40 billion, a person familiar with the situation estimates.11

Much has been revealed by the KPFA-FM’s investigative news magazine Flashpoints. (Flashpoints in the the public affairs department. This author works for KPFA’s news department). On programs on February 20, 2008 and September 30, 2008,12 Flashpoints focused on Pritzker’s role in the the sub-prime crisis that has triggered this nation’s and now the world’s financial industry meltdown. Bank fraud whistleblower Timothy J. Anderson appeared on both shows to give details of Pritzker’s schemes.

Pritzker, through Superior Bank FSB of Hinsdale Illinois, of which she was owner and chair of the board, was among the first to securitize sub-prime mortgages. Superior was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) in late 2001and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver in early 2002. Flashpoints host Dennis Bernstein relayed what Anderson told him in February in an article for Consortium News:

The [sub-prime] financial engineering that created the Wall Street meltdown was developed by the Pritzkers and Ernst and Young, working with Merrill Lynch to sell bonds securitized by sub-prime mortgages.

The sub-prime mortgages, were provided to Merrill Lynch, by a nation-wide Pritzker origination system, using Superior as the cash cow, with many millions in FDIC insured deposits. Superior’s owners were to sub-prime lending, what Michael Milken was to junk bonds.”13

Also in February, Earl Offari Hutchinson described the conflict between Obama’s speeches against subprime profiteers and his campaign’s association with Pritzker in an article for the Huffington Post:

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama says he’ll crack down on fraudulent sub-prime lenders. If he really means it he can start by firing his campaign finance chair, Penny Pritzker. Before taking over Obama’s campaign finances, she headed up the borderline shady and failed Superior Bank. It collapsed in 2002. The bank’s sordid story and its abominable role in fueling the sub-prime crisis are well known and documented. It engaged in deceptive and faulty lending, questionable accounting practices, and charged hidden fees. It did it with the sleepy-eyed see-no-evil oversight of federal. It made thousands of dubious loans to mostly poor, strapped homeowners. A disproportionate number of them were minority.

Obama’s home state, Illinois, ranked near the top of thee states in the percentage of sub-prime mortgages. Nearly 15 percent of home loans were sub-prime according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But that only tells part of the tale. According to the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago non-profit that studies housing issues, the sub-prime fall-out was far higher in the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods of South and Southwest Chicago.

The predictable happened when many of those lost their homes. When the bank collapsed Pritzker and bank officials skipped away with their profits and reputations intact.”14

On September 30th, Tim Anderson opined to Flashpoints that Pritzker raised the half a billion dollars for Obama because she “wants a seat at the table. She doesn’t want to be just a fundraiser.”15

She got it. When Obama met with his economic advisers on July 28 in Washington, Pritzker participated along with Warren Buffett, Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup Inc.’s executive committee, and Paul Volcker, 80, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.16

Speaking of seats, the Obama family lives on the southside of Chicago. So they have had a ringside seat to the devastation caused by the subprime mortgage debacle. Yet Obama says of Pritzker: “She and I share certain core values about how to run organizations, and hopefully that will inform how we manage the government.”17

How “we” manage the government? Will this subprime queen become the next Secretary of the Treasury?

That ain’t all…

Pritzker is not the only ultra-rich Obama backer. Another is George Soros, the wallet behind the faux-progressive MoveOn.org, which called for the censure, but not impeachment, of George W. Bush. Obama has been the beneficiary of Soro’s soft money since his days in the Illinois state senate.18

The billionaire currency speculator’s hedge fund may have lost at least $120 million on its stake in Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., mostly acquired in the second quarter, as the investment bank suffered its worst financial result. Soros Fund Management LLC, which manages $20 billion, purchased 9.47 million shares, or about 1.4% of New York-based Lehman, between March 31 and June 30, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.19

Do you think that maybe Sen. Obama might have an interest in seeing that Mr. Soros can recoup those losses?

Both Obama and Sen. John “Keating Five” McCain, the nominal opponent in this fake two-headed corporate party “election,” enjoy huge financial support from Wall Street. Obama has received at least $1.5 million collected by three senior executives at Lehman Brothers.20

With support of the ultra rich such as Pritzker and Soros as well as others at the top of the investor class, is it any wonder Obama and McCain, were joined at the hip on the necessity of a Wall Street bailout? They even issued a joint statement as Congress negotiated the first version of the bailout.

Now is a time to come together – Democrats and Republicans – in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.”21

After the bailout finally passed ($150 billion more costly and about 300 pages more complicated than the original bill), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) told writer Chris Hedges in a phone interview:

We face a perfect financial storm. The elements are the deficit spending for the war of 3 to 4 trillion dollars, the trillion and more tax cuts, the war itself and the lack of serious investment in the country. We are being hollowed out. We are going to see more unemployment and more people losing their homes. With $700 billion we could have made a real investment in the country, in jobs, in infrastructure and in homes. Instead, we got robbed.”22

Apparently, the American economy Obama wants to protect is the financial interests of the Wall Streeters who bankroll his presidential campaign.

Kéllia Ramares is a journalist living in Oakland, CA. She aggregates news stories and commentaries at a channel called freedomnews at Livevideo.com. Her email address is ByrnesBlogger1@gmail.com

1 Naomi Klein, “Obama’s Chicago Boys,” The Nation, June 12, 2008. http://thenation.com/doc/20080630/klein/ This article appeared in print in the June 30, 2008 edition of the nation.

4Michael Luo, “Memo Gives Canada’s Account of Obama Campaign’s Meetings on NAFTA,” New York Times, March 4, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/politics/04nafta.html

8 Francis A. Boyle, Neo-Cons, Fundies, Feddies and Con-Artists, December 17, 2005.

http:// http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=BOY20051217&articleId=1493

10 John Lippert, “The Power of Penny Pritzker,” Bloomberg Markets, October 2008.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/marketsmag/mm_1008_story1.html

12 Podcasts of these shows may be obtained at http://kpfa.org or http://flashpoints.net

13 Dennis Bernstein, “Obama’s Sub-prime conflict,” Consortium News, February 28, 2008,

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/022708a.html

14 Earl Offari Hutchinson, “If Obama’s For Real on the Sub-Prime Crisis, He’ll Dump His Campaign

Finance Chair,” Huffington Post, February 29, 2008.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/earl-ofari-hutchinson/if-obamas-for-real-on-th_b_89159.html

15 Flashpoints, KPFA-FM, September 30, 2008. Podcast is available at http://kpfa.org/

18 Ed Hamler, “George Soros buys the Democratic Nomination; Obama Borrows It,” EIR, July 4, 2008.

http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2008/2008_20-29/2008-27/pdf/78-79_3526.pdf

19 Bloomberg News, “Soros Fund Loss on Lehman May be $120M,” Sept 11, 2008, as reprinted in the NY Sun

http://www.nysun.com/business/soros-fund-loss-on-lehman-may-be-120m/85619/

20 Peter Yost, Associated Press, “Wall Street among biggest donors to McCain, Obama,” Sept. 18, 2008 as reprinted in SunSentinel.com, Nation/World section on Oct 5, 2008.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/sfl-flacandidates0918sbsep18,0,7899171.story

22Chris Hedges, “Dennis Kucinich on the Democrats Betrayal,” TruthDig.com, Oct 5, 2005. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081006_dennis_kucinich_on_the_democrats_bailout_betrayal/

Posted in Obama | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »