Saturday, February 27, 2010

Revisiting Afghanistan: Cooler Heads

Shake it off and stand up.

Dislodge the "talking points" -- permanently.

Hey, Progressives!  Have you found yourself bitching about Obama's Afghanistan policy?  The troop surge?  The casualties?

A Little History

The autocracy, feebly understanding that some response would be necessary after the 911 attack, was probably fairly easily convinced that the country should attack Afghanistan and dislodge the Taliban. Public-opinion-wise, there weren't many other alternatives. The war had to be initiated and then flamboyantly inflamed every moment following 911 to distract the citizens from ever considering the other, dark possibilities of precisely what had "happened" in New York.

The W was stranded without any other target. The autocracy "had no idea" where Bin Laden and the Al Quaeda might be hiding. Although "Daddy Bush" was reportedly watching flaming Americans jumping as the Trade Towers burned in the company of, wait for it, wait for it, one of his close "oil friends" from the Bin Laden family, he neglected to ask him where Osama might be found.

Invading Afghanistan would present a far simpler, less risky and more easily promoted foreign policy than actually chasing after Osama. The semi-literate W had already previously told his "biographer" (ghost writer) that he dreamed of being a "war time" President. For a spoiled, draft dodging aristocrat from Connecticut, even such a meagre, sick, psychotic infatuation passed as something of an ambition.

Of course, now we know that even then the autocrat had already set his eye on the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Treaty. His Congressional cronies -- along with the Vice President -- were licking their chops.

To the Present

Aside from thoroughly looting the economy so his inevitable successor in the White House would be able to do nothing beyond desperate recovery work, the Afghan adventure offered the autocrat yet another, equally tempting opportunity to sabotage the future of the country -- not to mention a painless opening to confiscate Iraqi oil.

Once American troops were bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, a well ordered withdrawal became an impossibility. Someone among the autocrat's "inner circle" -- probably Rove -- accurately surmised that more rational Americans, after actually electing the next President, would be anxious to withdraw from both adventures as quickly as possible. Here, in hindsight, we can look a little more closely at the autocracy's grand strategy.

Because impatient supporters of the new administration would insist on a timely withdrawal, criminal elements in the autocracy smelled meat. The inevitable delays would spur turmoil among the new President's supporters. Sitting comfortably in their living rooms while being fed more and more divisive pablum from the media frauds, they would begin to chant "hypocrisy" even though they had just elected a remarkably thoughtful and authentic leader.

What the fraudulent media assiduously avoided mentioning was that this withdrawal being demanded by this most recent flock of "hypocrisy hunters" would demand its own price. The wet dream?

If that the public pressure would build to a point where the new President would recklessly withdraw, the corporate fascist crowd would be back in the "big house" on Pennsylvania Avenue in no time. In Iraq the Baathists would perfect their earlier slaughter of tens of thousands as they ethnically purified. In Afghanistan the medievalists would be decapitating women for owning lipstick.

In the US, all the civilian "activists" who would -- under better circumstances -- be patting themselves on the back for "having ended the wars," would, at a more chilling moment of reflection, also have to pat themselves on the back for engineering a massive genocidal pogrom of hundreds of thousands or millions of our recent Middle East allies.

Hardly a better mousetrap, but, given the unwavering success at manipulating the hill billies, bigots and neo-con criminals raucously emboldened by the continuing inertia of the autocrat's relentless "divide the country at any cost" campaign, even this adolescent tactic largely yielded the results the miscreants sought. The new guy was essentially stranded without all the tasty, delicious alternatives which inhabited the unrealistic minds of the idealists among us. We remained childishly remote, obsessed with very judiciously making choices we did not have.

In went the surge.

We had seen a surge before, one orchestrated by a sobbing dry drunk who had never seen the blood of combat nor felt the rage of war. In fact, we might generously surmise, we had seen our nation attacking enemies we had not yet made, killing civilians -- more than a million of them. Further, this grisly and dishonorable scene lubricated an inebriating cynicism among us -- one with inertia so disquieting that, even aside from the monosyllabic "cut and run" or "stay the course," it tattooed us with distrust, searing our souls.

Something New -- Pay Attention

Unlike the gnawing, unmanaged meat grinder of Iraq, relentlessly celebrated and stridently conducted by a man who had never yet so much as seen a coffin, we suddenly had a President who, although a genteel stranger to the horrors of war, went to Dover. Instead of chanting a confounding cacophony of justifications for the nightmare, he considered it and adopted what he concluded to be the best course of action to possibly transform himself -- in any possible avenue available to him -- into less of a stranger to the horrors of war.

He saw it as part of his job.

Aside from his formidable idealism, Obama is a pragmatist. He accurately assessed what he would think of himself should he withdraw from Afghanistan, precipitating a mass ethnic cleansing at the hands of the religionist Taliban. Then he acted in conscience -- something new after the autocracy's relentless plummet into one "little boy game" after another.

He had already been forced to guide his administration through all sorts of heavily soiled, distasteful residue left by the autocracy. The government, no matter how little Obama was interested in such a course, bought auto companies reeling under the same horrible management has had been indulged in most of the rest of the economy. No friend of Wall Street bankers, he sent them out tax money, not because he wanted to do so, but because the alternatives, just as was the case in Afghanistan surge, were even less acceptable.

Those of us who were allegedly supporting his efforts at change, immediately pounced on an opportunity to be grieving, desolated victims of not having everything the way we wanted. We cried out "Broken Promises." "Hypocrisy." "Lies." We entered into the same single issue paralysis and illiterate tantrums that the hill billies and bigots enjoyed so much. We continued to insist on making choices which we did not have then criticizing Obama for being realistic.

He faced the facts. Neither he nor we would sleep well if our nation's role in the W's adventures came to nothing more than a massive crime against humanity. The world is as imperfect as are we. Debates of good and evil are a valid use of our time. However, after that, we must make the best, although imperfect, solution to facts as best we can know them.

The Last Cob Web -- Just Walk Away

Our cultural psychology has been hammered. We have grown accustomed to a "talking point" reality where the United States never wins. We have come to assume that any new strategy, no matter the nature of it, will -- at best -- become indeterminate. We have been conceptually cushioned by endlessly repeated absolutes that "there is no victory for us", always introduced accompanied with some reason. The situation is too complicated. The Congress is losing resolve. The enemy is too ruthless. Whatever.

Perhaps we have been blinded by all this codependent negativity. Yes, we are a superpower, but not a unified one. The country has been ripped into two parts for the very cheapest of all possible political motives. Americans from both sides have now been effectively groomed into a state where success has become suspicious. We have been made so cynical that any anticipation that the President is actually acting in conscience is considered fool hardy and distasteful.

However, what we see now, finally, is a new strategy in Afghanistan which might actually work! It's worth the time to examine such a proposition a little more closely.

The reckless orders for yet another mad charge, whimpered in the voice of a detached Prince Pretender, yielded predictable results. No amount of bombing seemed to be enough. The problem morphed itself into quite a different, non-tactical light.

Although undeniably ruthless and savage, as is usually the case when religionists are fired with any sort of transformative ambition -- social, political, military or otherwise -- the jihadists had been waging a highly effective war of social inertia. They had worked the villages and farms, the mosques and the madrases. We had flown over them.

However, as observed in the light of this new day, we have discharged that old, blind, frightened Prince who tried so desperately to rectify the insults of his childhood with the blood of our armies all the while imaging that it would cleanse the demons from within him. We have replaced him with a community organizer.

It is clear now that Obama will confront this seemingly intractable enemy of ours on his own playing field. The new strategy, although unavoidably still military, has set its goal as one of increasing our influence in the communities the Taliban has always owned exclusively in the past. Without a challenge at the community level, not amount of military muscle could have dislodged them.

So, why not stand with the President for a while? Although his military experience may be rather theoretical, his community organizing experience is manifold and robust. After all, we chose him over a competing candidate with little more than a shoddy, bombastic pretension of being a Republican "war expert." Further, although the military arsenal provided to our troops is essentially without limit, success in Afghanistan depends even more on Obama's support here. From us.

Dare to be different. Take a vacation from the old "in the box thinking." We now have a plan which might actually work if we can think straight, dislodging all the old, unexamined criticisms and fears, and support our nation's efforts there.

Meanmesa's compliments to the President.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keep 'Em Terrified -- Passing the Torch

Handing the Franchise to the Next Generation

MeanMesa is pleased to present a brief fiction in hopes that it might provide a glimpse "behind the scenes" of what every talk show host and television pundit hopes will be the next "burning question of the day." Yes, we're talking GAYS IN THE MILITARY!

First, for more recent visitors, the following link will take you to an older (May 17, 2008) MeanMesa post: "Gay Marriage Without the Lipstick"

If it is likely that you might find this post upsetting, perhaps you might "warm up" with that older one, that is, so to speak, innoculate yourself from being shocked here by toughing up a little with that previous one. It is from the MeanMesa "Lipstick" series...

Additional MeanMesa reading might include a short post about the Fort Hood tragedy. Check out "Don't Get Caught Between the Fairy Tales" at the link below:

Finally, a posting concerning the W's "Axis of Evil" nonsense. Although now well lubricated by the blood of American troops, the fraud only becomes clearer.
Try "Evil: New Directions"

The Family Fishing Trip

The two men walked carefully down the embankment to the edge of the lake. An outside observer would immediately assume that the scene was one of sheer bucolic serenity occupied by a grandfather and grandson sharing a pleasant afternoon at a favorite fishing hole.

The older gentleman was none other than The Reverend Jeremiah Rockston Bigotus III. The younger was, of course, Jeremiah Rockston Bigotus IV, an ambitious lad intent on following in the footsteps of his grandfather and the family tradition. Now, Bigotus III had made a significant name for himself as the founder, and later, as spiritual leader of the Blood of Christ Church of Perpetual Hate, one of the financial foundation columns supporting the Southern Baptist "Old Rugged Cross" Convention.

The old man's namesake, the grandson, Bigotus IV, had just graduated from a combo dirty shirt preacher and barber college in the deep South. The role of guide and leader of the congregation was to be passed to the younger man. The grandfather had re-calibrated his own aims for the remainder of his life to authoring a book (penned by a ghost writer, of course -- the old man's literacy was questionable) and making a few "cameo appearances" on right wing news broadcasts where he could apply his deep knowledge of Biblical principles to controversial news stories.

However, the conversation to occur on this afternoon fishing junket was to be a bit more, well, frank concerning the operation of the church and even reaching so far as the most fundamental aspects of the philosophy of the Perpetual Hate ministry itself.

"Son," the old man began, "you're gonna be takin' the ministry into some dangerous, uncharted waters. On account of that, you gotta be real clear about exactly what's important and what ain't.

"That high fallooting Bible college done taught you everything you're ever gonna need to know about the Scriptures alright, but there's a bunch of other stuff you're gonna have to handle that's way beyond a few 'cookie cutter' sin and damnation sermons."

The younger man looked up at his grandfather's face, now silhouetted by the mid day sun. "What do you mean, Grandpa? That the scriptures ain't enough?"

"Well sort of, son. Them scriptures are for the lay people, nice and simple with plenty of threats about hell and stuff. However, in this day and age, sin's running faster than the quickest Gospel preacher can keep up with. One thing is the damned homosexual agenda. Them queers are creeping over the barricades like cock roaches running from a burning stove." the old man began.

"This here is one place where us God fearin' folk can even agree with the damned Papist dogs. Both of us can see where this thing's going' if it gets any further out of control. You've probably already figured out that we run our business on controlling sex and firin' up the fear of death. Them queers are fixin' to wreck our whole sex control franchise, and that there is one of the main money makers in our business of savin' souls."

"Preachers like me have devoted years to get this thing going real good. We worked hard to finally done get Texans printin' most of the public school textbooks. We got stay at home moms turning their kids into hateful, God fearin' bigots in their home school living rooms. There's lots of ways that old desert fairy tale has turned into a real money maker for folks who know how to do it, you know, folks like us."

"We spent a pile of good money to throw that election they was havin' in California. Even though God hates both Mormons and Catholics, we was able to work together to stop the faggots. That there, you know, California, is what happens when fallen parents let the boys start migratin' away from our favorite Bible stuff, you know, Leviticus and Revelations, 'n start turnin' into Libertines or Babylonians and the like. All them California boys what thought being queer was alright just never had enough of the Old Testament rammed down their sinful little throats."

"Now, we already done a lot to squash all these queers, but they just seem to keep jumping out everywhere. We built up the rumors that they ate human feces and had wet dreams of stealin' little boys for their damned twisted sex stuff. We worked 'specially hard to get the military thing goin' -- the military readiness and unit cohesion stuff."

"Naturally, we got a lot of them wing nut Generals while they was still kids in our Sunday schools. Hell, half of them hear the voice of Jesus himself every time they dump another load of bombs on them nonbelievers. We got lots of folks, high officers, too, in places like the Air Force Academy dishin' this stuff out faster than communion wafers on a flood day! Thanks to the literacy rates of the boys goin' into the military -- all a product of the hard work we done dumbin' down the public schools -- they're carving Bible passages on the sights of their rifles."

"Plus, all these little Sunday School grads are terrified of gays just like they was Satan himself. Why, we've done everything we could to make sure that unit cohesion would fall apart if any of the queers ever come out while they was in the service. Holy Christ! The non-believin' enemies we got fired up don't even need to torture our Christian boys! All they got to do is make 'em stand around naked for a day or two and the little darlings will fall apart like cheap margarine in a Oklahoma summer."

"Stuff like that will get your congregation all fired up, too. You can tell 'em in your sermon, then ask for special offerings -- oh yeah, and special prayers and the like -- to defeat the enemies of Our Lord and retake Jerusalem. The weird stuff them non-believers just do naturally is always enough for a special offering. When your congregation gets  good and scared, you can up the donations even more."

"Like I always say, 'Make hay while the sun shines.' "

"And don't forget the wimmen folk, neither. Them little ladies is simple creatures, and we spent lots of effort gettin' them scared as hell of the faggots. They know that God only made one, single place for them penises to go, and anything else is just asking for it. You gotta' push that point every Sunday. The wimmen folk won't swing the ax for killin' queers, but they'll be the ones t'git their hubbies ready to do it."

"Hell! More than that, too! We set it up so's all them believers gonna have to deal with one of our weddings or deal with burning in hell. Those marriages may be a pain in the ass, but they put some real cash into the church coffers over the lifetimes of them couples."

"Ain't nothin' better than lots of kids to fill up them pews. Faggot boys ain't gonna help you do that. Boy, you do a nice marriage on a breeding pair 'n they gonna reward you with plenty of faces all through them pews, donatin' every Sunday."

"It may look like free money, but it ain't. It's our business."

"God gave us a franchise on queers, baby killers and gun control to keep this thing on the tracks. If anyone looks like they gonna' permanently solve any of them three things, you gotta' stop 'em. Otherwise, folks'll lose interest. Then what are ya' gonna' leave for your own kids? That's why God don't like homos in the military, 'n don't you ever forgit it."

"Ain't nothin' better than a congregation pumped to the gunwales on self-righteousness.  Everybody knows that us Christians are better than the homos on account that they're disgusting and we're not."

"Keep that flock scared as hell, disgusted, self-righteous and angry and you'll do fine. Always remember that so long as those collection plates keep comin' back full, our Church of Perpetual Hatred will continue to serve the souls of our little flock, you know, doin' God's work."

Okay, MeanMesa visitors, try to remember just exactly how much credibility all the "little boy" gay freak out crap actually has. We're still dealing with  something just like a vacuous corporate influence every time the generals pipe up with their threats of military collapse, except this "corporation" exists beyond even the casino mentality of Wall Street. It lives on fairy tales.

We can either have a grotesque, mythological adherence to some desert fairy tale from forty centuries past or we can have a modern military consistent with our truly American ideals.

It's not a matter of mindlessly applying some aging morality play. It is a matter of conscience and being.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Raising the Corporate Toddler

Oh, yes.  It is a tale of tragedy and sinister irresponsibility, indeed.  For MeanMesa visitors with a queasy stomach, perhaps it is a tale best left neglected in favor of some future, more civil post.  For all with the gumption for the rest of the story, here we go.

The infant, a foundling toddler was found on the steps of the old Supreme Court building one cold morning in February.  Although the child was cold and hungry, he laid there in utter silence, revealing an almost suspicious strength and raw will.  A glimpse of the tiny face seemed to show -- even in a child so young and helpless -- a frightening determination for self-preservation.

We knew a few, furtive facts about the gang who frequented the "club house"  which was in the old abandoned Supreme Court.  There were a few names, Alito, Scalia, Breyer and Thomas, likely suspects for such dismal mischief.  The reputed gang leader, like the others, never indicted for all manner of civil and criminal transgressions, was a mystery figure named Roberts.

He enjoyed it when the neighborhood folks, terrified by the "court house gang," called him, uh, the Chief Justice.

The child was clearly an infant corporation.  The criminal "court house gang," as was their habit, had filled the little fellow's head with all sorts of anti-social ideas until he was practically already a dangerous felon before  he took his first step.  Here, we should look more closely at just what sort of anti-social ideas the lad had already accepted as fact.

Idea Number One:  The Young Corporation's Parents

It turns out that there is actually no legal precedent to uphold when it comes to whether or not corporations are actually people.  An excellent analysis of precisely what actually happened in that old Supreme Court case that neo-cons relish in endlessly citing comes from one of MeanMesa's favorite progressive commentators, Mr. Thom Hartmann  (The Thom Hartmann Show, 1350 AM, Albuquerque, 10 AM to 1 PM, Monday through Friday).  Here is the factual version of the story:

Transcript: Thom’s Corporate Personhood rant, 09 September 2009

Okay, let me just lay this out. Back in 1885, January 26th, 1885, Delphin Delmas was the lawyer who had been hired by the county of Santa Clara to argue this case before the Supreme Court. Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. Prior to that, he had for free on behalf of the county, argued a case which actually led to the saving of the redwoods. There literally would be no redwoods left in the United States were it not for Delphin Delmas, this lawyer. An amazing man. And early around 1906 or 1907, he defended a famous murder case, a movie was made out of it called “The Lady in the Red Swing”. He’s got a very colorful history, this guy.

But in any case, before the Supreme Court the Southern Pacific Railroad argued in this case that the 14th amendment which says ‘no person shall be denied equal protection under the law’ should apply to them as a corporation. In other words, that as a corporation they should have rights under the constitution because the 14th amendment, when it was written to free the slaves in the 1870’s, the 14th amendment didn’t say ‘no natural person shall be denied equal protection under the law.’ Instead it says ‘no person.’ And for hundreds of years of common law we had this distinction between natural persons, you and me, and artificial persons: churches, governments, corporations.

And so Delphin Delmas, on January 26th, 1885, this is in my book, “Unequal Protection”. In fact, I think it’s the only place that it’s ever been published, because I actually found the notes, Delphin Delmas’s own notes of his arguments before the Supreme Court. This is what he said before the court. He said,The defendant claims [that the state’s taxation policy]… this had to do with two different counties taxing the railroad at two different rates, and they said, “that violates the portion of the 14th amendment which provides that no state shall be denied any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” He said, The shield behind which [the Southern Pacific Railroad] attacks the Constitution and laws of California is the Fourteenth Amendment. It argues that the amendment guarantees to every person within the jurisdiction of the State the equal protection of the laws; that a corporation is a person; that, therefore, it must receive the same protection as that accorded to all other persons in like circumstances. …

To my mind, the fallacy, if I may be permitted so to term it, of the argument lies in the assumption that corporations are entitled to be governed by the laws that are applicable to natural persons. That, it is said, results from the fact that corporations are [artificial] persons, and that the last clause of the Fourteenth Amendment refers to all persons without distinction.
The defendant has been at pains to show that corporations are persons, and that being such they are entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. … The question is, Does that amendment place corporations on a footing of equality with individuals?

And then he goes on to the whole thing he says,When the law says, ‘Any person being of sound mind and of the age of discretion may make a will,’ or ‘any person having arrived at the age of majority may marry,’ I presume the most ardent advocate of equality of protection would hardly contend that corporations must enjoy the right of testamentary disposition or of contracting matrimony. And he goes on from there, basically pointing out that people and corporations are completely different things.

Here is the big problem. If this court rules that corporations can participate in political discourse, right now we have laws that prohibit, remember the whole Al Gore, the Buddhist temple thing, how some of that money was coming from off-shore. Turned out it wasn’t, but you know, it got the right wingers pretty hysterical for a while.

We have corporations in the United States that are owned in large part by entities that are not in the United States. In fact some of them are owned by the Government of Communist China, large chunks of their stock. About 20% of the members of the boards of directors of the hundred largest corporations in America, the Fortune 100 companies, about 20% of their boards are non-US citizens. We’re talking transnational corporations. Their interests are not the same of those as a citizen.

And yet it looks like our Supreme Court is about to give them the rights that you and I have to political free speech. Because it is going to assert, and it has asserted over the years, in this case that I’m talking about, Santa Clara County VS. Southern Pacific Railroad, actually the court did not rule that corporations were persons, but they have been claiming that ever since then because the clerk of the court, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburg and New York railroad, wrote into a head note – the commentary on the case – which has no legal standing, a quote from the chief justice who had since died, he was dying of congestive heart failure during the year the proceedings happened, he died the next year. This was published two years later. He wrote that the chief justice said, “a corporation is a person and therefore entitled to protection under the 14th amendment.” When nobody knows if the chief justice said that. Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the case. So what this is going to come down to, is whether corporations have the rights of persons in the United States, whether they have free speech rights and, this is just a huge, huge issue.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

Now, the toddler found on the steps was an orphan, not because he had suffered some outrageous fate in the manner that an actual human baby would have had to suffer to reach that status, but because the "courthouse baby" had simply never had any parents at all.   Clearly acting in an unexpected compassion, the "court house gang" had kept the truth from the child, telling him that, in fact, an old Supreme Court ruling had created him and made him an actual, organic person.

Once the infant corporation had been placed in a nice foster home, several other aspects of the child's unusual organic nature soon became apparent.  He never cried.  He was extremely cruel to other children in the home, seemingly without so much as a hint of remorse, no matter what awful thing he did.  However, most interesting of all, even though he ate voraciously every scrap of food that came anywhere near him -- including the meals meant for the other children -- the child required no diapers.  Finally, the little dickens stole everything in the foster home which wasn't bolted down, instantly denying any guilt and blaming one of his peers.
His foster parents began to doubt the "organic" nature of the little guy.

Once, when he had grown a little older, these foster parents asked him point blank "Are you actually a human child?  Will you become a 'person' when you grow up?  Maybe you aren't actually a person, at all!"

The young boy exploded defensively.  "I am a too person and I can prove it!"  He instantly cited, book and page, every word of the imaginary Supreme Court ruling Thom described above, and that solved that.

Idea Number Two:  When You Grow Up, You Will Be A Corporate Citizen

Now, the "court house gang" had already convinced the little fellow that he had the perfect right -- because of the imaginary old Supreme Court Ruling -- to just jump in wherever he pleased to "money bomb" the election of any candidate that he didn't like.  The idea was that, since he was a person and a citizen, he would have the same rights to influence elections as any other citizen who was also a person.

However, aside from the diaper business, there seemed to be a few other interesting differences between our little corporation and the other children.  He didn't ever get sick.  He never had to fight for  his country.  He was essentially immortal, making all the ethical claptrap controlling the anti-social behavior of normal children irrelevant to him. He was convinced that he really didn't have to pay taxes.  And he, as he grew up, became incredibly adept at bribing everyone who happened to have something which he could not outrightly steal.

In no time, the little corporation had grown into what could pass for an adult.  His childhood habits of greed and violence had gradually also matured.  Now, as a full fledged gangster in his own right, a social miscreant for whom his old mentors, the "court house gang," would have nothing but sincere admiration, he unleashed himself on the public.  His old "petty crime" days had now turned into  a "profit at any price" rampage.  Insider trading became one of his favorite past times.
Finally, the young corporation knew better than to try to simply steal what he wanted from that old gang, and he immediately went to work bribing them.

How Things Might Have Turned Out Differently

What factors could have changed the way this evil little monster matured into an adult Visigoth?

MeanMesa has some ideas.

Perhaps the Constitutional position of "Corporate Citizen Status" might include a few responsibilities which all the other, more organic, citizens shoulder in their efforts to keep the country running.  For one thing, a Corporate Citizen should not be allowed to drag the entire country into profit wars around the world whenever even the slightest opportunity arose.

A Corporate Citizen should have to sign his name to giant campaigns of propaganda and outright lies.  That is, sign his name everytime.  The other citizens have to sign their names when they attack politicians.  He should have to sign his name, too.

A Corporate Citizen should happily pay FICA taxes on his entire, uh, profits.  And, that wouldn't be the toothless FICA taxes which amount to "not so much as a hiccup" to the incredibly wealthy.  That would be FICA taxes at the highest rate on every dime of his "profits."

This might seem a bit outrageous, but we can look at some examples of, well, less than exemplary Corporate Citizenship.  One case is the giant chain store, WalMart.  Salaries at WalMart -- since the corporation intimidated every employee who so much as burped the word 'union' --  are so low that the rest of us have to subsidize the workers with Federal help so they can make ends meet.

Another example is Big Oil.  Even when gasoline was $4 a gallon and oil profits were flying into their "money bin" like a California mudslide, the rest of us were still plunking down $18 billion a year in tax credits for the monsters.  Estimates of all Corporate Welfare in the country run around $175 billion a year.

Perhaps our little foundling might have turned out a little more responsible if he understood the idea of a windfall profits tax, and not just in hard times, all the time.

Maybe he would have become a more patriotic citizen if he had watched his corporate cronies go to prison for war profiteering.  And, here, we aren't speaking of putting corporations into prison, just their organic "human" bosses.

Our little foundling, now a full blown Corporate Citizen, intends to make certain that none of these unpleasant outcomes even possibly lies ahead in his future.  With the "court house gang's" legalization of unlimited corporate money in absolutely any election he wants to throw in his own favor, he can make sure that no pesky politicians -- those would be patriotic supporters of a democratic government -- ever see the front door anywhere from the local office of the dog catcher to the Congress in Washington, DC.

What We Can Do

There are a few brave Congressmen -- always Democrats, of course -- who are proposing legislation to try to limit the damage of this last disastrous decision.  Write your Representative and Senator.  If he or she is supporting one of these bills, express your gratitude.  If someone in your Congressional delegation is working against one of these measure, roll up your sleeves, get busy and get rid of the crook.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Neutron?

MeanMesa was "caught off guard" a little when the President announced his support for a renewal of the nuclear reactor idea.  We'll be the first to admit that, upon hearing his plan, we were entirely ready to immediately throw such a proposal under the bus.  In fact, immediately dismissing the idea was not only effortless, but actually so well lubricated with decades of "liberal" talking points that, at least at first, such a dismissal seemed eminently rational and reasonable.

After all, MeanMesa is, uh, famous for being constantly rational and reasonable

Although it might run far too close to exposing ourselves to the reactionary terror of actually thinking something through, we decided to, well, think it through.  If, as one of MeanMesa's highly respected and appreciated readers, you steadfastly remain totally committed to consuming only "talking points" as your Third Being Food, perhaps you should stop here and wait for a less thought provoking post.

In fact, this MeanMesa position might very well represent a stomach-churning snack indeed!  The self-calming convenience of mindlessly dealing exclusively with pre-packaged "talking points" might, in fact, leave your digestion quite unsettled.

To assist the administration -- by its own admission, already "public opinion challenged" -- in an effort to add perspective to the plan, MeanMesa has prepared a brief over view of the nuclear reactor business.  Let's address some of the salient questions.

1.  Nuclear reactors are too dangerous

The premier examples of precisely why nuclear reactors are too dangerous derive mostly from two incidents.  For the history challenged -- that is, for visitors who are simply too young to remember -- there have been two widely publicised nuclear accidents in recent history which seem to continue to dominate public opinion on the matter.

By far the worst nuclear reactor accident ever occurred at Chernobyl a small city in the Ukraine, with a Soviet reactor.  The facility was designed with roughly the same meat-handed, cast iron technology that the old Soviet Union employed with most projects.  Since, conveniently, there were no elections where public outrage could voice any objection to such reckless engineering, the Soviets built all sorts of things from their "18 wheeler," orbital delivery Vostoc Energia rockets to shaky hydroelectric dams which, on a good day, could power a 9 watt light bulb to a dim, depressing glow in the local party headquarters.

(MeanMesa has selected Wiki data for this abbreviated recap.)

The Chernobyl Reactor Accident

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (then part of the Soviet Union), now in Ukraine.

It is considered to be the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history and the only level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. It resulted in a severe release of radioactivity following a massive power excursion that destroyed the reactor. Most fatalities from the accident were caused by radiation poisoning.
On April 26, 1986 at 01:23 a.m. (UTC+3) reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant, near Pripyat in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, exploded. Further explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including the nearby town of Pripyat. Four hundred times more fallout was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.[2]

The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Northern Europe, with some nuclear rain falling as far away as Ireland. Large areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people. According to official post-Soviet data,[3] about 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus.

The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years while forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive.[4]

The nuclear reactor after the disaster. Reactor 4 (center). Turbine building (lower left). Reactor 3 (center right).

Chernobyl Disaster.jpg 

The "hole" which is visible in the Wiki photograph was the product of multiple systems failures.  The nuclear core, no longer able to cool itself correctly, melted.  Matters continued to "go downhill" from there.  For weeks following the accident, the news carried reports of the radioactive cloud slowly making its way around the planet.

Within the US, another reactor accident was widely publicised.  MeanMesa will include slightly more material here, because the Three Mile Island reactor accident became even more of a public perception problem due to its domestic location.  Again, from Wiki:

The Three Mile Island Reactor Accident

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core meltdown in Unit 2 (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. It was the most significant accident in the history of the American commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, but less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerous iodine-131.[1]
The accident began at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of reactor coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss of coolant accident due to inadequate training and human factors industrial design errors relating to ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant's user interface. The scope and complexity of the accident became clear over the course of five days, as employees of Metropolitan Edison (Met Ed, the utility operating the plant), Pennsylvania state officials, and members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tried to understand the problem, communicate the situation to the press and local community, decide whether the accident required an emergency evacuation, and ultimately end the crisis.

In the end, the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until much later, following extensive investigations by both a presidential commission and the NRC. The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that "there will either be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them. The same conclusion applies to the other possible health effects."[2] Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation releases from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, though these findings have been contested by one team of researchers.[3]

Public reaction to the event was probably influenced by the release (12 days before the accident) of a movie called The China Syndrome, depicting an accident at a nuclear reactor.[4] Communications from officials during the initial phases of the accident were felt to be confusing.[5] The accident was followed by a cessation of new nuclear plant construction in the US.

Although the Three Mile Island accident did not result in another one of those distinctive -- and troubling -- "holes," public opinion, especially for the local inhabitants of the area, predictably, "headed South."   In fact, please note the final sentence in the quoted excerpt. Although there was never a specific law passed prohibiting the construction of more reactors, the public was sufficiently inflamed about the incident that no new reactors have been built since Three Mile Island.

However, that is not to say that the US doesn't rely on a significant amount of electricity generation from such plants. Again, from Wiki:

NRC regions and locations of nuclear reactors, 2008

In fact, there are 104 nuclear generation plants operating in the United States at the time of this post.  They produce roughly 20% of domestic electrical power.  Most of them were already running when the Three Mile Island incident occurred, some were under construction but came on line shortly afterwards.  A nuclear plant represents a huge investment of money and a long construction lead time as engineering projects go.

The map (above) shows where these nuclear plants are located around the country.  For more information about nuclear power in the US, follow this link:

The Wiki article on this subject is also very clear about the number of less dramatic nuclear plant accidents which have been reported and processed through the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Agency through the years.  Happily, most of the heavy lifting associated with reading through this post is complete -- all without a single tidbit of troubling physics or math stuff, to boot!   
MeanMesa's point, however, is now ready.  Did we think that absolutely no improvements to reactor plant design have occurred since Three Mile Island's "bad day" in 1979?  Further, in the same period the world has watched China, India, France and others build and use nuclear plants for their own electricity generation, while we, in the US, have "enjoyed" a Senate which has consistently been in the pocket of domestic coal mining and coal fired power plant corporations.

China presently has 21 nuclear power plants either planned, in operation or under construction.
It is, clearly, the Senate's plan that the United States should proceed into the 21st Century with either a mule drawn buggy or a steam locomotive.  The President's words on the subject were clear enough.  We are exporting nuclear technology to China while we have no new nuclear plants here.  In the energy driven future economy of the world, we will be -- if we continue in the paralyzing lockstep of the Senate --  importing all the stuff we need for green energy from abroad.

Nuclear plant designs have developed a great deal since Three Mile Island.  What hasn't progressed much is the thinking of the American people.  Thanks to the media's infatuated greed to sustain the "horse and buggy" days until all the coal mine owners are rich enough, a new aristocracy of elitist oligarchs, it is clearly time for us to "kiss the girlfriend."

2. Nuclear Electricity Is Too Expensive

Perhaps the first stop in this discussion will be establishing whether or not the blood of your neighbor's son who was killed in the W's Oil War can be added to the balance sheet when we make such a comparison.  The next point will be whether or not we expect energy costs to, somehow, magically remain where they are now.  MeanMesa can easily recall gasoline at 16 cents per gallon.

Federal subsidies for what is deemed "alternate energy" or "renewable energy" are huge compared to the federal subsidies for nuclear power.  The President's $8 billion addition to industry loan guarantees -- announced in his speech last week -- doesn't really seem too outrageous when compared to the $60 billion direct subsidy already applied to renewables.  (The nuclear industry $8 billion is a loan guarantee.  The $60 billion renewable energy subsidy is "cash out of pocket" which doesn't even need to be paid back.)

Of course, it would be wonderful if we could construct three or four million windmills in the next few years.  We might add an aggressive tidal generation plan and boost our already less than glamorous alternative fuel. program  In the mean time, while we are building all this stuff, we could just continue to burn more and more mountains of coal, perhaps persuading the rest of the world that they "owe us a little indulgence,"  that is, they should just continue to breathe in more of our pollution until we get our act together.

By the way, it would be nice to still be able to turn on the lights while we are redesigning our energy infrastructure.  The task faces the obvious technical and engineering problems, always aggravated by cost and financing.  However, any effort to move forward will also be met by a few dozen "wholly owned Senators" and their "coal fired" masters.  That problem could delay the solution to our energy needs for decades.

It has already.

3.  Nuclear Power Cannot be Financed or Insured

This argument might make sense if the current proposal were to simply build more 1970's style reactors.  In fact, the inability to finance and insure nuclear plant operation really needs to be divided into two, distinct categories.

On one hand, the financing and insuring companies' underwriters have to look at the viability and safety of the technical aspects of new nuclear plants.  This is not only consistent with American free market principles, it is simply good business practice.  Who, in their right mind, would want to spend a decade of construction along with billions of investor dollars to build something so dangerous that it was little more than a leaky, radioactive "child killing"  liability suit waiting to happen?
However, on the other hand we have something similar to the killing of the cats in Lisbon in preparation for the Black Plague in 1230 AD.  "No need to think about anything!  Just kill the cats!  They are all Satanic familiars to witches and demons!"

Perhaps we have to consider whether the root of the financing and insuring difficulties the nuclear power industry is facing arise from actual liability or carefully crafted public opinion.  You know, more 21st Century mistaken certainties similar to the "cat killing" idea.  For medieval Europe, the unanticipated consequence was too many plague infected rats.  For the 21st Century a rather more predictable consequence will be to remain under the thumb of the coal industry until every Arab with an oil well owns our sidewalks!

Actually, of course, that Arab crack was unfair.  It is the coal industry which is fighting against rational progress for the nation's energy policy.

MeanMesa thinks that a reasonably well informed American would need some serious anti-depressants to classify such an outcome as an "unanticipated consequence."  An insistence on continuing with uninformed stupidity is simply not going to solve this problem, no matter how unfair the hill billies and bigots might consider such a predicament.  "Yew know, book learnin' 'n stuff..."

Sorry.  We will have to get educated and start thinking if we intend to chart our course through the energy challenges which face us.

4.  The Nuclear Waste Problem Can Never Be Solved

Now, doesn't such a proposition seem suspiciously convenient when it can be translated into justifying an on-going economic "gang rape" for the coal industry?  After all, even since prehistoric times we humans have never been able to solve problems.  According to the coal folks, that's the problem!  'Nuff said.

The waste management quandary shares many of the same problems as the, well, cat killing problem.  Of course there are liabilities and risks associated with any solution to the waste handling challenge, but those can be divided in a way similar to the "too dangerous to insure or finance" idea.

There are material liabilities which must be addressed in designing a solution to the waste problem.  But the engineering problems are only the beginning.  Thanks to the complicity of a suspiciously willing media with the coal industry's magnates, every potential engineering solution is side tracked by carefully groomed public resistance.

The "resistance" does not originate from engineers and physicists.  It is the mindless echo of regular citizens who have been groomed to a position of automatic fear and loathing by a carefully orchestrated scheme of "hopelessness" and fear.  And not an innocent scheme, either.  The media manipulation of any possible waste handling process has been so thorough that Americans now trust no one who might have a good idea.

How about an alternate assumption?

Why not assume that, like other difficult or seemingly intractable problems, we will solve the waste obstacle?  The likelihood of that solution will be enhanced if the industry is faced with such a necessity.  That same likelihood will be diminished if no one ever becomes interested in solving the problem, that is, if the entire industry is condemned so vehemently that there is no possible design development incentive around.

Back to Obama

Our insightful President sees some very troubling "writing on the wall." As a nation, we are not likely to be able to jump start our renewable program with sufficient scope and commitment to rely on it for a solution to our energy appetite any time soon. With a few dozen "bought and paid for" Senators, powered by the incredible resources of the coal industry standing in the way -- not just in the way of nuclear generation, but also in the way of wind mills, alternate fuel and responsible oil drilling -- good solutions will face enough of a serious public relations problem to overshadow even the engineering challenge of the waste fuel.

In a way generally consistent with his campaign, President Obama has made another tough decision.  He simply doesn't intend to be the President who allowed the lights to dim while the coal moguls consolidated their wealth at the expense of the country's future.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Details of the Stimulus "Failure"

MeanMesa received the following note from David Plouffe (pronounced "pl aof "), recently the head of President Obama's campaign team.  He has now moved to a much more effective position working for the progressive candidates in the 2010 mid-term elections.  The following letter was sent by the OFA.  MeanMesa thought visitors not on the OFA mailing list might like to take a look at it.

By the way, why aren't MeanMesa visitors on the OFA mailing list?

The letter:  

Chad --

Wondering what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- President Obama's stimulus bill -- has accomplished? Look at this:

Learn more about the stimulus and the road to recovery

(A note from MeanMesa -- you really have to click on this baby to see the whole thing!)

One year ago tomorrow, after tens of thousands of you shared stories and called your representatives, the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

And while this anniversary isn't a cause for celebration, there is reason to be optimistic. This chart makes it clear: We're on the road to recovery.

Still, we know there is a long way to go. Many Americans are still struggling, and creating jobs remains President Obama's top priority.

Click here to learn more about the President's record on the economy, what we're doing to put more Americans back to work, and get easy-to-share information you can pass on to friends and family:

Thanks for making change happen,

David Plouffe

At this point, we will refresh all the eager bar chart viewers with bar chart from a previous MeanMesa post.  Yes, another bar chart.

This chart, of course, deals with the money totals of the national debt.  If one wishes, this can be inverted, then compared to the OFA "Jobs" chart.  During the W's autocracy, not only was the treasury being looted by the neo-cons (Yup, the same ones who are now bitching about deficits... Most of the Republicans now doing all the whining were like  mindless zombies, very busy voting "yes" on all that debt.) but, predictably, job losses unavoidably followed.  On the OFA "Jobs" chart, the autocrat's interest in doing anything for "Main Street" -- like trying to stop the plummeting employment numbers -- were entirely neglected.

"Durn, is et ever hard t' fahnd tahm fer stuff lahk thet when thur's, ya' know, lootin' to be done!"

To update the "looting" report, two very snakey Senators, Max Baucus (D[?]- Montana) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) groomed what was presented as a "bi-partisan" jobs bill in the Senate.  Now, MeanMesa can remind all visitors -- as evidenced in the first chart above -- Republicans are allergic to actual jobs bills dues to a tragic genetic defect.  Senator Baucus, infamous for heading the Finance Committee which produced the Senate Health Care Bill (also known as the Senate Wealth Care Bill for health insurance corporations...) reached across the aisle to birth this thing.

Naturally, to make the thing a little more "palatable" to the looters, certain, well, uh, pork had to be added.  The exact recipe called for 10% of the bill's cost to be TOTALLY DEDICATED to job creation and 90% to be either out right pork or a tasty Senate pork flavored substitute ingredient available only at the room temperature "day old counter" of WalMart.

The Senate:  Where dreams go to die.

The looting was so outrageous that, although Senator Reid would have eagerly agreed to contributing to a testicle implant program to get a bi-partisan anything through the paralyzed Senate, he killed it, saying that it would be simply too embarrassing to let it pass.

Thank you, Republicans.  All of us here, staggering under the economic train wreck you left when you were through last time, realize that your politics trumps our need for food on the table.  Egad! What were we thinking?


Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Empty Delight for Climate Change Denyers

Naturally, MeanMesa has been as infatuated as everyone else -- at least, those of us boldly claiming sufficient literacy to notice such things -- with the chorus of shrill voices insisting that the storms which have hit the Eastern US are "proof positive" that global warming is a sinister fraud designed to separate us from yet more of our tax dollars.  No matter how attractive, we can throw this most recent, cheap conspiracy propaganda under the bus.

First, let's substitute "climate change" for "global warming."  Both terms ultimately describe the same thing, but the frenzied obsession to strip all credibility from Al Gore (Including denigrating his Nobel Prize -- along with as many other Nobel Prizes as possible.  Illiterate hill billies, bigots and other neo-con freaks are allergic to leadership -- they think everyone else is like they are...) has finally soiled the "global warming" idea.

The journey of both ideas through the cynical "meat grinder" of a corporate media with an avarice-like profit agenda has been quite a bit less than rational.

Still, perhaps MeanMesa should make a few points.

The "climate" of the Earth can be, in one sense, described as a general model of the flow of water.  The water on the planet has traditionally been in certain places -- local areas where agriculture flourishes and other areas where it doesn't.  Predictably, social groups have gradually migrated to places which promise good harvest, clean drinking water and the like.

Along with the migration of populations to these more habitable areas, we see immense investments of everything else which have, understandably, traveled there along with them.  This "everything else" can take many forms including ownership of historical homelands, flocks of sheep, fields of wheat, and, yes, even WalMarts, coal mines, interstate highway systems and other things.

All this is fine.  The gradual flow of all these accoutrements of civilization marks the foundation of our general history as a people (species).  However, when the water starts flowing in a different, changed way, the value of all these different artifacts also changes.  When the water starts winding up in other areas, leaving the old places without enough, the value of all these elements of society begins to change.

Previously rich fishing areas become barely able to provide much food at all.  Places where crops have previously been abundant enough to support export, can barely grow enough to feed themselves.  We can assume that all sorts of unpleasant geopolitical responses will follow pretty quickly after those "ribs starts showing."  For example, if your particular society winds up facing such challenges, you can always arm yourselves and invade someone near by who still has what you need.

Those "invasions" aren't always the armored column crashing across the border, either.   In fact, right here in New Mexico (the Galactic Command Center for MeanMesa...), a little more rainfall might increase the price tag on some of our desert real estate.  Although that might, at first, seem to be a positive development, those of us who already live here are already so poor that we can barely afford it now!  If the place were "gentrified" as a result of having more rainfall, we might have to invade Oklahoma.  Yuck.

Although aggressive action might temporarily solve your personal "food on the table" problem, it will unavoidably leave your deposed neighbors with a new one of their own.  If you can demonize them adequately with some sort of religious nonsense, perhaps you can justify "driving them into the sea" or some other sort of "final solution."  In the end, however, beyond all the bullets and bombs, it will remain essentially a food problem -- one usually based even more fundamentally on a water problem.

So, absent the unsettling introduction of any troubling mathematics or dull  statistics, where is this going?

Loose the common limits on your thoughts for a moment and consider this.  In the last month we have seen the East coast of the country receive an historically large snow fall while the Winter Olympics site in Van Couver languishes in an unprecedented mid-winter warm spell.

Climate change is a very big deal, and it is happening now.  It is not politics.  In fact, it is moving rapidly to a state so serious that politics, our only collective force great enough to compensate for it, may be slipping too far into the dysfunctional to respond in time.

MeanMesa suspects that, as a species, we may not even be capable of comprehending what approaches.