Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sample SENTIENCE graphics

A Short Explanation
What kind of a weird post is this?

MeanMesa wrote a book several years ago, and -- thanks to switching computers. operating systems and drawing programs -- many of that book's diagrams are now "trapped" in a giant pdf format drop box file. The posting of these images [screen shots from the pdf file] is a test of blogger's graphic handling abilities. Since the text on the diagrams is turning out more or less legible, the plan to attempt to post the whole thing can progress.

If the entire book can be uploaded and posted on blogger, visitors here will be able to read the whole thing. Once it is posted, there will be a link made available here at SHORT CURRENT ESSAYS.

Monday, March 28, 2016

For the World's Future- US and Russian Federation

Patience, Please
We'll all have to up the ante a bit more for this hand.

A post such as this one immediately runs the risk of simply being disregarded as the ranting of an irrational dreamer with an impossible vision. MeanMesa eagerly acknowledges this very sensible response, so -- at this point -- there can be little more offered that a cordial, well mannered invitation to indulge this old high desert blogger for a few minutes longer.

If we are seeking some alternative to the history already written -- the depressingly repetitive accounts of mankind's geopolitical violent, murderous foibles which fill chapter after dismal chapter of the tomes in a library's dusty history section -- we really will need to do a little dreaming.

Watching Obama in Havana turned out to be a "pregnant inspiration." That was the inspirational encounter which probably started this geriatric dreaming episode. In any event it's clearly time to "share" this dream.

The Dream
Along with a few details.

The nations of the United States and the Russian Federation merge - agreeing to the international equivalent of a joint venture -- on everything.

Okay, MeanMesa acknowledges the fact that most of the blog visitors who have gotten this far are ready to click on practically anything else the Internet is offering at the moment. However, no matter how much this might appear to be poorly authored, bawdy science fiction, the proposal [no matter how unlikely it is to ever reach actual implementation] enjoys more than enough "hypothetical" inertia to merit consideration.

The "traditional" means for one nation to "join" with another is emerge as the "winner" in a violent military contest. Unhappily, this is the exclusive existing model. Even worse, this "exclusive" model seems to be the only one considered, that is, there are no historical records of any other approach being successful. In most cases the historical lead up to such violence suggested that, given time, the conflict would be inevitable regardless of efforts to avoid it.

Here, we consider the high probability of the competition between the Russian Federation and the United States to be at some "intermediate point" in a similar progression. To date this competition has been a continuous, smoldering series of confrontations -- expensive and nerve wracking confrontations which have never produced much in the way of progress toward a more stable condition or a decisive resolution. [Read more: Yeltsin's Rapprochement with the West]

MeanMesa considers this a pressing invitation for some "big picture" thinking -- some much bigger, big picture thinking.

Roughing Out the "Big Picture"
The inevitable next step when the "little pictures" 
seem to be going no where.

It may be quite comforting to conclude that the "less than nightmarish," yet perpetually unsettled, current relations between these two nuclear heavy weights is something of an accomplishment. It is. However, the competition continues unabated. Somewhat less reassuring is that both parties seem to have accepted that there are no alternatives to simply continuing the same dangerous competition.

A true "big picture" should probably include an end to this. Further, at this point both parties already quietly understand that such an "end" will have nothing to do with one "successfully conquering" the other. 

The very visible details of both past history and future possibilities have permanently eliminated the "winner take all" option. Our world and our species now demand a much more productive alternative.

Clearly, we will have to 1. put this together and then, 2. make it work. Although this may be an unthinkable fantasy at the moment, we should probably at least start thinking about it. Now, back to the proposal.

We can proceed from here along two, distinct lines for this post.

First, we should consider what is meant by the "on everything" part of the proposal

Second, we should consider at least an abbreviated list of the advantages and disadvantages the proposal might offer both parties [and, perhaps, the rest of the world].

When global matters have reached the current, perilous state, dreaming is not optional. It's abundantly clear that continuing on our present path guarantees future disaster, and it's equally clear that there is a dismal paucity of alternate ideas emerging -- big ideas which might, possibly, offer the prospect of equally big solutions. We need some really exciting, possibly "game changing" solutions right about now.

Every specific point expressed [below] in this post could easily elicit far more discussion than what is offered here. The point is to allow this idea the opportunity to "mature" in the thoughts of MeanMesa's very appreciated visitors. Granted, all this seems quite alien to historical precedent -- there are no "similar" cases of competitive nations simply merging without military conquest.

It would be quite nice to insert links to scholarly papers all through this proposal, but not many folks are writing about ideas like this one. In the light of this, we must proceed on the very shaky basis of dreaming.

First, we should consider what is meant by the "on everything" part of the proposal.

1. The "depth" of the joint venture arrangement -- how far would it go?

The idea here is that the "arrangement" would go absolutely as far as possible. Practically every facet of life and governance in the Russian Federation and the United States would be opened to this change. This wide range would include the judicial, economic and social aspects of life in the respective countries.

Naturally, such broad changes could only be implemented gradually, yet, with the quality of determination and leadership adequate for such a grand undertaking, the concepts comprising the fundamental outline could be developed even before the parties agreed to commit. Make a plan. Know what is being debated. Try very hard to trust each other.

The skeleton of such a proposal would clearly involve such matters as:
  • "maneuvering" the existing constitutional provisions into a compatible form so that neither presented an unacceptable contradiction to the other -- the Russian Federation AND the United States make equally inauthentic claims of being "democratic" -- both are functional oligarchies;
  • integrating the collective electorate in preparation for conducting a combined election for the governance of the newly unified parties -- including the politics involved;
  • restructuring national trade laws to encompass the economies of both parties; and,
  • integrating national defense forces into a single, unified, cohesive military.

2. Which nations are invited to join the new arrangement?

After such a conjunction had been accomplished, the world would have a very different geopolitical reality. The "post combination" global actors would be the newly formed Russian/American nation, the EU, the Peoples Republic of China and the "third world."

Spend a moment visualizing what form the current mayhem of international affairs might assume when global powers were distributed in this fashion. MeanMesa suspects that some very constructive difference might emerge. The current crop of nations with the ambition of being super powers -- including the United States -- have not demonstrated particularly impressive leadership skills or foresight so far.

There is no compelling mandate to exclude Europe and China from the "invitation," but MeanMesa assumes that neither would be very interested.

Remember. This is only a "what if" proposition.

Second, we should consider at least an abbreviated list of the advantages and disadvantages the proposal might offer both parties [and, perhaps, the rest of the world].

Business is GREAT! [image source]

1. The Costs and Consequences of Unending Competition

Between the two of us we have savaged the Middle East for oil [we're both now "licking our chops" as we gaze at the Arctic -- where we've already melted most of the ice], emboldened, tempted, punished and tormented Iran, reestablished the autocracy in Egypt, violently destabilized Pakistan, essentially destroyed Iraq and Syria -- at the cost of millions of lives -- and cast Afghanistan into a nightmarish state of confused, chaotic, stark, austere dependence. While accomplishing all this, both the United States and the Russian Federation have eagerly poured literally trillions of dollars and rubles into "Cold War" style arms development. Most of the "products" of this out dated, geopolitical shadow are weapons each is hoping will defeat the other in an imaginary scenario of nuclear war.

Further, it's hardly the case that the planet wasn't already frantically begging for some attention while all this cash was being misdirected at "yesterday's fantasy." We all know that the planetary clock  is patiently ticking away the minutes until the really scary stuff slams into us.

Why think about the future?
There's always history ..
To date the "justifying claim" validating this mad house teetering on the precipice of vacuous, ideological self-destruction has been the consistent complaint that "we simply have no other options." Does this remain persuasive forever, or just until planetary conditions reach the cataclysmic panic point?

There are a great number of "other projects" we -- in both countries and the rest of the world -- need to be addressing.

2. The Economic "Jack Pot" of Bending the Curve to a Better Future

An impressive collection of possible advantages for this list emerge immediately. To avoid the outcome of this post expanding to the blogger equivalent of War and Peace, we can be brief.

  • Durability and Stability - This world has an astonishing surplus of well armed nations which seem anxious to "start shooting" for just about every reason in the book. This condition will degrade even more as the planet begins to experience the inevitable catastrophes of climate change. We need an alternative to staring bleakly at millions or billions of dollars worth of weapons while we ponder the question of why we didn't purchase what we really needed.

  • Carrying a Big Stick to the Bully Pulpit - Hopefully, the parties now so eager for international conflicts would be constructively "impressed" by the stabilizing leadership of a new super power player which had become "twice as super" as before.

  • Better Business - Two of the largest economies in the world would enjoy the additional, reciprocal access to both markets and production capacity completely unencumbered by the old mistrust and animosity.

  • A Strong, Secular Voice - Most international violence currently legitimized by any sort of theocratic justification is accompanied by the wishful possibility that even more combatants will "join the fray" for the same tribal reasons and justification. If the largest of these possible "additional participants" were a well established, dependably secular interest, the violently fantastic dreams of a "holy war" become much more limited, and hopefully, much less "sensible."

  • Pulling the Plug on International Terrorism - When the two "bullies" have announced that neither of them is at all interested in pursuing geopolitical ambitions through the mechanism of supporting client states anxious to employ terrorist tactics, the crowd at the "birthday party" will diminish rapidly. Terrorism will be stripped of its "noble idealism" and finally relegated to face its actual reality -- simple, sociopathic crime.

  • Real Muscle to Respond to Climate Change - There are monumental tasks ahead -- tasks which must be accomplished collectively if we intend to live comfortably on this planet. Eliminating the waste and political machinations of this endless competition would place the prospect of applying really powerful mitigation capacity at the forefront. Not endlessly wasting billions of dollars and rubles would also be a "big plus." A gigantic, stable super power might look pretty promising when the global mayhem of severe climate change hits at full strength, too.

  • Eliminating the oligarchs' exploitation of Cold War excuses - The perpetual diversion of massive government spending toward the military competition between the Russian Federation and the US is no secret, but just under the surface of this largess is a terrific reliance on the lingering effect of the respective Cold War propaganda of both parties. Even less frequently noted is the propaganda about all the other nations around the globe where an only slightly different competition was at play. Everywhere the Soviets appeared, the US showed up, too -- and vice versa. This expensive part of the "old model" has survived even to today. Within both nations the oligarchs and corporatists have continually profited by manufacturing the arms necessary for the conduct of what is practically unending global war. If a "cooperative coexistence" type national merger were to occur between these powerful parties, it might undercut the corporate arms death grip both nations are now experiencing.

  • Setting the Measure of Real National Leadership - There is no question that guiding these protagonists to such an unlikely and unprecedented objective would be a messy, complicated business. The process would require a sustained application of historically impressive leadership on both sides. The task would test not only the merit of individual leaders and statesmen but also the durability and capacity of each of the two electoral systems.

  • Complete cooperation in space exploration and extra planetary habitation - MeanMesa is convinced that the planetary civilization has been dawdling about with essentially insignificant distractions during a time when we should have been making far greater efforts -- and allocating far greater resources -- to interplanetary colonization. A "merged" Russian Federation and US space program would be able to achieve spectacular progress in this area. Think of moon colonies, Mars colonies and permanent stations on places such as Europe and Enceladus -- all inhabited with scientists and engineers from both nations cooperating productively.

  • Stabilizing and rehabilitating education - This world is paying the price daily for attempting to solve problems with masses of fundamentally uneducated or poorly educated humans. The US education system is in tatters, and MeanMesa suspects that the Russian Federation equivalent might well have similar difficulties. The efforts of two national education systems suddenly cast together might open new models and new processes in a very constructive way. The whole planet is presently suffering from a shocking lack of educational progress for a thousand reasons. If even one third of these instances of misdirection and under performance could be rectified by an influx of new energy and higher standards, the possible change could be overwhelming.

What To Expect
This idea ought to really "catch fire." right?

The response from both parties will probably be fairly similar.

[These days it doesn't even matter much exactly who "they" are...]

Seems like 10 cents is a little high.
How about "America Under Oligarchy?"[image]
Oh, OKAY. We can have very limited, token cooperation if the Russian or US billionaires can make a little money, but let's not go overboard. We simply cannot afford schools, teachers, river levies, highways, new bridges, health care or trains that go faster than 68 MPH -- much less climate change, global terror, aid to developing nations and so forth.

As WWII was ending 180 million Soviet citizens and 150 million US citizens got terrified into a monumentally embarrassing scam. The result was fifty plus years of absolute, unending, geopolitical, nuclear hysteria. [MeanMesa was there through the whole thing...] Although it appeared generally convincing for decades, the "adventure" definitely lost its old "Cold War" glamour in hind sight's cold light -- especially when that hindsight is taken from either one of two failed, nearly bankrupt, oligarchic, political processes.

Yes, the reality of the situation is chilling. Like us, the Russian Federation has fallen into the grip of war mongering oligarchs. There is currently no opposing force powerful enough to dislodge them from either  of the two societies. This proposal might actually accomplish that, or, at least, part of that.

MeanMesa hardly expects ideas like these to go "flying off the shelves," but even ideas about doing hard, complicated, challenging things can cross the "magic line" from fantasy to possibility as soon as people begin to seriously consider them.

In the meantime...

Sounds like it's time to start building the $3 Trillion dollar replacement for all these old F35's and the 3 Trillion рублей replacement for these old Sukhoi S37s to "keep the scam going." And, how are those new bombs coming along?

It's utterly insane to consider any other course of action, right?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Barack Obama, Drill, Baby, Drill and the Broken Shell

Actually, the tag at the left should say "NON-GOP." This blog post is certified to not contain the words "Trump" or "Cruz" anywhere in its content. It is about oil and gasoline pricing, not make believe, breathless politics questions which will never matter anyway. Enjoy the fresh air!

Thank you, MeanMesa

Crude Oil Pricing:
A Bitter Sweet, Economic Paradox
It's like the tide -- only with strings
 pulled by billionaire puppet masters.

Crude oil runs through the veins of the American economy like the blood of a death cage martial arts fighter. The "good things" can't really happen without it, and the "bad things" all seem to have at least something to do with bleeding it out from where it should have been for the "good things" to happen.

On blogs such as this one it is awkwardly easy to find page after page of ranting and raving about the oil tycoons and their oligarchic wet dreams of establishing perpetual, dynastic, family fortunes of "petro-dollars." Most of these complaints are, frankly, well deserved, overly genteel, "under statements" of the actual malicious reality.

[image MeanMesa]
Still, we see the "two or three edged sword" of an economic Damocles slowly swinging over the entire sector. When oil prices are sky high, Wall Street is humming in orgiastic joy, but American drivers are watching gas pump tallies painfully and slowly devouring their grocery budgets. Still, the declining numbers of Americans still boasting 401K, pensions or mutual fund accounts in the lingering aftermath of the Great Republican Recession of 2008 are quietly smiling as they receive their monthly statements.

However, when prices drop, Wall Street starts screaming, but drivers all across the country are very happily finding more and more discretionary income left in their pockets as they pull away from the SHELL station after topping off the tank. Those left over dollars find their way into the active parts of the US economy almost at once, boosting economic prosperity indicators such as the GDP and tax revenues.

[For any visitors who might consider such harsh words for Wall Street "over the top," please remember that the single largest holder of crude oil futures in the US economy is Goldman Sachs. The banksters have LOTS of crude futures without having to bother with messy drill rigs, environment wrecking leases or out of date, exploding oil trains. Read more: Goldman-Sachs-Sees-Oil-Bull-Market 2016-01-15_BLOOMBERG]

Poor Mr. Ox
You shouldn't have bet everything on oil.

[image source]
All of these factors become worthy of a blog post when they are mixed into a surreal soup of love-hate for the President's economic policies. and MeanMesa can remember gasoline prices in San Diego as they hit the $4 per gallon mark, and the current "affordability" of those same gallons is a direct result of the energy policies put in place by the Administration.

While there's plenty of talk about the new, post gasoline, energy economy -- for lots of really good reasons, it's going to take years to ween ourselves out the dependency mess we're in at the moment. At every moment between now and then someone's ox will be in the process of being gored.

Of course, MeanMesa would prefer to see that ox suffering slowly on Wall Street. Americans have already been bruised more than enough by the oligarchs' Ponzi scheme. Let's take a closer look at the "joys of wildly careening gasoline prices" brought to us by the current crop of out of control casino capitalists. 

All this is very dependably imaged to be the crude market's exclusive, organic reaction to changing geopolitical conditions. Rest assured. Every time the price of gasoline changes by a single penny on the tickers in the oligarch's country club parlor, the crude oil billionaires are tugging at the puppet strings and roaring with laughter. THAT's why we call them "petrogarchs."

Reagan's 1980's Recession,
 Economic Damages
and the Battered Crude Oil Market
Attention Republicans: "The economy has 
to stay alive to sell this junk at a profit."

Firing up the "way back" machine will offer us a reminiscent glance at just how things were in the 1980's with respect to the price of gasoline. 

At first it was a dazzlingly Utopian paradise for selling gasoline for an outrageous profit -- until the S&L crisis, increasing numbers of bank failures, jumping unemployment, deregulation of banking involvement in real estate risks and all the other delights of the Reagan Recession "altered" the playing field. By 1996 the economy was still struggling to recover, demand for crude was plummeting and prices were left at a dismal $25-30 per barrel. [1980's Recession/WIKI]

Around this time the corporate oil conglomerates were, naturally, complaining to Congress about regulatory limits on off shore drilling, national forest drilling, Alaskan ANWAR drilling and so on. The "petrograchs" perched in the executive conference rooms of these "horribly over regulated and abused" oil conglomerates were scheming to reestablish traditional crude prices so they could boost gasoline prices for a tasty "wind fall profit."

[Historical note: The oil corporations were not the only ones with an appetite for skewing the market into massive, artificial profit centers. At the time MeanMesa was living in San Diego. The corporate ENRON conglomerate had very strategically closed a good collection of generation plants "for maintenance," so larger cities in California were experiencing "brown outs." The unhappy result of this was that the California grid managers were forced to purchase premium priced electricity from neighboring states creating a rapid, marked increase in California electrical bills.

Sarah Palin [image]
Literally millions of California electric bills started their atmospheric ascent in no time. Without delving too deeply into wild conspiracy theories MeanMesa also presumes that the ENRON "electrogarchs" and the "horribly abused, oil conglomerate petrogarchs" were actively scheming with each other to depose the Governor and install a mindless weightlifter/movie star from Austria to "straighten out" their respective, terrifically painful, "over regulation" problems.]

By the 2008 election high gasoline prices had become the "vibrant life blood" component of the Republican Presidential campaign. The histrionic whining reached its apex when the job of continually screaming the "Drill, Baby, Drill!' mantra was handed over to the shrill, rasping voice of the tediously confused, Alaskan Vice Presidential candidate and oil production "expert," Sarah Palin. [Drill Baby Drill!/WIKI]

Perhaps a part of this discontent arises from MeanMesa's memories of paying 16 cents per gallon in the 1960's -- a per gallon price which changed very little year after year.

The Ugly Picture of the Big Crude Boys Shaking in Terror
Oh how the mighty have fallen...

The Guardian
Shell vows to sell $10bn extra assets as profits plunge 87%

Terry Macalister Energy editor
Thursday 4 February 2016
[Visit the original article Shell Profits Drop-The Guardian]

Collapse in oil price hammers profits as BG* takeover looms but CEO pledges not to conduct a fire sale or cut more jobs.
Shell profits have suffered thanks to the plunging oil price.
[*BG = British Gas - now an exploration company] 
Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Shell has promised to dispose of a further $10bn of assets this year but insisted it does “not intend to hold a fire sale”.

The sell-off commitment came as the Anglo-Dutch group reported an 87% collapse in annual profits to $1.9bn just as it completes its £35bn takeover of rivalBG.

Ben van Beurden, the Shell chief executive, had previously said the group wanted $30bn of asset sales following the BG deal and he now expects a third to come in the next 12 months without losing out on price.

“We do not intend to hold a fire sale. We don’t have to,” Van Beurden insisted while saying a general slump in costs across the industry had meant that the business was now making money again in the central North Sea.

Shell reported that quarterly earnings fell by 58% to $939m although the underlying profit of $1.8bn was in line with expectations.

Shell has been hammered by a collapse in oil prices which has left the key North Sea Brent crude as low as $32 per barrel in recent days. On Tuesday, BP unveiled the worst annual loss in its history at $6.5bn while Conoco in the US has just cut its dividend.

The company’s share price closed up more than 6% at £15.26, as commodity companies rallied on the back of rising oil prices. It is still down more than 10% since the start of the year.

BP makes record loss and axes 7,000 jobs

Van Beurden said he was committed to make “substantial changes” to cope with the lower cost of crude but has not increased the total number of job losses planned, with 7,500 gone and 2,800 still to come.

“The completion of the BG transaction, which we are expecting in a matter of weeks, marks the start of a new chapter in Shell, rejuvenating the company, and improving shareholder returns,” he said.

“We are making substantial changes in the company, reorganising our upstream, and reducing costs and capital investment, as we refocus Shell and respond to lower oil prices.”

The latest figures from Shell show quarterly oil and gas production down 5% and put quarterly cash flow from operating activities at $5.4bn with annual spending at $28.9bn, down 23% on the year before.

Over the last year Shell has ditched its controversial exploratory drilling operation in the Arctic and postponed or scrapped projects such as the LNG Bab gas field in Abu Dhabi and Canada LNG.

The company took a final investment decision on only four new projects last year and few are expected to be approved in 2016.

This strategy has started to drag down Shell’s reserve replacement ratio, a metric used to reflect new reserves added relative to the amount produced, down to 48%, even lower than BP.

Despite the dismal financial results, Van Beurden announced the 2015 annual dividend would be held at $1.88 and “is expected to be at least $1.88 per share in 2016”.

The Shell boss was reluctant to predict the direction of future oil prices but he expected them to start moving up from Thursday’s level of mid-$34 towards $50 over the next 12 to 18 months.

The BG merger still needs a low $60 oil price to make sense but the Shell boss said this was a long-term assessment and he remained confident the deal was advantageous to shareholders.

Asked at a briefing whether the company would urge British voters to reject Brexit in a referendum vote, Van Beurden said it was up to the public to decide but added: “It would be bad for the European Union. It would not be a good thing for Shell.”

Meanwhile, Greenpeace said the collapse of profits at oil companies was a result of making the wrong decisions on fossil fuels.

“Oil giants like Shell and BP are already paying a huge price for failing to bring their businesses into the 21st century,” said Greenpeace’s senior climate adviser Charlie Kronick.

“The more electric cars, solar panels, and better-insulated homes we have, the less fossil fuels we’re going to need and the less they’re going to be worth. Shell and BP have bet heavily on the wrong energy sources, and now they’re losing big.”

A Couple of Foreign Oligarchies Playing With Fire
For Big Stakes -- Including War and Recession
The Saudis and the Russians are still tossing in chips for their ante...

The international geopolitics of this mess are churning along at the "edge of an explosion." The Saudis could have probably frozen crude oil prices at the last OPEC meeting. Of course, there would have been a price because it would have meant cutting production and eliminating the glut of cheap oil which was drowning prices in the global market. Still, the Princes and King who would have had to take such a decision are literally trillionaires.

Continuing Saudi production levels which would ensure the glut for the foreseeable future was a strategic decision for them. The other OPEC countries were screaming for relief from the low prices, but the Royals knew that the glut would, in time, strike at the heart of economies of some potent nations they would never be able to hit by any other means -- Iran and the Russian Federation. 

Even with some of the sanctions lifted, Iran is still staring down the barrel of a crude market in the $30-$50 per barrel range. At this moment the Islamic Republic needs everything that oil money could possibly buy for them. The domestic economy is in shambles. Youth unemployment is sky high.

The Russian Federation has put all their "nested eggs" in the same basket. The Russian oligarchs probably thought that Putin's fantasy of resurrecting the old Soviet Union looked like fun in the beginning, but the international price for scooping up Crimea has now become a brutal hangover from a vodka soaked escapade of sheer masochism. Current crude oil prices amount to an ice pick delivered right in the middle of the agony.

Even the going price for illegal oil from ISIS has crashed. The Turkish markets for the stuff were funneling six digit monthly stipends to the crazies while the per barrel prices were better, but now, between the coalition air strikes on the Syrian and Northern Iraqi production facilities and the nearly worthless, low priced "black gold" being loaded into the caliphate's old tankers for the trip north, ISIS headquarters is replacing all the un-affordable luxuries from the early days with lots of appetite suppressing meth. [Thanks, Obama...]

The Social Media - Dancing on Big Oil's Grave

It may be cruel to speak ill of the dead,
but it's a slightly different moment when it's your abusive masters who are dying.

It's never been much of a "heavy lift" to incite an exercised condemnation of Big Oil in a late night, bar room complaint session, but even after setting such histrionics aside, the oil business tycoons have not enjoyed any social affection -- even in quieter moments -- from us "little people" for centuries. Nonetheless, this unavoidable "victim-hood" has never really included any workable alternatives. The grip of the crude oil billionaires has always been unassailable, ensconced deeply in the gears of a social fabric almost entirely reliant on gas guzzling automobiles.

Nonetheless, social media has, once again, drawn out a "new frankness" when it comes to comments about the on-going scheme. The facts driving such bravery are no secret -- 1. the United States is now one of the leading oil exporting countries, and 2. US factories are now un-apologetically producing automobiles which do not run on gasoline...and, SOME OF THEM ARE "RED HOT CHICK MAGNETS," too!

TESLA Chick Magnet - no gasoline, no smoke, no petrogarchs.

Further, MeanMesa is no stranger among those making this constant torrent of complaints about the damage the petrogarchs' Ponzi scheme has been perpetually inflicting on American crude consumers for years. Have a look at a couple of old MeanMesa sample posts [below].

And finally, no post about social media's response to this matter would be complete without a sample of what's currently appearing on Face Book.

The guy on the right has actually held a gasoline nozzle. 
[screenshot fB]

Flint - A GOP Poi$on Water Reader

MeanMesa doesn't usually "dig up old bones" from the back yard, but this outrageous story clearly deserves a little Short Current Essays treatment before the useless domestic media mysteriously just "lays it to rest." [WAIT! Is THAT Donald Trump's helicopter??!!]

You may have noted the category of this post: "reader."

There have been volumes of "reporting" -- most of it maudlin outrage -- about the events in Flint, but MeanMesa has selected a few articles considered to be illuminating enough to merit their inclusion in such a "reader." Quite beyond the more frequently encountered "clap trap," it is hoped that this particular collection may prove educational.

What the Governor has done is tantamount to murder -- murder most raw and chilling. Perhaps the sold out Republican toadies in the Michigan State government will pass a new law for "multiple assault and manslaughter" with a sentence more "convenient" for this mad man.

Making sense from the narrative...
GOP Governor Rick Snyder: I Didn't Know Anything About It
It Was Someone Else's Fault
It Wasn't Really That Bad
Michigan Just Had To Do It
There Was Simply No Other Choice
GOP Policy: Nothing's better than criminal austerity for punishing 
wrong colored people to make them into better citizens.
[Do they have anything left that we can still sell?
We have to finance these tax cuts and economic development grants somehow.]

Now, now. Is MeanMesa "flying off the rail," here? All this might be a little harsh -- if it weren't for all the poisoned children, we might be able to just sigh and walk away from this.

Lead poisoning is neither a joke nor an innocent oversight. The medical symptoms of lead poisoning in Flint are already beginning to appear.

Throughout this reader try to remember that:

One possible policy for a Governor with such a collection of municipalities at the edge of economic collapse might be to actually do something to resurrect those failing economies.

Now, on to the collection.

Decline and Fall: 
Did Lead Poisoning Bring Down the Roman Empire?

Is heavy metal poisoning the reason we’re not all wearing togas?

[Excerpted. Read the entire article here History Buff]
Roman lead water pipe

The claim
Rome’s greatest feat of engineering—its extensive water system, which brought high-quality water into cities for drinking, bathing, and cooking—was also its downfall. The lead Romans used for pipes leeched into the water supply, slowly poisoning the population and turning them into feeble, sterile maniacs.

The facts
The Romans did use lead for their water pipes, as well as cooking and drinking vessels and even makeup. Lead poisoning, which can be the result of frequent ingestion of even small amounts of lead, has symptoms that could certainly hamper the progress of a civilization, including increased risk of miscarriage, reduced sperm count, developmental delay in the children that manage to be born at all, violence, insanity, and general poor functioning. Not very helpful when you’re trying to conquer and rule the known world.

The history
In 1983, a book by geochemist Jerome Nriagu called Lead and Lead Poisoning in Antiquity laid out the basics of the theory. There was an immediate backlash from classicists, who pointed out that not all Roman pipes were made of lead—many were ceramic or stone. Scientists also jumped in to pick apart Nriagu’s theory, using skeletal evidence to show that Romans actually had less accumulated lead in their bones than modern Europeans. It’s also been argued that Roman drinking water was unlikely to have absorbed much lead even from lead pipesdue both to the speed at which the water traveled and the buildup of minerals inside the pipes, which would have created an insulating layer.
[Emphasis - MeanMesa]

The part of this quotation which is emphasized is almost a direct indictment of the causes of Flint's lead problem. The precise problem which led to the poisoning is described in the following FiveThirtyEight article.


What Went Wrong In Flint

[Excerpted. Read the entire article here fivethirtyeight]

Because of those transgressions [improper sampling], the Flint River’s corrosive water ate through the protective film inside the city’s old pipes, allowing odorless, tasteless lead to leach into the water. They are also what has featured in most of the news coverage of Flint: important questions about which officials knew what, and when. Gov. Rick Snyder has said the failures here had nothing to do with the fact that Flint’s residents are largely poor and majority black, but that didn’t assuage many who feel this wouldn’t have happened in a wealthier, whiter city.

Also worthy of examination is how a wealth of other data and information, gathered by the city’s residents, was largely ignored. When the county declared a public health emergency on Oct. 1, 2015, it was not a revelation for many residents. They had been fighting for months to convince officials that something was wrong. Instead of heeding those reports, priority was given to the official data — data that was flawed and shortsighted. As a result, the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels in Flint doubled.

[Emphasis - MeanMesa]

The Michigan "Emergency Manager" Law
 That Wouldn't Die
The monster is perfect for this job.
We just need to tidy things up a bit.

We just need to convince the villagers to cooperate. [image]
Governor Snyder launched into his "emergency manager" scheme under full steam. It was a new blend of austerity and autocracy which shocked even the billionaires who owned what went on at the Michigan Governor's mansion.

Unhappily for Rick, Michigan citizens were just not equipped to swallow a policy which was so painfully Draconian. In a state-wide referendum they nixed the Governor's "first effort."

However, mere moments after the ballots had been counted the strong willed Governor "adjusted" the original "emergency manager" plan and replaced it with a new one which contained a provision prohibiting any sort of a similar referendum from wrecking it again.


Snyder signs replacement emergency manager law: 
We 'heard, recognized and respected' will of voters
By Jonathan Oosting 
 December 27, 2012
[Excerpted. Read the entire article here: MLIVE]

LANSING, MI -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a replacement emergency manager law that he says improves upon the version that voters rejected less than two months ago.

Like its predecessor, Public Act 436 of 2012 allows the state to intervene in financially struggling municipalities and school districts.

But unlike Public Act 4 of 2011, the new law allows local officials to choose between four different forms of intervention: A consent agreement, chapter 9 bankruptcy, mediation or emergency manager.

"This legislation demonstrates that we clearly heard, recognized and respected the will of the voters," Snyder said in a statement announcing the signing. "It builds in local control and options while also ensuring the tools to protect communities and school districts' residents, students and taxpayers."

Michigan voters repealed the state's old emergency manager law by rejecting Proposal 1 on the November ballot. Critics said the "draconian" law went too far by allowing state-appointed emergency managers to usurp local control and break collective bargaining agreements.

The new law, which includes an appropriation making it immune to referendum, also allows emergency managers to break union contracts if negotiations fail, a controversial power typically reserved for municipal bankruptcy proceedings.

Read more

Flint Water Crisis - Detroit Free Press [This is a collection of various articles.]

Anger in Michigan Over Emergency Managers - NYTIMES

Just a Wee Bit About "Emergency Managers"
Even from the horse's mouth, it still stinks.

Many of MeanMesa's foreign visitors may still be laboring under too many of the "traditional presumptions" about American representative democracy to easily grasp the oligarchs' scheme for installing "emergency managers" by fiat in places which should have had, at least by the old democratic plan of things, elected officials running municipal affairs. This new model represents a modern version of the old "war lord" style autocracy where the "king" simply appointed whomever he wished as the unquestioned "boss" of this province or that town.

Now, it might occur to someone observing the events in Flint, Michigan, that the responsible person selected to become this "autocrat" might be uniquely talented or experienced in accomplishing whatever it was that the "king" wanted.

Of course, the alternate motives for making such "lucrative appointments" are manifold. It might be a means for the "king" to repay a "special favor" which had been performed for him in the past. It might also represent a technique by which the "king" could "extract" desirable assets -- assets, usually property or taxes, previously held by the recipients of this newly positioned, local autocrat -- from those to be "governed" by this appointee.

Well, that description of the process, while establishing the basic plan for these "modern emergency managers," is clearly "too medieval" to entirely describe Governor Snyder's scheme for so rashly installing his man as the arbitrarily empowered viceroy in charge of Flint. [The title "viceroy" was most recently used to describe Paul Bremer's appointed post in the looting of Iraq. Read more Paul Bremer in Iraq - NEWSWEEK]

So, to be as fair as possible, MeanMesa is including the following quoted material. This is the official "explanation" and "justification" for implementing Governor Snyder's emergency management policy for vulnerable municipalities -- such as Flint -- in his state of Michigan. It is included here as "back ground" reading for blog visitors unfamiliar with the scheme. 

It is interesting to note the claim that this policy was not directed at the destruction of unions in the areas attacked by the Governor. The "caveat" noted in the explanation was that without the implementation of this act, the likelihood that union contracts would simply be vacated was even greater.

Labor contracts make up the bulk of local government expenses. Because emergency financial managers do not currently have power to adequately address these issues, long-term financial problems are not solved. This legislation does not eliminate collective bargaining:

Although an emergency manager may void contracts to prevent the local unit of government from going into bankruptcy, new agreements still could come through the collective bargaining process.

Of course when the results of the policy are viewed in hindsight, the labor contracts of union workers in the municipalities where the policy was ultimately imposed were simply vacated by "State fiat."

Some other specific claims about the "disposition" of elected officials contained in the Governor's explanation are also interesting. It turns out, again in hindsight, that the criteria to be used to establish "providing information or assistance" pretty much handed Governor Snyder a "loaded deck" to "remove local elected officials."

Thankfully, this didn't mean "sending them to the cord field," but it did mean abolishing almost all of the legal responsibilities for decision making from those "elected officials." If all of this removal of elected officials sounds shockingly anti-democratic and autocratic, good. That means that you're getting the idea.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who previously served as the Democrat Speaker of the House, is leading the administration’s effort to ensure emergency managers that may be necessary in the future are properly trained. Despite the misinformation being spread by the media and on the Internet, the legislation does not give the governor the ability to remove elected officials at will. Claims that it does are simply not true. 

The legislation includes a series of triggers, one of which must occur before a review of a local unit’s finances is even conducted, such as failure by the local unit of government to pay creditors or make timely pension contributions. 

Even if an emergency manager is put in place, local elected officials can only be removed from office if they refuse to provide information or assistance. 

Here is the official explanation in its entirety.

Michigan State government explains
Governor Snyder's  "Emergency Management" Program

 [Visit the following site to see the original: michigan.gov/documents/snyder/EMF_Fact_Sheet]

Emergency Manager Background: Under Public Act 72 of 1990, the state is authorized to intervene in units of local government that experience financial emergencies. The House and Senate recently passed legislation that allows the state to intervene at an earlier stage. The new law also expands the power of emergency managers in order to better equip them with the tools needed to address a local unit’s financial emergency. Some are spreading misinformation about the legislation and trying to use this issue to provoke the kind of fighting seen in Wisconsin. Half of all jobs lost in the entire United States over the past decade were lost in Michigan. Dozens of local units of government are experiencing serious financial challenges. We are in a crisis. Setting the record straight: The Emergency Manager legislation is a proactive approach to preventing a local unit of government from experiencing a financial emergency. 

An Emergency Manager would be appointed only in the event of a municipal financial emergency. 

By allowing the state to intervene at an earlier stage, the need for an emergency manager can be avoided. 

Appointing an emergency manager would minimize the likelihood that a local unit of government would be unable to provide basic services to its citizens. State intervention on local unit financial emergencies is not new, nor is only supported by Republicans:

Michigan has had an emergency financial manager law on the books since 1988.

The original law was signed by Democrat governor James Blanchard.

An emergency financial manager has only been put in place a total of 10 times in more than 20 years. Emergency financial managers have been utilized by both Republican and Democrat governors. 

State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who previously served as the Democrat Speaker of the House, is leading the administration’s effort to ensure emergency managers that may be necessary in the future are properly trained. Despite the misinformation being spread by the media and on the Internet, the legislation does not give the governor the ability to remove elected officials at will. Claims that it does are simply not true. 

The legislation includes a series of triggers, one of which must occur before a review of a local unit’s finances is even conducted, such as failure by the local unit of government to pay creditors or make timely pension contributions. 

Even if an emergency manager is put in place, local elected officials can only be removed from office if they refuse to provide information or assistance. 

The governor already has – and has had – the ability to put an emergency financial manager in place since 1988. 

The governor already has – and has had – the ability to remove elected officials for failing to do their duty or for corruption. This power was established in Michigan’s 1963 constitution. Former Democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm used this power to conduct removal hearings for Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor who stepped down from office and was then later convicted of corruption. An Emergency Manager can only be put in place if local elected officials fail to take the steps necessary to prevent a financial emergency.

Emergency managers are accountable to both the governor and the Legislature, which in turn are both accountable to voters. The goal is to give emergency managers the tools they need to protect residents and address local government financial emergencies.

Labor contracts make up the bulk of local government expenses. Because emergency financial managers do not currently have power to adequately address these issues, long-term financial problems are not solved. This legislation does not eliminate collective bargaining:

Although an emergency manager may void contracts to prevent the local unit of government from going into bankruptcy, new agreements still could come through the collective bargaining process.

If the municipality was to enter bankruptcy, a judge would have sweeping powers to undo contracts. Bankruptcy is a much bigger threat to collective bargaining.

The governor has repeatedly said he will work within the collective bargaining system. For further reading: Editorial: New state financial tools will help fix budgets, not bust unions (Detroit Free Press) For too long, Michigan has had too few tools to keep school districts and cities from wallowing in financial trouble.

The Tale Behind the GOP's Poison Water
 Just Gets Better and Better
It's a good thing that votes cast by Flint residents don't actually matter.

Of course, now that thousands of Flint's children have been poisoned by the lead in the city's water, the razor sharp focus of the domestic media is becoming obsessed with the time line behind the disaster. When did the Governor know? What did he do once he "found out?" What is the exact "narrative" describing the Governor's awareness and responses?

01.24.16 7:00 PM ET
Exclusive: Gov. Rick Snyder’s Men 
Originally Rejected Using Flint’s Toxic River

[Visit the original article here Jan 24 2016 The Daily Beast]

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder confronted with Flint tap water.
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

An emergency manager said no to using the river in 2012 after speaking to environmental regulators. An ex-Flint official said the governor’s office reversed that decision.

DETROIT — The emergency manager for Flint, Michigan, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012, rejected using the city’s river as drinking water after consulting with the state’s environmental protection agency.

Snyder appointed Ed Kurtz to be Flint’s second emergency manager and Kurtz selected Jerry Ambrose to be the city’s chief financial officer. Both men were tasked by the Republican governor’s administration with restructuring the city’s government to save money after it was in danger of becoming insolvent. One cost-saving measure considered was to quit buying municipal water from Detroit.

In a civil deposition not reported until now, Ambrose testified under oath that emergency manager Kurtz considered a proposal to use the Flint River, discussed the option with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and then rejected it.

In 2014, Ambrose was deposed in a civil lawsuit brought by retired Flint municipal workers against the state over severe cuts to their health care benefits. Attorney Alec Gibbs questioned Ambrose about the water decision (a year before Flint learned it was being poisoned).

“There was brief evaluation of whether the city would be better off to simply use the Flint River as its primary source of water over the long term,” Ambrose said. “That was determined not to be feasible.”

“Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.

“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” Ambrose answered.

“What was the reason they gave?” Gibbs asked.

“You’ll have to ask them,” Ambrose said.

How could the river that was rejected as Flint’s permanent water source in December 2012 suddenly become suitable for consumption a mere 16 months later?

And who actually made the disastrous choice to start using the previously rejected river as the city’s temporary water source?

Howard Croft, the former director of public works for Flint who resigned in November 2015, asserted more than four months ago in a videotaped interview with the ACLU of Michigan that the decision to use the dangerously corrosive river came directly from the Snyder administration.

In the interview, Croft said that the decision to use the river was a financial one, with a review that “went up through the state.”

And who actually made the disastrous choice to start using the previously rejected river as the city’s temporary water source?

Howard Croft, the former director of public works for Flint who resigned in November 2015, asserted more than four months ago in a videotaped interview with the ACLU of Michigan that the decision to use the dangerously corrosive river came directly from the Snyder administration.

In the interview, Croft said that the decision to use the river was a financial one, with a review that “went up through the state.”

“All the way to the governor’s office?” the ACLU of Michigan asked him.

“All the way to the governor’s office,” Croft replied.

When questioned about Croft’s accusation in October, Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s spokeswoman at the time, offered up the false claim that the governor could not have made the decision to use the river because the city had been kicked off of Detroit’s system.

“The Detroit Water and Sewer Department at the time, back last spring, said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna cut you off.’”

This is a lie.

In a letter obtained by the ACLU of Michigan (PDF), emergency manager Darnell Earley wrote to DWSD in March 2014:

“Thank you for the correspondence [...] which provides Flint with the option of continuing to purchase water from DWSD… The City of Flint has actively pursued using the Flint River as a temporary water source… There will be no need for Flint to continue purchasing water to serve its residents and businesses after April 17, 2014.”

Snyder did not mention this letter in the history of the Flint water crisis that he presented in his State of the State address last week:

“First, the crisis began in spring 2013, when the Flint City Council voted 7-1 to buy water from Karegondi Water Authority [to be supplied by Lake Huron]. Former Flint Mayor Walling supported the move, and the Emergency Manager approved the plan. DWSD provided notice of termination to be effective one year later and, on April 25, 2014, Flint began using water from the Flint River as its interim source.”

Detroit did terminate a 50-year contract but it also diligently tried to strike a new deal to keep selling Flint clean, safe water. Earley rejected all offers and then sent that “thanks but no thanks” letter to Detroit saying that the decision had been made to use the Flint River.

If the governor really wants to come clean he needs to start telling the whole truth, not just convenient pieces of it.

Snyder tried to convince the public and the press he was doing that when he released emails from 2014 and 2015 (PDF). (There was rich symbolic irony in the fact that the first missive posted from the cache is completely redacted, blacked out from start to finish.)

If there was anything at all revelatory in the emails released so far, it is Snyder’s attention to detail.

There is, for example, a June 2015 email he sent out after being looped in on a positive television report about Michigan State Police bike patrols making their debut in Flint.

“Good work,” wrote the governor in a message sent to his team. “Let me know how things are going in our cities. Hopefully, we won’t have significant summer issues.”

As the world now knows, a slow-building scandal involving the lead contamination of the city’s water supply first came to light the following month, when a leaked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo sounding the alarm saw the light of day.

What remains still in the dark is the exact role Michigan’s detail-oriented governor played in subjecting the people of Flint to the hazards of a polluted river doubling as their municipal water supply. We also need to be clear on what the governor’s office and other state officials knew about the dangers posed by that river before the decision to use it was made.

Snyder can help shed light on that by releasing all of his emails—from both his government account and any personal email accounts that he might have used to conduct state business—going back to at least as early as the start of 2012 when members of his own administration considered and rejected using Flint’s river.

Given his willingness to release two years’ worth of emails, turning over documents from another two years should be no problem for a governor committed to transparency.

Curt Guyette is an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan.