June 2013

War surplus

 The West TX fertilizer-plant explosion that killed 15, injured 200, destroyed two schools, a block of apartments and many nearby single homes, somehow got lost between the Boston Marathon bombing and the Oklahoma tornado. We continued to follow the story because it involved a very common agricultural fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, known until the end of WWII primarily as "the principal ingredient in making explosives," according to Michael Pollan.

The fix is in, so "Let the fracking begin."

It looks like the legislative phase of the shale-oil boom in Caliofrnia and Illinois is about finished. Depending on the will and resources of environmental groups, it remains to be seen what can be done in courts to slow the boom until the risks are properly assessed and, if the risks are proved to be substantial, to stop the process. 

The marriage of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and financier Richard Blum: A win-win, public-private partnership for graft

Richard Blum, UC regent and former chairman of the regents, major stockholder in Tutor Perinni Corp, which won the bid to construct the first leg of the California high-speed railroad, and chair of the board of CB Richard Ellis, in charge of selling decommissioned post offices, is -- as everyone knows -- the husband of US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Beauty and the beast

We were struck by the beauty and balance of William Tweed's prose about his rail trip through the San Joaquin Valley. Tweed lives  in Three Rivers, gateway to Sequoia National Park. According to Amazon.com,

The "Morning Joe Show"

 The historical descent from Country Joe and the Fish to Morning Joe, Mika and Willie has been dizzying, to put it politely.
But, this morning at least they let Glenn Greenwald talk longer than they have any guest in the history of their show without blowhard interruptions to interpret the remarks of intelligent people down to the level of a ditto head. 
But, fortunately, Greenwald has answered the question posed by one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time, Catch-22, which asked, "Mais ou sont les Snowdens d'antan?"

"Mais ou sont les Snowdens d'antan?" -- Catch-22, Joseph Heller

 The nattering nabobs of National Security have been at Ed Snowden, who leaked the material about the NSA domestic spying ("all legal, all legal the nabors say) by insult and invective. They have called his behavior traitorous and treasonous and everything else bad that they can possibly imagine.
But the worst thing they have said about Ed Snowden is that he is a high school dropout. 
May the Millennial Diety that still rules our scrambled official psyche strike him dead, over there in Hong Kong!!

The nattering nabobs of national security are just another bunch of greedy corporations



As usual, an excellent diagnosis of the problem from Thom Hartmann but the solution makes the dubious assumption that there are enough hens left in the house to mount a serious counter offensive against the foxes, who have been lording it about that they own the joint for decades now. A national legislative body that cannot past gun-control legislation after a massacre of first graders does fill one with confidence that it can extricate itself from the jaws of the "national security" corporate profit centers.

A few small subsidies

 On the surface, these are small, ho-hum stories about California agriculture: one about a federal grant to benefit a handful of west side growers; county-supervisor corruption around the Williamson Act; and a politician calling for more off-stream water storage. But, each contains elements that have become unacceptable.

Banks, foreclosures and investors

As a result of a lawsuit filed against the Bank of America, we are able to catch a glimse of the system in the banks (we assume B of A is not alone in this practice) that has denied loan modifications in favor of foreclusures to the clear detriment of the "owners", but also damaging the investors in mortgage backed securities. The banks, it would seem, are defrauding everybody for their own profits. -- blj
Bank of America Lied to Homeowners and Rewarded Foreclosures, Former Employees Say

When the right bright people do the right things

When the right sort of smart people, the sort of people who can get their letters published in the New England Journal of Medicine, begin to protest the activities of our government on ethical grounds, some politicians move quickly to keep up their membership in the proper elite. Such is the case here: a week after the NEJM published a letter protesting the force feeding of Guantanamo inmates calling for the doctors on the scene to refuse to participate in the procedure, Sen.

Resistance to the state's bulldozing of public's access to documents and environmnetal law and regulation

The Fresno Bee editors voiced strong opposition to a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown and local governments to weaken the state Pulbic Records Act, which insures the public's right of access to public documents in the control of local governments. The PRA is an important tool for journalists and members of the public with an interest in a project that may impact their environment or property values. 

Republican whip: incompetence or treachery?

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is the majority whip of the House of Representatives. The majority whip’s primary responsibility is to count the votes for his party’s bills and compel party members to vote for those bills when party leadership decides it is time to bring them to the floor of the House.
Jeers and criticism of the Republican, House majority leadership’s failure to pass the Farm Bill last week focused on the Speaker, John Boehner, R-Ohio. But the name of the man who is responsible for counting and rallying the votes, McCarthy, wasn’t mentioned.  

Arf, arf?

Considering the brilliance of his own family, not to mention his in-laws, of course it would be impossible for mere members of the public to comprehend the meaning of Assemblyman Adam Gray's vote against the Democratic Party and Labor-sponsored "Walmart loophole bill." The bill, primarily focused on Walmart, would require large employers to cover the medical insurance of their non-union employees instead of dumping them on MediCal.