Ukraine, etc: Pundits Fiddle While World Burns

Why would anyone go against well armed and armored riot police with a piece of pipe (as here, in Kiev, on December 1)? That is the question. (Wikipedia photo)

Why would anyone go against well armed and armored riot police with a piece of pipe (as here, in Kiev, on December 1)? That is the question. (Wikipedia photo)

Since the Ukraine crisis bloomed into violence three months ago, reporters and analysts have floundered to tuck the bloody, explosive events into a nice narrative we can all be comfortable with. It’s a tug-of-war, we’ve been told, between East and West, between Russia and Europe, between Putin and Obama. (How in the world did this turn out to be Obama’s fault, as well?) Or it’s a resumption of the Cold War, no, it’s a Hot Cold War, no, it’s Soviet Union II.

While they have been thus laboring, the members of the chattering class have been overwhelmed by similar, new rebellions in Venezuela, Thailand, Turkey, Bosnia and Iceland (Yes! Iceland, for crying out loud!) added to the still-simmering uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria, and the barely-under-control semi-rebellions bubbling in Iran, China, Pakistan, India and Argentina. Not hard to understand why beads of sweat are popping through the makeup of the pundits and politicians who are trying to maintain the not-to-worry, we’ve-seen-all-this-before attitude that will keep us from getting interested. Fact is, we’ve never seen anything like this before. Continue reading

Congress Realizes It Fixed Flood Insurance: Repeal Imminent

Sandy damage

“Yeah, but it’s got a great ocean view. so we’re gonna rebuild. When do I get the check?” Hurricane Sandy took a bite out of this New Jersey house, just like subsidized flood insurance takes a bite out of the federal budget. (Photo by RetroRed/Flickr)

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, was in a state of high dudgeon, last November, as she pilloried the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at a committee hearing in Washington. He had been dragged before the committee to explain why his Federal Flood Insurance Program was racking up rates for policies on water-soluble buildings in flood-prone coastal and riverine areas. “The harm that has been caused to thousands of people across the country,” she raged, “is just unconscionable.” Director Craig Fugate might be forgiven for being nonplussed. He had raised the rates at the explicit direction of Congress, which just 16 months previously had decided to end the existing flood-insurance madness with the Biggert-Waters Act. Which bears not only a wonderfully punny name for a bill dealing with floods, but the name of its co-sponsor, one Maxine Waters.   Continue reading

Oil, Coal and the Law: Are You Kidding Me?

Ask not what your government can protect you from; ask rather who can protect you from your government.

Ask not what your government can protect you from; ask rather who can protect you from your government.

This is an update of the December 1 Daily Impact story “Oil and Coal: Above the Law, and Below It.” Read  the story of Mike Roselle’s arrest in West Virginia for having the temerity to petition his government for the redress of a grievance, and of Allenco Energy Company’s immunity from consequences for poisoning the air of a Los Angeles neighborhood. Try to imagine how both of those situations could get worse. Then read this. Continue reading

Texas Bomb Ignored by Media, Perp Honored by Victims

CNN is not broadcasting live from this, the site of the bombing of West, Texas and the terror that ensued.  (Photo by The Bay Area’s News Station/Flickr)

CNN is not broadcasting live from this, the site of the bombing of West, Texas and the terror that ensued. (Photo by The Bay Area’s News Station/Flickr)

The explosion that leveled much of the little Texas town of West occurred one day after the Boston Marathon bombing. It killed 15 people, five times the number of dead in Boston. It left a crater 90 feet across and ten feet deep, while the Boston bombs left some black marks on the sidewalk (along with a lot of blood — this is not to minimize Boston, but to put Texas in perspective). It destroyed an apartment building, a school and dozens of homes, while in Boston no buildings were damaged. And surely, in a system that recognizes negligent homicide and reckless disregard as crimes, the Texas bombing was just as criminal an act as the Boston one.  Yet it has vanished from the media and the perpetrator is being called a nice guy — by the victims. Continue reading

Terrorized US Government Locked Down

It's not what Wacky Pierre of the NRA says that matters, it's where his backers put their money. (Cartoon photo by DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

It’s not what Wacky Pierre of the NRA says that matters, it’s where his backers put their money. (Cartoon photo by DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

Cowed by the deployment of IEDs (Improvised Electoral Destabilizers) in several cities, the US Congress shouted “No!” from under its desks this week to a modest adjustment of firearms regulation that 90% of American voters wanted. It was the most brazen demonstration yet of the members’ subservience to cash and contempt for individual voters. It was also the best evidence so far that the government is so thoroughly in thrall to corporate interests that there is no hope that it will act to restrain them merely to prevent the crash of civilization. Continue reading

Wait, What? Congress Fixed Flood Insurance?

Superstorm Sandy not only did this to Fire Island, NY, but made it easier to do again. (Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS)

Superstorm Sandy did this to Fire Island, NY. Government flood insurance used to make it easy to do again. Not any more. (Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS)

What were we doing in July? Oh, right, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced he had proof that President Obama’s birth certificate was a fake. And the FBI report on the Joe Paterno thing came out. And they discovered evidence of the Higgs Boson, aka the God Particle. Small wonder then, that Congress picked that month to pass a piece of legislation that actually made sense. How else could they protect their cherished, hard-won reputation  as a Congress that hasn’t done anything and isn’t ever going to do anything? Continue reading

The Tea Party and the Propagation of the Fakes

Home page of a Tea Party website put up by a Koch-funded group seven years before the movement took fire.

Home page of a Tea Party website put up by a Koch-funded group SEVEN YEARS before the movement took fire.

Everyone knows that the Tea Party was a spontaneous, populist uprising of ordinary Americans who were fed up with taxes and regulation and who, without national leadership or direction, created in 2009 a potent national force dedicated to “taking the country back.” According to a new academic study of the Tea Party’s origins, what everybody knows is wrong.

Of course, the Tea Party’s Creation Myth has never rung true to anyone with a passing familiarity with what it takes to organize a family reunion, let alone a national movement. Where did all those busses come from, we wondered as the plain people gathered in their thousands to demand the government keep its hands off their Medicare. Where did the money come from for all those professionally printed signs and the goofy hats?  To rent those enormous and expensive venues for populist rage? Continue reading

Flood Insurance Follies

Darn. Wiped out. Let’s do it all over again and expect a different result. There’s a government subsidy for that. photo by Pam Andrade/Flickr

Imagine an insurance program that lost so much money in private hands that the government had to take it over, that the government forces people to buy (Really? Is that constitutional?) and that is $19 billion in debt with no hope of ever achieving solvency. If that sounds like the worst of socialist tendencies in the hands of big government, it is. Odd that it is not an issue in the campaign for the presidency, like Obamacare is. But wait. Health insurance benefits the sick and the poor. Flood insurance, on the other hand, restores vacation homes.

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Virginia: The State of Denial, Sinking

The harbor at Norfolk Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia, on one of the world’s great harbors in the world’s largest estuary, has long prospered because of its proximity to the sea. That tide is changing. (US Navy photo)

The rising waters of climate change are lapping at the foundations of Virginia’s second-largest city, and are repeatedly rolling over one of its premier tourist attractions. Norfolk city officials and National Park Service managers on Assateague Island are trying desperately to deal with the rising threat. But they get no help or even encouragement from the state government, whose official position is that there is no such thing as climate change, therefore the sea cannot be rising. Continue reading

Can You Say Infrastructure? Now Say Brace for Impact

A 24-inch water main spills its guts near the National Mall in Washington DC in October of 2010. Flooding reached the National Museum of Natural History. There is much more to come. (Photo by Mr T in DC/Flickr)

It was a rare occasion and a good way to start the new year — a major American newspaper gave front-page coverage to a major American problem. This morning’s Washington Post features prominently a story detailing one reason why this country is about to crash: the machinery that delivers water to city dwellers, and treats their sewage has been neglected for nearly half a century. Like all neglected machinery, it is about to break down. And it’s the machinery that makes urban life possible.

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