The People, Sir, are a Great Beast

The Prince and the Princess discover what royalty has oft learned before: if people are miserable enough, they will intrude on your life of privilege. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Modern political leaders focussed on polling, partisan doctrine and the next election forget at their peril that there is an ancient and non-revokable contract between leaders and followers: give us followers good times and security and we will allow you leaders your power and wealth; fail to protect us from grievous harm and we will erase you. Retribution for mass suffering has fallen brutally on high priests, pharoahs, kings, czars and presidents throughout history. And the laws of history have in no way and in no place been revoked. (To listen to the audio version, click here:  0104 The People are a Beast) Continue reading

Money Beats Brains Again: EPA Gives Up on Smog

smokestack in Chicago

The EPA was thinking of restraining air pollution such as this, into Chicago's air in January. But it has thought twice. (Photo by Andrew Ciscel/Flickr)

Since industrial America lost its grip on the White House, when its first wholly-owned and -operated president, George W. Bush, was replaced by the upstart Barack Obama, it has been pouring money into reasserting its grip on the Congress in order to prevent governmental interference with the making of profits. And Wednesday was payoff day. The Environmental Protection Agency surrendered. Continue reading

Nightfall in America

US Capitol dome

As night gathers in Washngton, the Capitol dome shines a beacon of total ignorance over the nation. (Photo by David Iliff/wikimedia)

The triumph of ignorance and greed in the November elections is about to complete the paralysis of the United States government that has been the clear objective of the right wing since 1980, and has been almost within its grasp since 2000. Virtually free at last from the constraints of objective journalism, effective opposition and a shared public sense of civic duty, the right wing no longer needs to be restrained, or rational, in completing the destruction of a once great nation. Continue reading

Obama Offers Unilateral Compromises

Why is this man compromising?

In his first national radio address after receiving what he called a “shellacking” by voters, President Obama said he would be willing to compromise with Republicans who, since his election two years ago, have refiused to compromise on anything; and who, in the days leading up to this election, chorused their intention to refuse to compromise on anything in the future. This raises the question: what is Obama’s strategy here? Continue reading

Looking for Rage in All the Wrong Places

We Americans live in a country engaged in the longest war of its entire history — in Afghanistan — which is now in its ninth year with no end in sight. No military or political leader of our country can explain to us why we are fighting this war, how we are going to win it, or what benefit will accrue if and when we do. (Yes, yes, we understand why we started the war, the question is why are we still fighting it?) Continue reading

Cash and Carry On Government

Health care reform: stalled. Climate change legislation: on hold. Financial industry regulation: fogeddaboudit. Deficit reduction: gedoudahere. California and New York: gridlocked government. Instead of just being critical of the people who got us here and can’t get us out — how easy is that? — how about taking a moment to identify with them? Would that be too much to ask? Continue reading

Deforming Health Care: A Banner Year

Note to business-school grads: if they’ve told you you’re too greedy and cruel to be an investment banker or an oil executive, don’t despair; they’re going to love you in the health-insurance industry.

The country’s five largest health-insurance companies increased their combined profits by $4.4 billion dollars in 2009 — the year everyone else was struggling to stay aflloat in the worst recession in memory — according to a study by the reform advocacy group “Health Care for America Now!” Continue reading

Supreme Court Invalidates Democracy

Pledge allegiance to the corporations of the United States of America, and to the republic which they now own. One nation, indifferent to its citizens, with liberty and justice for the rich.

Anyone who still hoped, against all the evidence, that the American democracy could be saved from strangulation by the pervasive and increasing death-grip of big money, has just been served with a do-not-resuscitate order by the Supreme Court of the United States. No greater perversion of the principles of our Constitution, and of the language we use to talk about it, can be imagined. Continue reading

Dumb and Dumber

If you’ve ever heard a public-address system screech, you’ve heard a feedback loop in action. The microphone picks up a little noise, the amplifier makes it louder, sends it out through the speaker, whereupon it is picked up by the mike and amplified again until it turns into a primal scream.

Feedback loops are accelerating the impacts of the greenhouse effect on global climate. Increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, acting like the glass in a greenhouse, trap solar radiation near the earth’s surface, raising the temperature. As it gets warmer in the northern reaches where the tundra and taiga are permanently frozen, they start to thaw in summer. When they thaw they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, which increase the greenhouse effect. Feedback loop.

Feedback loops, most of them unforeseen, have accelerated the effects of global warming well beyond the worst-case scenarios of just a few years ago. The Paul Revere of global climate change, James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute, describes in the current edition of Newsweek how badly those scenarios — many of which he wrote himself — have been trampled.

Well, stupidity has feedback loops as well. Continue reading

Here We Go Again

Another American president is trying to find a middle ground between the rock of the right-wing hawks and the hard place of the left-wing pacifists. Another American president is trying to be a little bit at war by dribbling troops into a far place, using borrowed money, to fight and die for no clear purpose. Another American president is trying to stake out high moral ground with both feet sunk deep in the sewer of a partnership with a corrupt government. Welcome to Afghanistan. Continue reading