Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for the ‘James Houle’ Category

Jim Houle: The Fantasy World of Costco…

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on December 3, 2013 at 10:25 am

c
From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

To The Ukiah City Council

Our City Manager fantasizes that a Big Costco Box will bring in great sales tax receipts and that the city will be able to pay off its indebtedness from the RDA fiasco, as well as new loans to build $6.2 million worth of access roads to Costco. This, they hope, will put the City on a sound financial footing. But there are a few problems with living in such a fantasy world:

There is no need for Costco: Ukiah people are not under-dressed nor poorly fed for lack of another big box discount store. We already have plenty of clothing stores, food emporiums, gasoline stations, and drug stores to meet our needs.

There is no money to build the new highway 101 interchange: The State Finance Department has said that the City Council cannot use revenue from the 2011 RDA bond nor from the expected sale of 15 acres to Costco to develop roads and interchanges needed to funnel shoppers into Big Box parking lots. Show us the money!

There is no adequate plan for the proposed interchange: More…

Jim Houle: Those who believe in the future are idiots and already have a lot of political power…

In James Houle on May 15, 2013 at 6:45 am

r

From JIM HOULE

A recent article on Ukiah Blog was entitled: “Those Who Do Not Believe We Will Have a Future Should Not Be Placed in Charge of It.  I would take the contrary position: “Those who do believe in the future are idiots and already have a lot of political power“. 

The Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians say the end is nigh, that only they will survive and be raptured into heaven. The Israelis claim that those damned Persians are about to build the Big Bomb that will crisp the “Land of God’s Chosen People”. The only alternative is to crisp the Iranians immediately. Yet the Evangelical Fundamentalist clan do not believe there is any place in heaven for the Jews regardless of the Persians’ plans (its in the Bible).  Surprisingly, both the Israelis and the Evangelical Fundamentalists believe they have a future.

President O’Bomber insists that we must protect our oil supplies and dominate any country that resists us. He seems to believe there will indeed be a future if we can just keep the oil flowing.

Hard-headed geologists explain that the world’s oil reserves are running out regardless of O’Bomber’s policies. Our Financial Overlords foresee a probably-fatal weakening of the dollar More…

James Houle: The Willits Bypass and the Ukiah Costco…

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

h
From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

To the Board of Supervisors
Mendocino County

The Willits Bypass will allow through traffic on the Freeway to bypass the streets of Willits.  CalTrans advises that this will be good for our community, because it will get some of those big rigs off local streets and reduce air pollution. Phase I will cost over $200 million and the total could well be over $350 million if it is ever completed. It will not improve downtown backups for traffic headed toward Fort Bragg: this traffic will need to exit the new Highway 101 several miles north or south of town and drive through downtown streets to reach Highway 20 just as they do now.

While all of this is being discussed and protested to the north, the Ukiah City Council is proposing the opposite solution to their traffic problems. They want to use $6.2 million of local tax funds not to allow traffic to bypass Ukiah but to move it more efficiently into town. They want to expand freeway off-ramps and feeder roads so as to shuttle shoppers into Ukiah’s expanding Big Box stores along Airport Boulevard. Our visionary City Council feels this will be good for our community: generating new sources of sales tax revenue, even while admittedly forcing many smaller businesses to close.

Recommendations: First: The Board of Supervisors should lend its support to the effort by Senator Noreen Evans to get CalTrans to explain its justification for selection of what many see as the worst of the Bypass Options. Second: Insist that the Ukiah City Council explain to the public how their highway project will be financed, how loans will be repaid, and how this will impact the revenue sharing talks that continue between County and City.
~~

James Houle: Costco Urban Decay Report…

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 18, 2013 at 6:30 am

c1c2Before and After Costco
Northbound entry to Ukiah
See expanded version below…
Courtesy Dale La Forest & Associates

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

The ALH Urban & Regional Economics Analysis prepared last August by Environmental Science Associates, Inc. does a very inadequate job of characterizing the sales impacts of the proposed Costco Store upon retail food and beverage businesses in the Ukiah Market Area. Of all commercial sectors, ALH believes the food and beverages sector will be impacted most severely. There are a total of 26 groceries and supermarkets stretching from the Hopland to Willits and eastward to Lake County that ALH identifies as likely to experience some impact upon their sales volumes. Of these, seven are quite large including 2 Safeways (Ukiah and Willits), 2 Grocery Outlet Stores (Ukiah and Lakeport), Lucky (Ukiah), Raleys (Ukiah), and Food Maxx (Ukiah). ALH says there is “a potential for one of these larger supermarkets to close” and that large scale vacancies More…

James Houle: Stop That Sprawl…

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on February 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

b
From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

At the Ukiah City Council meeting on Feb 20th, we heard a number of justifications for the City of Ukiah taking out a new loan to pay for the road improvements necessary to provide easy access to the planned Costco Store. Councilwomen Mari Rodin said that “It’s about avoiding sprawl”. Later, Sage Sagiacomo, Deputy CEO, said an aim of the City government was to “keep development within the park and discourage urban sprawl”. Vice Mayor Phil Baldwin said that “while the majority of the people in the city don’t love the big box culture and our dependence upon it, this at least keeps business corralled on Airport Park Boulevard” and avoids the hated sprawl. None of these condemners of sprawl explained to us what they meant by the term nor why they so feared it.

Therefore, I went back to the basic law establishing the RDA – Redevelopment Act (Health and Safety Code Section 33031), the original source of the funds that our local government wants to use to prevent “urban sprawl.” I discovered that sprawl, either of the urban big city type or the small rural town type is not mentioned in the Redevelopment Act at all! The first purpose of the RDA was to promote low to moderate income housing that the private sector does not provide. The second purpose was to cure “blight.” Blight is defined as “areas with unsafe buildings, stagnant property values, high business vacancies, high crime rates and residential overcrowding.” As County Supervisor Pinches commented several years back, we don’t really have any urban blight in Mendocino County. Sprawl is generally defined as the tendency to place housing in single family zones some distance removed from public and commercial services and thus vastly increasing the reliance upon automobiles for shopping and essential services. The Redwood Business Park along Airport Park Boulevard already qualifies as a contributor to sprawl and to encouraging reliance upon the automobile.

Sagiacomo opined that the City has known for a long time that, in order to realize its potential, the roads leading to it would need to be improved. Yet, just last year when Walmart applied for expansion to Superstore status, the City did not apply RDA funds to expanding the capacity of roads leading to it and the Planning Commission was forced to reject the Walmart application. Very puzzling this. Council member Mari Rodin explained that Costco shouldn’t be expected to pay for traffic improvements More…

James Houle: Heck of a Job, Hillary…

In James Houle on February 2, 2013 at 5:46 am

h
From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

We are mercifully at the termination of Hillary Clinton’s masterful four-year career as Secretary of State. She has managed, despite her lack of experience in international affairs, to supervise international disasters in two countries, Libya and Syria. Leading the US-NATO coalition, she transformed Libya from a peaceful oil exporter who had long since given up any nuclear ambitions, into a chaotic and totally leaderless exporter of weapons and Al-Qaeda mercenaries to the Syrian rebellion. Now Libya is also the source of fighters in Northern Mali. As cheerleader-in-chief for those hell-bent upon the overthrow of President Assad in Syria she has arranged for the shipment of many hundreds of tons of weapons and mortars abandoned in the Libyan desert to bolster the Syrian rebellion forces over the past twenty-two months. These foreign rebels have now managed to destroy a large part of Aleppo’s ancient citadel, built over the past 4000 years and a World Heritage Site..With this last accomplishment, she approaches the record of her predecessor, Condelesa Rice, who as Bush’s Secretary of State shipped 4 million US manufactured cluster bombs to the retreating Israeli Defense Forces which they dropped all over southern Lebanon. At least 50% of these bomblets are still unexploded More…

James Houle: Ukiah City Council Always Looking For Ways To Waste Our Tax Money

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on January 7, 2013 at 6:24 am

ss

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

We are in a serious and long lasting recession. City and County services to our underfunded school system, to impoverished families, and to the mentally deficient has been cut back severely. Yet our City Council members want to spend $2 million to reduce the traffic lanes on downtown State Street and plant a few  trees so we will have a nice comfy country look.

As if this wasn’t strange enough, at their last meeting they were talking about buying more sidewalk cafes for our local upscale restaurants, similar to what they already did for Patrona, our most expensive eatery. They are most generous to potential Big Boxes, and still want to give $6 million in taxes revenues (from the defunct RDA Program) to provide a wonderful private driveway for CostCo and Wal-Mart customers. This last giveaway has effectively been blocked by Governor Brown as merely another piece of corporate welfare. If  CostCo wants to steal business away from our existing stores, then let them build their own entrance ramp.

I think we can stop this two lane State Street scheme very quickly and the cafe al fresco notion as well. All we have to do is keep tuned in, attend their City Council meetings, and ask embarrassing questions. The City Council has little stomach for controversy.
~~

Hey Tommy Wayne Kramer: Get Down and Smell the Real City Hall Incompetence…

In James Houle on December 4, 2012 at 8:55 am

u
From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

TWK’s hilarious yet painful year-end review of City Council follies doesn’t mention their persistent quest to subsidize profitable big-box enterprises at the expense of existing stores and local shop keepers. When Judy Pruden and the Planning Commission listened to the people in the street and would not approve the Walmart Super Store earlier this year, the City Council did not have the cojones or more properly the fegato to override the Commission’s advice. Yet, the City Council still hopes to pay $6.2 million from tax anticipation bonds for road access and a high capacity round-about to funnel shoppers over from Highway 101 and into the planned CostCo Big Box. The RDA funds they once set aside for this have been denied by the State Department of Finance (most recently in their very terse Oct. 11, 2012 letter) but somehow Mayor Landis, City Manager Jane Chambers and her staff still hold out hope that they can sneak this past while the Sacramento bureaucracy is looking some other way.

Walmart had also wanted the City to pay for this self-same roundabout but were turned down by Ms. Pruden. Now, if somehow CostCo gets the City to buy this heavy duty private enterprise driveway, guess who will be first in line to reapply for their “Superstore”? It has already been well researched that the community needs no more supermarkets (most recently by Walmart’s own planner), nor out-of-state behemoths More…

James Houle: Obama’s Second Term…

In James Houle on November 13, 2012 at 7:00 am


From JAMES HOULE
Obama Watch
Redwood Valley

What sort of victory was this?
After defeating John McCain in 2008 by 7.2%, Obama has stumbled back for a second term with only 50.4% of the popular vote: a narrow 2.4% margin over the totally hapless Romney. In 2008 Obama’s win was fueled by a widespread disgust with George Bush’s performance. This week, nine million fewer voters chose Obama than in 2008, and there was widespread disenchantment with Obama’s first term performance. He received only one half million votes more than the inept John McCain had collected back in 2008! The President’s total vote was 13% less than four years ago, when his lead over McCain was three times as high. Total vote count was down 11 million across the country as many could not find a candidate they believed in. (WSWS 11-8-12) In California, 30% fewer went to the polls than in 2008!

If the people’s enthusiasm for your leadership declines by 11 million on your second try, would you as President interpret the message as “give us more of the same”? Yet some call the results a new mandate, while Obama himself talks of compromise with Republicans to work out a solution to the impending fiscal crisis on December 31st when both rich-guy tax increases and cuts in Social Security and Medicare are up for grabs? With a guarantee of four more years as President and slightly increased Democratic party strength in Congress, is it time for new initiatives and risk-taking, or is it time for more giving in to a leaderless Republican party? There was some good news in California where voters approved Proposition 30 increasing taxes on the rich and giving the Democrats More…

James Houle: The Case for Production of Asphalt at the Harris Quarry…

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on June 19, 2012 at 5:15 am

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

We are all tired of the seemingly endless revisions to the Planning Department Report, the tiresome repetition of fear-inspiring stories concerning the mixing of asphalt with aggregate at the quarry, the merging of trucks into the traffic flow, and the inevitable asphyxiation of the small community who live several miles south of the quarry that is predicted by “Keep The Code”, their noisemakers.

During the past four to five years while this controversy has been plodding along, here are the results:

  1. The Planning Department and their consultants have wasted several hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies, printing cost and staff salaries merely attempting to get this “Keep the Code” crowd to rest easy. It has not worked.

  2. The county cannot meet its needs for asphalt and particularly for rubberized asphalt, the new standard paving material, from within its own boundaries and must pay outside contractors to produce and truck it into our projects. We have lost considerable revenue and payed extra fees for this transport to no benefit.

  3. Asphalt only has a one to two hour holding time between mixing and application. There are no other suitable quarry sites on major thoroughfares within the county where this plant could be relocated.

  4. Mendocino County has lost out for the past ten years on State compensation for the use of rubberized asphalt as a means of disposing of worn out tires. This loss amounts to More…

James Houle: United Nations — Just Another Imperialist Tool

In James Houle on March 19, 2012 at 7:08 am

From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

One year after the United Nations gave their approval for NATO to intervene in the civil war just then erupting in Benghazi, their Human Rights Commission has issued a “mousey” report accusing both sides of violations of human rights but purposely avoiding any mention of the destruction of civilians neighborhoods of major cities and the wanton obliteration of whole towns by precision bombing raids conducted by Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States. NATO refused to cooperate in the HRA investigations. The article below by Vijay Prashad carefully summarizes the UN report. It does not take much imagination to see how the same tactics can be employed in Syria: NATO airstrikes to eliminate the air defenses, the import of foreign agents and mercenaries, and the smuggling of weapons.

NATO’S Craven Coverup of Its Libyan Bombing 
by Vijay Prashad March 15, 2012
Ten days into the uprising in Benghazi, Libya, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The purpose of the Commission was to “investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya.” The broad agenda was to establish the facts of the violations and crimes and to take such actions More…

James Houle: To the Ukiah City Council regarding Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 7, 2012 at 5:30 am

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

To the Ukiah City Council

March 7, 2012

Re: Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal for New Water Meters and Conference Center Renovation

Dear Council Members:

A review of the Honeywell proposal dated March 7, 2012 shows that they expect an increase of 6.12% in revenues after the installation of more accurate water meters and that this will net the City $276,845 per year. The total cost of the water meter replacement and leak detection project ($2.5 million) would be paid by we the consumers through higher water service charges. Should the smart water users, mostly small homeowners and renters, elect to reduce water consumption through modest conservation measures in the home, then the extra revenue Honeywell predicts would disappear and the City would be faced with paying off these municipal bonds out of general funds.

The companion proposal would cost $592,000 to upgrade the Conference Center with cleaner carpets, more comfortable chairs, and a commercial kitchen that would allow hosting banquets cooked right there on the premises! This taxpayer debt would supposedly be paid back by avoiding the rental of commercial kitchen equipment that costs $62,400 per year. (I have never heard of “rent-a-kitchen” but that’s what Honeywell says and they’re a major Pentagon contractor after all!) What would happen if the kitchen was upgraded and no high rollers elected to have banquets there? What would happen if these happy conventioneers More…

Jim Houle: Setting Aside Assad…

In James Houle on February 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The Propaganda Buildup to Regime Change in Syria has gone on since last spring but almost no one in the US pays much attention. Partly this is because the stories that are floated on the air waves sound so much like the usual buildup to war: whether it be the NATO intervention in Libya last year, the recent Somalia intervention, or the Iraqi invasion back in 2003. The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has kept most foreign journalists out and we are left with precious little of that bloody street fighting video our bored TV watchers can sink their chops into. When we tried to enter southern Syria ourselves last May, the border was suddenly closed while the Army proceeded to shoot unarmed protesters in the southern town of Daraa.

Last November, our Arab League vassals got President Assad to invite 165 “observers”, wearing those orange vests that highway workers normally wear around here, to see what Assad was doing. Their mission expired recently and there was little enthusiasm to risk further stray bullets on the streets. They were unsuccessful in curbing the bloodshed and opposition groups within Syria felt they had merely whitewashed the Assad regime’s suppression. A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, Burban Ghalioun, complained that: “conditions did not allow observers to submit an objective report”. Nevertheless, the Qatar foreign minister bravely stated: “We are with the Syrian people and with their will and their aspirations” ( NYT -1/22) and wanted foreign troops to enter so long as they were not Qataris. More…

Jim Houle: Something’s Rotten in the White House

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on December 23, 2011 at 7:02 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

Oh how easily we are all deceived:

Iraqi Smoking Guns and Mushroom Clouds; The Libyan rebels are all Freedom Fighters;

The Lands of Judea and Samaria (commonly called Palestine) belong to the Jewish people forever;

Iran is well advanced in building a nuclear bomb to wipe out Israel;

Good King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sends a thousand tanks across the causeway to help little Bahraini King Hamid al Khalifa suppress democracy on a small island where the 70% Shi’ites are ruled by Sunnis royals who control most of the wealth; (Hillary Clinton wrings her hand noiselessly but makes no protest).

Pfc. Bradley Manning goes on trial for releasing confidential (not Top Secret) State Department cables that the government initially dismissed as well-known and not news.

Something is Rotten in Libya: Forty-eight hours after Hillary Clinton lands in Tripoli and calls for “Gadhafi to be captured or killed as soon as possible”, he is captured, and brutally assassinated by the TNC. (Ruppee News 11-13-11). TNC is the Transitional National Council we stacked with ex-CIA operatives, a few al-Qaeda types, MI 5s from Whitehall, and assorted bag men. NATO was authorized by the UN (Resolution 1973, 3-17-11) to impose a “No Fly Zone” so as to protect civilians being threatened by Gadhafi in Benghazi and to immobilize Gadhafi’s air defenses. The US and its allies subsequently hit 5900 targets in 9700 sorties and left much of the country in ruins.(NYTimes survey 12-18-11). NATO and the UN admit scores of unarmed casualties but won’t come up with a death toll. This demolition derby took a mere 240 days. By comparison, Qadhafi had worked for 40 years to increase oil revenues to far better than other countries enjoyed and to share this wealth with the people. Individual income rose from $34 per year to $34,000 and the people have the best medical care and lowest infant mortality rates in all of Africa. The UN Human Rights Council commended Libya in its 2010 report for its remarkable progress. When confronted with grisly videos of Myomar Gadhafi’s death, our own Hillary Rodham Clinton giggled “We came, we saw, he died.”(Christian Amanpour, ABC and Franklin Lamb of RT). The TNC ‘democratic rebels’ as we like to call them, after having assured Gadhafi’s convoy of safe passage, then called in More…

James Houle: Taking Action — Occupy Ukiah

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island, James Houle on November 3, 2011 at 5:30 am

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley
OccupyUkiah.org

After the very successful march in Ukiah on earlier this month by a group of 300 activists targeting the three big National Banks, Occupy Ukiah is on the move.

Transfer Your Accounts: Beginning November 1st through November 5th  there will be daily demonstrations at the Ukiah offices of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase leading up to National Bank Transfer Day on Saturday, November 5th. The big banks will feel the movement’s strength as literally millions of the 99% majority around the country move their accounts to local banks and Credit Unions to protest the outrageous new service charges on accounts. The big banksters have started billing Debit Card holders $5.00 or more per month to allow you the privilege of accessing your own money held in their vaults.

Sit-In at the State street Bank of America Office: On November 12th there will be a sit-In at the Bank of America headquarters in Ukiah at 501 South State Street. We will sit outside the bank’s offices and encourage people not to do business with the B of A. Assembly is at 10 am at the Court House where we will make signs and organize for the march south 1 block to B of A. This demonstration is being coordinated with the Ukiah Police to assure it is non-violent ad respectful of private property.

Contacts: Jim Houle 485-8229, jfh@willitsonline.com; Kathy Rippey: krippey@yahoo.com
~
See also:

Occupy Santa Rosa

Occupy Marin

Occupy San Francisco

Occupy Oakland

Occupy Berkeley
~~

9/11: Explosive Evidence

In James Houle on August 27, 2011 at 7:00 am

[From JIM HOULE, Redwood Valley: I am a member of Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth, a national organization of 1500 professional A&Es and some 12,400 other technical experts and supporters. We are trying to organize locally in Mendocino County for the tenth anniversary of this disaster and hope to meet with local officials, put article in the newspapers, set up a table at the Court House and show a film. Our entire focus is upon questioning the evidence concerning how the three buildings at the World Trade Center came down. We have tons of expert testimony about explosives, and incendiaries and how they contributed to the destruction of these buildings and the loss of 2900 lives that sunny day in downtown Manhattan.

Are you a member?  Would you like to get involved in this event?  Check out the web site: www.AE911Truth.org.  Give me a call if you want to help.  We are not involved in spinning conspiracy theories, we are not involved in chasing the Saudis, the Afghanis, or the Al Qaeda.  We have restricted ourselves to this very technical issue - how the hell did these three buildings come down in free fall in about 7 seconds each and well after most of the jet fuel had burned off and the fires were going out? We demand another investigation. We want to know the 911 Truth. ~Jim Houle jfh@willitsonline.com 485 8229]

9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out is the new documentary film by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Watch the four-minute trailer above. Then share it with all your friends More..

James Houle: Let’s bring on the Grand Depression!

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on August 10, 2011 at 6:14 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

“The $2.5 trillion deficit-reduction deal brokered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and President Barack Obama is grotesquely unfair. It’s also bad economic policy. In the midst of a terrible recession, it will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing extremely well, and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the rich are not required to contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. When corporate profits are soaring and many giant corporations avoid federal income taxes because of obscene loopholes in the tax code, corporate America will not be asked to contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. On the other hand, working families, children, the sick and the elderly – many of whom are already suffering because of the recession – will shoulder the entire burden:” Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont (Aug.5, 2011).

Selling the American People a Totally Deceptive Message

The forces of the right have managed to guide the American people into a sense of helplessness, lethargy and stupid complacency. We have been told that: (1) the rising national deficit is our most serious problem today; (2) taxes are sapping the initiative of our business community; (3) we have to cut domestic spending because increasing the taxes on the wealthy individuals just gives the government more money to spend; (4) we cannot afford to cut defense spending, for this would only lower our guard against those terrorists who would invade our shores and steal our freedom; (5) entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are out of control and increasing our national debt; and (6) that if we were to plug tax loopholes on those businesses that contribute so much to our economic leadership in the world, we will inhibit them from expansion and from the creation of new jobs. More…

James Houle: Dial a Nuclear Disaster — Fukushima and America’s Nukes

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on July 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

There are over 440 large commercial nuclear power plants operating in the world, mostly in the 30 post-industrialized countries. Many of the largest commercial plants have already exceeded their 40 year design lives but continue to operate, despite serious maintenance problems in many plants, and in the United States, with weakened inspection and regulatory controls. The Chernobyl disaster in 1989 and the Three Mile Island melt-down in 1986 illustrated the danger and astronomical long term costs associated with generating electric power by the seemingly simple task of boiling water when it is done in a highly radioactive nuclear reactor and then spinning this steam through a turbine to generate electric power. No big nuclear  power plants have been built in the post industrialized world since the late 1980s when it became obvious to all capitalists that the economics of nuclear power was very unattractive, the risks far higher than any profit-making electric power company could handle, and the disposal of radioactive waste products seemingly insolvable.

The Safety Myth in Japan:
Since the end of the Cold War, we have drowsed along and most of us are not informed about the threat that aging nuclear power plants pose. More…

James Houle: Egypt Tries to Overcome the Army

In James Houle on May 17, 2011 at 7:36 am

From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

With a rebel force supported by neo-colonialists from France, UK and Italy attacking the Qaddafi regime in Libya,widespread demonstrations and heavy-handed suppression by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, brutal suppression by King Khalifa in Bahrain using Saudi tanks, and weekly mass marches upon the Presidential Palace in Yemen, the calm that is Egypt today is hard to believe – unless you are there.

Your Editor, Jim Houle returned from a visit to Egypt in late April and can tell you that the Egyptians are a most peaceful and accommodating people and that their sense of common identity as Egyptians above all else, goes back at least three thousand years and holds them together.

Yet the Army arrested American University Law Professor Amr Shalakany during a recent altercation and charged him with “insulting the military Supreme Council”. The Army Supreme Council were given sole executive power in Egypt after President Mubarrak resigned 11 February following weeks of mass demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Suez and many other cities. More James Houle…

James Houle: Fire the Mendocino County Planning Department Immediately!

In James Houle on April 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

Imagine this – “OVERLAY ZONING”

We hire the planning experts, employ them for years, and when it comes time to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors as to what type of zoning would best reflect desires and aspirations of the citizens, they avoid making a recommendation. It’s like we hire a surgical staff to examine the patient, make all the tests, consider the impacts of various treatment scenarios, and then they send their report to the administrative staff of the hospital with three choices: Plan A: We cut all the bad stuff out and see if he can live without those organs. Plan B: We cut out half of the damaged organs and see how many of his functions still are in service. Plan C: We just stitch him up, give him a daily shot of heavy radiation and hope that it will stop further deterioration.  What the hell, he’s lived 63 years and isn’t dead yet!

What is the planner’s  recommendation? They decline to say. They hand it over to the Board of Supervisors – who have no apparent expertise in land use planning, predicting the future growth of taxable land as a result of rezoning, the  estimation of loads upon public transport, water supply, sewerage generation, or power supply. No expertise in predicting pollution potentials etc. So, what is the Planning Department’s role here?

I would fire the entire department immediately.
~~

James Houle: No Making Peace With Atoms?

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 29, 2011 at 8:31 am


From JAMES HOULE
OBAMA-WATCH.COM
Redwood Valley

In May 1955, less than ten years after the United States had cremated 150,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in a raid that ended WWII and led to the eventual death from radiation of a total of 300,000, President Eisenhower introduced the still staggering Japanese nation to “Atoms for Peace”. A delegation of American industrialists, financial gurus and scientists brightly explained how this atom that had decimated their people just ten years ago was actually a wonderful gift. The delegation was disrupted during their presentation at Tokyo’s Hibya Park by protesters more concerned with the continuing plutonium poisoning and other still lethal gifts of nuclear fission. Atoms for Peace seemed a cruel joke in a country where hundreds of thousands still faced a slow death from radiation. The Japanese Diet did not see the humor in this cruel joke: it immediately established the Japan Atomic Energy Commission which eventually approved 55 nuclear power stations spread up and down the coasts in the world’s most earthquake hazardous country. (Will Parrish, Nuclear Chickens)

Approvals were streamlined, inspections waved, and technological short cuts introduced More No Peace With Atoms…

James Houle: Shut Down California Nukes NOW! (Updated)

In !ACTION CENTER!, James Houle on March 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

The nuclear plant near San Clemente, run by Southern California Edison

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

It takes a disaster to wake us up to the vulnerability of life on this precarious planet. California has very large nuclear power plants at two locations: San Onofre (between LA and San Diego) and Diablo Canyon (near San Luis Obispo) which contain a total of four nuclear reactors.  They have operated for 30 years and will be obsolete in another 10. They have many similarities to the three units in Japan that have already gone into meltdown, and have released massive amounts of radioactivity to the atmosphere:

First, our nukes are located near active earthquake faults long overdue for a major shift in the earth’s crust.

[Update: I was taken on a tour of the cliffs below the San Onofre Nuclear power plant by a geologist in 1980. He showed us that the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is sitting directly on a right face vertical earthquake fault line. ~Ed Oberweiser, Mendocino Listserv]

Second, they are located right on the shoreline and subject to the same dangers as in Japan, where tsunamis knocked out their emergency cooling water pumps, after their primary cooling systems were knocked off line by the earthquake itself.

Third, they are near major population centers.

More Shut Down Nukes…

James Houle: A Revolt From Neo-Liberalism?

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 4, 2011 at 7:55 am

From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

The Arab Revolt

What are the common features of all eight Arab countries that are now in open revolt against their governments? Lack of democratic governments, heavy dependence upon the US for military assistance, and dedication to the Neo-Liberalism that has made their ruling classes rich and the majority of their citizens impoverished. From Morocco to Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain and Jordan, we find four kings, four autocrats, no free elections, no middle class and rampant corruption. The wealthy class in each of these eight has been enriched through the economic system called “neoliberalism” that the United States, the UK, the EU, the World Bank and the IMF have promoted over the past half century. While outright thievery of public funds by the royal family has played a role in some cases, more often than not it has been by allowing free and unregulated trade, and monopolization of commerce by a favored few, that the wealthy and well-placed have come to hold all the wealth.

Abu Atris, writing in Al Jazeera English, 02/24/11 describes this as “a conflation of politics and business under the guise of privatization – less a violation of the system than business as usual. Mubarrak’s Egypt is the quintessential neoliberal state.” David Harvey, the English geographer and lecturer More Jim Houle…

James Houle: Is this merely the end of another new beginning?

In James Houle on February 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

Most revolutions over the past 50 years, whether in Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, or even China have not been very thorough: they have seldom really thrown the bums out. Promising beginnings certainly, but usually ending in a mere reshuffling of the same old deck: replacing obviously corrupt cabinet ministers with a few new faces. The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon (2005) threw out the tattered remnants of the Syria’s Army brigades that had earlier suppressed Lebanon’s civil war (with USA approval), but then left a Sunni/Christian minority in power led by the late Rafik Harriri’s inept son Saad. Algeria’s Marxist government replaced the French colonialists in 1962 but has gradually drifted back to a corrupt oligarchy, severely suppressing popular Islamic parties and the minority Kabylie people. Nasser’s Pan-Arabism was seduced by the almighty dollar under Anwar Sadat More Jim Houle…

Jim Houle to Ukiah City Council: Why Costco?

In Around Mendo Island, BS Buzzer, James Houle on January 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley
Member of the County Council of the Green Party

To the Editor:
The following was presented to the City Council of Ukiah on January 19th:

You, the City Council of Ukiah, are scheduled today (Jan. 19th) to approve, in secret session, an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Costco. Most of your fellow citizens are at a loss to understand why you would sell 15 acres of land bought with Redevelopment Funds to a retail emporium when it is well established that our real need is affordable housing, not more stores. We hold you answerable to us for your actions and ask for your response to the following questions:

Why is it OK in your view to place a Big Box Retail Outlet in Ukiah after we the voters resoundingly defeated such a Big Box Complex at the Masonite site More Jim Houle…

Jim Houle: Petty Ambition and Small Claims

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on January 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

What seemed like a minor skirmish at the inaugural session of the Board of Supervisors on January 4th proves once again that petty ambition is a major motivation at Low Gap House. While Dan Hamburg, newly elected 5th District Supe, was obviously next in line to be Chairperson of the Board in 2012 by any reading of the Board’s own rules of succession, two Supervisors sided with John McCowen’s whining request to ascend to the Chair out of turn but before his 4 year term is over. “I will have served four years without once being Chairman”, he sobbed. The Chairman’s job is not worth, to paraphrase ‘Cactus Jack’ (Vice President under FDR) Garner, “a bucket of warm spit” but it’s obviously a draught thirsted for by our ‘Jack’ McCowen. Dan Hamburg accepted the defeat and the unfairness of it with equanimity but with a wry smile, realizing that such pettiness will likely persist.

At the same time, a few blocks down State Street in Small Claims Court, authority and responsibility were successfully avoided for the fifth time in the infamous case of ‘Queen Kendall’ Smith’s absconding with $3,086 in illicitly-acquired expense account money. Judge Behnke was sure he didn’t have jurisdiction. After the Grand Jury several years in a row embarrassed our former District Attorney Lintott about this petty theft, she finally pushed it over to Controller Meredith Ford and told her to dock the Queen’s pay check. Good Bureaucrat Ford shuffled it off to County Counsel Jeanine Nadel for an opinion. Nadel decided to kick the can all the way down to Santa Rosa but the Sonoma County Counsel opined that what was really needed was a court order. Small Claims Plaintiff Bruce Anderson (infamous editor of the AVA) can now throw this very rotten fish on the lap of our newly-inducted District Attorney Eyster and see whether he will scoop it up and dispose of it in a suitable manner. If that doesn’t get it off the table, I can only suggest we call upon our Garbage Impresario, ‘King of Trash’ Mike Sweeney. He has dodged smelly issues successfully over a long career.
~~

James Houle: Oh! Those Wicked Bleeps!

In James Houle on December 11, 2010 at 8:52 am

From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The marvelous display of backstairs gossip at US Embassies by WikiLeaks has upset the American Empire in ways that are both amusing and frightening. We have seen nothing that reveals current US strategies or overseas operations in these low level cables. Yet the reaction of the State Department and the Attorney General’s Office has amounted to an all-out attack not only upon the bearer of these messages, an Aussie named Julian Assange, but also upon the freedom of access to information that has made the Internet a great bulwark of our freedom to know.

Background: 1112 cables have been released (Dec. 10th) out of a total of 251,287 inWikiLeaks possession. Of the total held, 97% were originated by US Embassies overseas and the remainder at Foggy Bottom in Washington where our State Department is permanently mired. None of the cables are classified as ‘Top Secret’, and only 6% are ‘Secret’. The remainder (94%) are merely ‘Confidential’ or ‘Classified’. None are cables between various branches of our military and none involve our 16 Intelligence Agencies. Approximately 23 million people are already cleared for access to these three levels of confidentiality by the US Government. They were written over the past several years and up through February 2010. Nothing more current is displayed.

Are These Cables All That Explosive? None of these cables seem to cover discussions of policy, but are mainly focused upon providing information about meetings and local events, or passing along gossip about the activities of foreign dignitaries and their discussions with US Senators and Congressmen on foreign junkets. They pass on the rumors and allegations gathered by the imperial diplomats of the United States and seem to represent quite well this groups interests and mind-set but do not seriously question our imperial objectives or recommend changes in policy. It seems More Jim Houle…

James Houle: Obama Runs for Cover

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on November 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm


From JAMES HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

Obama Calls for Consensus in Post-Election Concession Speech: >(Reuters 11/03/10). President Barack Obama, chastened by the loss of at least one House of Congress, gave a sadly pathetic concession speech (11/03/10). “There are going to be areas of policy where we’re going to have to do a better job,” he conceded while asking for a consensus, one that has actually been missing now for two years. “No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here,” and called for both parties to work together. “No person, no party, has a monopoly on wisdom,” he added, ignoring the fact that a perpetual Republican filibuster in the Senate and their unwillingness even to suggest areas of compromise had all but closed down progress on the administration’s programs. Obama rejected the notion that the election results are a rejection of his policies, but of their results (is there some difference here?). “Voters are not satisfied with the outcomes,” he said. People “want jobs to come back faster, they want paychecks to go further”. When asked about how the government will create jobs, with at least the GOP making it clear they would support no more stimulus spending, he said there were areas to cut but not education, research and development, and investments in infrastructure. Then like what, Mr. President? This was no repeat of the “Give-em-hell Harry” who blamed the “Do-Nothing 80th Congress” in 1948 while campaigning for a full term as President. The 80th Congress had blocked his entire program after a Republican sweep in the 1946 mid-term elections and Harry made them pay for it when he upset the odds-on winner Thomas Dewey for the White House.

Blue Dogs Lose, Tea Party Makes Gains: An interview with L’Humanitite, Prof. Stanley Aronowitz (CCNY-10/30/10) explained Obama’s loss as follows: “The public believed the Democrats and Obama were going to solve problems of unemployment and health care. Now they find unemployment increasing and no relief on health care costs or coverage for another 4 years. People traditionally turn to the opposition party when the party in power disappoints.” Although people are being dispossessed of their homes and swindled by Wall Street, “They cannot express clearly their malaise, yet they know they do not have the democratic system they need and both parties seem in on the swindle”. More: James Houle…

Jim Houle: Iraqi Freedom is Over

In James Houle on September 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm

From JIM HOULE
obama-watch.com
Redwood Valley

“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over” President Obama announced from behind his desk on Tuesday night, August 31st. A strange choice of words to announce our “victory” in defeating Sada-am Hussein and Al Qaeda. “The future we are trying to build for our nation may seem beyond our reach”, he inserted at the start, as if unsure whether his speech was about Iraq finally being relieved of our help or about Obama’s heavy burdens here at home. “Our troops are the steel in our ship of state . . . they give us confidence that our course is true”. This also seemed most strange, for it would seem more fitting that support for our constitution or our unity as a nation would be the source of our resolve. It sounds like some tin pot dictator bragging that military ‘might makes me right’. He then called ex-President Bush a patriot: “no one can doubt his support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security”. Is this the same Bush who loved his country so much that he lied to get support for a war he claimed would remove weapons of mass destruction before Sadaam could give them to Al Qaeda? “There were patriots who supported the war and patriots who opposed it” Obama explained: So are we all, all honorable men.

“A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency and terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart”. But if the talk of WMDs was a lie, then how did we disarm them? We have been busy ever since trying to rebuild and re-arm their conventional army. Also, the word insurgency suggests something unconnected to the US mission – yet in this case the insurgency was the effort of Iraqi patriots of many stripes to drive the foreign occupiers from their land. All very puzzling. more

Jim Houle vs. Ron Epstein: Paved with Good Intentions and Response

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island, James Houle on August 31, 2010 at 8:34 am

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

Ron Epstein’s post Why The Harris Quarry Asphalt Plant Is A Bad Idea, also published in the Ukiah Daily Journal, attempts to explain why he thinks the plan for an asphalt hot mix plant at the Harris Quarry site south of Willits is a really bad idea. The proposal is by Northern Aggregates, a small Willits-based firm in the basalt and crushed stone business for over 20 years with less than $3 million in yearly sales and employing 25 people. Their application for a permit was turned down two years back and has now been scaled back to eliminate the companion ready-mix concrete batch plant and by restricting the life of the plant to 30 year life rather than allowing operation the site until the “end of life” of the quarry, which could be 70 years from now. A new EIR will by ready by October and the public will have 45 days to challenge it before submittal to the Board of Supervisors.

Ron Epstein, getting off the first salvo against this yet unpublished plan argues that there are: (1) serious cancer risks from asphalt fumes; (2) That it would seriously pollute the greater Ukiah area with these carcinogens; (3) That while the original EIR concluded that health and odor were insignificant, it did not take into account the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) more

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran

In James Houle on August 23, 2010 at 7:49 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

After several years of nuclear weapons-rattling by Israel, threatening Iran with total or at least partial devastation should they move any closer to producing weapons grade or even fuel grade enriched uranium, we may be seeing a pull back by the Netanyahu government. “The Obama Administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, is trying to persuade Israel that it would take roughly a year and perhaps longer – for Iran to complete what one senior official called ‘a dash’ for nuclear weapons. “One year is a very long time”, the official, Gary Samore, reassured us (NYTimes 8/17/10).

Anxious to convince America to join in their proposed attack, Israel had planted stories in the Times of London and elsewhere that they already had two nuclear-armed submarines in the Persian Gulf; that they had flight clearance to attack through Saudi Arabia; and were even setting up a resupply and refueling base someplace in the Arabian desert. And then, our former UN Ambassador John Bolton warned just last week that we had only an eight-day window in which to bomb the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant before Iran was capable of recovering plutonium from the spent fuel rods in the two newly commissioned reactors. To bomb Bushehr any later would risk irradiating thousands of innocent civilians, said Bolton, exhibiting what seemed like a new level of humanitarian concern from this normally rabid war monger.

more

James Houle: Washington tries to cap the WikiLeaks leak

In James Houle on July 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

From JAMES HOULE

WikiLeaks released on July 25th 76,000 mostly one-page battlefield documents leaked from US Army sources out of a total of 92,000 in their possession. They detail a vast array of material about the Afghan War ranging from “tactical reports about small unit operations to broader strategic analyses of politico-military relations between the US and Pakistan”. /STRATFOR’s George Friedman (07/27/10)/ doubts that this disparate assortment of not-so-sensitive materials below the ‘Top Secret’ category would likely have been collected by any single source. WikiLeaks, an organization operating out of several European cities since July 2007, produced this report entitled: “Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010” and sent it to three news organizations, The New York Times, the Guardian of London, and Der Speigel in Germany. One United States official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, said government lawyers were exploring whether WikiLeaks and its leader, Mr. Julian Assange could be charged in violation of the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of national security information. They might be charged with a crime if they were to release actual names or identities of Afghans who had worked under cover with the US Army/(NYTimes 07/29/10)/. Pfc. Bradley Manning, now returned from Army incarceration in Kuwait to the Quantico Brig in Virginia, previously released to WikiLeaks a 2007 video showing a US helicopter killing 12 unarmed Iraqis including two Reuters newsmen in Baghdad. WikiLeaks have not identified Pfc. Manning nor anyone else as the source of the current Afghan War Diary covering the period from Jan. 2004 through Dec.2009.

*IT MAY NOT BE NEW NEWS BUT IT SURE WAS NEW TO GRANDMA FEINSTEIN *
“Nothing new here, nothing we did not know”, we have been reassured by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and White House flak Robert Gibbs: “There is not much here that the public did not know and was not told by the media nor by the Administration”. more

Jim Houle: War going badly? Let’s just fire the General!

In James Houle on June 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch.com
Redwood Valley

The abrupt dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal by President Obama confirms that the war in Afghanistan is going very badly indeed. The general would not have been fired for a few unguarded remarks to a 2nd tier magazine had the war been succeeding according to plan. It may well be that his only offense was to express in too blunt and undiplomatic a fashion the sentiments of broad sections of the US officer corps. Nevertheless, the COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy, that McChrystal himself designed and that his boss General Patraeus sold to Washington, is rapidly falling apart:

•The death toll for US and NATO troops rose to 85 so far in June, making this the worst month since the US invaded Afghanistan way back in October 2001.

•The US quartermasters who maintain the supply chain for war materiel hire various war lords to funnel these supplies from Pakistan ports and from Central Asian airports into our Afghani bases. A good portion of these transportation costs have now been exposed as flowing directly into the coffers of Taliban insurgents so as to convince them not to attack the trucks. Thus, the Pentagon is indirectly financing the insurgency to the tune of approximately $2 million a week.

•The failure of the US intervention in the southern town of Marjah this spring is now admitted (McChrystal calls it “a bleeding ulcer”). The Marjah campaign was intended to demonstrate how COIN would win local support (McChrystal jokingly called it ‘government in a box’). The major advance into Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, has had to be postponed at least until next fall.

•Amongst the Afghan people, President Hamid Karzai is widely reviled as a corrupt American puppet while his brother continues to operate a major opium entrepot. Opium remains the country’s major cash crop (right next to US handouts and bribes). more

Chicken Feed

In James Houle on March 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

I am very annoyed at the Health Care fraud that our President is now touting as if it amounts to Reform. When you turn the hen house over to the fox, and let him change all the locks to serve his needs and set the rental rates, how can you expect he will protect the hens from his continuing voraciousness? Yes, the fox did agree he would not eat any hen before its time, and allowed that those chickens that had run loose in the past without a hen house they could call their own, were now safely ensconced in the fox’s new hen houses. He even agreed with the President that the formerly wild on-their-own hens could now pay the fox suitable rents for the privilege of a ‘safe’ hen house. If the wild chickens can not afford the rent because they have no job, the President agreed to chip in and subsidize.

Oh yes, I almost forgot – the price of chicken feed will rise any time the fox decides since he now has a total monopoly on feed supply. The President will not stand in the way of his making extra bucks in this way. The fox conceded that he would allow skinny and sickly hens to remain in the hen house (pre-existing skinnyness) rather than being thrown to the circling wolves outdoors but he didn’t guarantee that he would feed these skinny ones very much.

We have now set up a totally socialized system to protect the capitalist fox from any risks, we even expanded his market reach, and we call it free economic capitalism. We cannot even consider giving all the chickens free rent and feed, paid for out of the tax we extract from the periodic sale of chicken flesh (sometimes called low wage employment), of course. My God that would be socialism!!
~~

Dancing In The Dark On Low Gap Road

In James Houle on March 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

An Open Letter To “The Supes”:

The Board of Supervisors (affectionately known as THE SUPES) called a special session on Monday Feb 22nd with only 24 hours notice put surreptitiously on the internet on a sleepy Sunday morning. The topic was whether they wanted a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to run the county, as they have, quite unsuccessfully, these past 6 years, or whether it was time to go back to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) arrangement that had been the ‘modus operandi’ for many decades. They also needed to decide how to fill the costly shoes of CEO Tom Mitchell, who had summarily resigned a week earlier following a performance review by The Supes and who immediately turned off his cell phone and left town on a fast horse. While the public has shown interest in the CEO/CAO question and a citizens ad hoc committee was being organized, The Supes were in a big rush to get a new CEO in place to hack viciously at the overrun budget and relieve them of this burden.

Almost no one knew of the Special Session and only a few loyal business interests attended. They received essentially no public comment beyond support from the Farm Bureau, the Employers’ Council, the Builders’ Exchange, and a member of the Ukiah City Council. At the insistence of David Colfax they went through the motions of a debate although they all seemed to know how the deck had been stacked. more→

No on A But Yes on CostCo?

In BS Buzzer, James Houle on January 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

Many of us fought against Measure A because we believed that Ukiah had no need for out-of-county retailers stealing business from our local merchants. Yet both the City Council and the County BOS are moving ahead trying to entice CostCo to locate here either as a part of the Airport Blvd. shopping area or as a special use permit on the old Masonite Site.

Many of those who seemed so militant last fall about keeping out the DDR complex now seem to be showing their true colors: they are really well brain-washed Super-Consumers trained in front of TV screen since infancy. They like the idea of a local CostCo in town. They love to push those oversized carts around a store empty of sales help and with an unpredictable inventory. They really don’t give a shit about the fate of our local merchants nor about the seedy look of empty stores on State Street that are the legacy of our previous run-ins with the Bog Box Monster. Yet, but yet, maybe they are actually the Realists: they know Little Ukiah can’t keep fighting the Big Capitalists indefinitely and are willing to make this one compromise so they can frolic along the broad aisles of a Ukiah CostCo and stand for 20 minutes at the checkout.

But how will CostCo impact local business? Who will be hit first? Probably the food stores: The Ukiah Valley cannot support our three big supermarkets plus both CostCo and the planned Walmart food store. Already struggling Raleys will likely go under first and those living in the north end of town without cars will be miles from a food store. more→

Global Warming – Fact or Fiction?

In James Houle on December 30, 2009 at 7:15 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The threat of Global Warming has become accepted wisdom in America. Between the Al Gore book and film, the pictures of polar bears leaping amongst ice flows, and snippets of data about melting glaciers and how warm it has become recently, we have become captives of this calamitous scenario. In this essay, I have tried to separate fact from forecast, to examine actual climate history rather than computer generated projections of The Cataclysm That Awaits Us from Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Is Planet Earth really heating up inexorably? Is it because of CO 2 emissions from fossil-fueled power stations? I will lay out a few of the key questions and cite the evidence that exists. You can decide for yourself where reality lies, but first look at some of the data and arguments that question Big Al’s simplistic forecast of a warm and watery doom if we don’t change our ways right now. I hold no brief for dirty coal fired power production, and I believe that moving towards renewable power sources away from gasoline guzzling cars makes good sense. My home is fully solar powered and I’ll purchase an all-electric car in 2010.

I first became wary of ‘made-up’ climate data some years ago, while managing a large irrigation project in Algeria, We lacked sufficient meteorologic data to predict rainfall patterns and thus available water for irrigated agriculture. We were forced to ‘fill-in’ large gaps in the historic rainfall data where trees had grown over rain gauges, or where the French had inadvertently burned a valuable meteorologic station while napalming miserably poor villages in the Atlas Mountains. I was reminded of this when I began to read of the paucity of reliable information on global temperatures before the advent of satellites in 1975, and the very spurious simulating of past surface temperatures by counting petrified tree rings, by drilling ice cores and the like. We are unable to track carbon dioxide levels very far back in time, but we do know that much of Greenland’s shoreline was very warm and green in 1400 and supported herds of cattle. I have found that much of the current UN-sponsored research relies upon computer simulation to fill in their model of the environment. more→

Mendocino County Affairs

In James Houle on December 17, 2009 at 8:30 am

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

The County teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, yet our Board of Supervisors approaches serious budget cut-backs as if they were virgins considering a serious affair: they flirt with cost cutting notions, they talk these ideas into confusion, and then put off a decision for six months, knowing full well that our local economy is not likely to have some wonderful rebirth in the next year unless the price of pot miraculously soars like a phoenix to $10,000 a pound.

A few examples: At today’s Board of Virgins’ meeting (Dec 15), John McCowen moved to eliminate our two lobbyists in Washington. Dave Colfax, while admitting that the idea had merit, was concerned that McCowen had not been specific about what it was the lobbyists had failed to do in Washington. Supervisor Smith admitted that it was hard to measure their actual performance. McCowen’s motion was defeated 3 to 2. The Supes agreed to think about it again in six months. Next, an apparently sponsor-less proposal to increase the Clerk of the Board’s salary by 35% was removed from the Consent Calendar for further review. The Clerk had already promised to take voluntary time off for, oh yes – the next six months – to avoid overrunning her budget. While the clerk’s supervisor, CEO Mitchell, had placed this item on the Consent Calendar without making the requisite recommendation, he wiggled around quite nicely by saying that her current salary was “in line” with other counties.

We have many county employees that have been voluntarily working less than full time for six months or more to save the county money. If the county hasn’t yet collapsed due to work left undone during this time, then should we conclude that the county government was really over staffed? (I won’t hold my breath waiting for an answer – as to whether it has indeed collapsed – from Tom Mitchell.) more→

In Memory of Wayne Knight

In James Houle on November 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm


From JAMES HOULE
In Memory of WAYNE KNIGHT

The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra is chanted daily in Buddhists Monasteries in China, Japan, Tibet, Korea and right here in Mendocino County. Also known as the Great Prajna Paramita Sutra, the name refers to the intuitive wisdom that can be experienced by the mind that has gone over to the far shore. A sutra is not a prayer to a supreme being, for Buddhists do not experience a supreme being. Rather, a sutra is a discourse, a homage to how things are. This discourse concerns “heart-mind”, the indissoluble linkage between thinking and feeling, between mind and matter. Wayne Knight experienced this linkage and expressed it in his portraits of Cambodians. Please suffer with me for a moment as I try to explain the inexplicable.

The convergence between science and mysticism, between Eastern thought and Western pragmatism became apparent in the Post-Einsteinian revelations of Quantum Physics, which confirmed what the Mahayana Buddhists discovered about 350 CE. Matter was found to be essentially empty of materiality and subatomic particles were found to be packets of light, or of waves, without mass. The solid indestructible blocks of matter upon which our Newtonian/Cartesian science has comfortably rested all these years was badly shaken in the 1920s by Bell’s Theorem and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. When looked at under an electron microscope, instead of particles of matter, physicists found nothing but a continuous dance of energy particles. The elementary particles were not independently existing entities but merely sets of relationships with no inherent separate existence. Nagarjuna, in 200 CE had already explained this: “Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves”. more→

Obama Trips Up On Al Qaeda

In James Houle on September 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

OUR GOAL IS TO DEFEAT AL-QAEDA

On Thursday, September 24, 2009 President Barack Obama vowed in a speech to the UN General Assembly “not to permit safe heaven for Al-Qaeda to launch attacks from Afghanistan. In confronting them, America will forge lasting partnerships to target terrorists, share intelligence, coordinate law enforcement, and protect our people. He declared his administration’s strong economic support to Pakistan, a front line ally in the fight against terrorism. We have set a clear and focused goal: to work with all members of this body to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies’ a network that has killed thousands of people of many faiths and nations, and that plotted to blow up this very building”.

GENERAL MCCHRYSTAL: THERE’S NO AL-QAEDA IN AFGHANISTAN

Oddly enough, General Stanley McChrystal, who is in charge of US and NATO counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan directly contradicted the President’s findings in a speech on the 8th anniversary of 9/11 attacks: He said that: “I see no indication of any large Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan”. The US currently has more than 47,000 troops on the ground and is building towards a total strength of 68,000 by year-end. All of these troops are engaged in battle with Taliban and Pashtoon tribal insurgency, none are fighting directly with Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, McChrystal, who seemed oblivious of having dismissed the President’s ostensible raison d’etre for the conflict, continued to defend the war, maintaining that it was winnable given increased effort and insisting that, while he had no evidence to back it up, he “strongly believes” our actions have prevented other terroris attacks.

All of this has left us a bit confused, so we went back to read the good General’s report to the Pentagon concerning the need for more troops to win the war. We expected that this would more clearly support the Administration’s objectives. While this report has not been made ‘public’ for fear of restricting Obama’s freedom to choose amongst various sources of advice, it was deliberately leaked to Bob Woodward, the highest profile investigative reporter in Washington. The leak was designed to gain maximum publicity and was snatched up by all the main stream media immediately. You might think that leaking a report the President had not seen would result in General McChrystal’s immediate dismissal or at least a rebuke. But the Pentagon had apparently reviewed and approved the leak and McChrystal is planning to testify about it before Congress quite soon.

THE PURLOINED LETTER

So what did this ‘purloined’ report actually say about increasing our forces and gaining victory in Afghanistan? “Greater resources will not be sufficient to achieve success, but will enable implementation of the ‘new’ strategy. Conversely inadequate resources will likely result in failure. However, without a strategy the mission should not be resourced.” Keep reading→

Ukiah Mendocino: Is The Swine Flu Pandemic A Hoax?

In James Houle on September 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

The H1N1 pandemic seems to have taken on a life of its own – while the actual evidence of a serious and life-threatening epidemic has not supported the hysteria we hear in the main stream media. The news media and the World Health Organization have continued to pump out stories suggesting that we are just a few months away from Armageddon – and the mass inoculation of just about everyone with a still-untested vaccine is the only solution. Mark Horton, director of the California Dept. of Public Health announced that “millions of Californians, possibly one in four, may be affected by the coming H1V1 ‘swine flu’ virus”. Dr. Marvin Trotter, Mendocino County’s public heath officer “fears ‘a perfect storm’ scenario could lead to the rapid and potentially deadly spread of what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls a ‘novel virus’. Ukiah Daily Journal 8-30-09. The virus seems to particularly attack the lung tissue and this can lead to viral pneumonia. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology warned that “swine flu poses a serious threat: half the population could come down with the strain and 90,000 could die this season.” US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius warns that “this is not the flu we’re used to”. As if to speed up their production, Sibelius has signed a document specifically granting pharmaceutical manufacturers immunity from prosecution for death or injury from the vaccine.

THE EVIDENCE SO FAR

Yet, the evidence collected to date seems to suggest that H1N1 is a relatively mild flu, similar to the common influenza we have dealt with for decades and is in fact practically indistinguishable from it. Keep reading→

The Great Game

In James Houle on July 30, 2009 at 7:42 am

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

July 30, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

The Editor of Obama-Watch.US, Jim Houle, spent three weeks in June and July traveling across Central Asia along the legendary Silk Road visiting Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China’s Xinjiang Province where the Uighur (wee-gur) people predominate. These Turkic-speaking people have been the “Stopper in the Bottle” between Europe, Russia, China and India for over a thousand years. The Gateway to Elsewhere, it has seldom, at least until now, been desired for its own value but was seen as a portal to the riches of India for the Russians and to the markets of Europe for the Indians and Afghanis. In the 20th century, with the discovery of oil and gas around the Caspian Sea, the collapse of the Soviet Hegemony, the withering away of British majesty, and the United States’ global domination of world energy resources, all has changed – or has it changed at all? Perhaps the “Great Game” by Peter Hopkirk, that amazing story of the 19th century battle over these remote kingdoms stumbles on, with Putin replacing the Czar and Obama taking Queen Victoria’s role.

Obama sees Central Asia as an important element in his program to expand ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, assure the supply of oil and gas, and the continued sustenance of the Dollar as the world reserve currency. Petroleum (oil and gas) has since 1971 replaced gold as backing for the dollar and our huge military machine has taken on the role of enforcer. Should people decide to pay for their oil barrels with some other moolah, or a ‘market basket’ of currencies, the value of the dollar would drop like a stone. Our indebtedness would soon crowd us off the world stage. We could no longer print oil-soaked dollars Keep reading→

Obama Plays Cairo

In James Houle on June 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm

From JIM HOULE
Redwood Valley

In this Eighteenth Edition, we review the Obama speech in Cairo, the Palestinian impasse, and how he balances his message of friendship with Moslems world wide alongside his armed attacks in Afghanistan and support for the Pakistan’s army’s assault upon the Taliban in the Swat Valley.

The man’s performances are captivating to us all. We are proud of a President so knowledgeable of Moslem history and accomplishments, who can speak comfortably of common aspirations, while skipping deftly past lethal Drone attacks on wedding parties in small mountain villages, and yet who somehow keeps our hopes alive while moving us towards more war and ever greater hypocrisy.

The Cairo speech was directed not to any one country but addressed the entire Islamic Nation, most of whom are intensely wary of American motives and of our capacity for change, while incredibly fond of our way of life. Stratfor suggests 6/03/09 that: “the Moslem masses are in for a disappointment . . . but this will not pose much of a problem for Obama. The fond feelings of the Moslem world might be nice to claim but ultimately he does not need their support. In the end, it will be the American people, not the rest of the world, who will issue the final referendum on his performance as President.”

GAZA WILL NOT DIE
It is 139 days since January 19th, when Israel stopped the wanton killing of Gazans, so as not to “rain upon the start of Obama’s Reign” the following day. John Ging, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told a Code Pink delegation to Gaza last month that “billions in aid had been promised in the wake of Israel’s massacre, but so far nothing had arrived”. Code Pink reporters added: “Make no mistake about it: the blockade, directly enforced by Israel and Egypt but conspired in by their superpower patron in Washington, is a continuing act of war against an entire civilian population of 1.5 million, a form of collective punishment and a crime against humanity.” Roane Carey, The Nation 6/02/09.

Building materials that would allow Gazans to rebuild are forbidden, not one bag of cement, not one 2 by 4. Netanyahu

Will Israel Become an Apartheid State?

In James Houle on May 20, 2009 at 10:01 pm

From JIM HOULE

May 21, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The semi-annual Israeli trek to the Oval Office took place this week and was a wonderful success – nothing changed, no one moved, and all is as deranged as ever. Bibi Netanyahu, with a most diverse Cabinet and an almost-fascist Foreign Minister, is said to have arrived hoping to get “fundamental redefinitions of the regional dynamic”, Stratfor 18 May – George Friedman, such as a re-examination of the ‘two-state solution’ and a “finite time frame for talks with Iran, after which unspecified but ominous-sounding actions are to be taken”.

With Obama up to his ears in torture, the AfPak War, and a broken economy, Netanyahu’s expectations seem quite demanding. Exactly why Obama agreed to the visit at this time is strange in itself, but Bibi is new at the job, and he needs to demonstrate his “special US relationship” in front of constituents. Israel has lost a lot of friends lately after their murderous treatment of the Gazans. Recent figures show emigration now outpacing immigration while between 700,000 and 1 million citizens live outside of Israel proper. A 2007 poll showed only 69% wanted to stay in the country and this included half of all young people. These figures are a bad omen for Israel” says John Mearsheimer in the American Conservative 5/15/09.

“Progress towards a two-state solution”, the assumed rationale for all talks between Palestinians and Israelis for years now, “is a total chimera” in the view of George Friedman in Stratfor 5/18/09. “It is a fiction that serves US purposes”: Geographically it is impossible to implement and control. Israel will never agree to return to the 1967 Truce Lines upon which the two-state plan is based. Furthermore, the major Arab powers are not supportive: The Jordanian royal family does not want to see Fatah in charge of a new Palestinian State on the West Bank, expecting that they would quickly overthrow the Hashemites that tried to annihilate them way back in Black September, 1970. President Mubarrak of Egypt views Hamas as a descendant of the damned Moslem Brotherhood that he has tried to eliminate for 20 years. Certainly the Saudis have no particular interest in according Palestinians any power or voice. So, the gentleman’s agreement has been to make comforting noises about Palestinian rights while being careful not to achieve anything much beyond food handouts and periodic payoffs to political leaders.

“The various Israeli-Palestinian peace processes have thus served US and Arab interests quite well: they provide the illusion of activity with high-level visits breathlessly reported in the media, succeeded by talks and concessions – - all followed by stalemate and new rounds of violence, thus beginning the cycle all over again”. George Friedman Stratfor 5/18/09.

The Israeli prime minister is now asking that the various Arab states become directly involved in a conference wherein they would be forced to reveal publicly their very different public and private positions on Palestinian statehood and their lack of any real interest in pressuring the US to demand a viable two-state arrangement with Israel and a return to the 1967 borders. Keep reading→

Arbusto Negro and the AfPak War

In James Houle on May 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm

From JIM HOULE

May 11, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Many Americans voted for Obama because he promised to end the war in Iraq. He promised to remove our troops in 18 months but he never said “all the troops”.

Obama seems to be slipping out of any commitment for withdrawal anytime soon since the pressure is off: fewer US troops are being killed in Iraq, no US reporters are stationed there, and America has just lost interest now that it has the loss of jobs and mortgages to worry about. He needs a new focus for our “war against terror”.

Why a new focus you ask? Because us taxpayers will not continue to see 50% of our federal budget spent for war in a time of economic depression unless someone can keep convincing us that there’s a really serious threat out there to our comfortable lifestyle. So, he must demonstrate that America defends the New World Order, maintains the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, keeps the oil flowing, prevents any serious challenge to our global hegemony, and delivers us from terrorists.

Afghanistan was the obvious choice for a new theater of war. With a mere blink of the eye, the news purveyors inside the Pentagon and the editors of these ‘insider’ stories at the major media outlets shifted gears from the Iraq conflict while continuing to emphasize the key ingredients: the need to defeat Islamic fundamentalism, to kill Al Qaeda terrorists, and to build democratic institutions. Same old story but this time it’s in Afghanistan. However, when Obama looked around Kabul, he realized he’d have a hard time selling it on the Evening News Shows since those Afghanis had:

No WMDs
No threat to our Homeland
No oil resources to protect
No Iranian fundamentalists across the border
No turbaned terrorist faces to showcase
No easily defined battle lines and no measure of military success
No organized military to maintain law and order on our behalf

Our hand-tailored President Hamid Karzai just hopped a flight to Washington for a “Trilateral” conference with Obama and President Zardari of Pakistan. Patrick Cockburn commented in Counterpunch 5/06/09 that if ”the President’s motorcade had headed for the southern outskirts of Kabul, he would have soon experienced the limits of his government’s authority. It ends at a beleaguered police post within a few minutes drive of the capital. Drivers heading for the southern provinces nervously check their pockets to make sure they are carrying no documents linking them to the government. They do so because they know they will soon be stopped and their identities checked by black turbaned Taliban fighters who sometimes take the traveler’s cell phone and redial numbers recently called. If a call is answered by a government ministry, or even worse, by a foreigner, then the phone’s owner may be executed on the spot”.

The Taliban is hard to define and often hard to admire but it has never been the caricature that Fox and CNN developed. Member of Parliament Daoud Sultanzoy of Ghazni Province told Cockburn that: “Security has not deteriorated because of what the Taliban has done, but because people feel the government is unjust. It is seen as the enemy of the people, and because there is no constitutional alternative to it, the Taliban gain”.

Support for the Taliban is not very high, but it has increased since 2006 when their rebellion effectively resumed with aid for Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency, the ISI – Inter Services Intelligence – which supports the Taliban in Afghanistan and allows them refuge in the Pakistani mountains. ISI advises them not to fight to the end but to wait until the US loses interest in Afghanistan. “A withdrawal of Pakistani support and a denial of safe refuge would be a crippling blow to the Taliban but is not likely to happen. President Zardari may want to do it, but policy on the Taliban is decided by the Pakistani military” which continues to have little stomach for fighting fellow Moslems. Counterpunch 5/07/09.

Keep reading→

Such Torturous Twisting and Turning

In James Houle on April 23, 2009 at 7:11 pm

From JIM HOULE

April 24, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

In the past 6 days, Obama has shown us much about his political style and courage as our President. Intent upon opening up the records concerning torture, and after a Freedom of Information suit that forced his hand, he allowed four legal memos to be published Thursday 4/16/09. They provided legal cover for torture of political prisoners during the Bush years. He was immediately accused by four former Directors of the CIA of jeopardizing national security and aiding the terrorists; then he was challenged by Dick Cheney to tell the good results of torture; next, roundly condemned in a Wall Street Journal editorial; and finally pilloried by a plethora of patriotic Republicans. Obama’s panicky responses to these attacks reveal much about what we can expect during the future Battles of Barack: ringing words, cautiousness when attacked, signals that he’ll compromise, a very watered down piece of legislation, and then a nice closing speech.

“The Obama administration is caught in a devastating political contradiction” reports Patrick Martin, WSWS.org 4/20/09. “Legal documents drafted by the US Department of Justice in 2002 and 2005, and released by Obama, clearly establish that acts of torture were authorized and justified by the highest levels of the Bush administration. Yet, the President said on 4/16/09: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution”. He asked that we “put the pain behind us, and right our course in concert with our core values and move forward with confidence.” Keith Olbermann objected immediately on MSNBC 4/16/09: “This country has never ‘moved forward with confidence’ without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past.” To ignore our past may very well keep the haunting images of Abu Ghraib alive in peoples minds, and allow torturers to assume that the lack of prosecution indicates that their actions were indeed justified. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made it even clearer on Sunday 4/19/09 on the ABC News program ‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos’ that Obama’s opposition to any prosecution extends not only to CIA agents who directly participated in torture but also to all the top officials of the Bush administration who authorized and justified the policy. This caused shock waves.

WHO’S COVERING UP FOR WHOM?
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak immediately responded that:”This directly implicates the current administration in the cover-up of crimes carried out by its predecessor and as such, places the White House decision in direct violation of international law”. In an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard on 4/18/09, Nowak pointed out that the UN Convention Against Torture “requires the prosecution of those who engage in actions like waterboarding that are universally regarded as torture. The United States, a signatory to the UN convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court. The fact that you carried out an order doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility”. Nowak, an Austrian law professor, has previously urged the Obama administration to bring charges against George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for torture and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. He said the UN was in possession of documents that proved Rumsfeld gave orders for the torture of the prisoners and that the abuse was not the result of a handful of rank-and-file soldiers acting on their own.

Keep reading→

Confuse and Conquer: Bankers to the Barricades!

In James Houle on April 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm

From JIM HOULE

Apr 16, 2009, Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The trouble with the original Hank Paulson TARP plan last fall that handed $700 billion to the biggest banks in compensation for their bad judgment was that it was too transparent. By the time we got to the Christmas holidays, everyone had figured it out and was grumbling.

Paulson spooned out the bailouts over a four month period after warning Congress that the world would end if they didn’t give Hank the money by the weekend. Some in Congress finally began to look at what they had approved, once they noticed that the public was beginning to suspect a con job. Obama, a far wiser politician, has taken steps to avoid these errors in his approach to our economy’s continuing collapse.

First he bribed us with a $787 billion dollar economic stimulus program designed to ease our pain, protect the unemployed, and give the states huge sums to hand out more or less as they wished. Second, he directed his new Treasury Secretary, the bright and shiny penny, Timothy Geithner, to fashion a series of second phase bank bailout programs that would be far more opaque than Paulson’s, and which would be distributed quickly, in very large tranches (a phony French financial phrase meaning Gobs of Cash), and for the most part outside Congress’ purview. That should take care of those grumbling voters.

Now Geithner has encountered a sea of troubles with his PPIP, the Public-Private Partnership Program. The idea was to show that private sector funds could indeed form a partnership with us taxpayers to soak up the troubled assets resulting from the collapse of the housing market, the financial derivatives trading, the credit default swaps and the like. Geithner has been working feverishly on a new strategy since February, but has yet to announce his definitive attack plan. We will examine Geithner’s various proposals in a minute. But first, let’s try to understand one basic question:

Keep reading→

Obama’s Trojan Horse at the Gates of Detroit

In James Houle on April 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm

From Jim Houle

4/4/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

An auto worker said this week : “My opinion of him at first was that he was going to stick up for us, but there has been an abrupt change in attitude towards workers since taking office. I tried and tried to find something about that man that I liked but I couldn’t.” “Obama: I am looking at you, but there is something else underneath. You are not what you appear to be. Its like you were a Trojan horse”. WSWS 4/01/09

Obama complains that cost cutting programs have not gone far enough. Chrysler has to merge with Fiat or go bankrupt, he demands. If GM doesn’t fundamentally restructure in the next 60 days the government will throw it into bankruptcy. He emphasized his consternation by demanding the immediate resignation of their CEO. The main stream media enthusiastically praised Obama’s insistence that auto workers accept job cutbacks and salary reductions in order to return the US auto industry to profitability. Everyone has now piled on including the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. “It is important to hold UAW accountable and cut legacy liabilities” (previously agreed-upon retirement packages) said the Financial Times. The Post said: “It was important that the president did not flinch in demanding even deeper concessions from workers”. In distinct contrast to all of this, Larry Summers intoned on Meet the Press that the government could not force AIG to withhold bonuses because contracts can’t be broken. Apparently if you shower when you come home from work on the assembly line, your contract does not give the protection that those who shower before heading to a desk job in Wall Street receive.

Obama says the auto manufacturers must remake themselves with ‘fundamental restructuring’ but he doesn’t want the government to run the industry Counterpunch 4/1/09. GM management has not engineered any fundamental change in it business plan in the past 20 years. If he wants real change, Obama will have to install a management team committed to producing an electric car with a reasonable price tag, rather than the $40,000 ‘Volt’ they intend to put out in 2011. The auto industry task force set up by Obama on Feb. 28th consists of cabinet secretaries and senior advisors to the White House. Not one member has experience in the auto industry.

Keep reading→

The hype is spilling over from south of the border

In James Houle on March 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

From Jim Houle

3/20/09 Ukiah, North California

Since Sunday March 15th we have been hit with one of those Talk Show Tsunamis that always leave us trying to sniff out the Washington hype from the real goods. What are they saying?

- Mexico is losing control of its cities to drug gangs and could collapse.
- Mexico is close to becoming a failed state.
- 2000 weapons each day are shipped into Mexico from the wide-open gun dealers in the US.
- Drug syndicate criminals are infiltrating the US.
- This situation is our top priority: Homeland Security Czar Napolitano.
- Its a serious problem: Secretary of Defense Gates.
- US Embassy in Mexico City tries to dampen it down: “The US had no intention of sending troops into Mexico”.
- DEA’s top intelligence official Antony Placido believes: “Calderon is making important strides against the cartels. The violence we see is actually a signpost of success.”
- Obama says he’s considering putting troops on the border.
- Chief of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen says he is willing to supply unmanned drones and helicopters to chase down the Mexican drug mafia.
- Bay Buchanon (Pat’s lethal sister) says Calderon and his government are down for the count. Without a US rescue operation Mexico will soon become a narco-state.
- Sen Joe Lieberman says he’s: “looking into potential implications of increased terrorist activity”. (Does he mean the increased activity is potential or that the implications he foresees are still potential? In other words that they don’t even exist at this point in time.)

The current hype leaves one to ask “Qui Bono” – who benefits from this sudden tsunmai? The parroting of this story in almost identical language in all of our remaining newspapers coast to coast and on the major TV news broadcasts suggests the dead hand of the Pentagon’s War Justification Unit. We know them only too well from the buildup to Iraq. The stationing of a sizable US military force on the Mexican border has not happened since 1914 when we dispatched 11,000 troops across the border and occupied Veracruz. The Mexicans rose up in revolt against this and the entire power structure was toppled in the 1920′s . It took another half century for the wealthy land-owners to regain the full hegemony they and their northern partners now enjoy over the Mexican economy. Keep reading→

Every idea considered except for Single Payer Health Care

In James Houle on March 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

From Jim Houle

3/12/09 Ukiah, North California

At last Thursday’s Health Care Forum, President Obama promised that “every voice will be heard, every idea considered and every option must be on the table”. But before the forum could even begin, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained, in reference to Single Payer Universal Health Care, that: “The President doesn’t believe that’s the best way to achieve the goal of cutting costs and increasing access”. No supporters of single payer were invited but at the last moment, Congressman John Conyers, single-payer’s leading advocate in Congress, was allowed to attend. Amy Goodman on Democracy Now 3/06/09 reported that single payer advocates had been largely silenced in the media. As media attention focused on the health care issue in early March, no advocates of a single payer health care plan were heard on any mainstream TV network and very few in the print media.

What is ‘Single Payer Universal Health Care’? It provides that all citizens will have their medical expenses paid for by the Federal Government (the single payer). There will be no insurance company involvement whatsoever. It will function much as the Medicare system, which pays all hospital costs for those over 65, has operated for the past 43 years.

What is Obama’s Alternative ‘Universal Heath Program’?: This program, still being fabricated in the White House, requires all who can afford it to purchase private health insurance and has the Federal Government pay for the insurance policies of those who cannot afford to pay themselves. The health care industry would continue to operate under the management of the private insurance industry, much as it does now, as a for-profit business.

How did this happen? Luke Mitchell in the Feb. 2009 issue of Harpers Magazine reports that “A single payer system would take a lot of money out of the private insurance system”. It’s also something that a lot of people in Washington understand as ideologically threatening, that is to say, they equate a single-payer system with what they call socialized medicine.” “There’s clearly a massive resistance to single-payer on the Hill.” Mitchell continues: “Obama himself said he favored a single-payer health plan in 2003 and has repeatedly said this was the best approach but there are a lot of built-in players to be dealt with. The ‘Universal Health Programs’ we are seeing an offer that basically acts to bribe those middlemen, the private health care insurers, into not complaining too much. It requires you to buy private insurance and if you can’t afford it, the government will fund you. So it’s not a market system exactly; its essentially government-funded private insurance. And the reason normal people might find it preferable is that they have a preference for what they think of as ‘market solutions’. They think these market solutions are just more efficient.”

Yet, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending under our privatized health care, double the proportion of Canada national health care plan (16.7 %). Average overhead among private U.S. insurers was 11.7 %, compared with 1.3 % for Canada’s single-payer system and 3.6 % for the US Medicare system run by the federal government and which pays hospital costs for all over age 65.

Keep Reading→

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,515 other followers