Reading between the lines (with video)

Mendocino County
(video at end of article)

July 30, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

My, my, so many angry and insistent letters to editors, angry and insistent blogs. I say I don’t read or listen to the commercial media stuff anymore because it is all fluff. But, sometimes I can’t seem to stop myself. We stopped for some coffee on the way to an appointment the other day and there was a New York Times, July 22, laying waiting to fill my time. I flip through it; nothing; nothing. Then, I reach the editorial, which glares at me “Climate Loopholes.” I also subscribe to email news notifications from Mother Jones. Shortly after reading the article, that magazine pointed me to Rachel Morris’s “It’s 3 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Climate Bill Is?”.

The increasingly infamous Waxman-Markey climate change bill was approved by the House and is on its way to the much tougher Senate. Half of the electricity used in this country is generated by extremely dirty coal-fired generators. Thanks to coal-state representatives, the bill imposes no standards on existing generators and, more amazingly, removes these plants from EPA Clean Air Act oversight.

A second problem with this bill involves carbon dioxide cap and trade. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, as you may have noticed, have recently been reporting immense profits. These profits didn’t come from loans, but by selling insurance in the form of hedge funds, so called over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives. Elsewhere it is reported that something like $80 trillion worth of such securities are wandering around out there, though some suspect that number is about as real as those for sub-prime mortgages. The original Waxman-Markey bill banned OTC trading of cap and trade derivatives simply because oversight would be impossible. That is, there would be no way to assure that when an industry purchased carbon dioxide rights, such rights would actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On the insistence of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, a hole was left in the bill for them to walk through. Understand, a carbon dioxide derivative security would be like a mortgage, student loan, commercial property, credit card, or hedge security having a given value only in the eyes of a fool – but, likely guaranteed by the federal government. Morris concludes “regulation of carbon markets will probably be swept up in broader financial reforms that are the subject of intense lobbying and political pressure.”

Obama and many in Congress will probably get their way and turn financial regulation in all its forms over to the Federal Reserve Bank, But, the Fed is an instrument of exactly the financial institutions it would regulate, e.g. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. My conclusion: whatever climate change bill is passed will have very little to do with climate change. In fact, this doesn’t surprise me. Any law that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions sufficiently would almost certainly kill the greed economy by exploding energy prices. It would also require the U.S. military to cut way back its energy profligacies. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, et al, aren’t going to let this happen.

Meanwhile, a 1,000 page healthcare reform is wandering through Congress. Most in Congress and out seem to have no idea what is in it. All definitive that I’ve read is that it includes a $500 billion cut in Medicare and Medicaid to make them more efficient, i.e. pay for many fewer services for those who can’t afford supplementary private insurance – not only will there not be a significant public option, but existing ones are being gutted. My guess: whatever comes out will be a gigantic subsidy for healthcare insurance corporations, just as the Medicare drug law is for and pharmaceutical corporations, and will do little or nothing to control costs. These giant corporations, like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, are amazingly profitable. To constrain them would again greatly impact the greed economy. But, it’s all play money.

Yet another such bill is on the scene. The fear that commercial leafy vegetables, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and so forth might contain food poisoning bacteria and cause lawsuits and the recall of distributed products at vast expense is driving an effort in the House to give FDA expansive and unprecedented new police powers to the FDA with almost no guidance of congressional intent as to how that power should be exercised. Lest you think this won’t happen, Obama just appointed a former Monsanto VP to oversee the FDA food safety group and is pushing this Waxman bill to give him teeth. We surely can trust the FDA, can’t we? The front page of the June 13 SF Chronicle gave an idea where this is going. The preferred farming approach is to rid any crop field and its periphery for many yards of any cover for bacteria carry mammals, deer, squirrels, mice, etc., to create wide sterile buffers. Poisons are spread. Children in diapers aren’t allowed. What about birds? This has already been implemented in California and is about to go national and the FDA (Monsanto?) will be put in charge of a major segment of agriculture. Yet, no one has ever certainly traced a food borne ailment resulting from eating commercially distributed products back to a farm. But, what of the dirty hands of pickers? In fact, many hands touch these products as they pass through the distribution system. Among other things, the Chron article concluded that this would be the death of intensive organic production, but hopefully not small growers and farmers’ markets.

The local big box discussions have been very interesting. None that I’ve noticed have mentioned that supermarkets are big box, which they are, except that they generally take items out of those boxes before putting them on the shelves. In fact, there are many mini-big box stores with the same mindset scattered around. Watch for high shelves stacked with packaged and processed items manufactured somewhere else. All this food production tower exists only because of government subsidies and cheap alien labor. Giant food corporations gravely injured commercial organic a long time ago; the FDA will likely execute the coup de grace. It seems to me time to walk the talk.

Our economic system rests on government welfare, but in the form of subsidies to giant corporate farmers, to giant energy corporations, to giant financial corporations, and so on, with always an emphasis on “giant,” too big to fail. From whence do you think successful politicians get their giant piles of campaign funds and all the wealth they seem to have when they retire from politics – or before? Do we dare mention graft? Hey, it’s the American Way of long tradition.

The biggest subsidy of all may be the U.S. military, in this case to protect the interest of giant multinational corporations such as those which had offices in the World Trade Center. A Vets for Peace associate just sent email including an investigative report in the Colorado Springs Gazette entitled “Soldiers in Colorado slayings tell of Iraq horrors.” Ten infantrymen assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Carson have been accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life. Other brigade members have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUI’s, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping, and suicides. In months of interviews, several soldiers told the Gazette unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq. “Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” said one soldier, “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley,” an armored fighting vehicle. With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions “and just light the whole area up,” another told them, “If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.” Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations. “The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody,” said an infantry specialist serving 10 years for accessory to murder, “And you do. Then they think you can just come home and turn it off.” The unit was deployed for a year to Iraq’s Sunni Triangle in September 2004. Sixty-four unit soldiers were killed and more than 400 wounded – about double the average for Army brigades in Iraq, according to Fort Carson. In 2007, the unit served a bloody 15-month mission in Baghdad. It’s currently deployed to the Khyber Pass region in Afghanistan.

My point, increasingly my insistence, government and the giant corporations with which it is marching in lockstep are bloodsuckers, our blood. How long do we stand by and watch? How long will we play their games and attempt to patch their system, a system with which they are well satisfied and are not about to allow you or I to change in any significant way? Oh, they will give us hopes with their pretty double-talk speeches, until we read the many, many pages of small print appended – which we never do. Instead we trust the commercial media, including talk radio and TV, to quickly instruct us how to think before our minds wander and our eyelids droop. When shall we wake up? How shall we proceed to discover, open our eyes to new ways?

The question I ask and ask and ask: what then must we do? I’m reminded of the 1976 movie “Network” where The UBS evening news anchor, Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, persuades the American TV audience to echo his frustrations about life by shouting I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Soon, lights are coming on, doors and windows are opening up and down the streets and people are yelling, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” In fact, I’m beyond the anger, sort of. My emphasis is in answering the question for myself. Insurrection serves no purpose, because they, “they,” have all the power, or so “they” think. Instead, to begin with, I intend to support, even interact, with “them” as little as possible, to learn not to need “them.” If we, all of us little people who are almost everyone, refused to play, “their” foundation, “their” America would crumble. “Their” power is a gift from our unwillingness to act, our fears and insecurities, our unquestioned needs, our robotic programming. Would we miss “them?”

From another scene in Network (1976): “The only truth you know you get from this tube… This tube is the most awesome Goddamn force in the whole Godless world and woe is us if it ever gets into the hands of the wrong people… When the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome Goddamn propaganda force in the whole Godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?”